Tommy Robinson, the EDL and Quilliam – a trinity of failure


So folks, here we go – Da Masked Avenger is finally putting finger to keyboard. Well that’s not strictly true as I’ve already started tweeting (@GleamingRazor) but this is my first article on my blog site.

Given the recent publicity surrounding Mr T Robinson’s (aka Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) decision to quit the English Defence League along with his co-founder cousin, Kevin Carroll, I decided that I had little choice but to give this topic the benefit of my modest analytical and literary talents. Actually I’m quite annoyed at having being forced by circumstance to write about these two morons for my debut piece not least because there is actually precious little of consequence to be said about them.

Tommy, it seems has finally had enough of the constant police harassment, Muslim harassment and death threats, Leftist harassment and death threats, court cases, jail sentences and the general headache of having to constantly suppress the growing contingent of unruly, violent, neo-nazis in his diverse protest organisation. It’s seems he’s now opted for the life of the politician rather than the Stone Island clad street thug. And who could blame him? I mean instead of having to brave the autumn and coming winter’s cold, wind, rain, sleet and snow, leading a bunch of lagered-up hooligans through the streets of our major towns and cities, he’s instead going to be sat around tables in plush offices lecturing middle England (and perhaps even upper England) about the dangers of the “Islamo-fascist” ideology and how it’s fuelling a neo-Nazi counter reaction amongst the white working class. Given the choice of the two I know which I’d choose! As for cousin Kev well I guess being family he has to follow in Tommy’s footsteps lest it cause a row at the next family dinner.

No but jokes aside I personally suspect that there is more to this sudden change of course than meets the eye and I, for one, refuse to buy into the provided narrative that his term of imprisonment earlier this year led to him re-evaluating his ideas apropos of combating the so-called “Islamification” of Britain. A person who is having doubts about the course of action he is embarked upon doesn’t tend to plough full steam ahead. Rather he dithers, he waivers, he asks others for their opinions. Tommy by contrast these past 8 months has very much been leading from the front – chanting, shouting, screaming, posting abuse, stalking people, you name it, and he’s been doing it. Hardly the actions of a man having misgivings about the rectitude of his movement’s methodology.

That being said, over  the past few month it seems as though he has indeed been in contact with the boys over at Quilliam, namely Messrs  Maajid Nawaz and Usama Hasan whilst filming a documentary for the BBC. He chose to announce his resignation from the EDL at a Quilliam arranged press conference. So what is to be made of Qulliam’s role in all this?

Maajid Nawaz founded Quilliam back in 2008 along with another alleged ex-Islamist, Ed Husain. Ed has since departed for pastures new in New York having taken up a prime posting with the renowned Council for Foreign Relations (CFR). Shortly after Ed departed Quilliam suffered a series of setbacks when its government funding was severely curtailed and eventually phased out – although whether government funding is still being provided for another “anti-extremism” project which Mr Nawaz heads up in Pakistan, namely “Khudi” is not entirely clear to me at this moment.  What is clear is that ever since its inception over five years ago Maajid and his organisation have been viewed with a deep sense of distrust and apprehension by the vast majority of the Muslim community with some even going so far as to regard them as renegades from the faith.

Chief amongst the accusations levelled at them are that they are “government stooges” and working hand-in-glove with the authorities in order to subvert the legitimate aspirations of Britain’s two million strong Muslim community as well as working to deflect attention from what many see as the twin causes of Muslim terrorism – a foreign policy of blind support for US and Israeli aggression in Iraq/Afghanistan and Palestine respectively combined with a domestic policy of suppressing Muslim dissent via draconian anti-terror legislation. In addition their stance on subjects like Shariah law has left them at odds with the majority of Muslims – both the practising and the non-adherent ones.

As a result they have long since abandoned their attempts at appealing to the hearts and minds of the Muslim community in favour of addressing the majority white non-Muslim segment of UK society. Of course telling middle Englanders that Islam is actually a secular religion in the same mould as Christianity and that there isn’t actually any such thing as Shariah law (or punishments) is telling them precisely what they want to hear for reassurance. This previously gained them considerable support and sympathy, not to mention a large chunk of tax payer’s money in funding.

Despite this after a couple of years of peddling the same mantra that “Islam wasn’t Islamism” even many non-Muslims were beginning to tire of Quilliam’s trite rhetoric regarding this supposed distinction – a distinction which it was becoming painfully obvious to them, that most Muslims did not share. A noteworthy example of this was the resounding defeat suffered by Maajid and fellow panellist Zeba Khan in their debate with Douglas Murray and Ayan Ali Hirsi hosted by Intelligence Squared. Compound this with too many people starting to raise awkward questions about how precisely Mr Nawaz was disbursing the not inconsiderable sums of money that Quilliam was receiving from the UK taxpayer and you had all the ingredients of a major crisis in the making. Sure enough in 2010 government funding for Quilliam was massively cut and then over the following two years phased out altogether leading to the organisation having to lay off half its staff. Politicians, journalists, Muslim activists (some previously targeted by Quilliam) began to questions the wisdom of ploughing so much public money into an organisation headed by two ex-Islamists with an obvious vested interest in playing up the extent of the “extremist threat”.

