The road to Damascus or a political stunt? Lennon leaves the EDL

posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 9 October 2013, 16:24

It has been almost 36 hours since news broke that Stephen Lennon was leaving the EDL. Since then he has been touted around the television studios and inundated the airwaves with claims that he was turning his back on the street movement that he set up in 2009 because of the continuing battle to keep out racists and Nazis from it's ranks.
He claimed that he had realised the futility of street protests and even admitted that the EDL had become "part of the problem".

HOPE not hate was suspicious of his actions from the very beginning, not least because only three days before his damascene conversion he was camped outside the Reading home of someone he thought opposed the EDL. Hardly the behaviour of someone who was breaking from his past.

However, we gave the news of his departure a cautious welcome. Perhaps it was genuine. Perhaps we just wanted it to be true. Maybe it was because we could not believe that the Quilliam Foundation would publicly and so aggressively trumpet Lennon's conversion if it was not real.

Now, 36 hours on, our concerns about this whole affair appear to be growing or even confirmed.

The much publicised press conference is best remembered for what Lennon didn't say. There was no remorse for his own role in stirring up anti-Muslim hatred over the years. There was no acknowledgement that he had deliberately conflated everyday practices of mainstream Muslims with a tiny minority of Islamist extremists. There was no apology for the millions of pounds wasted or thousands of people EDL demos had targeted and scared.

All we got was the blame being put on alleged Nazis within the group and an admission that street protests were futile. Pressed by the media, Kevin Carroll, Lennon's cousin and number two, said: "We are still singing off the same him sheet." Later that evening, Lennon refused to answer Paxman's question as to whether his views had changed. On Channel Four News, he initially denied having ever made anti-Muslim remarks.

Two people who do not think Lennon has changed are Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, arguably the most important anti-Muslim activists in the world. Shortly before the sham news conference Geller blogged her support for Lennon's decision to leave the EDL and looked forward to working with him in the future. Pressed to renounce the pair at the news conference, Lennon not only refused but spoke positively of them.

Lennon and his supporters had indicated that they plan to establish a new anti-Islamist movement but devoid of the Nazis who ruined the EDL. It sounds a bit like business as usual for the former EDL leader.

The Quilliam Foundation and it's supporters have pleaded for patience, arguing that political conversions do not happen overnight and old habits and views die hard. Sadly, this appears to be a desperate attempt at damage limitation for an organisation whose credibility will be ruined if Lennon's conversion proves to be false.

It emerged at the press conference that Lennon had only been in contact with Quilliam for a week and that they had only actually met twice. Perhaps if Quilliam had taken events a bit slower and not rushed to claim a PR coup then we would all be clearer about Lennon and Carroll's real motives.

HOPE not hate staff has dealt with dozens of people who have come out of far right groups. Most do it privately but a few publicly. The difference is that they show real remorse and contrition for their past activities and some, like my close colleague Matthew Collins, now works tirelessly to ensure others do not make the same mistake.

We have heard nothing like this from Lennon and Carroll and we are left to wonder whether this is a tactical rather than political change.
Quilliam must be hoping that Lennon and Carroll come good, otherwise they could end up contributing to the formation of a new sanitised and mainstream anti-Muslim organisation firmly embedded to an international movement involving haters such as Pam Geller.

Last night Lennon described his former EDL colleagues as "the best people of his life". Today, on twitter, he shared friendly conversations with a member of the EDL security team who was once imprisoned for a racist attack.

36 hours after the news broke, Lennon and Carroll's political shift is looking more like a political stunt.

 Posted: 9 Oct 2013 | There are 13 comments


Comment 1 | From: Guy | Date: 9 October 2013, 17:34

Surely you mean Tommy Robinson, not Stephen Lennon?

Editor's Note: He uses both names, Tommy Robinson is a fake name, Lennon is his real one.

Comment 2 | From: Alan | Date: 9 October 2013, 18:51

It seems to me Tommy Robinson has gone from hating to hoping. It seems the Hope not Hate campaign can chalk up a success!

