Very recently, the TELL MAMA project wrote to a range of policy shapers on the independent report that was produced by Teesside University on the Far Right and the promotion of anti-Muslim prejudice. The report, which was produced on the back of TELL MAMA data can be found here.
Subsequently, we received a number of e-mails from Lord Tebbit asking why we thought that the EDL are Far Right? Time and time again, Lord Tebbit was given a range of responses and references and we have included our responses to Lord Tebbit below when he continued to ask why the EDL were considered to be a Far Right group. Here is the trail of our responses.
19th of July 2013
“Dear Lord Tebbit,
Thank you for your response. We know that you are incredibly busy though some of the Far Right links of the group (the EDL) are highlighted in a number of reports:
Many thanks for your response. We would be happy to discuss in further.”
Lord Tebbit’s response was again to question which elements of the EDL were Far Right? He also for some reason, asked why the EDL and Jewish groups who objected to attacks against Israel were right wing? Now, we are not sure why Lord Tebbit decided to bring ‘Jewish groups’ into the discussion though we are sure that he was referring to the Jewish Defence League UK who are listed in the Faith Hate report link that was provided to him. As readers will know, this is run by a handful of people, one of whom is Roberta Moore and who is currently defending a libel action taken by TELL MAMA. (Note that the Jewish Chronicle refers to the English Defence League as extreme right wing in the 2011 news article on Roberta Moore).
Our response to Lord Tebbit’s correspondence is listed below:
20th July 2013
“Thanks Lord Tebbit,
There are numerous academic and social reports which specifically analyse the ideology of the EDL and which reflect a Far Right ideology. They would not be considered to be right wing, but Far Right. Here for example is a categorisation of them in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_Defence_League
Here are links from news sources stating that the EDL are Far Right based on their ideology: http://www.channel4.com/news/edl-far-right-extremism-woolwich-lee-rigby. There are numerous other reviews, in fact thousands outlining the ideology and their political classification as Far Right.
Also, a review of our reports lists their ideology in the context of the political spectrum. It is listed as Far Right. Coming onto the point of other individuals, indeed, there are very nasty individuals and groups that are extreme left wing, Islamist in nature etc and therefore extremes of different political ideologies are a problem, not just Far Right. In relation to the EDL and Jewish groups, this is a more complex situation. Jewish groups who object to attacks on Israel are not necessarily right wing and actually cover a wide political spectrum and they have the right to object against attacks on Israel. Sometimes attacks on Israel are covert ways of promoting anti-Semitism and this needs to be acknowledged. Anti-Semitism sometimes couched as attacks on Israel are unacceptable.
However, we, on the basis of a very large volume of academic and other evidence say that the EDL are Far Right and one group, which happens to promote a defence of Israel and which consists of a handful of individuals, are Far Right. The latter is Kahanist and is even outlawed by the FBI in the US and regarded by the Anti-Defamation League in the US as Far Right. It is also outlawed in Israel itself. However, we again stress that the latter group consists of a handful of individuals, one of whom is not even a British national. In conjunction with this, we salute groups like the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Community Security Trust who have steadfastly stood against the EDL and other extreme groups and who have supported the rights of other faiths when they did not have to. They are not only inspirational as groups, they have been an asset to communities here in the UK and their defence of Israel is one based on its right to exist, its people to live free from fear and a right to choose its own destiny.
We hope that this provides greater clarity and thank you for responding. Happy to meet with you at any point.
We have been saddened to see that some have asked us about our position on Israel, which is very unfortunate. TELL MAMA’s role has been to support victims of anti-Muslim prejudice, map/measure and record data on hot-spots, as well as undertake research on the analysis of the level of anti-Muslim prejudice. Furthermore, our role has been to work with local forces to ensure prosecutions and to campaign and work with policy shapers. However, on the basis of this, we would like to reiterate that human rights underpin our work. This means the right for people to live from fear and this would translate into the right for Palestinians and Israelis to live their lives free from fear and hate.
Further & Continuing Correspondence from Lord Tebbit
Well the correspondence did not stop and Lord Tebbit decided to ask us which policies of the EDL were Far Right in our opinion? Shockingly, the continued questioning of why the EDL were Far Right continued to be directed at us and Lord Tebbit decided to focus on our interpretation of the EDL as Far Right. Forget the fact that social scientists have listed a variety of reasons why and the thousands of pieces of research material that explained why the EDL were Far Right. No, Lord Tebbit wanted to know why we thought so, even though we had provided him with a range of material, some of which had been produced by Faith Matters that co-ordinates the TELL MAMA project.
We provided the following response to Lord Tebbit:
“30th July 2013
Dear Lord Tebbit,
We think we have outlined the details in these reports that we previously sent through. Please take time to read them and they make answer the thrusts of your questions:
We wish you well.
True to form, Lord Tebbit responded back suggesting that we had provided no justification for ‘our claim’ that the EDL were extreme Far Right in their political stance and that we were repeating the claim since others had made it. He then finished off the statement with what we regard as a threat, that if we could not provide an explanation to him, he would ‘explain this problem’ to the readers of his Telegraph blog.
