We've seen some ugly behaviour, from people associated with the English Defence League, in response to the Woolwich murder a few weeks ago. There has been anger in the UK press about this. But I wonder if members of the EDL may in fact have a good deal in common with those who are seduced by radical Islamism.
a) they are often poor, young men with a grievance,
b) they think that society has sold them down the river,
c) they have a prejudiced fear of each other, which is encouraged by politicians
When you start to look at the differences, you realise they are actually just different kinds of alienation. Young Muslim men have become or been made so conscious of their religion, and of the colour of their skin, that they sometimes don't know whether they are imagining prejudice, or whether it's really there. Perhaps they resent this effect on their lives as much as any single, mindless act of racism.
Having talked to many Muslims, I can't escape the impression that some cultivate a 'seige' mentality, this old and rather dangerous idea that the Christian (or godless) West has got it in for them, so Muslims have to stick together. It's dangerous because, as we know, us-and-them distrust tends to breed the same attitude in reply*
We're lectured by the Guardian newspaper on a nearly daily basis about how this must feel. But, oddly, noone bothers to imagine what is fuelling EDL members' feelings. These are humans beings, after all, and it won't help anybody to just dismiss them out of hand. Indeed, it's rather strange that we're told to sympathize with hackers-off-of-heads and to vilify another group for prejudice. I can't speak for EDL members, but here's a first attempt.
- They and their fathers and grandfathers never agreed to the huge influx of immigrants into the UK, and those without work may wonder why so many are being brought in to do the few remaining jobs. Around 2.5 million people are unemployed in the UK, and there are apparently around half a million job vacancies.
- They also have a perception that the immigrants have brought a whole lot of trouble with them, and many headlines about grooming scandals, bombings, failed bomb plots, and now beheadings just reinforce that belief. They've seen a way of life crumble and die, replaced by uncertainty and fear. They are then told that even to mention any of these feelings in connection with immigrants is disgusting racism. It's not surprising that they feel abandoned by the UK ruling elite.
These are just different reasons for both groups feeling alienated. Politicians know that if they encourage these feelings of alienation, they will be able to exercise influence over these young men.
I will never join either group, but to self-righteously understand one group and vilify another is to take sides. It is not impartial journalism or analysis. If anyone reads this, I imagine I will most likely be accused of 'hatred' for even daring to think about the EDL, but that would just be an indication of how stupid we're being about this issue.
*after 9/11, an angry young man went on Channel 4 news saying that an attack on one Muslim, was an attack on all his brothers - perhaps as justification for what had happened. The presenter, Jon Snow asked what about the Muslims who had been killed in the twin towers, but the young hot-head ignored him