Yesterday, I went down to Downing Street to join some of my friends who were involved in holding a counter-demonstration against the EDL. As is traditional, though, I was running horribly late, so by the time I got there the police had cordoned off the whole area and my friends were kettled inside. I hung around for a bit to see what I could see (other than riot vans, very little), then headed to a pub nearby.
Whilst nursing my pint and checking twitter to see how people were faring inside the kettle, I was approached by a man who – given his burly nature and bald head – I judged to probably be an EDL member. I know, I know, book/cover &c&c, but I’d seen enough of them around on the street in their identikit uniform to be a little wary by this point. That said, I was in dungarees and dishevelled red hair, looking every inch the stereotypical lefty, so you could probably say the same about me.
It turned out the guy was approaching me to talk about a painting I was sitting near to (Westminster Abbey, in case you’re bothered). After a bit of preamble about that he got onto the subject I’d been expecting; that day’s EDL demonstration. Rather than risk a punch in the face, I decided not to let on that I was a raving lefty loon with friends in the kettle, and grunt noncommittally whenever he said anything abhorrent. I was also genuinely curious to hear things “from the horse’s mouth”, so to speak.
Some of the things he said bewildered me. He believed himself to not be racist in any way, and to genuinely believe that feminists ought to march alongside the EDL as allies. About half way through the conversation I decided to turn on the voice recorder on my phone.
I’ve transcribed the following conversation rather than post the audio, to retain his anonymity. I’ve also redacted some of the personal information which I think may have made him identifiable. I’m fairly sure – although not positive – that as we were in a broadly public space, this is legal, if perhaps not entirely ethical. Given the latter, I struggled with whether to post it at all, and only do so because I think it’s an interesting and perhaps valuable insight into this particular mind-set. No offence is intended towards the man I spoke to by my posting this, and I’m going to post it in the same spirit that our conversation was conducted – without condemnation, and in the spirit of intellectual curiosity and fostering understanding.
If he should contact me and ask me to take it down, I will of course comply – though I suspect he was the kind of guy who would proudly stand by his words.
Trigger warnings for: rape, violence against women/children, islamophobia, hate-speech.
He: The Sikhs gave the EDL food, and they’re eating together and everything, and the so-called United Against Facism, they was there, and in the end the Sikhs were booing them – and all they did all day was try and wind the EDL up, and the EDL had Sikhs talking for them, black guys talking for them, just saying – you know, not all muslims are bad but some are disgusting like we’ve seen. And everything they said was fair! You know – everything!
Me: What were the UAF doing to try and wind the EDL up?
He: The UAF are basically communists, and they hate any form of patriotism, they hate it, they just can’t stand it. And they are far left. And what they’ve done is, they knew the EDL wasn’t racist, they knew, but they’ve managed to convince – well, it’s fading now, because people are finding out now at last. But they’d managed to convince them – the blacks, and everybody – that the EDL hate people. It’s all lies! It’s just to further their cause. If the EDL was marching in Luton tomorrow, the UAF would go there early and tell all the muslim youths that the muslim women were being raped by the EDL. Then they’d go away, leaving the muslim youth furious. This is the kind of thing they were doing! Because they can’t physically take on the EDL. The EDL are top working class guys, where the UAF are wimpy middle class students. And I am so proud, today, that they didn’t react, and they broke bread with the Sikhs.
Me: It’s good to hear there was no violence.
He: Well the UAF tried their hardest. And the BBC was there, to film it in case they got negative.
Me: Well of course, I mean…
He: Seven and a half thousand in Newcastle! You know what the BBC said? 1500.
Me: Yeah. But they always completely misnumber the amount of people at things.
He: Well they shouldn’t, they’re a news channel! They’re so left wing, the BBC – they’re supposed to be impartial, they’re not supposed to jump on the left wing boat all the time – they’re supposed to be the Independent of the newspapers, if you like. They’re not supposed to be the Telegraph or the Guardian. So what do you do yourself?
Me: Me? I do like… web content writing and digital marketing, that type of stuff. And I do a bit of… I write articles sometimes, do a bit of writing.
He: That’s not bad! If you’re writing articles, you know, and people read them. You have a voice!
Me: Yeah! I’ve had a few months off now because my day job’s been really busy, so I haven’t really been writing anything.
He: You like what you do though, innit?
Me: Yeah yeah yeah, I like my day job!
He: That is half the battle, if you can get out of bed Monday morning and go and do something that you like, that is really important.
Me: Yeah, d’you know, it’s the first job that I’ve had that I’ve actually felt like that about and that I’ve got on with my colleagues and felt like they were friends, so that’s made a big difference. What do you do?
Me: Wow. Lots of fun…
He: You could train a chimpanzee to do it, you know? [Redacted] I don’t often have to deal with that, you know, I’ve got the easiest job. [laughter] But you know, it’s a job, it’s pretty hard at the minute to get any kind of job.
Me: Yeah! I mean, absolutely, I mean there are times when I go, “Well, I quite like my job but maybe I should try to move on and get more money, try and progress”, but it’s so difficult to get anything at the moment that…
He: No point in slinging your hook – find a job first before you sling the one you’ve got.
Me: Yes! No, absolutely.
