The racist English Defence League (EDL) is not welcome in Bradford. That’s the message from anti-racist and anti-fascist activists in the city.
Juwiriyyah Karim is a student at Bradford College. She has been building support for the We Are Bradford multicultural event on Saturday, called by Unite Against Fascism and others, in opposition to the EDL.
She told Socialist Worker, “Asians came here to Bradford to work in the mills. We have a right to be here—we don’t have to ‘go back’, as these racists demand.
“They want to blame Muslims for unemployment and project all their racism onto a whole religion.
“The EDL wants to smash things up.”
The EDL was “banned” from marching in the city last week. But it is still coming to Bradford—legally.
A “static” assembly is being allowed to go ahead. So the EDL will still be able to spout anti-Muslim hatred in the city.
This is exactly what the EDL has done in town after town. It attempts to whip up hatred against Muslims, feeding off the Islamophobia in the press and from politicians.
In both Stoke and Dudley, so-called “static” EDL rallies turned into racist rampages. In Stoke in January the EDL attacked Asian homes and shops in the city’s Hanley area.
In Dudley last month an EDL mob attacked Asian shops and homes.
Around 50 or 60 EDL supporters smashed the windows of a Hindu temple, giving the lie to claims they are only opposed to “extreme Islam”.
As Juwiriyyah explains, “You can’t just hope the EDL will go away. I don’t trust the police to keep them out.
“Lots of people are coming out to oppose the EDL.”
There’s a lot of anger that the EDL is targeting Bradford and trying to intimidate one of Britain’s biggest Muslim populations.
Council leaders and the police have tried to smear Unite Against Fascism—which has been central to initiating the We Are Bradford event—as hell-bent on violence and little better than the EDL.
This is a travesty. It’s the EDL that want racist terror on the streets and it is right to stand up to them.
The best way to ensure they can’t get away with it is for the opposition to be as big as possible.
Ashiq Hussain is the chair of We Are Bradford, and a GMB union shop steward. “Bradford is our city,” he told Socialist Worker.
“We have every right to be here and every right to defend it. I disagree with those who say stay away. The way to stop the EDL is to be united.”
The most successful anti-EDL protest to date was in Tower Hamlets, east London. The whole community mobilised—and the EDL cancelled its protest.
Then a magnificent 5,000-strong anti-EDL demonstration took place anyway, to celebrate.
In Bradford the more people, Muslim and non-Muslim, who are there to say the EDL is not welcome, the less confident EDL supporters will feel.
As Juwiriyyah’s friend, Mubasher Amin, told Socialist Worker, “EDL supporters want to get all Muslims out of Britain.
“They claim to be non-racist, but they clearly are. I’ve seen things where they say they want to kill all Muslims.”
The police have tried to intimidate people, especially Muslims, from attending the We Are Bradford event.
Umit Yildiz is a member of Unite Against Fascism in Bradford.
He leafleted outside the city’s Carlisle Road mosque last Friday for the mobilisation.
“While we were handing out leaflets five police officers came up to us,” he says. “They said they’d had complaints.”
But despite such harassment, Umit says that campaigners have had a good response from people.
He says it is vital people protest on Saturday. “Why shouldn’t we be in town?” he asked. “Why should we stay away from our own city centre?”
The anti-racist and anti-fascist movement has faced a serious test in Bradford.
One group, Hope not Hate, campaigned for a ban on the EDL. Nick Lowles from Hope not Hate said that a ban was the “only option”—and opposed any counter-protest.
Yet despite a home office “ban” on a march, the EDL is still coming to Bradford. To have followed the Hope not Hate strategy would have left the city defenceless against racist thugs.
Hope not Hate eventually retreated and called for a peace vigil—but on the night before Saturday’s EDL rally. Bradford city council and the local newspaper now plan to hold an event on Saturday, away from the city centre.
But it’s vital to defend the city centre. The EDL wants to see Muslims off the streets—giving in to that would just boost their confidence.
That’s why Unite Against Fascism was right to initiate the We Are Bradford event. We must never concede the streets to racists and Nazis.