The most worrying element of the English Defence League’s rise is their growing support from within ethnic minority communities.
I can understand why angry, working class, white men who go to football matches looking for fights support the EDL, I get why Tea Party activist Rabbi Nachum Shifren recently addressed an EDL rally outside the Israeli embassy in Kensington, I even get why the EDL believe what they believe, but what I can’t quite comprehend is why Hindu and Sikh people are supporting the right wing group.
On Facebook the “Hindus who support the English Defence League (EDL)” has been liked by 367 people and the Sikh equivalent has 554 likes. Although not all of these likes are from Hindu and Sikhs, the fact that just groups exist speaks volumes in itself.
Steve Bird of The Times, who did a fantastic piece on the EDL leader Tommy Robinson over the weekend and was part of the panel at a public meeting entitled In Denial? Racism, Islam and the Media a few nights ago, talked of the “incredible juxtaposition” between the current day EDL – with their Jewish contingent, Gay and Lesbian section and support from a small proportion of ethnic minorities – and the National Front of the 1980’s.
But why are ethnic minorities (like Guramit ‘Amit’ Singh who is a poster boy of the EDL and those who joined the above facebook groups) supporting such an extremist organisation?
One answer may lie in the growing adoption of right-wing rhetoric by normal individuals. In other words, ethnic minorities are now using the language that was used against them in the 60’s and 70’s.
The Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, the country’s leading Muslim columnist, said: “What is so depressing to me is that Black and Asian people are becoming part of this national conversation about ‘gosh are immigrants awful for this country’”. Alibhai-Brown freely admitted that she had friends and family who used this discourse (as do I) and with this in mind maybe it is not so surprising that ethnic people are willing to support the EDL.
It is a small step from ‘gosh these immigrants are awful’ to ‘look at these Muslim’s ruining our country’. The EDL claim to be “anti-racist” and argue they are just against “Islamic extremism”, and therefore seem appealing to individuals who believe their way of life, safety and jobs are at threat from immigrants and society’s ‘other’.
Let’s also not forget that, due to deep historical divides, many Hindus and Sikhs despise Muslims enough to band together with groups like the EDL.
Another reason could the broad tarnishing of ethnic minorities with the same brush. I talked in an earlier post about how the term ‘British Asian’ clumps together very different groups of people under the same heading, and maybe growing support in the ethnic minority community for the EDL is partly due to this need to distinguish one’s self, the need to show “hey, we are not like them, we are ok”.
I’m no expert on this issue, but the fact that the EDL has any support from ethnic minority communities simultaneously fascinates and scares me. It is a strange, albeit small, phenomena and one that should be monitored, for it seems to me that the more diverse the EDL become the more credible they appear and cycle will be born.
If you are an ethnic minority who supports the EDL please do get in touch with why you do so.