First time I ever heard of Tommy Robinson and of the English Defence League (EDL) was in the summer 2011. I watched on French TV a documentary about far right groups in Europe. The comments were negative, giving an idea of hatred from these groups towards foreigners. Yes, some groups were scary. [I found the video of the documentary in the internet, with now the label of an anti-fascist site ! Here it is, anyway– part on EDL: minutes 29 to 42]
The comments on the EDL and on their leader Tommy Robinson were rather negative. But an image of the documentary had a big impact on me. It was showing the the EDL began in Luton, a day when the local soldiers were having a parade for the return from Afghanistan. That day, on the route of the parade, there was a demonstration which was unimaginable to me: Muslims demonstrating against the army, shouting “English soldiers, burn in hell”. What a welcome back! To me, not interested in the army, and less even in the British army, I found these words utterly outrageous. It is then when the documentary showed an Englishman jumping and hitting one of the aggressive Muslims of that group [37:37 on the documentary]. The comment said the man was Tommy Robinson.
I was brought up with an education of pacifism. Even though (or maybe due to the fact that) my father left France secretly in 1942, risking his life, and could joined the allied forces to fight against the Nazis. He was 20. But after war, he left the army and was then pro peace.
Furthermore, I grew up in a middle-class French family. I emigrated to England a few years ago, aged 47, recruited by a big British company, in view of my professional qualifications. Working with all kind of people in my job, I had a cultural shock with English working class people. From by intellectual arrogance and academic education, I found English working-class people rough, uneducated, and ignorant.
So, despite my pacifist background, and my prejudice about “low-class” English people as I would call them, instead of disregarding the assault from Tommy Robinson, I surprisingly felt admiration: this was the most appropriate answer on that day and on those circumstances. The comment was presenting Tommy Robinson as a thug, with a troubled background, which was matching with my view of working class Englishmen. “Maybe, I thought, but this bloke is brave enough to assault a group of people who behave in an outrageous way. He may be a thug, but what a brave man!” This had a big impact on me. I would never ever had done that. But if fact, it is because he is from the uneducated “lower class” (and not my thick varnish layer of education), because he learned fighting in the streets, that he had this bravery. Respect!
I did not hear of him any more before May 2013, but I did not forget him. I kept his name in mind. I remember once, end of November 2012, if they spoke of him on Wikipedia: the article was saying he was born on 27th of November 1982, which was only a few days ahead. I thought of sending him a check of £100 for his 30th birthday. Then I thought “How crazy I am” and did not do anything.
In my job, I am dealing with people of all kind. I gradually discovered working-class English people. Under their rough appearance, I began to discover in many of them good people. Little education, yes, but some with such a big heart! Some became dear to me. I saw them having more solidarity than I saw in middle-class people in Bordeaux, where I lived for about 15 years (yet, of course, there are some people from Bordeaux who are great friends).
Next time I thought of Tommy Robinson was when I learned of the attack against poor drummer Lee Rigby, on 22nd of May 2013, by day light, in London, assassinated by 2 islamists in the name of Allah! When I saw the images of the attack, I saw utter hatred. Unspeakable. That moment was a moment of truth for me. Never ever that anymore ! My whole soul felt a total definitive rejection.
I do not feel Islam attractive, but until then, I just believed the politically correct idea that terrorists did not represent the whole of Muslims. But what did that whole did? Why did not Muslims stand up against evil? This is what we Christians would do if ever such an unthinkable action was made by a bigot Christian. We would be ashamed. And religious authorities from Christianity would express publicly full rejection. Why then, do we not see that from Muslims? I do not reject all of Muslims, by I reject Islamism, and consider that Muslims living in Christian countries should have the expected respect for the locals and their habits. Very simple. Even if they were born in the country, their religion is foreign to the country and in no way is in a position to impose or demand any adaptation from locals towards them. This is not negotiable. This is what I believe in so far.
That day, 22nd of May 2013, I automatically thought of Tommy Robinson. I had not forgotten him. I could not. And I looked at official reactions: from Prime Minister and politicians : the usual appeasing words, speaking of an “isolated action”. But to me, this time, this “isolated action” was one more amongst all those since 11th September 2001. It was in no way an isolated action. It was a link of a chain of hatred called Islamism, but more links to come, of course. I then looked at Tommy’s reaction, in his interview about the attack: wise realistic words, which matched with what just had tumbled upside down in me: a total rejection.
How would I not feel respect for such a man? I then followed him on Twitter. Good for me. I learned so much. I learned so much, I who am in my 50s and could be his father, I who has much more academic education than him. But he knows far better the real world than I.
