Very interesting news just in from Quilliam.
Quilliam is proud to announce that Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll, the leaders of the anti-Islamist group, the English Defence League (EDL), have decided to leave the group. Having set up the EDL, infamous for its street protests, in 2009, they wish to exit this group, because they feel they can no longer keep extremist elements at bay.
Tommy Robinson said:
“I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive. I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas.”
Quilliam has been working with Tommy to achieve this transition, which represents a huge success for community relations in the United Kingdom. We have previously identified the symbiotic relationship between far-right extremism and Islamism and think that this event can dismantle the underpinnings of one phenomenon while removing the need for the other phenomenon.
This seems a welcome if (to me) unexpected move. And – I’m so glad it was Quilliam that persuaded Tommy Robinson to make this decision and not Mo Ansar.
Those who have responded negatively to today’s news can be roughly split into three camps: EDL fans, supporters of Quilliam who worry this might all be a huge mistake, and those who view Quilliam’s whole agenda with suspicion.
I have no time for the first or third group, but do completely understand why some have viewed this news with caution, if not downright scepticism. There does not seem to be any evidence that Tommy Robinson has dramatically changed his views, so it’s reasonable to worry that his defection from the EDL represents a change of strategy rather than a change of heart. Sunny Hundal, for example, argues that an EDL implosion could actually benefit softer counter-jihadist voices.
On the other hand there are also reasons to welcome this news – and that was my own instinctive reaction. If the EDL’s trademark demonstrations come to an end – that in itself is a good outcome. If Tommy Robinson, whose views seem somewhat confused and inconsistent, can sort out what his real concerns are, and conclude they are shared by Quilliam – even better. That may seem a bit utopian given some of his earlier statements, but Quilliam was itself set up by former extremists.
It’s been interesting to note some of the early reactions. Tell MAMA has articulated a reasoned caution
Our views are clear – if people wholly change – we welcome them. The flipside is that it could legitimise views that are extreme
James Bloodworth (although tending to be sceptical) acknowledges some possible pluses
I remember me and my girlfriend (who is Indian) getting abused near an EDL demo few years back. If the demos stop, that’s progress imho
Alex Bjarnason offers another crisp assessment of the risks
I hope the Quilliam Foundation haven’t gifted Tommy Robinson opportunity to rehabilitate his image without renouncing his bigotry & racism.
whereas Lejla Kuric is more (cautiously) positive.
Many people will be sceptical about this, but if @EDLTrobinson is serious about leaving the far-right we should give him a chance.
And finally – Mehdi Hasan’s response made me smile:
Ok, I have to ask: is this just Tommy Robinson angling for a column in the Mail? :-)