Stephen Yaxley Lennon who named himself Tommy Robinson after the famous football hooligan is described by the internet as a “political activist”. Robinson previously led the notorious far right nationalist group, the English Defence League (EDL). The group protest against what they believe to be “Islamic extremism”. Recently, the media coverage surrounding his trials has not only increased Yaxley Lennon’s popularity to a mainstream national level but an international level too, much to the worry of many members of the British public.
What has made his movement and other nationalist movements so active? Exploitation. People like Robinson exploit the plights of a struggling working class by convincing them that their misfortunes stem from immigrants and that they are subordinate to them. They exploit the fears of people by telling them that immigrants are here to steal their jobs, rape their children and impose their customs onto the British. These claims however, are far from the truth and many studies have been done to debunk this. Studies show that overall immigration does not impact jobs in the UK however immigration from outside the E.U could have an effect on employment of UK born workers during an economic downturn.
As the Muslim community have been a scapegoat for the media, it is no surprise that the former EDL leader jumped on the bandwagon by adopting an anti Muslim narrative. The media have helped promote the idea that Muslims are violent and misogynistic. They have perpetuated the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorists or support terrorism for example: The Sun newspaper’s headline of “1 in 5 muslims” having “sympathy for Jihadis”.
The grooming scandals which occurred in Rotherham, Rochdale, Leeds as well as in many places up and down the UK have been centric to far right campaigns. What sticks out like a sore thumb to the far right isn’t the fact that a group of sick individuals groomed and exploited vulnerable young children but the fact that these were cases of Asian on Caucasian crime. The far right care very little about paedophilia and they focus more on the ethnicities of the criminals and victims.
It is a shame that such a tragedy has been weaponised by people like Tommy Robinson to attack immigrant communities as well as to further a political agenda. However this empowerment of the far right would not have been as huge if the media (especially The Sun) didn’t launch “The Muslim Problem” campaign. This empowerment wouldn’t have blown out of proportion if Labour MP Sarah Champion didn’t align herself with the vile campaign by writing articles drawing parallels between Pakistani ethnicity and the horrific crimes. One simply cannot put all the blame on Champion and The Sun, one must take into account that insufficient policing and quiet councils were also a catalyst. If the authorities and councils had dealt with the crime earlier, the far right would have found it a less useful tool to further their narratives.
“The Muslim Problem”, rings a bell doesn’t it? It echoes “The Jewish Question” which is also referred to as “The Jewish Problem”. Where did such a phrase lead to? The Nazi’s picking it up and turning it into “A Final Solution”. In fact many political figures described the campaign’s language as “Nazi type language”. One cannot help but draw a small parallel between the grooming gang scandal and the endemic anti-Semitism in Europe surrounding the Blood Libel. Now this isn’t to say that the Muslim community will be victims of extreme fascism like the Jewish community once were; this is to say that if we allow such hate campaigns and discrimination to manifest in our society, things may take a dark turn.
Condemning and dealing with extreme cases of grooming and CSE must be done without putting culture, ethnicity and religion into the equation. At the end of the day, vulnerable children were sexually exploited, dehumanized and traumatized at the expense of sick individuals with sick needs. The victims did not care about whether the men were Asian or not, neither did they care that the men were from the Muslim community. The only thing that remains as a scar to them is the way they were treated. It is also important to remember that one of the key figures who brought the case to trial was Nazir Afzal, a man of Pakistani-Muslim descent.
Something worth noting is that the figures from the CEOP which suggest that most of the “type 1” abusers are of Asian descent has been self proclaimed to not be a true representation of group abuse and sexual exploitation in the UK.
The Muslim community do not deserve to carry the burden of a minority. We as a society must use this as a learning curve when it comes to dealing with and reacting to such cases; we must not allow racists like Tommy Robinson to exploit and profit off the trauma of abuse victims. The more ammunition we give to the far right, the more they’ll continue to attack communities, the more they’ll grow and the more they’ll continue to play the political game of divide and conquer with the working class.