He: All around this country, well – I was in Japan for three years. Fabulous country; every window is shining, gleaming. There’s no litter on the streets, it’s generally safe – the children, the women, you know? Also, you know that —
[Noise of shouting from street outside]
He: That’s the EDL.
Me: Oh, they’re coming past?
He: They’re singing “I’m English til I die, I know I am, so I am, I’m English til I die”.
Crowd: [chanting] E, E, EDL, E, E, EDL, E, E, EDL….
He: E, E, EDL… they’re just ordinary working class people who have had enough, you know?
Me: That’s a funny colour police van.
Me: Funny colour police van.
He: Yeah. Well, you knew they’d be on their tail. And there you are, you see, that guy there immediately said “It’s the racists” – they’re not racist at all! But that is the same – people are proper brainwashed. He doesn’t know anything about the EDL, he’s saying what he’s read in the newspaper.
Me: Yeah… so what’s, like… I mean, I don’t know much about it, so what’s your – their? – would you call yourself part of the group, or would you say you have some issues in common…
He: Basically they can’t stand muslims, they can’t stand islam, that is it. They love Sikhs, they like Indians – you know, they just cannot stand muslims full stop. And we’ve seen videos on our websites of what they do to women in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia – and our government and the American government was on the side of ousting the president of Egypt. Remember?
He: You know who’s moved in now? The Muslim Brotherhood. Who are now raping women for not covering up, when they didn’t have to before. [Inaud] prisoners are being pulled from lampposts, set on fire. And this is all because that presidents gone, who our government helped get rid of. Honest to god, if you actually took time and studied how evil it is, you’d be absolutely amazed.
Me: I guess it’s quite tricky, because obviously with religions there’s no one, definitive version of that religion-
He: How can you be racist against a religion?!
Me: -so you can be extremist… there could be extremist muslims or quite liberal muslims, there are different versions I guess. I mean, I’m an atheist so I kind of think that most religion is a bit ridiculous, and I think a lot of terrible things are done in its name…
He: The muslims are like we used to be 400 years ago, burning people at the stake, you know? The world moves on, 400 years ago – they’re the same.
Me: But plenty of muslims are moderates though, who don’t do things like that…
He: The moderates are – get off your arse, you march down the streets and you condemn these terrorists, otherwise – fuck off. That’s what we’re saying. You do not have the luxury of being empowered, you know? These people are doing it in your name.
Me: Mm…but then you get plenty of people who do things in the name of Christianity that are really really –
He: Name me one thing.
Me: The crusades? I know, it is a while ago.
He: Ok, tell me one thing recently.
Me: Erm. Ok, what about Anders Brejvic in Norway?
He: He wasn’t doing it because he was a Christian, he just couldn’t stand muslim. He was angry with the politicans for appeasing all the time. 96% of rapes in Norway and Sweden are committed by muslim youths, that is a fact, that is not an opinion. They’ve allowed all these people in as asylum-seekers, not realising the monster they were creating – they thought these people would appreciate what they’d done for them, but they didn’t – they didn’t want to say thank you for the kindness they’ve shown, you know – they’re raping Swedish women willy-nilly! They are! You know? And it’s racist to acknowledge this. Where are the great white feminists? Why are they not marching on these muslim womens’ side? All they do is mouth off at white men, I mean how safe can you get?!
He: You know, they’re not exactly putting their arses on the line, are they? You know, an eight year old girl in Pakistan, she was forced to marry a 50 year old – this is not a one-off, this has happened many many times, right – and she lay there during the night and slowly bled to death because she’d been so badly damaged inside. I don’t understand..I can’t understand how people can see this, know this is going on, and say nothing. They might say I’m racist, but if I can stop one girl from dying, you can call me racist every day of the week: I don’t give a shit. And these guys, the EDL, you know – they’re not chopping anyone’s head off, they’re not raping anyone. And guess who gets the most condemnation? Them! It’s just sick. And just to irritate the EDL, you know what the left have done? About that Lee Rigby, who’s had his head chopped off? They’ve put it all over the internet that he was a paedophile. He wasn’t! They just want to irritate the right-wing.
Me: I…hadn’t heard that.
He: It’s all over Facebook! You have to look at the proper pages though…if you’re just look at moderate Facebook, or the moderate news, you’d never know anything. We watch the real what’s going on in Syria, you know – there was two guards who were working for the government, they were caught by the rebels, they were tortured – horrifically tortured. This was all caught on the video. And these are the guys Cameron wants to arm, to help fight to get rid of the president. But also, Al Qaeda is helping them. And who are the british soldiers fighting in Afghanistan? Al Qaeda! But most of these people don’t know this, they don’t know anything.
Me: It’s so difficult though to tell how much of what you read – obviously any paper you read is going to be biased in either direction.
He: No it’s on both sides! The atrocities are on both sides. So how can you arm one when they’re both – you know, Iran is saying, if we arm them then they’re going to arm them, then Russia’s saying if America arms them then we’re going to arm them, so… sorry, I’m rabbiting on aren’t I, I didn’t mean to.
Me: [laughs] Well, I’m going to go and meet a friend now, but – nice to meet you…
He: Oh, let me walk away first, otherwise it’ll look like I’ve pissed you off and then I’ll seem like a twat.
Me: Ha. Okay.
He: Nice to meet you then, love.
Me: Have a good day.