Today all across England hordes of unemployed white men cracked open their lagers, draped themselves in England flags and set out to confront the “Islamic menace.”
The BNP held a poorly attended rally in Westminster to drive home the message that Islam is incompatible with Britain and that Muslims should be repatriated. Meanwhile, the English Defence League rallied in small numbers across the country to oppose “creeping shariah” and “Islamic terrorism.”
The protests were triggered by the recent killing of a British soldier by two men who claimed to be acting in the name of Islam. Most of these rallies were heavily outnumbered by anti-fascist demonstrators and police. Predictably scuffles ensued and quite a few anti-fascists were arrested.
Booze and fighting
I’ve had the dubious pleasure of spending more time than I should have with the intellectuals who comprise the BNP and, especially, the English Defence League. So I’d like to share my experiences with you.
In general the pattern is the same. A few hundred EDL turn up draped in England flags, sporting anti-Islamic banners, drinking loads of alcohol and shouting stuff like “scum.” United Against Fascism organizes a counter-demonstration to “reclaim the streets.” Muslim youth also turn up for a laugh and a fight. Things often turn ugly.
To be honest my encounters with the BNP have been quite civilized. I interviewed one of their representatives Bob Bailey a few years back and he was extremely polite. Sure, he came out with the usual anti-Islam stuff but he wore a suit, behaved impeccably and was very friendly.
The next time I caught up with Bob was when he was giving a few Asian lads a good hiding on You Tube during the 2010 election campaign. His impressive fighting skills can be viewed here.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that the BNP is the posh man’s EDL.
As for the English Defence League, my first encounter with them was also a few years back when I was working at Press TV’s news department in London. As soon as I started asking questions one individual (who seemed to be on something) became obsessed with the symbol on my microphone. He asked me what it meant and why it was all over his town of Oldham. I told him several times that I didn’t know what he was on about but he just wouldn’t let it go to the bemusement of my fellow journalists and even his “PHD-material” mates.
When he got the chance his more intelligent buddy – who covered his face with a scarf (a bit like Muslim women do) – then launched into some anti-Muslim invective before claiming that he would like to see “Muslims build mosques in Mecca (?!).” Then his even more intelligent friend arrived – again with his face covered – and claimed that “Christians were getting their heads chopped off in Iraq.”
You can watch this bizarre encounter here and I guarantee this is worth a few minutes of your time.
Anyway, these guys in London were clearly a few beers short of a six pack but they were relatively harmless, but the EDL demonstrations that I’ve attended “up north” tend to be more threatening.
In 2011 I went to one in Bradford where EDL members escaped a police kettle before running amok across the city. Then they started fighting each other before a few of them got seriously battered by local Muslim youth. Ordinary people were genuinely scared by some of the mayhem that was taking place on their streets.
To my great regret I can’t really get close to the EDL anymore because they recognize me from previous encounters when I’ve stiched them up. It’s a shame because I miss those guys and their wisdom and enlightening conversation. We had some good times together.