The EDL (English Defence League) decided to march through Whitechapel, east London, on Saturday, September 7th (2013). No special reason was given for this, especially as the EDL is not a London phenomenon. It is a Luton one, arising out of a thrusting Muslim community in a town on the skids. Luton was (southern) England’s Motown (vehicle-producing town) until the late 1970s. It is a victim of government policy over four decades, but some people have decided to blame ‘Muslims’ for the situation they find themselves in.
The EDL seems to have an obsession with the mosque at the Aldgate end of Mile End Road, despite the fact that it serves people of Bengali origin. A smaller one deeper inside Bethnal Green, actually in Bow, is Somali-oriented, a cultural matter of no ideological/theological significance. Its Imam spoke (very cogently) on the afternoon of September 7th on social solidarity to the crowd at Atab Ali Park (named after a Muslim youth murdered there, thirty-odd years ago, in the days when the National Front was allowed to strut its stuff along Brick Lane).
Somalis and Bengalis have not been prominent in ‘Islamist’ violence, so why this area is picked-on is problematical. (Presumably Somali piracy in the Indian Ocean isn’t one of the EDL’s complaints). It was difficult to tell how many there were at the anti-EDL demo as there was a fair amount of coming and going. The speeches were pretty grim. If I hear the phrase ‘they shall not pass’ again I may assault the speaker. The weather was not grim but was coldish and overcast. There seemed to be few of the teen boys who let off steam at the previous stand off, but there were large numbers of Muslim women there. Towards the end of our stay in the park we were told that the EDL were returning home by way of Tower Bridge. This was via i-Pad. I don’t know if it was tuned into a police camera or one used by a member of East End United (the group that organised the opposition to the EDL).
The EDL turnout was half of that last time (about 1,000, but still a thousand too many). This may be the end for the EDL in London. Last time the weather was warm and sunny. This time it was damp and dank. On both occasions it was, surely, boring and humiliating being boxed-in, in this case into a dead end street. The police were probably reacting to motorists’ fury about the way traffic at Aldgate was snarled up for most of a Saturday afternoon on the EDL’s previous outing in the area.