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Leader Of British Anti-Islamist Protest Group Quits Over Extremism

posted 8 Oct 2013, 14:53 by Mpelembe   [ updated 8 Oct 2013, 14:54 ]

English Defence League founder quits over extremism fears, opponents say EDL is racist and dangerous.

LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (OCTOBER 8, 2013) (ITN) -  The leader of a British anti-Islamist protest group accused of inflaming racial tensions said on Tuesday (October 8) he was quitting the organisation because he no longer felt able to control far-right extremists.

The Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think-tank which said it had brokered the move, hailed it as a big success for community relations but one expert on the far-right warned it could lead to further radicalisation and violence.

Tommy Robinson was the most prominent figure in the English Defence League(EDL), which has staged numerous high-profile street protests across Britain since 2009, often in mainly Muslim areas. Many protests have led to violence.

"I've made the decision, I've told my family, which was the biggest relief they'd ever heard that I'm leaving the English Defence League," Robinson said.

"We may not agree on everything going forward, but the fact that they've made this gesture - it must be accepted, it must be welcomed, because the alternative was to have the EDL still out there on our streets," said Quilliam's director Maajid Nawaz.

"I have a passion to combat Islamist ideology and I said it earlier, I want to lead a revolution against that Islamist ideology but I don't want to lead a revolution against Muslims, I don't hate Muslims," Robinson added.

Robinson's associate Kevin Carroll had also quit the EDL.

To their foes, the EDL is made up of soccer hooligans and racists, representing a dangerous, far-right ideology.

Their supporters say their views echo the concerns, ignored by politicians, of many Britons about immigration and the rise of radical Islamist preachers who support terrorism and are to blame for attacks such as the deadly 2005 London suicide bombings by four young British Muslims.

The EDL was formed by Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Lennon, in Luton, a town 35 miles (55 km) north of London, after a small group of Islamists staged a noisy protest during a homecoming parade by British soldiers from Afghanistan.

Since then, the EDL has held numerous protests, attracting several hundred to a few thousand supporters, which have led to clashes with police, anti-fascist groups, and Muslims.

Police arrested more than 160 people, including Robinson, at their last major demonstration in east London in September when 3,000 officers were deployed to try to maintain order.