Britain warns of rise in far-right violence
LONDON (Reuters) – A government minister said a recent rise in right-wing anti-Islamist militancy bore echoes of 1930s attempts by fascists to spread fear in Jewish areas of east London.
Communities Secretary John Denham said far right groups were deliberately trying to provoke ethnic minority groups into conflict in a bid to cause divisions within communities.
His comments came after members of the Stop Islamisation of Europe group were confronted by about 1,000 opponents outside a mosque in north London on Friday.
One senior counter-terrorism officer warned in July that right-wing extremists were plotting a “spectacular” incident to fuel racial hatred.
The government has been trying to improve integration of ethnic minorities since race riots across northern England in 2001, and efforts were stepped up after the 2005 London suicide bombings carried out by four young British Islamists.
Groups such as the anti-Islamist English Defence League have become more prominent since a small number of Muslim protesters heckled and jeered a homecoming parade by British soldiers earlier this year.
Note: The Guardian points out, “Only a handful of Muslim protesters disrupted the Anglians’ homecoming parade, and they were drawn from an small extremist group that had already been ostracised by the mainstream Muslim community.”
Police were caught in a stand-off between anti-Islam and Muslim protesters as hundreds joined demonstrations outside a London mosque.
The mood soured when a gang of at least 100 pro-Islamic demonstrators broke away from the main body to chase away a small number of the anti-Mosque marchers.
The Stop Islamification of Europe (SIOE) group had pledged to hold a peaceful protest outside the mosque, which coincided with the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Counter protests were also planned at the site, where a new five-floor mosque is under construction.
A cabinet minister last night raised the spectre of a return to 1930s fascism, warning of “parallels” bertween rightwing groups planning protests in Muslim neighbourhoods and Oswald Mosley’s incendiary marches through Jewish areas of east London in the 1930s.
Announcing a government drive to address issues alienating white, working-class people at risk of being “exploited” by the far-right, John Denham, the secretary of state for communities and local government, singled out protests being organised by the English Defence League.
The group, has organised a number of protests in recent months which have turned violent.
The Guardian has also posted a profile of the group, saying Football fans are being recruited to join protests against Muslims. How worried should the authorities be?
English Defence League: chaotic alliance stirs up trouble on streets
The rise of the English Defence League, whose protests against Islamism have sparked violent city centre clashes, has been chaotic but rapid.
Three months ago, no one had heard of the EDL. But the organisation has risen to prominence in a spate of civil unrest in which far-right activists, football hooligans and known racists have fought running battles with Asian youths. The leadership insists they are not racist and just want to “peacefully protest against militant Islam”.
Yet at EDL events, skinheads have raised Nazi salutes and other EDL supporters have chanted racist slogans such as “I hate Pakis more than you”. One protest in Luton in May ended with scores of people attacking Asian businesses, smashing cars and threatening passersby.
Insiders have talked of plans to enlist football fans to march for the cause on the basis that “you need an army for a war”.
With the organisation’s confidence growing and plans for rallies in Leeds, Manchester and tomorrow in Trafalgar Square, concerned police chiefs and government ministers are asking what the English Defence League is, and what it wants.
It appears to have a hardcore of fewer than 200 in “divisions” in Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds and Luton. But those ranks are swelled by rightwing groups including gangs related to football clubs. Last night close to 500 had said they were considering attending the protest in London.