The English Defence League (EDL) plans to whip up racism against one of Britain’s largest Muslim communities. It has announced plans to gather in Tower Hamlets, east London, on Sunday 20 June.
Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and East End United have organised a national counter-demonstration with backing from local activists, the council, campaigners and mosques.
The momentum is on the side of the anti-fascists. The EDL were heavily outnumbered in Newcastle recently and were sent packing in South Wales last week. EDL demonstrations have been getting smaller.
But there must be no complacency. Local trade unionists, anti-racist activists and campaigners sent an open letter to the Guardian newspaper and local press within days of the EDL’s plans becoming known.
It reads, “The English Defence League is a violent, bigoted organisation. They should be condemned everywhere, but will be particularly unwelcome if they come to Tower Hamlets.”
Glyn Robbins, the local activist who organised the letter, told Socialist Worker, “We have seen how destructive the EDL presence has been in other towns and cities. Now they are coming to our city, to our borough.
“We have a strong tradition of standing up to racism and fascism in east London—a tradition that goes back to the 1930s when people fought off Mosley’s fascist blackshirts.
“If the EDL comes here without being opposed, then they can go anywhere. We have to do everything we can, in every way, to oppose them.”
Musaddiq Ahmed, secretary general of the Tower Hamlets Council of Mosques, told Socialist Worker it is vital to defend Tower Hamlets multiracial and multifaith tradition.
He said, “We are black, white and Asian—Muslim, Sikh, Jew and Christian—people of all faiths living together.
“We live in an area where the east London mosque sits side by side with a synagogue—we are proud of the diversity in Tower Hamlets. It would be a disaster if the EDL come here.
“The EDL wants to use the recent rise in Islamophobic attitudes to paint a distorted picture of Islam in order to divide our communities.”
Phil Sedler, chair of the Tower Hamlets tenants and residents’ federation has added his voice to those opposing the EDL.
“In Tower Hamlets we have 23,000 people on the council house waiting list.” he said. “This has been brought about by the failure of successive governments to build council homes—not by any racial group or religion.
“We don’t want the EDL here.”
Labour Party councillor Oliur Rahman is one of three councillors who signed the letter opposing the EDL, as did the leader of Tower Hamlets Council, councillor Helal Abbas.
“The EDL is not a party for working class people—for trade unions,” said Oliur.
“I am supporting the demonstration against the EDL. If they come to Tower Hamlets we will see how quickly the people unite in defence of their community.”
Weyman Bennett, joint secretary of UAF told Socialist Worker that it is vital that the anti-racist majority comes together to stand in solidarity against the EDL.
“Where the EDL thugs have been allowed to march, targeting Muslims, they whip up hatred, division and violence.
“They parade their violence on YouTube and have been caught on camera giving Nazi salutes.
“We are asking activists across Britain to join us in defending Tower Hamlets and the anti-racist and anti-fascist tradition of east London.”
The march against the EDL will assemble at Altab Ali Park, named after the young Bengali man who was murdered by racists in 1978, when the Nazi National Front threatened the people of east London.
It will march to Cable Street, where anti-fascists stopped the “Blackshirts” of the British Union of Fascists in 1936.
Public meeting: Stop the EDL in Tower Hamlets 7pm, Sunday 13 June, London Muslim Centre, 46 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1JX
Demonstrate in Tower Hamlets – No to the racist EDL in East London! Assemble 11am, Sunday 20 June, Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel, London E1 (nearest tube Aldgate East or Whitechapel) for a march to Cable Street