Later this morning the English Defence League will be staging a demonstration in Dudley, a borough near Birmingham in the English Midlands. The EDL is protesting the proposed building of a large mosque.
We’ll be reporting the news from Dudley as it trickles in later today. In the meantime, below is an interview with Trevor Kelway, one of the leaders of the English Defence League, by our EDL correspondent “G”:
Interview with Trevor Kelway
02 April 2010
|Q:||Let’s start with who the EDL are. Your website says: “The EDL was formed on the 27th of June, 2009 due to frustration at the lack of any significant action by the British Government against extremist Muslim preachers and organisations such as Islam4UK, Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Islamic Forum of Europe, the Muslim Council of Britain — the list goes on”.|
Is the EDL still primarily about pushing back the influence of extremist Muslim preachers and organisations? Have you developed any additional aims over the last nine months?
|A:||This is still our primary aim: to reverse the trend of Islamic extremism and its promoters. We are supportive of the wider aims within the UK — removing sharia law, prohibiting halal slaughter, and banning the burka.|
|Q:||What are the EDL’s methods?|
|A:||Our main strategy is one of peaceful protest. This is working marvellously, particularly after our successful demonstrations in London and Bolton. The British people can tell that self-discipline in the face of violent provocation is a strength. In this way we express views which are widely held amongst British people, but which media and government elites would prefer to silence.|
We want ordinary people who discuss the issue in the café, to feel able to discuss it out loud without being branded racist or fascist. We’re trying to break the fear barrier, to encourage people to come out and to voice their concerns openly.
|Q:||Why don’t you want more sharia law in Britain?|
|A:||We believe there should be one law for all in this country, and that law is English common law. It is divisive, and undermines British law, to allow alternative legal systems within one jurisdiction. It also encourages further self-segregation.|
|Q:||How quickly have you grown since you started out in 2009?|
|A:||We have grown fast since we started out, with a presence right across the country now. There has been a lot of interest in us from the wider British public, despite media suspicion. However, we have found that media interest in the Dudley demo this coming Saturday has been especially big. We think that interest will continue to grow, particularly as people see the self-control and order at our protests. We know our views are quietly shared by many ordinary people in this country.|
|Q:||What challenges did you face at the start?|
|A:||When we started out we received no contact from any counter-groups or media outlets. No-one asked what we are about. The sole reaction was to brand us as racists and hooligans, and other names. The result was to mislead some members of the far-right to want to join us. It also misled members of the far-left to think there was political capital to be made by attacking us. We have corrected both misconceptions. The far right now brand us as “race-traitors” — they have repeatedly threatened and physically attacked us.|
|Q:||How do you think the EDL will continue to grow?|
|A:||We think our continued growth will depend on our conduct at demonstrations. As people can see that we’re committed to peaceful methods, and feel comfortable joining us, we think we will continue to grow.|
|Q:||The criticism that is frequently levelled at the EDL is that you are racist. Your website says that: “We, the English Defence League, are a grass roots social movement who represent every walk of life, every race, every creed and every colour; from the working class to middle England.” And that “Our Christian, Jewish, Sikh, and Hindu friends all have tales to tell with regard to Islamic Imperialism and ‘Orthodox Teachings’, in particular the Wahhabi/Salafi doctrine of ‘killing unbelievers if they refuse to be subdued by Islam’.” What else do you say to this charge of racism?|
|A:||The problems of Islamic extremism are experienced by many communities, not just ethnic English people — Sikh, Hindu, Jewish, Christian, and others feel threatened. It isn’t just a “white people’s” problem. This is one of the falsehoods put about by those who would prefer to silence us.|
|Q:||Another criticism is that you are thugs. What do you say to this?|
|A:||Well, just look at our record: at our last two demos there were a total of 132 arrests, but only 10 of those were on the EDL side. 2 of those 10 were allowed back into the protest with no charge, and a further three were at our own request, to remove undesirables — we cheered as the police removed them.|
These figures are more significant when you see them as a percentage of demonstrators. At Bolton we had 2,000 demonstrators, as opposed to the UAF’s 1,500. In London we had 800, as opposed to the UAF’s 100. So, although we had almost double the UAF’s numbers on those two demonstrations, we had a tiny fraction of the arrests.
