Searchlight takes on the Islamic extremists

The anti-fascist publication Searchlight, which was behind the "Hope Not Hate" campaign to stop the British National Party in east London, is to expand its operations to oppose the Islamophobic English Defence League and Islamic extremism itself.

The magazine, founded in the 1960s to monitor the rise of the extreme right, intends to set up a thinktank to investigate the phenomenon of the English Defence League, which has become a focus of ultra-nationalist opposition to the so-called "Islamification" of Britain. Writing on his blog last week, Searchlight editor Nick Lowles attacked both the EDL and the Islamic extremists of Muslims Against Crusades, who burned poppies, denied the Holocaust and called for a new Muslim fascism.

"For the MAC, the presence and activities of the EDL prove how white British society is the enemy. For the EDL, the Islamist extremists are proof of the violent nature of Islam," he wrote.

An online survey of Hope Not Hate supporters' reaction to Mr Lowles's words showed that over 95 per cent were in support of what he said. Around 40,000 people have viewed the post since it was written last Thursday.

I am a British Muslim and I wore my poppy

Mr Lowles said that he felt a huge sense of relief that he was finally able to speak his mind. "Islamist extremism has been the elephant in the room for too long," he said. "Everyone knows it is wrong and is actually part of the problem but people have either been bullied into silence or lack the confidence to speak out."

He added: "Islamist extremism is no friend of a progressive society. Staying silent on attitudes and behaviour that is both wrong, offensive and downright dangerous is abandoning one's own progressive values and moral compass. Remaining silent and uncritical will be viewed by others as passive support or acceptance and that is not the basis to build a popular broadbased campaign against Islamophobia."

Several Muslims posted supportive comments on the Hope Not Hate blog as a result of the intervention. Sameena from East London wrote: "It would be good to get some Muslim academics, and leftist leaders on board and being vocal. I would like to see some Muslim women sans hijab as well. There are plenty of us - but the media always wants to show the ones who fit a particular image."

Bushra added: "MAC do not represent all British Muslims! I am a British Muslim and I wore my poppy proudly and observed the two-minute silence. I am sickened and offended that these people have no respect for those who fought and died, so that they could have freedom of speech."

Last updated: 3:46pm, November 18 2010