The Samosa | 20.01.2010 22:54 | Anti-racism
Amit Singh is a British-born Sikh in his late 20s, and one of the leading EDL activists in his hometown in the Midlands. He was introduced to me by an EDL spokesman, himself of mixed-race descent. He told me that people like Amit were of crucial importance in highlighting the fact that the EDL weren’t racist, and in helping spread the group's message within their own communities.
“Amit’s doing his speech to highlight the fact that we’re not white supremacist, skinhead boot boys basically,” the spokesman explained. “It would be a hell of a lot nicer to get more multicultural people there.” He said he wanted support from as many different communities as possible, including, he said, moderate Muslims.
The EDL website highlights Amit's role in an advert for this Saturday's demonstration in Stoke: "We will have two speakers; one is a Sikh, and the other is one of our black members, both proud Britons, and both of whom have volunteered to help start the year off strong by telling the UAF [Unite Against Fascism] exactly where they can stick their dishonest claim that we are racists."
"We are against racists"
When I first spoke to Amit, he assured me there was a growing number of Sikhs joining the group to protest against militant Islam - although in reality, the numbers are unlikely to be more than a small handful out of Britain's large Sikh community.
Amit told me he had joined the EDL after he was sent an invitation on Facebook to join a group opposing the organisation’s march in Nottingham in December. “I googled EDL and I read what it was about, and I thought to myself straight away, ‘well this is a really good cause why are we marching against them?’ Once I had spoken to a few people on their Facebook site and on the EDL forum I got involved and I’ve been marching ever since.”
He also stressed that the group, one of whose slogans is ‘Black and White Unite’, is not racist. He repeated an assertion I had heard from other EDL members - that because of their acceptance of non-whites they were hated by far-right groups: “We are against racists. That’s our biggest problem with the Nazis, with Combat 18 and the NF. They hate us because we’re not joining a group like theirs.”
"We're not anti-Muslim"
But Amit was insistent that the EDL wasn’t against Muslims per se: “We’re not here to be anti-Muslim, anybody in the group who is anti-Muslim will be kicked out. We’re here to fight against Muslim extremism. If Hindus were doing what the Muslims are doing, if Sikhs were doing it … whoever was to do it in this country, we would fight against them. I can understand that it can look like we’re singling out Muslims but we’re not, we’re not here to do that. We’re against Muslim extremists.”
Amit told me he believed there were moderate Muslims who agreed with the aims of the EDL but that they were too scared to speak out. As for why Muslims were protesting against the EDL, for Amit the answer was simple: “The only reason I can see for anyone protesting against us is that they support Muslim extremists. What other reason are they coming down for? We’re fighting against Muslim extremism so if you’re going to protest against us then that basically means you’re accepting Muslim extremism.”
"Fuck the p***s"
I was slightly troubled by some of Amit’s views but on the whole they didn’t seem too radical. He was certainly friendly with me, as were most of the other EDL members I had spoken to.
So I was shocked when I added him on Facebook – his profile was littered with racist jokes and offensive rants he had posted against Muslims and the Prophet Muhammad:
You know what, ive got an inkling the profit muhammed was really a bit of a adultering, raping, hate preaching looting Cunt!! Anyone agree, or is it just me????
the muzzies wanna keep away from me im just looking for an excuse im fucked off at the mo fuck the p***s… i just think we shud burn the cunts now!!
Be careful if you go out driving today… driving conditions are awful, ive just come off the road and hit a muslim!! It took me 10 minutes, 2 fields and a golf course, but I got the fucker!!
Hes one of the greatest naturalist of all times, searched the world and showed the british public animals and plants from across the world through the aid of television, and I congratulate him on his retirement, but please before you do retire sir richard attenborough [sic], any chance you can find me a moderate muslim????
- [comment by Amit Singh] hes just rung me and said hes got more chance of finding bin laden!!
- [comment by another supporter] Ordinary Muslims lol, there aint 1 in birmingham. They all have 6 inches of rat hair hangin from there chin
- [comment by Amit Singh] how dare you compare muslims to rats, rats deserve more respest than that! lol
u know what does my head in, they say pork is a filthy animal, well ive been in the restaurant and pub business and the health and safety standards are so fucking high its incredible all the way from slaughter down to it being on a plate, but yet they grill frozen kebab meat on a scewer in the open air, the reason for it one of the elders told me they hate pork is because they could never afford it back in the day, 'let’s put that in the quran gives us an excuse not to look like tramps when were trying to recruit to take over the world' CUNTS!!
