Yesterday Unite Against Fascism (UAF) issued a statement, signed by a number of councillors and community groups, against a rally planned by the racist English Defence League in Tower Hamlets.
An anti-EDL march has been called for Sunday 20th June, assembling at 11am at Stepney Green Park and finishing at Altab Ali Park, Whitechapel. The UAF statement says:
Opposing the EDL is clearly something that all anti-racists in east London should support. But it is interesting, however, that a number of the UAF's signatory organisations include those who have defended Gita Saghal's attacks Amnesty International for its work with former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg.
The English Defence League is a violent, bigoted organisation and an embarrassment to our country. They should be condemned everywhere, but will be particularly unwelcome if they come to Tower Hamlets.
Most people in the East End live in peace and mutual respect for neighbours, regardless of their faith or skin colour.
As residents and workers in the borough, we will not tolerate attempts to divide us or stir up hatred. The real enemies of Tower Hamlets are poverty and inequality, not Islam.
At Cable Street in 1936 the people of the East End united to block the way to Mosley’s fascist blackshirts. We stand ready to do the same to the EDL. This will be a peaceful protest to celebrate our diversity.
Doesn't it seem extremely hypocritical for those who have accused others of guilt by association with 'the Islamic Right' to put their names to a statement alongside organisations they fiercely condemn, such as the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE) and East London Mosque?
Doesn't the fact that they've signed anyway rather prove the point that I and others been making repeatedly - that often a campaign against racism or injustice is more important than vetting the purity of all of your allies?
What the UAF statement fails to mention is the target of the EDL rally - an event called 'The Book That Shook The World' organised by UK Islamic Conferences at the Troxy in Commercial Road. A number of the speakers seem like exactly the kind of 'Islamic Right' wingnuts that Gita Saghal's supporters get so irate about. So why no equal condemnation for this event? As far as I'm aware, the only people to attack both the EDL rally and the conference are the Whitechapel Anarchist Group (WAG).
Personally, I find it hard to get as excited as the WAGs about a fringe conference of religious nutters - as the Whitechapel Anarchists quite rightly point out, most have "all been kicked out of mosques by Muslims themselves". The EDL's presence in Tower Hamlets is a far more serious threat.
But at least the WAGs are consistent - the same from others would be nice. Next time a group like my own, the Newham Monitoring Project, finds itself campaigning against discriminatory anti-terrorism laws, I would expect to hear no more criticisms alleging that we are condoning fundamentalism, simply because the likes of the IFE happen to also believe that discriminating against Muslims is unjust.