When Tommy Robinson stood down as head of the English Defence League in October 2013 and moved to the ‘counter-extremism’ think-tank Quilliam, the actions of far-right activists seemed to melt away from our newspapers and television screens – to the relief of many. However the recent ‘scandal’ involving the selling of Halal meat to the customers of Subway and Pizza Express has acted as a vehicle for the far-right return. The figurehead of this return is known as the Britain First Defence Force, or more simply Britain First.
At first this group of BNP deserters seemed nothing more than a social media page, with their politically inspired memes doing rounds on Facebook. Although small debates were sparked here and there, the general public largely ignored or remained unaware of the group. This changed when Paul Golding, head of Britain First, announced he would be standing for election in Wales in the 2014 EU/Local elections.
The election broadcast that Golding used to promote his party portrayed a dystopian vision of the UK, using newspaper headlines that claimed Islam would become the dominant religion in the UK in the future. It is a highly charged plea, asking Christians to back the group because the religion has “served us well” in the past. The video is a blatant attack on Islam, more so than many of the other groups that sit on the right of the political spectrum.
The broadcast also asks “Enoch Powell: Why didn’t we listen?”, referencing Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech, which criticised immigration and anti-discrimination laws in the United Kingdom back in 1968.
Most controversial was the reference to murdered soldier Lee Rigby on the streets of Woolwich, with the simple line “Do you remember Lee Rigby? We do”. This has caused some upset with Lee Rigby’s family, who did not want their son to be used as the martyr of the far-right cause, as he never shared these views.
The group is not restricted to the realm of politics alone; they label themselves as street activists, and their activities in Mosques across the UK, including here in Glasgow, should be of some concern. When they announced their “first foray into Alba”, they wrote that their foot soldiers had “invaded” Glasgow Central Mosque in a so-called Christian Crusade. The aim was to ‘deter’ Muslim grooming gangs and to spread the word of Christianity.
I spoke to Dr. Kausar, the Vice President of Glasgow Central Mosque, to get a better understanding of the events that unfolded. Dr. Kausar told me that three people walked into the Mosque, including Paul Golding, and handed out a leaflet called “Muslim Grooming: Britain’s Secret Shame”. The leaflet speaks of “White British Girls” being passed around like “meat”. It then goes on the discuss the “True Nature of Islam”, complete with a picture of an aggressive-looking Muslim extremist at a protest.
Dr. Kausar revealed that what really worried him was what he was handed next: a British Army Bible, simply a copy of the New Testament and Psalms with a camouflage cover. This demonstrates how far-right activism has changed since the decline of the English Defence League. He questioned how they managed to get their hands on such literature. I informed him that Britain First was acquiring a “fleet” of British Army armoured Land Rovers, which have already been deployed in their Christian Patrols in the Brick Lane area of London.
Dr. Kausar said that whilst he respected free speech, groups such as this needed to be nipped quickly in the bud, as it could lead to anger amongst Muslims as a feeling of abandonment grows in the Muslim community of Glasgow. He also remarked that more psychological help needed to be given to British soldiers returning due to severe injury, so that any possible animosity toward Muslims did not turn into the support of groups like Britain First.
What Dr. Kausar’s account of Britain First’s activities tells us is that we should no longer expect the great swathes and mobs of people protesting in the streets, but instead smaller groups of “Christian soldiers” taking direct vigilante action.
Unlike previous far-right groups in the UK that only seemed to muster support from England, Britain First has been advertising election broadcasts in Scotland and has allegedly established a group of “foot soldiers” in the Glasgow area. Beforehand a small group of activists would not be able to make much of a difference as there is only so much noise they could make. But as we have seen, with Britain First’s evolved and precise manner of activism they can make more of a fuss with a handful of members than a large street protest.
Outside of the realm of party politics, the government should be intervening to stop these invasions of Mosques across the UK. The peace and stability of the nation is something that everyone should benefit from. No one should not be left open to the attacks of groups like Britain First, as they have done a lot for our community. Dr. Kausar reminded me that following the Clutha helicopter crash, the Mosque flung open its doors to all the affected and offered them food, drink and shelter. This was not because of a political agenda, but because they consider themselves part of the wider community.
If we do not act, and if far-right groups, such as Britain First or UKIP, continue to rise in popularity we risk destabilising the foundations of our community. Contrary to the Britain First message, our communities and nations are built on multi-culturalism, and accepting citizens from all kinds of backgrounds.