The leaders of the right-wing English Defence League, Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll, have left the organisation over “right wing extremism.”
The so-called Muslim counter extremism think-tank the Quilliam Foudation, led by the controversial Maajid Nawaz, tweeted the news and said they were proud to facilitate the departure and would be holding a joint press conference today.
Mr Robinson told the BBC that he had become concerned over “morons” who would attend EDL demonstrations around the country. He said he wanted to lead a revolution against Islamism and not Muslims.
It’s understood that in total 12 senior members of the EDL will be leaving the organisation.
Quilliam said the organisation hoped Mr Robinson would “invest his energy and commitment in countering extremism of all kinds, supporting the efforts to bring along his former followers and encouraging his critique of Islamism as well as his concern with far-right extremism”.
Chairman Maajid Nawaz added: “As well as being a very positive change for the United Kingdom, this is a very proud moment for Quilliam. This represents not a change but a continuation for us, as challenging extremism of all kinds forms the basis of our work.
“We have been able to show that Britain stands together against extremism regardless of political views and hope to continue supporting Tommy and Kevin in their journey to counter Islamism and neo-Nazi extremism.”
The English Defence League is a far-right street protest movement which opposes what it considers to be a spread of Islamism, Sharia law and Islamic extremism in the United Kingdom.
The EDL has been described as Islamophobic and has faced confrontations with various groups, including Unite Against Fascism.
Tommy Robinson has estimated the EDL membership to be around 100,000, but the think-tank Demos estimates that there are between 25,000 and 35,000 active members.
Meanwhile, the “Twittersphere” has been reacting furiously to the news.
Prominent Muslim activist Salma Yaqoob said: “Everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt. I look forward to hearing about your change of heart, not just a change of tactics.”
Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation said: “You haven’t changed your views on anti-Muslim hatred and lies so why is it amazing you are leaving the EDL?”
Left-wing campaigner Owen Jones said: “Tommy Robinson is a far right thug, in or out of the EDL, and anyone who now embraces him discredits themleves.”
Moazzam Begg of Cageprisoners said: “From one extreme to another: Tommy Robinson quits the EDL to join Quilliam.”
Director of TELL MAMA, Fiyaz Mughal, stated: “The real question is whether Tommy Robinson has changed from just a few days ago when he was at the heart of the EDL machinery and where his messages undermined the work of anti-racist campaigners and those like us who counter hate and prejudice in communities.
“Whilst we cautiously welcome his change ‘defection’, the real truth will come out in the next few months and years. Yet, we must remain vigilant against the remaining sections of the English Defence League who may turn more violent after this event.
“Also, we would ask Tommy Robinson to apologise to our nation for the millions of pounds spent on policing costs and for the tensions in communities he has caused. Someone should be held accountable for the enormous wastage of police, local authority and other resources whilst his street instigators ram amock in places like Stoke, Birmingham and other cities.
“We will not doubt be keeping a close eye on his activities and the activities of others in the English Defence League.”
Finally, former Muslim Council of Britain spokseperson Inayat Bunglawala took a different view: “Would be churlish not to admit that this is quite a coup for Quilliam. Some good work from them…at last!”
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