When the word ‘extremist’ is mentioned your first thought is most likely a man in a headscarf and thawb brandishing an AK-47 to the heavens, with the emergence of ISIS he may be dressed in black with a black and white flag behind him. It is true that this is a representation that as a society we have grown accustomed to associating with the word ‘extremism’ but it is merely one conceptualisation of the word. Ask someone who grew up in the days of the IRA and they would likely tell you that they would picture a man in a balaclava and parka, ask someone who grew up in the 1930’s and they would likely tell you a white man with no face covering but dressed entirely in black.
In today’s world where fire is so often fought with fire there is another extremist, one that came out of the movements of the National Front and the British National Party, one that uses Islamic extremism as an excuse to spread their bilious message of division. They are our very own Britain First and English Defence League.. No doubt the names are familiar and no doubt they are associated with intolerance, hate speech and often violence and, just like the aforementioned groups they even have their own uniform, one that can be purchased via their website along with a lovely array of accessories including a keychain and wrist-band.
The question is, why aren’t these groups taken more seriously by our authorities? Muslim hate preachers are – despite the incorrect rhetoric to the contrary from right-wing news sources – arrested, prosecuted and either jailed or deported when found guilty, rightly so. Examples of these being Anjem Choudary who was jailed for five and half years, Abu Qatada who was eventually deported after a long legal battle in 2013 and Sufiya Mustafa, son of Abu Hamza, who had his passport revoked after it was discovered he was fighting Jihad in Syria. During an EDL rally in 2013 in Birmingham, 50 people were convicted of violence though it was not disclosed how many were part of the far-right group. None of its prominent members who organised the rally were convicted for incitement. Comparatively the most severe punish that BF have suffered is leader, Paul Golding, being jailed for a mere eight weeks after breaching a High Court injunction forbidding him from entering any mosque in Britain.
This lack of action comes despite a catalogue of hate speech, – the groups Facebook page was taken down last year for breaching the site’s hate speech policy yet inexplicably reinstated just an hour later – violence and deliberately provocative behaviour. The rallies that are held by both groups often descend into violence, the aforementioned EDL rally in Birmingham being an example and the repeated, vigilante-esque ‘Christian Patrols’ of BF where they march through Muslim communities in force brandishing crosses and yelling threats, so much for the Christian peace on earth and goodwill to all men.
More chilling still was Golding’s video message upon his release from prison where he took aim at politicians, journalists and ‘leftists’: “I can promise you, from the very depths of my being, you will all meet your miserable ends at the hands of the Britain First movement. Every last one of you.” It is difficult to comprehend what that is if not a blatant threat. Elsewhere in his rant he blamed all the prison violence he witnessed on Muslims while claiming that “every time you arrest me or take me to court or send me to prison you are simply displaying to the world how corrupt and morally bankrupt you are.” Apparently Mr Golding believes that British laws do not apply to him. Not stopping there he declared: “If there are any ‘leftists’ watching this, take note, I am your enemy and I will not stop until every last one of you is brought to justice.” Quite what he means by this is anyone’s guess though it is very apparent he is a man who cannot conceive his view being challenged in any way, shape or form. BF were also dragged into controversy where the murderer of MP, Jo Cox, was heard shouting “Britain First” before he pulled the trigger, the group denied any connection with Golding branding it a “terrible day for our democracy.”
Despite Britain First’s Facebook page claiming that they are committed to “creating a country based on freedom of opinion, expression and assembly…” they certainly do a good job of oppressing our Muslim community and anyone else who opposes their movement, a notable habit of theirs is blocking anyone from their social media accounts who so much as slightly disagrees with them. Previous movements that have been so clearly set upon the destruction of minorities have been listed as white nationalist organisations, these include the aforementioned NF and BNP. However, this becomes more difficult where Britain First are concerned as they allow entry to other ethnicities though there is an insidious undertone on their website where they claim to “not recognise the validity of this made-up word.” Such a sentiment is dangerous, refusal to recognise racism provides it not only with credence but the conditions in which it can spread.
Thus far these hate mongers have rarely been referred to as hate preachers, rather our media has preferred the term “far-right groups” which, while true is insufficient. As groups that do nothing but spread intolerance and hate they should be branded as ‘Nationlist Extremists’ just as Muslims are branded ‘Islamic Extremists.’