Proud and Prejudiced – a critique

‘Proud and Prejudiced’ was a programme that seemed to be about two extremist groups: the English Defence League (EDL) and Al Maharijroun (or whatever name they are currently operating under).  From the outset, it is clear that the programme makers are working within the premise that these are two groups of extremists both of which are as bad as each other. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One is a religious extremist group which represents an extreme minority view amongst the Muslims in Britain. Another is a racist organisation that has displayed its violent tendencies in public on numerous occasions and is backed by sections of the media that perpetuate the racist undertones espoused by the far right.

For all their ills, Al Muhajiroun have only carried out insensitive political protests at inappropriate times.  If white people had carried out the same kind of protests then the reaction would have been very different. There is still a sense that Muslims are not British or that Muslims are not part of our society, part of us.   The majority of British Muslims dislike groups like Al Muhajiroun and their ilk. However, it is important to note the climate in which they have emerged.  Al Muhajiroun use foreign policy and treatment of Muslims worldwide at the hands of the West as a recruiting tool. They target the disenfranchised inner-city youth who are looking for an identity and fill this void with a pseudo-Islamic identity which gives them affiliation to a faith and the reestablishment of the Caliphate.  Al Muhajiroun  is an extreme minority born out of post-colonial conflict and a reaction to the Western occupation, destruction, and division of Muslim lands.

The EDL on the other hand, are a product of Britain post New Labour.  From the football terraces, and racist organisations throughout the country, they use the seemingly acceptable veneer of fighting Islamic extremism to further a much more sinister agenda – racism.  The EDL have gone on racist rampages up and down the country. There is numerous evidence of their links to the BNP and other racist groups as well as videos online of EDL members performing Nazi salutes and singing, “I hate Pakis more than you”.   Their members are violent thugs have been convicted of racist acts: putting a pigs head on a mosque for example. It is no coincidence that the Norwegian mass murderer, Andres Breivik, expressed his desire to attend an EDL demo and cited the EDL as one of his influences. This is not fighting Islamic extremism; it is out and out racism.

This documentary is an example of media organisations commissioning sensationalist film making that masks the reality on the ground and ignores the political, cultural and social history of the development of extremism, because lazy journalism is easier than ethical journalism.  It may be a convenient story to portray this as two men that just don’t get along, almost like a playground scrap.  Journalism is more than simplifying complicated issues, it is about portraying struggles and issues in their appropriate context.  It is not balanced or responsible journalism to merely give the two men half an hour each, it is responsible journalism to ask why are people following Al Muhajiroun, and why has the EDL grown so much?

The programme reduces a serious issue of racism and Islamophobia to a personal vendetta between two men. It furthers the EDL’s agenda and plays into their hands to represent Muslims as extremist terrorists: men with massive beards, women you cannot see and children being indoctrinated.

Instead of highlighting the EDL’s violent racism, the only acts of violence that have been highlighted are Safyul Islam slapping Tommy Robinson and, later, Tommy Robinson headbutting one of his own rivals. The documentary has totally missed out all the acts of violence from EDL’s inception to the present day, including when the EDL smashed up Luton and Stoke.  It is dangerous to ignore this violence. By turning a blind eye to this violence, the programme risks becoming a platform from which Tommy Robinson can spew their bile.  Although some people may laugh them off and say that they are just lunatics with mad ideas, there are those who are disaffected and with whom the EDL’s words and ideas will have resonance.

Although Unite Against Fascism were mentioned a few times on the programme, they were never given any airtime.  It was stated that the EDL have been opposed by UAF wherever they have gone.  Why were they not interviewed for their views on these groups?  To have interviewed UAF for a meaningful argument against the EDL would have meant completely disregarding the foundations that the programme was made on.  It would have meant acknowledging the fact that the EDL are not just made up of Tommy Robinson’s mates out to protect the UK from the mores of extremist Muslims like Sayful Islam, but that they are a violent, far-right organisation who pose a real threat to our society.  Hearing from UAF would also have put up non-Muslim faces of those who oppose the EDL and shown that, contrary to Robinson’s assertions, white people and other ethnic groups like Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Black people actively oppose these racists.  But to do this the programme makers would have to abandon their fantasy and flawed paradigm that this is some kind of scrap between two men with laughable ideas.

8 thoughts on “Proud and Prejudiced – a critique

  1. I’m not sure where you get the idea that the media supports the EDL, it’s my strong feeling that groups like theirs are dismissed out of hand by the mainstream media, certainly by the BBC.

    There is a strong undercurrent amongst white working class people, who are most affected by immigration, that the media and public don’t want to hear anything they have to say.

  2. yes, I agree. put in the same bag a white racist group and an extremist muslim organisation is a dangerous simplificationas. furthermore, Didie, who has just joined me in the “dhapu copi”, the local internet café in Calang, makes an interesting statement : you must not mix up the actions of Muslims and Islam itself. which is exactly what medias are doing all the time, most of the time being ignorant of what is Islam. didie added that the Prophet Muhamed Peace and Bless upon him, would never do any violence execept to defend the religion (example battle of Badr). aziza de Paris and Didie

  3. ‘The EDL on the other hand, are a product of Britain post New Labour.’

    Actually, they formed when New Labour were still in government in 2009. I think if New Labour had banned the Islamic extremists from protesting in Luton then the EDL would never have been formed.

  4. This piece suggests the non inclusion of the uaf is, in part, lazy journalism and somehow unethical. Where are the rules that suggest journalism must be some sort of paradigm for ethics? This blog is taking issue because they feel that THEIR views haven’t been heard and its not the responsibility of journalism per se to incorporate everybody’s views. Would its author agree then if the voices of concern from those not aligned to any party that have concerns about militant Islam be included in the programme too? The fact is vile organisations like the BNP and edl exist in part because of concerns about radical Islam, immigration etc. If you want a more balanced programme those views need to be heard even if they are uncomfortable to hear.

  5. I wouldn’t call them white working class, do they even exist any more? Two sides of the same coin both living in run-down areas council owned houses, both running the tax payers dry claiming for jsa etc, both with no education and both having their extreme views. By both I mean ‘Muslims and the so called white working class people’.

  6. @Anonymous:

    The EDL would have existed anyway regardless of Muslim extremists.

    The Muslim extremists are hardly influential and have their numbers less than a 100. For the Muslim community, any organisation that has influence in less than the thousands can not be considered influential over 2.5million Muslims!

    Al Muhajiroun (or whatever they are now) are clearly agent provocateurs.

  7. Anonymous, sure the media doesn’t explicitly back the EDL (apart from the Daily Star, notoriously) but they want to have their cake and eat it – the coverage in the Mail on muslims could have been written by the EDL. Half truths, outright lies and propaganda to stir up racial hatred. Do you actually ever read newspapers or what?

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