Pegida: British far-right's latest vendetta against Muslims

Richard Sudan
Richard Sudan is a London-based writer, political activist, and performance poet. His writing has been published in many prominent publications, including the Independent, the Guardian, Huffington Post and Washington Spectator. He has been a guest speaker at events for different organizations ranging from the University of East London to the People's Assembly covering various topics. His opinion is that the mainstream media has a duty to challenge power, rather than to serve power. Richard has taught writing poetry for performance at Brunel University.
© Toby Melville
Following Pegida’s latest ‘silent walk’ it was clear to me that however hard Tommy Robinson tries to put an acceptable face on his latest project, Pegida, the results would be the same.

Indeed, the march reminded of the many other far-right events of the past, including those held by the EDL (English Defence League), Robinson’s previous project.

The proof was in the pudding. For me, there was a notable disparity between the speeches being made on stage, showing signs of better organization than in the past, and the reactions from the crowd who clearly hadn’t moved on. The reaction among the onlookers was often in direct contradiction to the respectable image that Pegida is trying to present, betraying the true nature of what really lies beneath.

Ostensibly, the march on Saturday was supposed to be a show of anger and protest over the now infamous child abuse ring in Rotherham. As usual, Robinson and Pegida blamed the Muslim community solely and exclusively for the problem.

True, plenty of Muslim men were involved in the abuse ring, but there were plenty of non-Muslims too. There are also allegations of cover-ups involving the police. I have not seen the same righteous indignation from Robinson and his crew regarding the abuse ring, which was allegedly operational in Westminster, and may still be.

There has also been the issue in the UK and far beyond of widespread abuse in the Catholic Church. Again, in many of these instances there are cover-ups involving individuals high up the chain of command, including sections of the media as well as the police. In Westminster and among the Catholic Church, many of the crimes involved white Christian males.

Would Pegida and Robinson ever draw the same conclusion about other faiths regarding abuse in their ranks? I think not. Nor should they. People do not commit crimes because of their faith or skin color. And the same rule applies to Muslim communities too.

But the same old tired arguments were on show at the protest in Rotherham. There were, however, some superficial differences. The group’s Facebook page, for example, had placed an emphasis on the fact that the Rotherham protest, unlike those in the past, was to be ‘alcohol free’. That tells you something about previous marches and those who attended.

The speakers, which included Robinson himself (aka Stephen Yaxley Lennon aka Paul Harris), Ann Marie Waters, and a handful of others, came with slightly more sophisticated arguments than usual; linguistically at least. Ideologically they are the same ones we’ve heard in the past re-spun.

‘Militant Islam’ is to blame, Pegida and Robinson say, not all Muslims. In the next breath they again equate abusers and all Muslims. This is highly charged and divisive language. It doesn’t help cohesion in our communities.

In any case, for me, nothing has really changed from the EDL to Pegida. While filming, one or two people came up to tell me they ‘were watching me’, all very reassuring and sweet, but not exactly the cuddly and concerned image they are trying to put across.

It was clear not all in the crowd had got the memo. Every time one of the speakers regurgitated their ‘It’s not all Muslims’ talking point, it was greeted with hoots of derision and chuckles from those looking on who clearly didn’t agree.

If these people were really against abuse, they would protest ALL and any abuse taking place across Britain. But they don’t. They dislike Muslims. Abuse is found in all communities. This is a moot point to Pegida and Tommy Robinson. If they were serious, why not truly unite with people and faiths of all colors to tackle the problem?

The real peak behind the facade, the absolute howler of the day, came from the ex UKIP parliamentary candidate Magnus Neilson. He reminded me of those dinosaurs still living in the past and reveling in the glory days of the empire. He noted how slavery had begun in Africa and it was the British that ended it. I’m not joking. Clearly, it's not just Muslims he dislikes.

Needless to say, this statement by Neilson, who is definitely more stegosaurus than statesman, is completely inaccurate, and probably delusional. The British began trans-Atlantic slavery, and it was Africans who had to free themselves. The old Wilberforce argument is dead and buried. And even if there was an equivalent to trans-Atlantic slavery, which there was not, and certainly not in Africa, the suggestion is intentionally insulting. Even if true, which it isn’t, the suggestion that one crime justifies another is the language of fascism.

Pegida simply appears to be a slightly more polished version of the EDL. Perhaps after being shunned by his old pals, Quilliam, Robinson is reverting back to his roots having learnt a few things along the way. Either way it’s a problem and will not lead to any solutions. In fact, the cost of policing the demo on Saturday set the taxpayer back 250k and fermented already deeply held prejudices against the Muslim community.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.