The Guardian spør seg hva slags fenomen English Defence League (EDL) er. Det sies at det finnnes en hard kjerne på 200 personer. Men de kan mobilisere blant fotballfans. Her finnes et potensial. Også i Tyskland er fotballfans et rekrutteringsmiljø for høyreorienterte.
Det finnes to fakta: EDL oppsto i Luton for tre måneder siden, som respons på den hatefulle demonstrasjonen mot britiske soldater. EDL sier de er mot Taliban i England, de vil ha ekstremistene vekk, ikke bare fra gatene i Luton, men hele Storbritannia.
Its roots are modest, according to its self-proclaimed leader, a 28-year-old carpenter from Luton who goes by the pseudonym Tommy Robinson. He said the germ of the EDL was evident growing up in the Bedfordshire town.
«Everyone mixes until the age of 13 or 14 and then it stops and there are Asian dinner tables at school,» he said. «I don’t know what it is. Maybe their parents don’t want them to mix.»
Those separate tables are magnified in Luton today where a large part of the Muslim population lives in a network of streets around the main mosque in Bury Park. The town has had an unhappy connection with Islamist terrorism ever since four suicide bombers set off from there to attack London’s transport system and kill 52 people on 7 July 2005.
Before that, there were tensions when a radical Muslim group protested in the town centre after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Those feelings reached boiling point this March, when a small group of Muslim antiwar protesters held up placards at the homecoming of the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment which read «Butchers of Basra» and «Anglian soldiers go to hell».
«The group that protested against the soldiers had been in the town centre since 2001,» said Robinson. «In 2004 we held our own protest when we held a banner up saying ‘Ban the Luton Taliban’.
«We were groups of friends and family, people who had gone to school with each other. We decided they could not be in the town centre again.»
Only a handful of Muslim protesters disrupted the Anglians’ homecoming parade, and they were drawn from an small extremist group that had already been ostracised by the mainstream Muslim community. However, it was enough for Robinson and others to set up a group called United People of Luton, and look across the country for support.
«We realised we didn’t just want them off the streets of Luton, we wanted them off the streets of Britain,» said Robinson.
Typisk nok fant de likesinnede på Facebook. De sosiale møteplassene er effektive rekrutteringsverktøy, slik det har vært for islamistene.
EDL er ingen fasttømret organisasjon. Både struktur og program er flytende. De ser ut til å samles om ønsket om handling. De hevder selv at de ikke vil bruke vold, men innrømmer at de ikke backer ut.
What does unite the group is a willingness to fight, said Robinson. «We feel that only people with that mentality will go [to demonstrate],» he said. «That’s why it’s all lads. Your upper class people won’t stand there and get attacked, through fear.
«I am from the mentality that I am not going to back down. It started with what they did to the soldiers, but after that it has been about the two-sided treatment our community get compared to what the Muslim community get from the police and the council. The police hit us with batons and come at them with kid gloves.»
Hvordan politiet håndterer gruppen er selvsagt av stor betydning. Nick Lowles fra Searchlight sier at politiet må ta gruppen ved rota før den kan formere seg. Men spørsmålet er hvordan en håndterer ekstremister som springer ut av reelle sosiale problemer. Lowles sier selv at det er nasjonalisme som er samlingspunkt, og det har en viss resonans i dagens Storbritannia.
Lowles said that while many of the hooligans involved were nationalists and racists, only a handful would associate themselves with fascist, far-right policies. «While it is not a fascist organisation, there are a handful of organised fascists in key positions We are concerned that as the EDL grows it will attract more extremists and fascists.»
Lowles warned that the threat posed by the EDL should not be underestimated. «We saw the effects of hooligan incursions into Oldham and Bradford in 2001 and we must ensure that small groups of racists cannot whip up and incite this sort of trouble again.
Football fans are being recruited to join protests against Muslims. How worried should the authorities be?