The next weekend, via internet, I saw him organising marches of the supporters of the EDL to show respect in memory of drummer Lee Rigby, and lay flowers on cenotaphs of main cities of the United Kingdom. And I thought: “This is the thing to do. The people is feeling anger. Anger must not be denied, it must be accompanied, expressed, and canalised”. I too, felt that anger. For the very first time in my life, I felt part of this people! For the very first time of my life, I felt English!
I also noticed his advices to his supporters: to welcome openly any Muslim wanting to join them to lay flowers and show respect. That is not the attitude of an extremist leader, but of a responsible man. Many a time, I saw he did not pay attention to race or religion, but to individuals, and I saw him valuing the ones who are respectful to others.
Being a French immigrant, in my 50s, I must admit I have some difficulties understanding English news, because I do not understand accurately and I do not know the people. After one year in the country, my wife and I decided to have a satellite dish and get our known usual French channels. This is why I had no idea of the bad image of the EDL, street organisation demonised by official medial as a far right dangerous group. I watched these people without prejudice. I was lucky.
There I was : I was observing that man Tommy Robinson : brave, worthy, ready to guide the mourning of a people, whose leaders would not. He did not want to leading the country, that was obvious. He felt it was his duty to express mourning and anger, and his duty to help his compatriots to express them. I then felt a deep respect for this man.
Beginning of June, he tweeted he was going to be in a debate “Is England becoming racist?” I do not watch English TV (I know people on French TV, I understand fully the language, I know the people, I understand what they say but also what they mean, even not said) … I do not watch English TV, but I watch that debate, live. In fact, it is not a debate, it is a joke. Worse than that, an execution. Poor Tommy is invited amongst people against him, sure that he is guilty of the crime of racism. Poor man is insulted as racist by a kind of jury of known people (of course totally unknown people to me): from their arrogance, they show their virtue, their pride in being famous (not to me, again), and like Caesar, they seem to be putting their thumb down calling him a racist. He is almost not given time to speak. I can remember hearing him “I gave 4 years of my life for this fight, I lost much, I fear every day for my life”. To which he is being accused “Racist, racist, racist” or “Bigot, bigot, bigot”. He keeps asking in what it is racist to oppose Islamism (an ideology, not a race), nobody would bother with answering him. Insulting is so easy, so self-convincing. That evening, the poor man gives me the feeling of a Christian in a Roman arena. I would like to jump into the arena and be hit rather than him. That evening, I only see his bravery, his integrity, his commitment, his righteousness. That evening, his is shining with bravery and genuineness. That evening, my heart is his.
I then will keep following him on Twitter with the deep respect I now feel for him. I see him having initiatives, not only for his fight, but for love of people, like for a young girl called Amelia-mae, affected with cancer, which only a surgical operation can save. He and his cousin Kevin Carroll have a long 15 (?) miles walk across London to raise money and get Amelia-mae to the USA before it is too late. I follow him almost live on Twitter, and I see him assaulted and straight away being arrested for not respecting police (this is what I understood for the alleged reason for arresting him and his cousin). His walk was supposed to go near a big mosque in East London, and was ending where drummer Lee Rigby was killed. Walking near a mosque seemed not acceptable to government, obviously (this is what I understood of the situation – comment is mine only – I cannot remember him mentioning who would be responsible for his arrest). Young Amelia-mae will unfortunately die a few days later.
On other circumstances, I see him speaking in front of his supporters during some important demonstrations of the EDL. I see a man interested in others, respectful of individuals. A man who is denied freedom of speech, because he is not coming from the allocated “good” society of the country.
So, I see an unfair society, keeping a close eye on hatred speakers, in order to appease tensions with Muslim communities, and harsh with its own people when they are working class. This British society reminds me the class system of India, with the pariah (the English working class) which is only tolerated, never truly respected. They are though the first ones affected with islamisation of the country, which begins in deprived areas first. A total 2 tiers system, moreover against its own people !
Then, of course, I begin to open my eyes to what is occurring in France. In June, there is the case Méric, where media would put a headline regarding this poor 19 years old man, antifascist, fallen in a trap by skin heads, who killed him on purpose. Which I believe. But … gradually, media add a piece of information after another, which gives eventually a totally different picture: the victim Clément Méric, a French middle-class student, was in fact the assaulter, and yes he was punch but in return, and fell badly, with no intention of killing. Méric was the bad one. The victim is Esteban Murillo, aged 20, son of Spanish immigrants. He is still in jail after 6 months now (5th December 2013), and has not had his trial yet. Six months for killing without wanting in self defence. I am discovering state lies.
And it carries on with riots in Trappes (suburb of Paris) in July. A woman is ticketed by a policeman for wearing a burka in the street, which breaks the law in France. She knows it is illegal, but does not care. Her husband, a young French convert, tries to strangle the policeman. He is brought to the police station. A few hours later, 250 “youths” (young Muslims) attack the police station, with 3 days of riots and of sacking by these nice “youths”. Sickening. And what do you think happens? The government, to appease, advises policemen to avoid ticketing women wearing burka in public places. Normal. Trappes voted Hollande (French president, a socialist) by 75%. Many Muslims in Trappes (probably similar to Luton). Do not oppose electors. Even to the point of putting trousers down in front of this scum who do not respect law, authority, and local French people.
