By Majed Iqbal- Over a year ago, the English Defence League (EDL), a racist and Islamoophobic national outfit with links to the terrorist Anders Brevik, who murdered hundreds in Norway, marched into Rochdale. In March 2011, EDL took senior Politician’s, Jack Straws words as Gospel when he stated that some men in the Pakistani community “view white girls as easy Meat” in reference to cases of under-age sex with girls who were being passed around for sexual favours.
In a matter of days the debate was widened to Pakistani and Islamic Culture being solely responsible for the issues begin raised which were at that time still under investigation. Tabloids ran stories ridiculing Islam, Muslims and Pakistanis and became the judge, jury and executioner in the case, holding an entire community responsible for the actions of a few. The EDL demonstration last year cost the police £200,000.
With their demonstration taking place this weekend in Rochdale again, the wider community in Rochdale needs to question and challenge such an event which draws the majority of people from outside of Rochdale to come in and create havoc for their own narrow Political ends.
In light of the Rochdale EDL Demo, many texts have been sent out, and leaflets put out to present a view on what to do. So what should we do? Before drafting out a plan, we must be aware of what exactly is happening.
The EDL rests its entire Propaganda on the Grooming issue as a ‘Cultural’ Problem which needs to be addressed directly to every Pakistani, holding them responsible for an alleged mindset which allows Pakistani men to sexually take advantage of non-pakistani women because that’s what they deserve. They hold Islam responsible for this mindset which in their view differentiates between believers and non-believers and therefore somehow gives a green light for the mis-treatment of non-muslim women.
The sentencing of 9 out of 11 man from Rochdale involved in crimes of grooming under-age girls of sex has therefore been the catalyst to build upon their Anti-Islam platform which has been peddled since the organisations inception. In the view of EDL, Islam is the sole reason for the problems of British Society. In line with this position, they have presented the Rochdale grooming case as one of their key highlights to champion this view.
No Difference between PM Cameron and EDL
Whilst many view EDL as a fringe movement with a thuggish street presence, it’s support has been growing in the years. Their intellectually bankrupt arguments have gained credibility, not because of the process of any enlightened thought process, but simply because senior politicians have rubber stamped their positions with similar mindless comments. PM Cameron in the House of Commons told MPs:
“There are particular problems in particular communities … and we need to face up to these problems if we are going to deal with them.”
Once again, an entire community was blamed for the actions of a few. Those of us who are independent observers can see the resonance of this stance with that of Politicians and parties post 7/7, when the entire Muslim community was being cornered to issue apologies for the actions of a few men who carried out bombings in London; as if they telephoned all muslims to gain their blessings and approval before carrying out acts of destruction and the taking of innocent lives.
Jack Straw or David Cameron, In power or in opposition, it doesn’t make a difference, as it is seasoned Politicians who have made it perfectly acceptable to turn simple issues into race or religious related issues, promoting dangerous divisions in society, whilst hiding under labels of promoting ‘diverse communities'; yet they have the nerve to blame the ‘tensions’ back to ‘Particular communities’. In fact there have been other cases of grooming where race was never the subject of discussion.
Only last month a Police officer was sentenced for grooming a 15-year-old. Where was the national outrage? Why weren’t the beliefs of the officer put under question?
How Should the Muslim Community Respond?
1. Raise awareness in the community Established Political Parties and NOT the EDL or BNP are the real culprits of stirring up race hate on an issue which should be treated simply as a criminal one. Our voices should challenge ‘those in the suits’ and not those in jeans, and the ones who walk the corridors of power and not the ones who live in Pubs.
2. Don’t fall victims to the ‘left’ Other groups, like United against Fascism (UAF) are organising a counter demonstration and will push Young muslim to go and protest. This has caused issues in many other similar demonstrations leading to abusive comments from both sides and scuffles. Don’t fall into this cheap trap. The Muslim community has it s OWN Agenda and are not here to do the dirty work of others. The Muslims need to advocate their OWN politics and not those of Labour, Lib Dems, Tories or those of the left
3. Help us educate our youth Our youth are our future, and we must not allow them to be easily provoked by racists or by hot-headed leftists, who get the Muslim youth to carry out their dirty work. We should remember that in the Bradford riots it was Muslim youth sent to prison for acts organised by right-wing racists and leftist opponents.
4. We must reach out to local non-Muslims We should have already been active in speaking to people from different backgrounds and races across Rochdale about this issue. We must clearly articulate that Islam in no way allows such behaviours in any society, no matter where you live and that the Shariah promotes Family values, respect of ALL women and the protection of chastity. Islam forbids alcohol and drugs. So how could have these men been committing these crimes in the name of Islam whilst breaking every known law of Islam?
5. Remain united and speak with one voice against this attack on Islam and Muslims. Mosques remained seemingly quiet on the issue until the case verdict was issued, no different to councillors and Community Leaders on this issue. In fact Political parties based in Rochdale have used this opportunity to divide the Pakistani Muslim community further by pushing their own party lines down the throats of their ‘Asian’ councillors. This has clearly shown us that relying on Political parties to represent us in a true light and fight for us is far from their concerns. We must continue to work outside of the Political process for real change and to articulate and defend our positions on issues of local, national and international concern.
6. Don’t waste your time by turning up to the demonstration against the EDL. That is exactly the reaction they would like. Your presence would not serve the interests of the Pakistani Muslim community on this issue in any way, shape or form by being present at the Demo. Learn from the Sunnah of the Beloved Prophet (SAW) as to how he used to address similar factions in Meccan society who were hostile to the message of Islam for no apparent reason. We learn that the Holy Prophet (SAW) would always address the root cause of the problems and not the symptoms e.g the burying of daughters alive and the collective societal silence on the matter in Mecca & the cheating in the market places.
These points are essential for us to move forward from this issue and continue to project Islam, Muslims and the message of the Holy prophet (SAW).