The response to Lord Tebbit from us is listed below:
17th August 2013
“I am more than happy to come and see you and explain matters in person. I am also happy to bring with me an academic with a specialism in this area, however, I find the suggestion of using a ‘Telegraph blog’ threatening and unhelpful.
No doubt, as you have suggested that you reserve the right to draft a blog, we reserve the right to publish the thread of these e-mails. Your assumptions are also unhelpful and faulty and you have made the assumption that because ‘someone else said it, we are repeating it (the phraseology of the EDL being a Far Right organisation).’ If this is also is the case, you should take action against the tens of thousands of on-line and printed materials on the web and with the authors who have described the EDL as a Far Right group. Clearly you will not and your focus rests on us which I would query and one may suggest is politically motivated.”
So, let us come onto the substantive matter that Lord Tebbit has raised. Firstly, the Teesside heading and the report was drafted by two excellent academics who have conducted detailed work on the English Defence League and these include Dr Nigel Copsey and Dr Matthew Feldman. In fact, Dr Nigel Copsey was instrumental in producing this report for Faith Matters. So why the fixation on us Lord Tebbit?
Secondly, some could legitimately ask whether Lord Tebbit does not believe that the EDL are a Far Right group from the written responses provided, even though he clearly stated that he did not support or believe in the Group. If Lord Tebbit does not believe that the EDL are Far Right in their political outlook and more importantly extreme in their political outlook, then there is a problem and we would suggest that academics outline the case for Lord Tebbit. However, we do not shun away from some of the difficult issues that we have deal with when working on the area of anti-Muslim prejudice. So let us provide our reasoning to Lord Tebbit.
Groups that are extreme and Far Right, in our opinion (and we hope that this also brings forward academic discourse on this matter), promote:
– Social Inequality: The EDL will claim that it is not racist, yet, its followers and supporters have been regularly evidenced abusing Asians, Chinese and African Caribbean members of the public during demonstrations, whilst racially swearing at those outside mosques and abusing Muslims as a whole. Some members are also deeply prejudicial against women and target women on-line and off-line for lewd and sexually aggressive comments.
This is frankly just the tip of the iceberg. Whilst the EDL suggests that it counters Islamist extremism, its leadership has specifically targeted Muslim communities as a whole and promoted prejudice against this group within society. To suggest that the EDL would promote social equality for Muslims is like suggesting that Mussolini would open his arms to the Socialist Workers Party of Great Britain.
– Authoritarianism: This is a characteristic within Far Right groups. Look at the British National Party and the English Defence League and the organisation’s strategic direction, persona and outward profile rest on a handful of individuals. Dissent is disliked and in many instances, members, activists and others who dissent are quickly ousted.
Authoritarianism may also be reflected within extreme left wing groups and Pol Pot and Stalin (as Lord Tebbit suggests), are examples of such authoritarian behaviour. We do not disagree, though there are a number of traits that are unique to Far Right groups which also include some characteristics that may cross over between Far Right and Far Left groups.
– A Rejection of Fundamental Human Equality: This is the cornerstone of groups like the English Defence League. The leadership of the EDL says one thing and statements made in speeches, on Twitter and Facebook then undermine equality as Muslims are targeted for particular bile. Does anyone in their right minds believe that if the EDL ever came to power that there would be a protection of equality for all. Clearly not and however much the EDL leadership talks about tackling Islamist extremism, the leadership and the follower base of the EDL regularly caricature all Muslims.
– Rejection of the Democratic Values of the State: What is clear is that the EDL and its leadership do not believe in the power of the ballot box and are heavily critical of Government, reject the authority of Government, believe that there is a Government ‘liberal’ conspiracy around immigration and that the Government are against the ‘working class’ man or woman. Forget the fact that Tommy Robinson himself owns a number of businesses that he himself has said, turn over £300,000 a year. This may well be the reason why he can travel around the UK being the full-time mouthpiece of the EDL.
At every opportunity, the EDL and its leadership simply reject the democratic frameworks of our State opting for what they call, ‘street protest movements,’ that have cost the nations tens of millions in policing.
– Hyper nationalism: Evidently clear from the position that the EDL takes around the protection of England against migrants and Muslims.
– Anti-Pluralism: Well, in the eyes of the EDL, you are fine to be in the UK, apart from Muslims. Pluralism at its heart is acceptance that there are various communities of interest and identity and that they have an equal shared space in society. As mentioned before, the EDL simply have no space for Muslims and language has regularly slipped into targeting all Muslims.
– Anti-Semitism: Whatever the leadership attempts to portray, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Community Security Trust have made their positions amply clear on the EDL. They never will have the support of Jewish communities and they are regarded as part of the problem in promoting sectarian and ethnic divides. The Board of Deputies and the CST also regard the EDL’s use of the Israeli flag in their demos as a cynical attempt to goad Muslim communities and that Israelis and Jewish communities reject the cynical misuse of this national symbol.
Furthermore, scratch the surface of followers and the age old language of anti-Semitism comes out from EDL sympathisers.
So, Lord Tebbit, we have made our position clear. If after our explanations, you are still not satisfied, may we direct you to spending an hour in conversation with Tommy Robinson. No doubt in his conversation, he will touch on many of the points raised above.