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Newsblog: 13-19 August

19/08/2011

As Britain recovers from the violent riots that swept across the country last week, many have questioned how those implicated in the violence should be dealt with. Prime Minister David Cameron has urged judges to send a ‘tough message’ to those involved in the riots, while the Liberal Democrats fear that the sentencing may damage the reputation of the justice system. Their main concern has been that political influence may be affecting judicial decision. Others question whether the harsh sentencing may act as a deterrent in the future and who or what was responsible for the rioting, as buzz words like ‘culture’, ‘family structure’ and ‘criminality’ continue to dominate the media.

Historian David Starkey, in a controversial interview on the BBC, discussed cultural change being responsible for the riots. Starkey stated that the violence occurred because “the whites have become black,” referring to an increase of ‘black’ patois and how this language related to gangster culture is rising in the UK and affecting the youth.

An English Defense League (EDL) protest in Wellington led to the arrest of over forty individuals on Saturday. The charges, which were only applied to ten individuals, were predominantly public order offenses. In attendance were upwards of 350 EDL members, and 250 opposition protestors. A march planned for the same day was banned by the home secretary, Theresa May, who feared it could erupt into violence. There was no damage to property reported. Another large demonstration by the EDL is being planned for September 3 and already there has been a public outcry to prevent the march from taking place in Tower Hamlets, an area home to a large Muslim population. Tommy Robinson, the head of the EDL, has said the march will go on as planned.

An opinion piece this week by the co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre Robert Lambert examines the role of Muslims during the English riots. The author points out that Muslims around the city played an important role tackling the looting and preserving public safety and describes how negative media attention to Muslims has overshadowed this. Lambert also discusses the Muslim community facing the challenge of the EDL across the country and the misused label of ‘extremist’.

Northern Ireland experienced more sectarian violence last Saturday as Protestants continued their march in the Catholic-majority city of Londonderry. Police vehicles were attacked by masked youth who threw a pipe-bomb and a number of petrol bombs. A number of vehicles were also hijacked and set on fire. Catholic-republican nationalist groups, who have been opposed to the Irish peace process, see the Protestant marches as provocative. Protestants insist it is their right to follow this tradition.