Comment 3 | From: Neil | Date: 9 October 2013, 19:53

This is no Damascene conversion to tolerance. Carroll et al are still rabid racists but recognise that they cannot control the lunatic membership of the EDL and are looking for a more apparently 'democratic' structure that can provide a 'legitimate platform for their bile, much like some members of UKIP. On the plus side maybe they'll precipitate a schism in UKIP

Comment 4 | From: Sioned-Mair Richards | Date: 9 October 2013, 21:30

Would have helped us in Sheffield if they had announced their Damascene conversions a few weeks earlier then we wouldn't have had the charade of the march against the imaginary mosque and the huge policing bill incurred.

Comment 5 | From: Dominic | Date: 9 October 2013, 21:31

Possibly a case of having been a wolf in wolf's clothing, now a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Comment 6 | From: John Williams | Date: 10 October 2013, 00:28

I am confused - Lennon and Carroll - but what most of the major broadcasters were talking and interviewing Robinson from Luton. Have I missed the point?

Comment 7 | From: Faraz | Date: 10 October 2013, 09:34

Again, I think that we need to keep patient and see what develops in the next few weeks. It could just be a stunt after all. Fascist and evil organizations do mutate and infiltrate opposing organizations that way.

Comment 8 | From: SLG | Date: 10 October 2013, 11:48

Was it a mistake, deliberate or convenient to leave out Tommy's full apology on Paxman to any ordinary Muslims he may have offended? And has it ever occured that if people against Tommy just answered his questions/concerns that there wouldn't be a problem. Instead of the constant character assassination, which only validates his point! You guys are actually the root cause of Tommy's popularity.

Comment 9 | From: Kazim Khan | Date: 10 October 2013, 12:30

You are absolutely right about the Quilliam organisation. They want a sanitized Islam as much as EDL want nothing to do with any kind of Muslim

Comment 10 | From: Mozzam Beek | Date: 10 October 2013, 23:06

Didn't Tommy always say that Muslims aren’t tackling their own extremists? So isn't he doing the same by leaving the EDL instead of dealing with the racist element of the EDL. Not so easy is it Tommy, although I have doubts he was ever concerned about this. At the end of the day he is against all Muslims period and I think it is a disgrace that Maajid Nawaz can't see this or chose to accept shows Maajid to be a naive fool, Quilliam Foundation does not represent the Muslims of Britain.

Comment 11 | From: SXS | Date: 11 October 2013, 19:02

Maajid is not a naive fool. Unlike most of us, he has had his own road to damascus to journey on and he knows how difficult it is for people to believe that it is possible to utterly turn around a life. He is giving these guys a chance, fully aware of the risk he is taking but presumably believing there is enough reason to believe it is a risk worth taking. I agree with SLG above, I am very saddened by the tone of some of these comments and I am questioning the intolerance I sense within them. Not what hope not hate is supposed to be about.

Comment 12 | From: Clive Marcus | Date: 13 October 2013, 09:28

I am surprised at your negative stance on this. Tommy Robinson should be commended for his move, even though we should remain sceptical. Tommy Robinson has come out strongly against victimising Muslims and equally strongly against Islamofascism. In the wake of this, the Quillam Foundation have come in for a bashing from the BBC. The leading figures in the Quillam foundation have risked their lives by publicly breaking from Islamist fanaticism. Islamism with its virulent misogyny, anti-Semitism and homophobia is first cousin to white racist groups like the BNP. Hope Not Hate should be campaigning against both, and supporting those who have broken from either brand of extremism.

Comment 13 | From: tomasz. | Date: 18 October 2013, 15:29

"Tommy Robinson should be commended for his move, even though we should remain sceptical." Rubbish. he should be flushed down the toilet of history, while we should not for a second relax our guard against his associates and toxic neo-fascist legacy. "Islamofascism". lol.

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