In one word, my answer is 'no'. I attended the demonstration today to protest against the English Defence League (EDL). I stood with those who had come to protest against the hatred and racist behaviour of the EDL. Tears sprang to my eyes when the anti-racists who mainly consisted of white British people shouted anti-racism slogans. Britain has indeed come a long way from when I first came to this country in 1981. Racism was an acceptable part of British life. When I sat down in public transport vehicles people would get up and sit elsewhere. I often chose a seat next to an ethnic person, there was always an empty one.
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right. Is freedom of speech filled with hatred a right or are the dynamics of war, religion and immigration being interspersed in ways that are eliciting a new response? These days can still be classed as the immediate aftermath of the death of Drummer Lee Rigby and the emotional responses on display seem to convey something from grief for a poor man who was targeted because of his profession to the death being politicized.
Notable of these are the disgruntled citizens of the far right persuasion who seem only capable of identifying themselves through the concept of patriotism. Roughly speaking, their notion of patriotism seems to mean that no else of any other colour is welcome in Britain because of the perceived social problems that these 'outsiders' bring. The far right conflates all its' prejudices with the intellectual ability of a newt.
For instance, it was immigrants who brought war to the streets of London and Islam is the cause of this. Following this logic, if all Muslims left Britain it would be a safe place because people of other religions do not commit crimes. Ahem, my home was burgled sometime ago by an Irish man. I know someone who was stabbed by an English man. A non-Muslim Asian GP was convicted last week for sexually assaulting female patients. If I carry on with anymore examples I will sound like I am accusing everyone of some sort of crime but the point is that Britain will no more be safer or dangerous than it is now. Why, though, don't the EDL grasp this?
Numerous jokes are being made on Twitter about the so-called stupidity of the EDL. The picture right at the bottom of this blog post is doing the rounds for the low standard of literacy that it conveys. Funny as these are I do think that anti-EDL people miss the point. It is not stupidity nor a low standard of education that makes for a radical. If we go down that path then opportunities will be missed to correct the wrongs that lead to radicalism of any sort.
I dislike the EDL intensely and they will despise me equally, I am sure, for being an Asian living in Britain. But the urgent need to combat radicalism lies in persuading and teaching people that the concept of citizenship can rest on other factors apart from patriorism like inclusion, the greater good of society and a feeling of belonging.
The powers that make up the inter-faith dialogue in Britain must carry on delivering messages about inclusion and tolerance.