Left-Wing Counter-Terror Expert: ‘Public Picture of Tommy Robinson’ As Nasty, Hateful Man ‘At Odds With Reality’

From Jamie Bartlett writing in the Telegraph:

A few weeks back, Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League, sent me his self-published memoirs, called Enemy of the State. The book has been largely ignored by most of the established media, although has caused a bit of a stir among counter-Jihadist groups across Europe. I’d recommend people read it, although perhaps not for the reasons Tommy would like you to.

First up, I should say something about how it’s written. It’s chronological, starting from his childhood, and runs right up to the end of 2015. Tommy Robinson, whatever you think of him, has had a busy and interesting few years: football hooliganism, starting, running and quitting the biggest street movement of a generation, repeated prison spells, joining a think-tank, all before organising a UK branch of the German anti-Islam group, Pegida.

Enemy won’t win any awards for writing, and it’s not full of carefully marshalled academic evidence. The language is rough, which is how Tommy talks. He repeatedly calls the police dickheads and wankers; his MP Gavin Shuker is an “idiot”; Quilliam’s head of communications is a “squealing moron”. It’s refreshing at first but after a while can get a bit difficult to read.

Tommy sees this book as the chance to get his side of the story out, and is disarmingly honest, offering up a series of (often) surprisingly funny stories of what went on during his time as head of the EDL that will interest greatly anyone who’s followed the group. The public picture of Tommy Robinson– a nasty angry man full of hatred – is at odds with the reality. He’s charismatic (which is one reason he managed to hold a group like EDL together for so long; and why it collapsed in his absence), a prankster, and surprisingly plucky.

In one story, Tommy caught prospective Tory MP Afzal Amin on camera trying to persuade him to stage manage an EDL demonstration so he (Afzal) could then “persuade” them to not go through with it – and take the credit. (Afzal resigned from the party as a result.) Then there’s the comic account of how Tommy ended up on the roof of the Fifa headquarters building in 2011 on a whim to protest about England fans not being allowed to wear poppies on their armbands.

This being the former EDL leader, the flow of events are frequently interrupted apropos nothing so he can set out his views on Islam and UK politics: whether the Koran justifies burnings, to the British justice system, to why we shouldn’t let in refugees, to Saudi Arabia funding mega-mosques. Analysts will find a lot to chew over in the stories about the EDL, and probably less in his views on religion and society.

But by far the most interesting parts of the book relate to his upbringing and his experience of the police. Though this is probably not his audience, for academics and civil liberties campaigners this book provides a wealth of almost accidental insight.

Read more on the Telegraph here.


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