In the aftermath of the English Defence League (EDL) rally in Manchester last Saturday, it is worth taking stock of how such an organisation has gained support, what it truly stands for and how it should be perceived within the spectrum of Europe’s far right.
It should not simply be dismissed as a racist or fascist BNP front. Instead, it is endemic to the current political climate in Europe that has seen a rise in support for populist groups that, through focusing on a perceived threat posed by Islam in Europe, present a new take on old xenophobic ideas, and have moved beyond racial and ethnic nationalisms that have lost credibility.
This ‘new’ far right as it has come to be known has shown itself adept at adopting and exploiting mainstream conservative concerns in order to push its own anti-Islam agenda, making reasoned debate about immigration, identity and radical Islam all the more difficult for those in the political centre.
At first glance, the group appears to be nothing more than a rebranded version of older right-wing extremist groups. However, it is more than just a xenophobic, far-right protest group; it is part of a wider movement within Europe which refers to itself as the ‘Counter-Jihad’, inspired in part by rabble rousing anti-Muslim bigots that have risen to prominence in post-9/11 America.
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