Regional UAF statement on the Leeds UAF rally on October 31st
The English Defence League [EDL] action in Leeds on Saturday 31 October is the latest manifestation of the rise of racism and Islamophobia over the last two decades.
The 'Celebrate and Defend Multicultural Leeds' rally called by Leeds Unite Against Fascism attracted over 1200 people from communities across the city. The rally had widespread backing - from the trade union movement including Yorkshire & the Humber TUC and Leeds Trades Council, the Muslim and Jewish communities, faith groups, students, LGBT campaigns amongst many others.
It succeeded in demonstrating that the vast majority of Leeds people support their multicultural city and ensuring that the 400 racists from the EDL were unable to achieve their goal of dominating the city centre on Saturday.
Unite Against Fascism remains firm in its belief that anti Muslim prejudice continues to be the cutting edge of the fascist BNP and groups like the EDL – in the same way as anti Semitism was in the 1930’s and racism directed at black people was in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Contrary to the media’s portrayal of the EDL as being opposed to ‘Extreme Islam’ in reality it seeks to create a street force capable of intimidating and attacking the Muslim community, and further down the line to pose a physical threat to other black and Asian communities and to the labour movement.
The most overt example of this to date was the demonstration called by the EDL outside the Harrow Mosque on 11 September. This was all the more provocative because it was called on a Friday, the main day for Muslim prayers. Yet there was no advance condemnation of this from the government or national media.
The Harrow events show how dangerous the situation has become. One only has to think of the national outcry which would rightly greet a call for a demonstration against Jews outside a Synagogue or against Christians outside a Church on a Sunday.
The EDL is a racist organisation that concentrates on anti-Muslim prejudice as focal point for racism. It will seek to organise any anti-Muslim current but starts with those, such as football ‘casuals’ most prepared to 'take to the streets'.
The EDL has grown on the back of the increasing legitimisation of Islamophobia and the breakthrough by the BNP in June. As predicted by UAF, every racist thug in the country has been emboldened and encouraged to make their particular contribution to the ‘cause’ of racism.
We must remind people that the lesson of history is that democracy and the multicultural society cannot defend themselves. We have to manifest in words and deeds that the overwhelming majority of society rejects racism, Islamophobia and fascism. To not oppose the EDL would lead to even larger actions by them, the creation of no go zones for black and Asian people and direct attacks on communities as in Oldham in 2001. The recent EDL action outside the Harrow mosque is a taste of what is to come.
The ability of the EDL to attract over 500 people to its Manchester rally and 400 in Leeds is further evidence that the problem is not going to disappear without a mobilisation of everyone who supports our multicultural society and who rejects the EDL’s racism and Islamophobia, with the labour movement and all those immediately threatened by the EDL and the rise of racism at the centre of the campaign.
We only need to look at other European countries to see what happens when movements akin to the EDL are allowed to grow. It leads to the creation of pogrom movements with an increase in racist violence directed against whole communities, including arson and murder.
Last Saturday’s events in Leeds are further proof that only a united anti fascist movement which consistently challenges racism, discusses what works and is led by the labour movement and those under immediate threat from the BNP & groups like the EDL, will have the capacity to succeed.
UAF will ensure that diversity and multiculturalism will be celebrated and defended whenever the EDL attempts to gather in our towns and cities - their racism cannot go unopposed.