Tommy Robinson Exits the Field

The glee is palpable in mainstream news reports over Tommy Robinson’s defection, along with co-founder Kevin Carroll and twelve other senior members, from the English Defence League, the organization he created to combat the Islamization of Britain. Robinson had led the EDL from 2009, turning it into the voice of Middle England. Now he claims the organization has been infiltrated by neo-Nazis.

“EDL leader Tommy Robinson turns his back on his own party over ‘dangers of far-right extremism,’” trumpeted The Independent. BBC News reported that Robinson still aims to “counter Islamist ideology,” but “not with violence but with better, democratic ideas.” Sky News reported that “in order to solve what he sees as the problem of Islamist extremism in Britain, he needs to work with Muslims, not against them.” Home Affairs Select Committee chair Keith Vaz, a notable pro-Islam advocate and Labour MP, went on record that “any resignation from the EDL is welcome. Mr. Robinson and Mr. Carroll have previously engaged, promoted, and expounded extreme views. Leaving the organization is an acceptance that their opinions incite hatred and their previous actions have unnecessarily cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds.” The Tommy of the EDL would surely have been quick to point out that what incites hatred in England is Islamist violence and contempt for British institutions, not EDL resistance -- but the Tommy Robinson who is now dissing his former organization hardly sounds like the person he once was.

Robinson didn’t quit the EDL in the way most politicians leave parties or organizations, citing personal reasons, overwork, or the desire to pursue other worthy initiatives. He could easily have done so. As someone who has become the public face of the EDL -- unable to walk down the street without verbal harassment, arrested on numerous occasions on thin grounds, constantly defamed by Britain’s politically correct media, and the victim of death threats and threats against his family -- he could legitimately have cited exhaustion and the need to rebuild his life.

Instead, though, he has made a devastating attack on the EDL, claiming that it has become “increasingly influenced by extreme elements that did not represent what he stood for.” His words confirm the charges of white-power fanaticism that critics have leveled at the EDL for years, and which Robinson always claimed to be vigorously combatting. His departure effectively cripples the organization, leaving thousands of non-fascist Britons who worked at his side without a viable base of anti-jihad activism, and with nothing more substantial for the future than the vague nostrum that securing Britain from extremists will require working with Muslims and that “from day one we’ve wanted to embrace everyone; all colours and creeds.”

Even more disturbing, perhaps, than Robinson’s denunciation of his former organization is his new alliance with the much-lauded Quilliam Foundation, a think tank that aims to “challenge extremism,” according to its sleek website, by targeting those social factors that lead to “radicalization.” In other words, this is an anti-extremist group that locates the source of extremism mainly in British society rather than in Islamic ideology. Quilliam, whose political affiliation is suggested by its friendly relations with the far-left anti-British Hope Not Hate group, is precisely the kind of organization -- with its concern for “grievances felt every day by young Muslims” and its accommodationist stance on issues such as terrorist profiling that may “alienate and stigmatize” -- about which the former Robinson would have been rightly suspicious. It is worth noting that Quilliam was named for William Abdullah Quilliam, a nineteenth-century British convert to Islam who dreamed, according to research by Andrew Bostom, of a pan-Islamic caliphate.