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Proud and Prejudiced: English Defence League and Extremist Islamist Groups Under the Spotlight

Posted on the 28 February 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Proud and Prejudiced: English Defence League and extremist Islamist groups under the spotlight

Extremist leaders Tommy Robinson (l) and Sayful Islam (r)

Hard-hitting Channel 4 documentary Proud and Prejudiced, which aired February 27, examined the recent rise of rival extremist protest movements in the troubled English city of Luton. The profile of Stephen Lennon (also known as Tommy Robinson), leader of the far-right English Defence League (EDL) and Sayful Islam, former leader of several banned extremist Islamist groups including Muslims Against Crusades, and Al-Muhajiroun, has garnered mostly positive reviews from TV critics. But it has dismayed Lutonians.

The film crew spent a year following the two men, and showed scenes from EDL marches and of Islam preaching to supporters and passers-by in Bury Park, Luton.

Leaders’ idiocy shone through. Andrew Marszal of The Telegraph said “the tone of the programme felt similar to that of Chris Morris’s film Four Lions, which mocks four would-be suicide bombers, showing them up to be rather less efficient and impressive than they believe themselves to be. I also felt the programme makers had a similar motive to those who had invited Nick Griffin on Question Time: offer them a public platform and they wouldn’t be able to conceal their own idiocy.” “The danger of this approach is that a serious topic can start to seem light-hearted,” cautioned Marszal, who reminded that, “the very real prejudices underlying this feud are of course extremely serious, and their consequences can be, and have been, deadly on a tragic scale.” “The film-makers did their best to remind us of this with disconcerting footage of the groups gathering for hate-filled rallies,” acknowledged Marszal, who gave the show a three-and-half-star rating.

Hopefully accurate. Andrew Billen of The Times (£) said the documentary recorded history being repeated as farce.” He described the extremist leaders are “two angry young men” engaged in what the town’s “cohesion officer” called a “peeing competition”. “One is Sayful Islam, a Muslim extremist of, it seems, doubtful scholarship, who gets his rocks off threatening the locals with burning poppies on Remembrance Day. The other is Tommy Robinson, leader of the English Defence League, a faction-riven anti-Islamist outfit. The night before a major push in Tower Hamlets, Robinson went on a bender, but heroically made it to London the next morning, albeit in breach of a bail order and disguised as a rabbi. Sayful, having noticed some of his supporters getting arrested, has not been on a demo since. All round, it was a rather reassuring film about extremism. I hope it was accurate.”

Unfair representation. “The violent scenes and divisive rhetoric on show in last night’s Proud and Predujiced were not a fair representation of Luton, politicians have said this morning,” reported Luton Today. It quoted Luton Borough Council leader Hazel Simmons, who said that the two men had been given a “platform to unfairly represent Luton … I already been inundated with messages from people who are extremely upset that our town has yet again been portrayed through the narrow lens of two sides of the extremist coin with no representation of the Luton that we know and love.” Simmons acknowledged that Luton faces “challenges” but insisted that “the majority of Lutonians are not touched by extremism in their daily lives. They live together in peace and harmony.” A spokesperson for Channel 4 said: “The programme is a balanced examination of the rise of two extreme movements which pose a challenge to community cohesion not only in Luton but elsewhere in the UK.”

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