Wednesday, 15 June 2011

English Defence League is a Human Rights organisation (Part II)

Part I is here.
Criticisms of the EDL
‘This is a group whose purpose is to divide and to encourage hatred in our society and I condemn them for that.’ [source]. 
Home Secretary Teresa May at constituency meeting, June 9, 2011
Comment: if you read the EDL Mission Statement, there is nothing to indicate that its aim is to "encourage hatred".  Indeed, the opposite.  It specifically points out that its aim is to oppose "religiously-inspired intoleance and barbarity that are thriving amongst certain sections of the Muslim population in Britain", a statement which is surely unarguable.
Ms May's statement is a classic case of demonising the messenger.
Wikipedia entry on EDL [here]
Starts with an ipse dixit statement that EDL is "far right".  This is referenced by five footnotes:
1. House of Commons Communities and Government Committee "Preventing Violent Extremism", 6th Report 2009-10. Has two references to EDL.  The first says that "wherever it [the EDL] appears there is violence".
Comment: does not reflect that fact that in the majority of cases the violence has been started by the United Against Fascism counter demonstrators, as evidenced in the same Wikipedia entry.
The second says that the EDL is "Far Right" and notes that demonstrators have chanted "We hate Muslims" and "No more mosques".
Comment: the "far right" moniker is, again, ipse dixit, and not warranted by the Mission Statement.  EDL leadership has acknowledged that the chants of some supporters are out of order and in its regular emails to supporters calls on them not to chant racist slogans.  Christopher Hitchens notes in his memoir, Hitch-22, that any worth-while organisation will have in its membership some elements of the thug (I'll get the reference later).
2.  A screed by Chris Allen: which is a Post-modern Marxist analysis of "political discourse" -- that is to say turgid and virtually unreadable.  The only reference to EDL is to call it "far right".
3.  Another paper from post-modern marxists, Garland and Treadwell, tendentious and fallacious.  Again, mention of EDL as "far right", with no explanation of why and how.
4.  A Telegraph article, which is about the EDL deciding not to support the participation of pastor Terry Jones of "burn the Koran day" fame or infamy, with a spokesman of EDL noting that they do not support burning of any book as they stand for free speech. The only pejorative in this piece is in the headline, where there is reference, again ipse dixit, that it is a "far right" organisation.
5.  Guardian: yet again, the EDL called "far right", with no explanation.

In short, what we have here is a classic echo chamber.  One source says that EDL is "far right" by referring to another article that says they are "far right" without any of them saying why.  Yet there is nothing at all in the group's Mission Statement that is far right: it is concerned with the rights of all in society -- including those of Muslims who suffer under Islamic extremism -- with the freedom of speech, with the preservation of the best of western enlightenment culture (though not to any exclusion of admixture by immigrants' contributions to the culture), with confronting the worst practices of Islamism, such as honour killings, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and so on.  That's hardly the agenda of the "right", let alone the "far right". They used to be values that the left was proud to stand behind.

To be sure the EDL have their problems.
There is the infiltration by hooligan elements and thugs, mentioned above.
There is their website "look", which is rather black and red, rather.... fascist in appearance
There is the participation in their demonstrations: way too white/male.

 But their aims are surely unimpeachable; to stand against an ideology which is at its core supremacist, sectarian, homophobic and against the freedom of conscience and speech.

If they are to be faulted, it's for presentation and sometimes implementation.

They ought to revamp their website to make it more user-friendly.
They ought to work hard to involve more people from broader sections of society
They need to do even more work to tame the thugs in their membership and get rid of offenders
They should seek alliances with other organisations with the same concerns, eg One Law for All

PS: this is written a bit in haste and will update as time permits.