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EDL Marchers and Strange Irrational Rituals

31/03/2014 12:06 BST | Updated 29/05/2014 10:59 BST

The English Defence League march in Peterborough on Saturday was not the first I've witnessed. In fact, it was tediously familiar. Drunken louts ranting incoherently about how they would like 'their country' to be, while multicultural England looks on - or avoids them - have become a regular spectacle in England.

If Einstein - who rarely gets a mention in articles about the EDL - was right in claiming that madness can be defined as doing something repeatedly but expecting different outcomes, the EDL is precariously close to the edge of reason.

However, the EDL is not a political party so perhaps we are wrong to hope for logic or coherence. Its marches are less reminiscent of a political rally than ageing football hooligans looking for trouble.

Before the recent event in Peterborough, EDL claimed to be marching to protect girls from gangs of 'Muslim' paedophiles. This spurious justification is influenced by the tragic case of girls being abused by a paedophile ring in Peterborough. However, the fact is the gang responsible was not a 'group of Muslims' but a network of sex offenders, from a number of different cultural backgrounds. Those convicted were Czech, Slovakian and Kurdish - and nothing in the trial indicated deeply-held religious convictions.

Oddly, considering its apparent obsession with ethnicity, culture and religion, the EDL seems to know very little about these subjects. Amid regular incoherent calls to 'send them back', is a complete ignorance of the fact that in Peterborough - as elsewhere - a large proportion of ethnically Asian citizens were born in the UK.

Furthermore, if EDL suddenly were given the power to 'send them back' to where their parents and grandparents came from, they would have to learn how to find former British colony Uganda on a map, as this is where most ethnically Asian families in Peterborough came from in the 1970s.

We would then have to explain a bit about Idi Amin to the EDL, which might make for an awkward conversation. They would first need to know that the tyrant was put in place by British colonial powers - as the British Establishment tiptoed out of Africa like a thief holding onto loot, having plundered it for longer than is conceivable.

The next bit has particular resonance for the EDL, BNP and also Ukip. The reason Asians had to flee Uganda is because Idi Amin blamed them for economic problems within the country. He was an incompetent, functionally illiterate psychopath who - rather than take responsibility for his own failings - scapegoated Asian Ugandans. Just as the Nazis did with German Jews. Just as all right wing political parties do with any minority lacking power.

Because Asian Ugandans ran businesses across the country, Amin thought that driving them from the country, taking their property and giving their homes, shops, farms and other businesses to his supporters would strengthen his position.

Before Amin seized power, in 1971, there were 80,000 Asians in Uganda. Most of these had been born in the country to families brought to Africa by the British Empire. In 1972 Amin ordered the expulsion of ethnic Asians, who he allowed to be beaten, raped and robbed by his troops. Approximately 30,000 of those fleeing came to the UK, often encountering racism and violent abuse here.

Ultimately Amin's regime caused a catastrophic bloodbath and economic collapse. Even Britain stopped selling him weapons - and businesses stolen from Asian Ugandans failed because Amin's cronies lacked the skills or knowledge to make them work.

As the country fell into chaos and greater poverty, Amin had anyone he suspected of being an enemy conspirator murdered. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed under his eight-year military dictatorship.

Looking back to Amin's era, we can see clearly that Asian Ugandans were not the enemy of society but actually part of the glue holding the country together. Asians helped keep Uganda fed and clothed and played vital roles in banking and other key service industries. Businesses owned by Asian people were a source of stability in a region of conflict and political instability.

The EDL will not like this characterisation but my view is the movement is as deluded and ignorant as Idi Amin and his supporters were. If they were to repatriate British Asians to where they came from it would often mean taking them a few streets away, if that. Therefore, all that can be attacked is an ideology - and given that EDL people often lack awareness of history, geography, anthropology, economics or politics, it seems highly unlikely that they are the best people to provide a coherent critique of Islam.

Getting drunk and ranting at scared passers-by in the hope of ridding the country of Muslims is more irrational than any religious practice I have studied. As a regular ritual - performed in towns across England - incoherent ranting seems several steps down from using chicken entrails to predict the future.