Violence of any sort can have no place in a democratic society and we are in no way defending the alleged attacks by individuals who may be members or supporters of a network of working class community associations prominent in run-down areas of cities across the country.
We should make plain that the alleged perpetrators of these unconscionable crimes are in no way representative of patriotic English sentiment in this country. They don’t speak for us. They weren’t encouraged by us to take any illegal (let alone life-threatening) action. There is nothing inherently violent or aggressive in the belief that communities live happiest and safest together if they follow common legal systems based upon shared values and venerable customs, and by identifying with each other through symbols and rituals that have been passed down over the generations. Nor is there necessarily anything bigoted at indicating that some ideologies have a dark side, and that, for example, a minority of Muslims worldwide may be involved in occasional wrongdoing.
The lives of innocent individuals, including women and children at prayer have been put at risk. We can only hope that all involved are safe and well and that the police make rapid progress followed by arrests and exemplary convictions of the guilty parties. The perpetrators are not genuine English patriots but rather a tiny number of unrepresentative and excessively diverse extremists who give the rest of us a bad name.
And yet, one can’t help but wonder what led to this violence; to this sudden unthinking and meaningless savagery.
The media and political elites have been quick to point the finger of blame at the English Defence League; a suspected Right-wing or nationalist group with links to groups in other countries who have also been suspected of being Right-wing and nationalist. But what makes young, poorly educated and disenfranchised men break out of the accepted norms of society and throw, if reports are true, improvised explosive devices at places of worship?
Can it be the atmosphere of contempt and loathing that the most powerful in society have created around an increasingly beleaguered community, with public figures from the highest in the land right down to David Cameron not only refusing to engage with their concerns but also tacitly supporting those who attack their demonstrations? Are a small number of exaggerated or over-heated urban myths about attacks on this poorly-educated minority’s women and girls a contributory factor in their unthinking rage? Can the senseless but unique attack by deranged individuals against an off-duty soldier have sparked these disenfranchised and impoverished young men to become militant?
We may never know. All we need to know is that these unconscionable crimes have met with solid and sincere condemnation by the entire patriotic community, continue to call for calm and be aware that the safety of innocent civilians is in the best of hands.
Meanwhile, gangs of youths may have been involved in scuffles with the police.