[Comment aimed at a Muslim who insulted the EDL] hey amir how many times have u fucked your sister today, ure all a bunch of pedos, piss off back to pakistan!!
It would be unfair to automatically take someone’s Facebook comments as gospel, but the frequency and sheer vitriol of the statements, and the approving comments left by other EDL supporters, seem to give the lie to Amit’s and the EDL’s claims not to be prejudiced against ordinary Muslims.
When I asked about him about these comments Amit claimed that he had been receiving death threats from Muslims at the time, and that this had provoked him into writing many of them. He also said he had an outspoken sense of humour and that many comments were intended as jokes.
He did however admit that he viewed Islam as an inherently extremist religion. “I do believe that the majority [of Muslims] believe in these extreme actions … From what I’ve been told and what I’ve read it is an extremist religion. If you ask the majority of the world they say it is an extremist religion. This is what the British public perceives and this is what I perceive. This is what I know Islam to be. This is what I’m taught from Islam’s speakers.” He pointed to preachers like Anjem Choudary and Abu Hamza as proof of this and said they were responsible for this impression of the faith.
He also defended his opinions on the Prophet Muhammad, highlighting his marriage to Aisha when she was nine years old. The fact that this would now be classed as paedophilia is highlighted by many critics of Islam, although they often ignore that until 1875 the legal age of consent in England was 12.
The EDL spokesman who had introduced me to Amit said the views he expressed were personal ones and that the EDL did not support or approve of them.
Despite this I wasn’t convinced. Admittedly most people, me included, have written things on Facebook that shouldn’t be taken literally. However it seems too naïve to accept Amit’s anti-Muslim statements were all just jokes without any malice behind them, given their frequency and vitriolic nature.
His assertions about Islam are, however, indicative of a wider mistrust of the religion in Britain. The very fact that he took extremists such as Anjem Choudary as being representative of the entire religion revealed not only his ignorance but also the effect of the tabloid media’s courtship of such controversial figures – consistently according them publicity denied to more moderate voices.
And Muslims must bear a certain responsibility for this too. As a Muslim myself, I believe the community needs to examine why we are yet to see similar levels of popular grassroots anger directed at the Taliban and Al-Qaeda as (often quite rightly) greet Western policy in the Muslim world.
"Divide and rule"
Amit played down suggestions that his role was to recruit more Sikhs to the EDL cause – but members of the organisation have been looking to recruit non-Muslim members of Britain's black and Asian communities to cut across accusations of racism. A Facebook group called ‘Sikhs Against Sharia’, which explicitly states it is not anti-Muslim, appears to be a disguised front for organisations such as the EDL and Stop Islamisation of Europe, and its membership is overwhelmingly white and non-Sikh, but its potential recruitment role is clear.
It’s a strategy that drew strong condemnation from a Unite Against Fascism spokesperson: “Throughout history racists and bigots have tried to justify and promote their hatred by encouraging different minority groups to attack each other. It’s called divide and rule: playing off one against another so that we all lose out.”
Similarly Jasdev Rai of the mainstream British Sikh Consultative Forum pointed out that the handful of Sikhs joining the EDL and the British National Party are not representative of the rest of the community. He said there was no place in the Sikh religion for “communalism or racism of any kind”.
On a personal level I actually quite liked Amit. And he and others in the EDL had repeatedly invited me to join them as a supporter on their demonstrations including the protest this weekend in Stoke. As a self-described moderate Muslim profoundly committed to combating violent extremism, according to the official EDL line I should fit right in.
However, while Amit may be right that the EDL is not racist in the traditional sense - it seemingly has no problem with blacks, Sikhs or Hindus – its claim to oppose only violent extremist Muslims rings hollow.
The EDL spokesman I spoke to said insulting Muhammad “wasn’t on”, and that he had no problem with Muslims practising their religion in Britain as long as they didn’t harm other people. Maybe this is true - for him. But the question is, how many of the EDL’s supporters also believe this – and how many are implacably opposed to the presence of Muslims in this country, regardless of how moderate they are?
Amit Singh says he has received death threats because of his activism, so The Samosa has agreed not to publish his picture, full name or where he lives. The Samosa has screen-captures of Amit Singh's Facebook comments but is not publishing them as they would identify him.