Recent protests in London by the English Defense League, along with the Quds Day rally yesterday, have sparked a great deal of discussion across the web and news networks. To some extent SMW thinks alot of the reaction is over the top, but the events do draw attention to points of concern.
Leading up to September 11th, I knew that certain groups (ie. Stop the Islamification of Europe) were planning to 'protest' outside mosques and an Islamic centre in Harrow. These groups have held protests before, and received little media attention, so I did not think much of it. Saturday morning (the 12th) I was surprised to find all the plasma tvs at my gym showing multiple news networks covering these "riots." Listening to the typical, overhyped, British media one could have easily believed that Hitler was about to take over England. "Right-wing," "facism" and "race riots" were being thrown around amidst cries that Britain is about to travel back in time to the 1930s.
Before I continue, let me say that SMW absolutely condemns protesting outside of and/or targeting ANY place of worship. Period. SMW also thinks that using September 11th as an excuse to target a mosque is pathetic. Yes, 9/11 was carried out by Muslims - but not members of the masjid in Harrow. In fact - it is in Finsbury Park (not Harrow) where 9/11 has been celebrated in the past. If you truly want to honour the memory of those who died why don't you have a quiet, peaceful vigil outside the US Embassy? Ok back on track now...
It is difficult to decide which better illustrates the enormous problems England is facing; the fact that these "riots" have taken place, or the media's coverage of them. I have yet to read/see a media report of Friday's events which mentions the radical Islamic chat forums where members were discussing and preparing for confrontations (read: violence). The tone reminded me of football hooligans setting up a brawl - except these events have greater consequences and reach. Based on the tv reports one might believe that thousands of anti-Islam protestors showed up - but in fact the Times reported that 2000 SUPPORTERS OF THE MOSQUE vastly outnumbered those who came to protest at it.
Another group in the spotlight is the EDL - which had a counter protest to the Quds Day rally Sunday in London. As far as I am aware, I do not know and have never spoken to any member of the English Defense League, but the impression I get from reading their website and other reports is that the EDL comprises mainly working-class Englishmen. This seems to be confirmed after seeing the EDL apparel on their website, and reading reports that members were singing Millwall FC songs at one of their protests (for my North American readers: Millwall FC is a soccer team in London whose supporters are notorious when it comes to hooliganism). When I visited EDL's website, the video below of Pat Condell was posted on their homepage:
Many of the sentiments expressed by Pat Condell in this video resonate with Brits who feel their country slipping away from them (for a variety of reasons - not just Islam). There is a void in British politics - no mainstream politician or political party seems willing to address the legitimate concerns of constituents. Filling in this black hole are parties like the BNP (yikes), and now groups like the EDL. People who would not normally get involved with groups like the EDL are now turning to them out of frustration and this is a scary prospect.
Last year thousands of Hamas supporters gathered in the streets of London, police officers were attacked, shops were destroyed and although the events received some news coverage it was nothing compared to the coverage that Friday's events garnered. I hope I am not the only person who sees that as a problem.
Finally - the Quds Day rally yesterday in Piccadilly Circus. The media's attention again has been on the supposed clash between EDL members and Hamas supporters. It seems to be a minor detail to the British press that there were hundreds of terrorist supporting idiots gathered in Central London to wave the flags of Hamas and Hezbollah while chanting "Israel is a terrorist state" and throwing stuff at the police.
SMW was in Piccadilly Circus yesterday - although I have to admit I forgot it was Quds Day and did not have my camera with me. My husband and I were shopping on Regent Street and we literally walked into the middle of the hoopla. I have been to many pro Hamas rallies in London and this one was small (relatively speaking). There were actually not THAT many people there - probably a few hundred - and a multitude of police officers to control the crowd. As for the "disruption" caused by the EDL - I saw about 10-12 guys who appeared to be the 'official opposition.' I wouldn't exactly call that a newsworthy clash - but hey, I am not the British press and apparently 'race riots' sounds alot sexier than 'terrorist sympathizers.'
London is not 'boiling' over as the news reports you may have read suggest - but it is simmering and I fear that if something does not change soon it will explode.