Calls for English Defence League to be branded “extremist”

Assembly Members Murad Qureshi, Jennette Arnold OBE, Dr Onkar Sahota and Navin Shah signed a joint letter to Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe asking his to reconsider the EDL’s status.

The Met applied to the Secretary of State Theresa May amid fears of public disorder as the EDL prepared to march in Walthamstow for the second time in one month. Members of the EDL have targeted London boroughs where there are a number of different faith groups and non-white communities.

Labour London-wide Assembly Member Murad Qureshi said:

"We call on Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe to brand the EDL as an extremist group. Members of the EDL are disrupting our communities and promoting violence and racist ideology. They are obviously a far-right group, bent on causing as much trouble in our diverse communities as possible.

"It is disgraceful that people such as the EDL who don’t even live in London and have to travel from outside the city are allowed to come to our neighbourhood to promote their evil racist ideology. We must stand together and recognise the EDL for what they are, an extremist far-right group."

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Murad Qureshi is a London-wide Assembly Member.

Jennette Arnold OBE is a London Assembly Member for North East, including Islignton, Hackney and Waltham Forest.

Dr Onkar Sahota is a London Assembly Member for Ealing and Hillingdon.

Navin Shah is a London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow.

The letter is attached and reads:

"We welcomed the Government’s decision last week to ban the planned EDL march through Waltham Forest and other nearby boroughs. Waltham Forest has become a target for these marches as it is home to a rich tapestry of communities and faiths which these events are designed to attack.

In the past, these marches have been organised and attended by EDL members who have no connection with the local community and they have led to disorder and tension on the streets within a community which otherwise live and work together without trouble or contempt for each other.

In light of past experiences of EDL marches and this recent ban, we urge you to revise the Met’s view about the status of the EDL. We ask this because, back in September 2009, the then Met Police commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson told the MPA that the EDL "are not viewed as an extreme right wing group in the accepted sense". Last year, it was reported that Adrian Tudway, head of the national domestic extremism unit at Scotland Yard, stated in an email to a Muslim organisation that "in terms of the position with EDL, the original stance stands, they are not extreme right wing as a group" adding "I really think you need to open a direct line of dialogue with them, that might be the best way to engage them and re-direct their activity". These sentiments are not only patronising to London’s Muslim community, they are wholly inconsistent with the EDL’s recent actions and the reaction by the local community to their presence.

The recent arrests by the Met Police and the request to ban the march last week were both based upon intelligence led investigation; it is clear, therefore, that the perception of the EDL as a non right wing organisation is misconceived. This misconception should be put right, and we hope that recent actions by the Met police and the Home Secretary should pave a way forward to restating the Met’s views on the EDL. We believe this is the time to draw a line in the sand from past statements made by or on behalf of the Met on this subject and we seek your reassurance that such statements will not be made under your watch in the future."