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Focus on Islamism
Friday 15th October 2010
The EDL's American Apologists

ALEXANDER MELEAGROU-HITCHENS

Earlier today, this blog posted a truly shocking video from a recent English Defence League (EDL) rally in Leicester which showed members of the far-right group laying siege to an Asian takeaway full of families.  Watch the video now if you haven't already, words cannot quite describe it.

In the Guardian's Comment is Free blog, Little Green Footballs blogger Charles Johnson has given a broad overview of the problems within American ‘anti-Jihadism', highlighting in particular the activities of Pamela Geller, the fear-monger behind the anti-Ground Zero Mosque movement.  One of the things he notes is her clear and repeated support for the EDL and other far-right organisations in Europe.  Geller's support for the EDL has been quite extensively covered by the Guardian and Johnson, though it is worth reiterating that she claims to ‘share the EDL's goals' and personally invited them to attend her rally on 9/11 to protest the Park51 Islamic centre.

Here at Focus on Islamism, we know that Geller follows our coverage of her - last time I blogged about her refusal to cancel her 9/11 rally, she called for me to be sacked from Standpoint and lambasted me as an apologist for radical Islam (she also misspelled my name, but to be honest I can't really blame her).  So, I provide the video again for her perusal, and eagerly await a response:

When faced with the ever-mounting evidence of far-right thuggery at their rallies, the EDL leadership and their apologists often try to wriggle out by claiming that the rally was ‘hijacked' by extremists who don't represent the movement.  In an email to Newsweek's Declassified blog (which ran a story about her support for the EDL), Geller defended the EDL in precisely these terms, writing: 'The left and real neo-Nazis frequently attempt to infiltrate EDL rallies in order to discredit the EDL.'  This is just not good enough.  If a Muslim group that claimed to be moderate had regular appearances by al-Muhajiroun (or, to take a US example, Revolution Muslim) at their rallies, something tells me that the EDL, Geller and company would not be so ready to excuse this.

Geller's ally Robert Spencer also attempts to defend the EDL in a response to Johnson's piece:

I don't believe they're [the EDL] neo-fascist white supremacists, as Johnson claims. There is no way that Pamela Geller or I would ever work with, endorse, or approve of any genuine neo-fascist or white supremacist individual or group in any way, shape or form.

Spencer has also defended the EDL as patriots who ‘stand for freedom', and reproduces materials from their official website.  If Spencer were to apply a tenth of the amount of online research he does on Muslims to the EDL, he would find that his claims about the group are simply wrong.  Here are just a couple of videos easily accessible on Youtube:

In January 2010, a Daily Mail special report into the EDL noted that,

Its leaders are professional and articulate and they claim that the EDL is a peaceful, non-racist organisation. But having spent time with them, there is evidence that this movement has a more disturbing side. There is talk of the need for a 'street army', and there are links with football hooligans and evidence that violent neo-Nazi groups including Combat 18, Blood and Honour and the British Freedom Fighters have been attending demos. [emphasis added]

The links between the EDL and Blood & Honour should be particularly concerning. Blood & Honour is a violent neo-Nazi movement with connections to far-right terrorists (for more on them, see here).  Add to all this the horrifying video from Leicester, and there is no justification for excusing or defending these people.

Geller and Spencer's apologia for the EDL would matter far less if they were fringe figures in the United States, but, as a recent profile of Geller in the Guardian noted, she has ‘inserted herself into mainstream politics in America.' She has also appeared as a pundit across the North American news media spectrum, including: Russia Today America; ABC News; Fox News; Canadian Broadcasting Company; MSNBC; CNN; and CBS NEWS  (source: New York Times).  And herein lies the problem; at present, the loudest and most well known voices against radical Islam in America are also the most willing to excuse, and even promote, poisonous anti-Muslim bigotry.  Daniel Pipes recently warned against the positions held by people like Spencer and Geller when he wrote:

Misled by the Islamists' insistence that there is no such thing as "moderate Islam," my allies often fail to distinguish between Islam (a faith) and Islamism (a radical utopian ideology aiming to implement Islamic law in its totality). This amounts not just to an intellectual error but a policy dead-end. Targeting all Muslims conflicts with basic Western notions, lumps friends together with foes, and ignores the inescapable fact that Muslims alone can offer an antidote to Islamism. As I often note, radical Islam is the problem, and moderate Islam is the solution.

This is absolutely right, and both Spencer and Geller should take heed.

Numerous US-based experts and academics on Islamism and terrorism whom I have spoken to bemoan the state of the radical Islam debate in America, and almost all identify Geller and Spencer as part of the problem, not the solution.  Thankfully, the discussion on this issue in Britain is in a more mature stage, and we do not have to put up with apologists for the EDL appearing regularly on Newsnight or The Daily Politics. 

NOTE

As an addendum, I also thought it appropriate at this point to direct your attention to this Geller speech where she peddles yet another paranoid conspiracy theory,  referring to President Obama as a ‘Mohammedan' (last time I saw that word used was  in a WW1-era Parliamentary Hansard!) [1.48mins in]:

 
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AnonymousMartin
October 17th, 2010
4:10 PM
The EDL are obviously unpleasant, & probably far right racists wholly or in part. However, they represent the frustrations of millions of British citizens whose lives have been degraded by mass immigration, especially Islamic immigration. The only respectable political party that has the courage to face up to their plight is UKIP. This party is essentially a small middle class Toryish one, & I support it, but its appeal is hardly likely to reach these proles & underclass types. Their grievances are genuine, & unless the coalition does something about immigration & islamicisation (including Turkey & the EU), things can only get worse.

Anonymous
October 15th, 2010
5:10 PM
Pamela Geller is not "behind the anti-Ground Zero Mosque movement" as the author claims. Opposition to the mosque is a grassroots phenomenon. A majority of people in the US and in New York oppose it on principle, not as a result of anything Pamela Geller has said.

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About Focus on Islamism

Focus on Islamism is a blog dedicated to analysing and exposing the modern ideological phenomenon known as Islamism.

Shiraz Maher is a writer and broadcaster.

Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens is a PhD student at King's College, London.  He has contributed to various online and printed publications including, The Daily Telegraph, Lebanon's Daily Star, Standpoint and NOWLebanon. 

To contact the authors, click here

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