Labour MP for Bethnal Green & Bow Rushanara Ali wants us all to speak out against all extremists


- Credit: Archant

Right before our eyes, we are witnessing the development of a serious threat from a small but dangerous minority who use religion wrongly to justify violent extremism and far right extremists that use racism and intolerance to justify hate and violence. This month, the Guardian newspaper made clear the scale of this problem, reporting that following the attack in Woolwich, 1% of the British public now consider themselves supporters of the English Defence League (EDL). If correct, that represents well over a half million supporters of the far-right organisation in England. This figure is staggering, and while much has been made of the EDL’s presence, I do not believe enough has been made of the group’s inevitable trend towards violence. While it is welcome that extremist groups such as Al-Moujahiroun have been proscribed because of their violent tendencies, there needs to be similar focus on the violent motives and tendencies of far right racist groups such as the EDL.

The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was shocking and terrifying and our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his family and friends. Immediately after the attack I appealed to people from all backgrounds to unite and stand against all forms of extremism and appealed for calm in the face of potential community tension. While most heeded this message in our community and in the country, sadly there has been an alarming increase in the number of attacks against British Muslims, mosques and Muslim cultural centres. And far right organisations such as the BNP have attempted to stir up tension. In the aftermath of the attack we have seen the main culprit of this attitude, the EDL, protest voraciously in towns and cities across the country. Immediately after the attack we saw around 100 protestors in Woolwich and there have been marches in Newcastle and elsewhere. The EDL has also threatened to march in Tower Hamlets and I believe this should be banned for their actions in seeking to stir up tension and violence.

We must proactively expose the EDL’s message of hate and intolerance as well the hate and intolerance of violent extremists such as those who are responsible for the vile and brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. The EDL claims to speak for white working class communities, but they don’t and nor do the violent extremists using Islam to justify their actions speak for British Muslims. To stop these groups hijacking and damaging the reputation of our communities – who stand for decency, tolerance and fairness, let us stand united as a community – a diverse, vibrant community – and speak out against all home-grown extremists, whatever their cause or creed.