A world of contradictions: a quick dissection of the English Defence League


With the English Defence League gearing up to march in my university town on the 27th of November, I thought I’d look into their ideologies. In the past I’ve dismissed the growing street movement as a bunch of lunatics, but with numbers of the EDL growing as the BNP fall apart, I’ve done some digging to see if there’s any truth in their statements. Founded in 2009, the League facebook page already has over 40, 000 fans- can all of these people be wrong?

Here are four hotly discussed EDL topics.

1. Vehement dislike of the use of halal meat.

Excuse my ignorance, but I don’t understand this obsession. All forms of animal slaughter for human consumption are cruel- halal or not. If it bothers these people so much, they should just convert to vegetarianism rather than using halal meat as a flimsy excuse to justify their Islamophobia. If they’re this passionate about animal rights, they shouldn’t be eating meat, full stop. Media hysterics -such as this article from the Daily Mail – only act as catalysts, fuelling the fire to a one sided debate that needs to be discussed in its entirety.

2. Absolutely, definitely not racist.

The EDL don’t seem to understand the notion of nationalism- as well as pushing the message ‘black and white unite’ on their propaganda, many of the members argue that there’s a difference between racism and patriotism. The OED defines nationalism as ‘an extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries.’ There’s your middle ground. Unfortunately, whilst hijacking the St George’s flag to emphasise their racist viewpoints, they’ve inadvertently (or, perhaps deliberately) changed the meaning of the symbol. Now, I don’t know about you, but screaming ‘we hate pakis‘ at a protest sounds pretty racist to me.

3. Fighting for women’s liberation

Here’s another cause mercilessly hijacked by the English Defence League. As they get involved with the burqa debate, it seems they involve themselves in anything remotely to do with Muslim culture- any excuse for racism. The EDL often refer to the burqa as oppressive symbol, and hijack the women’s rights movement as part of their racist arguments. It’s an interesting and nuanced issue, because burqa bans are always shovelled under the umbrella of religious debate, when in actual fact burqa bans are a thinly veiled attack on women, their bodies, and how they choose to dress themselves. The French government have inadvertently dictated what women should wear- not men. To force Muslim women to take off their burqas or hijabs is just as oppressive as forcing women to wear them. Thus, it makes sense that more women are wearing it as an act of defiance, as well as for religious reasons.  The EDL’s protests aren’t about feminism; instead, it’s just another excuse to be racist. If these people were feminists, they’d campaign abouta lot more than this single issue. I could write about this all day, but Laurie Penny sums it up quite nicely.

4. Labelling everyone who disagrees with their ideology as lefty Marxist/communist scum

Reading these diatribes got me wondering how many EDL members have actually read the communist manifesto- as their cries of communism sound very similar to right wing America’s disdain for the political ideology.  The first slip up is labelling those who oppose the EDL as lefties- during his election campaign, David Cameron said ‘The EDL are terrible people, we would always keep these groups under review and if we needed to ban them, we would ban them or any groups which incite hatred’. Last time I checked, Cameron was the leader of the Conservative Party. Using Marxism and communism (political ideologies that the EDL don’t understand) as an insult isn’t the best idea. Those of us who label the EDL ‘racist’ are qualified to do so as we actually understand what racism is, and why it isn’t very good. Anyone who’s read Marx would probably think that the EDL, a predominantly working class movement (not that I’m looking my nose down at that fact, I’m working class too) would sympathise with what the manifesto has to say.

Nietzsche once said ‘Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

Looks like he was right.

Write us your thoughts about this post. Be kind & Play nice.
  1. Chris says:

    Great article.

    One slight disagreement I have is over the meaning (or potential meaning) of the word ‘Nationalist’. Obviously in the way that the BNP and the EDL mean it Nationalism is racist. But wasnt Gandhi a Nationalist? What about the Scottish Nationalist Party? Whilst I may disagree with the SNP nationalist agenda, no one can claim they are racist – either against English people or BME. Would a faction of the Labour party that wanted the UK to leave the EU be considered nationalist?

    Even so it is always going to be a challenge for nationalists to avoid racism and embrace difference, but it is in my view at least theoretically possible to do so. Despite their thin guise of moderation, neither the BNP or the EDL have shown any real interest in this alternative meaning of ‘nationalism’ and if they did their support would plummet as they feed off fear and prejudice, not a defensible desire for independance or an arguably tolerable one-nation conservatism.

  2. Hey Chris, thanks for the comment 🙂
    You’re right, the word is more nuanced than I first thought- I was just going off the dictionary definition. I’m going to look deeper into it.

  3. Derek Wall says:

    Interesting and good point on halal.

  4. Student says:

    Why would the EDL necessarily sympathise with Marxism? The working class have arguably always been right of centre, it’s only the middle class liberals who subscribe to these views.


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