“I saw my first dead jihadi when I was ten years old.” (Paul, commenting on his childhood recollection of a Muslim Turk who had crossed the Green Line in Cyprus).
“Don’t tarnish us all as racists, bigots, Nazis.” (Andy, speaking after recounting how his son died at the age of 19 defending one of his comrades whilst on his first tour of duty in Afghanistan).
“There’s no threats of violence. Yet.” (Colin, reflecting upon the possible direction of future direct action by splinter groups within the nationalist movement).
The narrator opened the documentary by revealing that he had spent a year getting to know the individuals whose personal perspectives and stories formed the primary subject matter of the programme. That he had successfully gained a degree of trust was apparent from the sense of ease with which the subjects of his piece spoke about their personal motivations for involvement in anti-Islamist direct action. It was thus an insightful piece of journalism infused with human interest, and a degree of sympathy for individuals who often indulged in actions and behaviours that would ordinarily elicit little other than unease, if not outright revulsion.
The film provided a snapshot of just one of the small groups – the South London Infidels (SLI) – to have emerged from the fragmentation of the English Defence League (EDL), and from what was on display here, the EDL of old appeared to be very moderate by comparison. Although each of the SLI members interviewed claimed a political motivation – specifically an anti-Islamist one – for their actions, it was evident that for some this was indeed simply a peg upon which they hung their innate anger, as was made most clear by Colin, who at the beginning of the programme revealed that he had been a “tearaway as a youth”, before graduating to football hooliganism, the ‘Far Right’ (interestingly he here interjected that it could just as well have been the Left, as they’re “both the same”) and anti-Islamism. He stated that he had joined the nationalist movement six years ago and that he hated Muslims “with a passion!” Together with someone named Jason, he had set up the SLI.
Apparently, Colin’s own mother habitually refers to him as “a dick”. Towards the end of the programme, he had gravitated towards more hard-core interpretations of nationalism, associating himself with individuals sympathising with the Golden Dawn, as well as Combat 18. He had come to believe that the formation of some kind of militia or ‘task force’ to deal with the Islamist threat was both desirable and inevitable. So far, so bad. Colin confessed that “I’m in a bit of a bad place at the moment”, before later going on to admit that he didn’t like himself, and that he’d directed his self-hatred outwards in anger channelled through the comradeship of the groups to which he had attached himself. Worse still, he claimed that he knew of violent actions that had recently taken place, but that he was not prepared to divulge details, as he did not wish to incriminate his sources or the perpetrators of these violent acts. He was thus the living embodiment of the far-right extremist that everyone loves to hate: the belligerent, self-loathing ex-football hooligan skinhead turned defender of patriotic values, advocating violence against his objects of hate. To top it all, he was half Italian and half Irish.
Paul, another SLI member, was born in Tottenham of Cypriot parentage, hence his nightmarish childhood recollection of an incident in Cyprus. In talking about the group’s demonstrations, he stated: “We’re not looking for violence, but believe me, if we’re attacked, we’ll defend ourselves.” He said this ahead of a demonstration in Brighton shortly after St George’s Day, where it was anticipated that there would be a confrontation with counter-demonstrators. Paul and his fellow SLI members were not to be disappointed on this score, as ‘anti-fascist’ campaigners and ‘nationalists’ got into a bit of a ruck and threw sundry pieces of street furniture around a Brighton street. Neither a good day for the locals, nor the police. The violence that was traded between the two sides seemed to bear witness to Colin’s comment that the Far Right and the Far Left were in this respect alike. Paul however, disowned one tenet of traditional ‘Far Right’ belief: “No, I’m not a racist. I think that’s offensive.” Although, unlike Colin, Paul did not advocate the formation of a militia, by the end of the documentary he stated that he thought that “we will end up in a sectarian war,” and that this would inevitably lead to the formation of a militia if the Government fails to act sufficiently strongly to combat radical Islam.
The SLI activities that were shown – marching in Brighton and latterly in Rotherham in connection with the cover-up of mass child abuse by Pakistani taxi drivers because of ‘cultural sensitivities’, turning up outside of Regent’s Park Mosque to confront Anjem Choudary, and appearing at a Muslim Brotherhood bookshop – all seemed to involve a great deal of shouting, ill temper and the threat (sometimes the use of) violence. It was a depressing display. Clearly, many who are involved in this group and others like it are in it primarily for the adrenaline kick that they obtain from indulging their violent impulses, but others – such as Andy – have evidently become involved in these groups because they feel that their concerns regarding Islamism are not being adequately addressed.All in all, it made for dispiriting viewing. Islamism could be tackled and defeated quite easily in this country if our political leaders possessed the will, but it seems that with few exceptions, they do not. “Why not?” you may ask. It would appear that the unwillingness to act derives from a combination of factors, such as the internalised belief that multiculturalism and cultural relativism are ‘a good thing’, a desire not to alienate Muslim voters, and, most importantly of all, the socially corrosive impact of Saudi and Qatari capital, and the vigorous export of Wahhabi ideology by the Saudis. Out of the high-profile electable political parties, UKIP might be willing to tackle some of these problems, but, I suspect, not all of them.