Why we must mobilise against the EDL

By Sabby Dhalu, Unite Against Fascism Joint Secretary and One Society Many Cultures Secretary

Despite a ban on its march in Tower Hamlets, the English Defence League (EDL) is attempting to organise a static demonstration. At the time of writing it is not clear where this demonstration will be.

The EDL must not be allowed to demonstrate in Tower Hamlets.

The EDL is a fascist street fighting movement. Attempting to demonstrate in Tower Hamlets is a highly provocative move by the EDL and consistent with previous attempts to bring their violent Islamaphobia into Britain’s Muslim communities. EDL demonstrations have led to riots, with violent attacks upon police officers, Muslim, Asian and black communities,  Mosques, Sikh and Hindu temples. Its actions are aimed at inciting hatred against Muslims with placards saying “Allah is a paedophile” and chanting “Burn down a Mosque”. Members of the EDL have also been linked to Norway terrorist Anders Behring-Breivik.

However recently the EDL has also turned its violence on the labour movement, attacking a trade union book shop in Liverpool and a meeting in Barking organised by local Labour Party members with Unite Against Fascism (UAF), resulting in injuries.

We welcome the public initiative led by Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman to ban the EDL’s march. A march through the heart of the East End, a multicultural borough with the biggest concentration of Muslim communities in the country, would have been damaging for community relations.

However banning EDL marches is not sufficient in itself in opposing the EDL. The EDL still intends to hold a static demonstration.  The police say it cannot ban static demonstrations. We believe the EDL’s previous violence indicates it is a clear threat to public order, and overtly incites religious and racial hatred. This supersedes any so-called right of the EDL to demonstrate in Tower Hamlets, and on these grounds it should be prevented from having static demonstrations in multicultural areas with large Muslim populations.

Crucially, the lesson of history is that fascist organisations must be mobilised against. The EDL represent a tiny minority in society. We must alert and mobilise the vast majority of people in our society who find its violent, racist and Islamophobic behaviour abhorrent. We must unite all those in society that fascists target : Muslim, Jewish, other faiths, black, Asian, LGBT communities, trade unions, the labour movement, liberals, socialists, disabled people and all those for freedom and democracy, against fascism and racism.  This is how similar movements in the past like the National Front and Mosley’s Black shirts were defeated.

Today Muslim, Asian and black communities walk freely through the streets of Poplar and the Isle of Dogs without fear. This right was hard won and thanks to those that actively campaigned against racism and fascism before us.

We cannot be complacent in the face of racism and fascism. We must actively oppose and unite against it the moment it rears its ugly head. Failing to do so would give the EDL the green light to continue its violent hate campaign without opposition.

That is why local community organisations in Tower Hamlets formed “United East End” to oppose this threat.  Together with Unite Against Fascism, we will be hosting an event on Saturday 3rd September in Whitechapel to celebrate our diverse communities.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the Cable Street demonstration when Moseley’s fascists were stopped from running amock amongst the East End’s Jewish community. Today the Muslim community in the East End is facing a similar menace. It is vital that we stand together against this threat.