Recently Maajid launched his political career by getting himself selected as the parliamentary candidate of the Liberal party for the Kilburn constituency in north west London. It seems that over the years he has made a few friends in high places from amongst the political elite and I strongly suspect that the Liberal party leader, Nick Clegg is keen to have a model Muslim MP amongst his front line team. What better way to boost both Maajid’s profile and the profile of the flagging Quilliam foundation than to have Maajid pull off the seemingly impossible task of persuading the heads of the EDL to recant their views and embrace moderation and the path of political activism not street violence? With one stroke the growing menace of an increasingly volatile and extreme street movement would be eviscerated whilst simultaneously providing Maajid a huge PR coup, greatly enhancing his credibility not to mention his chances of election in 2015.

What I SUSPECT, and obviously this is my conjecture, is that the security services, at the behest of the home secretary and the prime minister aided by some ardent lobbying from Nick Clegg, paid Tommy a visit and gave him two choices: either play ball and go along with their programme for the EDL and Quilliam or face the full brunt of a state backed campaign of intimidation and harassment. When you have a wife and kids to factor into your equations then only someone who has a divinely inspired belief in his cause (ironically as Tommy’s Islamist counterparts do) would have the courage to resist such pressure. In addition I’m sure any such threats would have been sugar coated with suitable inducements – no doubt relating to the setting up of a new political movement and avenues for funding it. Credit for his quitting the EDL and abandonment of the street protest paradigm would have to be attributed to Quilliam and in particular Maajid. In return outstanding court cases against Tommy and Kev would be dropped or even if pursued and convicted the sentences would be reduced to token punishments.

All that remained was for a suitable narrative to be invented. No doubt it was decided that the most plausible would be one involving his time in solitary confinement in prison (note the similarity to Maajid’s story of his time in an Egyptian prison) being the impetus for him to re-evaluate his views. Problematically though for this narrative, after his release from prison he would spend another 8 months leading the EDL before announcing his departure – once again bearing a striking similarity to Maajid’s claim to have reformed in prison yet remaining an active, leading member of Hizb ut-Tahrir for a year after his release. Tommy gets around this anomaly by claiming that he would have left earlier but for the killing of Lee Rigby which “forced” him to stay on. Maajid simply claims that he was confused and in a state of cognitive dissonance until finally gaining the courage to break free from his group with the aid of his erstwhile friend Ed Husain.

So where does all this leave Quilliam? Quite frankly in no better shape than it was before. Still hated and despised (even more so, in fact) by the Muslim community – the very community whose ideas they are claim they seeking to reform – and viewed with distrust as (oh the irony of this) closet Islamists by many of the white working class supporters of the EDL. And what of Maajid himself? Well the man comes out of this affair with super-hero status (well in the eyes of his supporters anyway), gaining even more support from amongst white middle England and even picking up a fair few from the less extreme, more rational minded working class followers of Mr Robinson. Remember that the “White British” ethnic group still comprises 86% of the population of the nation so come election time in a couple of years I’m sure Mr Nawaz will play heavily upon “his” success in “persuading” Mr Robinson to embrace a pluralistic, inclusive, democratic approach to solving the “problem” of rising Islamist “extremism” in Britain.

No doubt it will score him a lot of brownie points with the middle class voters of his constituency, elevate his profile and credibility amongst the political class and most importantly of all attract more wealthy potential donors!

Could all of the above actually be a product of my overactive imagination, amplified by my inherent disposition towards the conspiratorial? Maybe. I suppose it’s entirely possible that Tommy and Kev realised that the EDL wasn’t fit for purpose anymore and Maajid guided them towards the exit but if I was a betting man I’d put money on there being  something more to inspire this story than the reflections of a man serving a few months in the British penal system.

So what exactly has changed in the views of Tommy and Kev? By the sounds of it, precious little; other than an acknowledgement that chanting “Who the F is Allah” and donning t-shirts depicting a mosque with the word “boom!” emblazoned below wasn’t really a productive way to engage with the Muslim community. For sure he’s mentioned the issue of far right extremism now but judging by all the interviews he’s given thus far and by his comments on Twitter it seems pretty much business as usual. For Tommy, Islam is still evil and Muslims still need to abandon it or to use his euphemism, “reform” it. Mosques can now be built with his blessing but not with foreign funding and only if the mosque is willing to accept regulation (aka spying) from non-Muslims and be dictated to as to what it can and cannot preach. Maybe he’s accepted that it’s ok for Muslims to do that strange prayer ritual five times a day and dress up for Eid twice a year but more than that still constitutes an unacceptable encroachment upon the British way of life and God forbid that a Muslim woman go out dressed in anything other than skinny jeans and a tank top! No, for me, there is precious little different today in the views and beliefs of Tommy Robinson than there was a week or so ago. Still the same hatred and demagoguery cloaked in an irrational fear of Muslim “take over”.

Now that big (well actually he’s fairly little) daddy has left the EDL I can only hope that the Frankenstein he created will atrophy and succumb to the disunity and infighting that was becoming increasingly apparent. An organisation built upon and dedicated to hate is like a tower built upon sand, you can prop it up with temporary supports for only so long but eventually it will come tumbling down. So here’s hoping that Santa’s Christmas present for 2013 is the death of the EDL.

Till next time…and remember you never know where and when Da Masked Avenger might strike next…you’ve been warned!

One Comment Add yours

  1. Jimmy khan says:

    Insightful, punchy and probably deadly accurate!

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