I feel disgusted. And I am even more thankful that there are men like Tommy Robinson to stand up and try to wake people up against unacceptable: that we are considered foreigners in our own country (whichever the English in England, or us French people in France), to whom are better considered Muslims, to the point of forgetting French law of secularism, which is so sacred to our Republic. Pathetic and disgusting governments, traitors to their people! Unbelievable!
So, I am following Tommy with all the interest you imagine. I see him showing respect for individuals. I see him totally commited: he fight goes first, he goes after, even when it is detrimental to him. My respect deepens each time I see his actions or reactions.
I understand now: his man is a normal bloke, born in working-class England, with some academic education as to be able to work in the society. But he has had difficult street education. And here he lives, in Luton, where Muslim population is very important, and where some areas are White English people free. And he sees outrageous actions from some members of this community, and no sign of real opposition from this community. It must sound like an unsaid invasion. What will it be in 30 years? How many Luton in the UK, or Trappes in France? It is just unacceptable.
When people emigrate, it is supposedly not to impose their law or their rules. It was not my goal when I emigrated to England. It still is not and will never be. And it must not be the attitude of any immigrant, otherwise it is an attitude of invasion and it must be punished.
So, this normal bloke sees an unacceptable situation. And he reacts with his guts. His commitment is total. He knows it is a fight for life or death. He has been regularly receiving death threats, and not only him, but his family. And so since the spring of 2009. How brave! I understand that his commitment has refined him. How could it be differently ? Think of his difficulties and the hatred he receives:
– From his very bad reputation, made by media, for which it seems right for the public to feel and express hatred at him
– From Muslims, who see them as their enemy (even though he did say that Muslims are first victims of Islamism)
– From Islamists, who threatened him officially with death (and we know how evil they are)
– And even from neo-Nazis, who blame him for not being a racist, because White race would be the victim of a world conspiracy. He never stood up to protect White race. He stood up against evil, to protect every individual against a deadly ideology. He has shown he does not bother with race. In fact, he has stood up for human race. Respect, Mr Robinson!
This man was refined by his commitment. He has become a better man, wiser, more mature. I consider him as a self-made gentleman.
So, in view of such a man, yes, I am full of admiration and respect. He is somebody I wish to stand with. Difficult for a Frenchman. I never joined a demonstration of the EDL: simply because I am a Frenchman living in England. It seems indecent to me to demonstrate in the country of the English to tell them what they have to do. It is not my country, it is theirs. I am not going to demonstrate against the fact the foreigners, or Brits of foreign origin, must not impose their law in England! In the same way, I would disagree with foreigners demonstrating in France. We French are many enough to do that.
I then never met my hero. Because yes, of course, this man is a hero to me. I wish I can have the privilege to shake his hand, look at his eyes, and express through my eyes my total trust for him, my unconditional friendship.
On 8th of October, bombshell : he announces from the headquarters of a think tank called Quilliam, a counter extremist organisation, held by ex-jihadists, that he is leaving the English Defence League. I admit that it disturbed me. During 2 days, I just could not watch the interview he gave to explain. To me, he was being blackmailed. But quite a few of his supporters in the EDL would call him a traitor. I was distressed. I had long chats with a dear friend I made on Twitter (he is American, and he has followed Tommy Robinson with the same admiration as myself – a big hello to you when you read me, @AnAmericanUSA) … Chatting with my friend, then, being both of us distressed by Tommy’s announcement, we summarised the situation, and what we were absolutely sure of: even not being aware of the whole situation, it was immediately obvious to us that Tommy had constantly showed how righteous he was, trustworthy, committed. It was just impossible that he would betray a cause for which he had been dedicated his last 4 ½ years, and for which he even spent a few months in prison. I know men enough: I would put my life in his hands, without any hesitation. From there, we could make sense to what was happening, and remain loyal in our hearts, my American friend and I, to our hero. And then express our support to him at a key point of his life, when he probably needed much.
Tommy since has showed he was still as committed against Islamism. He explained his step to the think tank Quilliam as a way of fighting against Islamism, but with Muslims themselves, and not against them. And that he would not see a further for street demonstrations of the EDL. The goal of the demonstrations was to wake the public up to the threat of Islamism, and of the islamisation of our cities. OK. But this does not build anything. He is planning to make a new organisation which he thinks will have a much stronger impact than the EDL.
I have faith in you, Tommy. You have the capacity of a statesman. You have a vision.
Respect, Mr Robinson
With all my friendship