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.
Oh, That Moral Equivalence
Chair and Co-founder Maajid Nawaz’s statement of support for Robinson was notably unctuous and self-satisfied: “Tommy wants a chance to prove he is not happy with the neo-Nazi association. I would not be a good human being if I did not allow him to demonstrate that.” Yes, this former jihadist has a good deal of self-love. Nawaz’s comments about the “symbiotic relationship between far-right extremism and Islamism” and Robinson’s mea-culpa, “I thought the EDL was part of the solution but now it is part of the problem," seemed perfectly scripted to drive home the “equivalence” mantra dear to the hearts of the liberal intelligentsia: far-right extremism (of which the EDL is supposedly a symptom) and Muslim extremism are equally dangerous elements in contemporary British life; far-right extremism is in fact the cause of Muslim extremism. Sitting with Nawaz on the panel, Robinson confessed his realization that “marching through the street saying 'who the f**k is Allah' meant that we were offending moderates."
It is astounding to hear such concessions coming from Robinson, who has been for so many years the most uncompromisingly defiant figurehead of anti-Islamic protest in England. Let’s remember that his comment comes just a few months after the jihad murder of Lee Rigby on the streets of London by two homegrown Islamic converts who felt so alienated from their British identity that one of them, Michael Adebolajo, could refer to “our lands” (meaning Iraq and Afghanistan) supposedly brutalized by British forces. After the attack, which Adebolajo stated on camera was inspired and justified by Qur’anic injunction, the Islam-apologist press and the wider Muslim community went into its now familiar verbal routine of denial, mystification, and self-pity, stressing that Rigby’s murder had nothing to do with Islam and lamenting that Muslims lived in fear whenever random incidents of this sort were used by EDL extremists to persecute them. No Muslim group marched in the street to denounce Muslim violence.
So who exactly is Robinson hoping to partner with amongst these “moderates,” and is there any evidence that the Quilliam Foundation is honest -- as Robinson so courageously once was -- about the religious roots of jihadist violence in the UK? Does Robinson really imagine that any organization dedicated to robust counter-jihad work in Britain will not ultimately be tainted -- as counter-jihad work always is -- with charges of right-wing bias and anti-Islamic animus? No matter how often he apologizes to moderate Muslims and how carefully he seeks to distinguish moderate from radical, his opposition to the Islamic takeover of Britain will almost certainly continue to attract strident condemnation.
What Sort of Pressure was Brought to Bear on Robinson?
Robinson is surely aware of all this and has thought carefully -- he’s spent many weeks in solitary confinement -- about his decision to leave the EDL as well as his manner of leaving it. None of the mainstream news reports state that his decision may have been coerced, and there is no hard evidence that it has been. But the phrasing of his statements -- their overt contradiction of all he has previously stood for and the deliberate undermining and betrayal of the organization he fostered for so many years -- is too strongly reminiscent of Stalinist show trials not to consider the possibility that pressure has been brought to bear on Robinson, that he has been broken by the power of the state and by a craven, ill-informed media and a cowardly public.
What does it mean to give your life to a campaign for the dignity of your community and to be widely hated for it, called a bigot and an extremist -- even by fellow anti-jihadists like Melanie Phillips -- because you do not soft-pedal your revolt at “grooming” gangs and Islamic no-go areas? It is possible that Robinson has simply decided that the risks are too great, that he cannot keep on amidst a barrage of threats of rape and mutilation made against his children and wife. Robinson knows that his Islamic adversaries are fully capable of carrying out such threats. He knows that the British police cannot protect him. He knows that if such an attack occurred, the mainstream media would say -- as it has said, despicably, of the attack on Lars Hedegaard -- that he brought the horror on himself, that he was instigator rather than victim. One can only imagine the enormous courage, determination, and belief in oneself that are necessary to go on sacrificing one’s safety and that of one’s family for a public not only not demonstrably grateful but generally indifferent or overtly hostile. On top of that, pressure from a politically correct police force and judiciary opposed to EDL strategies, which show up police ineptitude and conciliation of Muslim extremists, may well have played a role. Noting that he is facing a trial later this month for one of his Woolwich-related arrests, Gates of Vienna suggests it likely “the judicial authorities had a quiet word with him about how long he would spend behind bars this time.” With all the forces -- political, judicial, psychological, and emotional -- ranged against him, it is hard to blame him for choosing an easier path.
I hope I am wrong about what has happened to Tommy Robinson. I hope he will go on to successful anti-jihad activism with moderate Muslims and other Britons of good will. But I am afraid that his actions signal the end of genuine resistance to Islamism in Briton and represent the next stage in a tragic drama of capitulation and collapse of a once-valiant nation.
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