The English Defence League (EDL) and its European allies are building a pan-European far-right network. This is one of the key findings of a report published by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s College London.
The report details how the EDL and its partners have created pan-European umbrella groups through which they coordinate marches and campaigns, and transfer knowledge and tactics.
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, one of the report’s authors, says:
“The EDL has successfully exploited concerns about the sex grooming gangs in the north of England, turning the issue into one of Islam versus the West. They are consciously sharing these tactics with their partners in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and other countries”.
As the report shows, the far right network has long had an extensive online presence but is now making efforts to move its activity from the virtual to the physical world. In this respect, Meleagrou-Hitchens argues, the EDL has been a role model and catalyst:
“Tommy Robinson, the EDL’s leader, is considered a rock star by activists across Europe. They want him to help their own organisations to become like the EDL. There’s a danger that the UK will export this kind of vicious, far right activism to the rest of the continent.”
In addition, the report touches on how the movement has exacerbated community tensions in the UK and helps create the ideological milieu from which terrorists like Anders Breivik take inspiration.
Titled “A Neo-Nationalist Network: The English Defence League and Europe’s Counter-Jihad Movement”, the report will be available from the ICSR website (www.icsr.info). It is based on fieldwork in the UK and across Europe, interviews with leading figures, and the analysis of thousands of documents and websites.
The report was launched at an all day conference, which brought together experts, academics, and policymakers from across the UK and Europe.
This conference also featured a keynote address by the Home Office Minister for Crime and Security, James Brokenshire MP, in which he praised the “the first class reputation” of ICSR and its work.