Under the banner United East End Londoners of all faiths and none gathered at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel last night to express solidarity with their Muslim neighbours who are the target of a provocative English Defence League demonstration planned for 3rd September.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of this resistance and solidarity in London in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Norway. Anders Breivik drew inspiration from the work of the EDL and signed his manifesto for a campaign of political violence against Muslims and multiculturalists under the English pseudonym Andrew Berwick of London.
Breivik's manifesto is not the work of a madman but rather a considered treatise on terrorism and political violence as a tactic to help bring about the kind of Europe the EDL wants to be part of. In it he demonstrates a keen understanding that for an act of terrorism to be truly effective it must shock society to the very marrow.
No doubt Breivik would assess that he had achieved part of his propaganda purpose if he had heard Steven Lennon the EDL leader expounding Islamophobic hatred while batting off softball interviews on TV and radio throughout the last week. Instead of being confronted with tough questioning on EDL violence and intimidation Lennon has been given a free ride to deliver his message of anti-Muslim hate in the mainstream media.
The full extent of Breivik's interaction with the EDL remains to be untangled but it is already sufficiently clear to send a warning signal to UK police. To date it is only good detective work and good luck that has prevented lesser but equally deadly terrorist attacks against Muslims and multiculturalism in the UK.
To illustrate briefly: Martyn Gilleard, a Nazi sympathiser was jailed in June 2008 after police found nail bombs, bullets, swords, axes and knives in his flat, as well as a note in which he had written, "I am so sick and tired of hearing nationalists talk of killing Muslims, of blowing up mosques, of fighting back... the time has come to stop the talk and start to act." On 15 January 2010 Terence Gavan, a former British National Party member and soldier, was convicted of manufacturing nail bombs and a staggering array of explosives, firearms and weapons. It was, Mr Justice Calvert-Smith said, the largest find of its kind in the UK in modern history.
Given that Breivik's manifesto evinces the same loathing of multicultural London as his convicted UK counterparts, it was appropriate that three Norwegian trade unionists attended last night's meeting to denounce the EDL and to expose the analysis it shares with Breivik and convicted terrorists in the UK.
It is also already sufficiently clear that EDL claims to be peaceful protestors are as paper thin as those of the BNP and National Front in the past. A growing number of EDL members face court proceedings following violence and intimidation at and after demonstrations against Muslim communities.
Significantly, the EDL regards the London Muslim Centre and its next door neighbour the East London Mosque as the hub of the Muslim extremism it purports to oppose. Regrettably, as London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone highlighted at last night's meeting, Breivik and the EDL base their hate-filled analysis of Muslims on the work of mainstream commentators who should now reflect on the unintended if not unforeseeable consequences of their Islamophobic discourse.
The EDL should also reflect long and hard before demonstrating in East London on 3rd September. They are clearly not wanted by the local community. If they do come they will be dwarfed and eclipsed by a massive display of multicultural and inter-faith solidarity that will shame them and the media pundits they feed off.
No doubt the Met Police Commissioner and Home Secretary will reflect long and hard too before deciding to allow the EDL demonstration to take place. Last year United East End organised a peaceful counter-demonstration and the EDL stayed away. This year the EDL is bigger and bolder and wants desperately to bring large numbers to East London so as to intimidate Muslims in a show of strength.
The days of asking Muslims to stay indoors while allowing the EDL free passage must come to an end. East Londoners have a proud tradition of standing shoulder to shoulder against far right intimidation. Last night's meeting showed that the East End spirit that withstood Nazi bomber planes and Mosley's fascist black shirts in the last century is alive and well. It was a fitting end to a week dominated by Breivik's violent assault on multicultural solidarity.