An undercover investigation by BBC Wales into a group campaigning against Muslim extremists has found links with neo-Nazi supporters.
Secret footage in Monday’s Week In Week Out programme also exposes criminal activity amongst some supporters of the Welsh Defence League (WDL). Publicly, the WDL says it is a non-racist organisation. A judge who has examined the evidence in the programme said some were acting to “inflame racial hatred”.
The WDL has been aligned to the English Defence League. It was set up last year by an ex-soccer hooligan and author Jeff Marsh in response to Muslim extremists abusing troops returning from Afghanistan. It has attracted hundreds of followers and held demonstrations in Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham.
Posing as a new member of the group, an undercover journalist accompanied a number of Welsh supporters to a protest. Some were caught on camera and online, making racist comments about Muslims. Two admitted involvement in racist violence at demonstrations organised by the defence leagues in other parts of the country. One invited other WDL followers to join him in burning a Koran and joked online about how best to kill black people. Another talks about driving Muslims out of the south Wales valleys.
Examining the evidence in the special programme, Judge Mark Powell QC said: “It’s mindless, its racist, the purpose of what they are doing is to inflame racial hatred…I think from what you have shown me it is criminal behaviour and no doubt something that the police would want to look at.”
Shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain, who has campaigned for years against racist groups, said: “I think every mainstream politician in Wales, wherever they are based, should make it a priority to talk to young people to explain the WDL is in a long line that goes back through the Nazis.
“And I don’t say that lightly because, that is the exact political situation in which Hitler was able to come into power because main stream politicians did not deal with the grievances in Germany. Now I’m not suggesting the WDL is anything like as powerful as Hitler’s Nazi party became, the WDL is a tiny marginalised party, but once you allow these groups to gain credibility that’s where you could end up.”
Det Ch Supt Adrian Tudway, the national co-ordinator for domestic extremism, advises local forces on the threat posed by the various defence leagues. “I think it’s a very significant threat. It’s one I know the police service are taking very seriously, together with the Home Office and local authorities,” he said.
“Unmasked: Welsh Defence League” is on BBC One Wales at 2030 GMT on Monday 6 December.