|Q:||What do you say about remarks that your members are incapable of reading, writing, or reasoning?|
|A:||How have people come to this conclusion, I’d like to know? I would have thought that ordinary people are entitled to a voice regardless of whether they can read — perhaps the anti-fascists disagree! Generalisations like this are aimed at the fact that we have working-class members. We are a grassroots movement, representing ordinary citizens from all walks of life, with the courage to make a stand. We are glad to have been founded by such people, instead of by the smooth elites.|
|Q:||At your last demonstration, in Bolton on 20 March 2010, the BBC reported 67 arrests 3 of which were EDL people. How did this come about?|
|A:||We have stewards who help keep order on our protests. They are 100% EDL, and 100% committed to keeping the protest safe and orderly. They respect EDL supporters, and or EDL supporters respect them. Unlike the UAF, we don’t want violence and provocation. The aim is for a peaceful protest, and good community spirit. We want support from the people in the towns where we demonstrate, e.g. Dudley tomorrow.|
|Q:||Afterwards, one of the EDL leaders, ‘Tommy’, discussed the demonstration in a Radio Five interview, along with Martin Smith one of the UAF organisers. What happened in that interview?|
|A:||You can hear the attitude of Martin Smith: he refused to debate with us, kept talking down the radio interviewer, and repeatedly expressed the aim of preventing us demonstrating at all. People can see this for the intolerance it is. We don’t pretend to be PR smoothies, but we are prepared to discuss the issues openly. This is what you heard on that interview.|
|Q:||What do the UAF do at your demonstrations?|
|A:||The UAF aim is to prevent us peacefully expressing our views. First, by blocking the route of our protest — this is where a number of the UAF arrests occur. They also try to intimidate and provoke us with threats. Then they try to smear us with chants such as “Nazi scum off our streets”. What they reveal is their intolerance for opinions they disagree with.|
In Luton last year Islam4UK demonstrated against returning British troops, calling them “butchers”. Two British patriots were arrested for defending our troops by calling the Islam4UK protesters “scum” and insulting Osama Bin Laden’s mother. Why are the UAF not arrested for more provocative and intimidating chants?
|Q:||Have EDL members received threats? From whom?|
|A:||Yes, we have received an ugly array of threats from UAF people, Islamic extremists, and from white supremacists. These groups are united in wanting to silence us. Perhaps they should merge into one fraternal organisation. It would be interesting to see what they name it!|
|Q:||What do you say to unconnected members of the public who don’t like seeing demonstrations in their towns?|
|A:||We ask them to be patient. We have no other way of getting our message heard, so it is appropriate that we use demonstrations as the way to exercise our right to free speech. The disruption is overwhelmingly caused by the UAF’s determination to prevent us being heard, and not by our demonstration itself.|
|Q:||What do you think the danger might be if no one took the stand you are taking?|
|A:||Our point of view would never get heard. Politically correct elites want to ignore it, and so do many mainstream journalists. But there is widespread sympathy for our view amongst the general public. It is unhealthy for any political system to suppress widely held, and reasonable, opinions.|
|Q:||Why do you think the establishment are so hostile towards you?|
|A:||The problem we highlight is one which politicians have themselves created, and which they dare not face up to. They lack the backbone to address it. So they keep an undignified silence, and hope they can keep it that way as long as they are around. We are forcing them to face up to problems which they have made and which they lack the ability to solve. This is inconvenient for them!|
|Q:||What is the police attitude towards the EDL? And your attitude towards them?|
|A:||Our relations with the police improve with each protest we run. Our liaison with them is excellent. It is important to us that our demonstrations take place in an orderly way, and the police appear to understand this. After the embarrassment of the police heavy-handedness at a Scottish Defence League protest a few weeks ago, they appear to accept that our right of peaceful protest is legitimate.|
|Q:||EDL demonstrations are notable for people holding Israeli flags. Why is this?|
|A:||Israel is on the front line of Islamic extremism and jihad. We support them in their struggle for survival, against lethal attack and unwarranted criticism from many quarters. Even in England it is becoming shamefully difficult for Jewish people to wear a yarmulke, or to carry an Israeli flag, in public. We would like to tell our Jewish friends that one place where they can do so safely is an EDL demo!|
|Q:||How can sympathisers help the EDL?|
|A:||Come and have a look at our demonstrations. Visit our website and forum — see what we’re really about. Anyone can help, whatever their particular talent!|
|Q:||Finally, what do you say to people who might be tempted to come out in support of the EDL, but are wary because of the criticisms they have heard against you?|
|A:||Listen to our message, and to the substance of our protests, not just the reports of the more politically correct journalists and politicians.|
If you are concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism, this is the sole reason we formed our movement. Chat to our supporters online. See for yourselves. Try to see through the mist!