Scotland Yard has been accused of underestimating the threat from the English Defence League (EDL) after the head of the unit monitoring hate groups declared it was not an extremist organisation.
In an email obtained by the Guardian, Adrian Tudway, National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism, said he formed the view the EDL were not extreme after reading their website.
Today the EDL, accused by Muslims of fostering hate against them, will stage a “static” demonstration in Tower Hamlets, east London, in one of their most potentially provocative displays so far.
British Muslims have claimed police have not done enough to protect them against the EDL.
In an email sent on 27 April 2011, Tudway told a Muslim group they should try opening up a “line of dialogue” with the EDL, who have been accused of staging attacks and directing hostility at British Muslims.
Tudway wrote: “In terms of the position with EDL, the original stance stands, they are not extreme right wing as a group, indeed if you look at their published material on their web-site, they are actively moving away from the right and violence with their mission statement etc. As we discussed last time we met, I really think you need to open a direct line of dialogue with them, that might be the best way to engage them and re-direct their activity?”
Last night Tudway’s email was sent to the National Association of Muslim Police, which had been pressing him and his unit for tough action.
Zaheer Ahmad, president of the National Association of Muslim Police, said: “There is a strong perception in the Muslim communities that the police service does not take the threat of right wing extremism seriously. This perception is fast becoming reality when communities witness an inconsistent, somewhat relaxed police approach to EDL demonstrations resulting in very few arrests and prosecutions.
“The community perception is reinforced by the position of the National Domestic Extremism Unit which does not view EDL as right wing extremists. There is a considerable body of independent evidence, which is growing at staggering pace, to highlight the serious threat of EDL to our communities.”
The national domestic extremism unit used to be run by the Association of Chief Police Officers. But this year it was moved into the Metropolitan police, where it is part of its specialist operations unit.
Tudway’s unit was charged with investigating any links between the right wing Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and the English Defence League.
Defending Tudway’s views, the Met police said: “The EDL are not a proscribed group. Police are committed to taking robust action against anyone who causes harm by crossing into criminality in support of any issue.” It did not answer whether the force shared his views that the EDL were not extremist.
Tudway was arguing that the EDL are not extremists back in November last year and has obviously held to that position ever since, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Nor is he alone in this view. Paul Stephenson, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, stated back in 2009 that the EDL were “not viewed as an extreme right wing group in the accepted sense”. This certainly goes some way to explaining why the Met were so reluctant to impose a ban on the planned EDL march in Tower Hamlets.