On last Tuesday’s BBC Newsnight, the leader of the “English Defence League”, Stephen Lennon, was given a national platform to tell us how afraid he is of “Muslim Pimping Gangs” and “inams”. After his admittance of quite recently not knowing how to switch a computer on, I am thinking perhaps it is Mr. Lennon we should be worried about.
The argument for giving such far-right wing groups such prominence in the media is one of freedom of expression, but my interpretation of “freedom of expression” has never included inciting hatred against sections of society based on their race or religion. Another argument is that racist people appearing on television will expose themselves as exactly that, but we cannot ignore the fact that the BNP described Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time as their “single biggest recruitment night” ever.
It is also impossible to ignore the role of the government’s rhetoric in boosting the EDL’s confidence. As the EDL held what they promised would be their biggest ever demonstration in Luton on Saturday, Prime Minister David Cameron was busy making yet more promises to crack down on “Islamist extremism”.
I went to Luton on Saturday, keen to see if the media’s estimates of up to 7000 EDL members in attendance would bear fruit. On the ground, 2000 was the highest figure I heard. Muslim youths took to the streets near a local mosque, keen to defend their community.
I had spent the evening before at the home of Benjamin Zephaniah, poet and seasoned anti-racism activist. He showed me a book entitled British Citizenship Test: Study Guide. Inside, I found the following revision questions for anyone considering applying for citizenship:
What year did the Church of England come into existence?
What is the main role of the House of Lords?
suggested answer – Remain unelected forever…
When was the second referendum for a Scottish Parliament?
I really think we should put Stephen ‘simple man’ Lennon and Nick Griffin to the test. Incorrect answer = citizenship revoked.
“This situation with the EDL is like that poem ‘First they came’”, Benjamin remarked.
‘First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.’
We can continue to ignore the EDL, or to appease their rhetoric, but if we fail to speak out now, who will be left when they come for us?