EDL has 'left BNP a mere sideshow'

The head of Britain's leading anti-fascist organisation has said the English Defence League has replaced the British National Party as the major force on the far right of British politics.

Nick Lowles of Searchlight said the BNP had become a "sideshow" since the crushing defeat of its leader Nick Griffin in Barking at this year's general election.

In recent months, he said, the EDL's anti-Muslim message had given the party a wider appeal. At the same time, the violence EDL rallies attracted meant the organisation received a great deal of media attention.

He added that the BNP were stuck with an old-fashioned neo-fascist image which alienated many who were prepared to back the EDL.

Mr Lowles has made it clear that Searchlight will no longer limit its operations to the fight against traditional neo-Nazi organisations. In the new year it will launch a think tank to examine new forms of extremism such as the anti-Muslim politics of the EDL and totalitarian Islamism.

Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Florida, is the controversial cleric who was first invited and then "uninvited" by the EDL, allegedly on the grounds of his racism and homophobia. In August this year, giving a deposition in a court case in which he was a witness, Mr Jones described Judaism as "a religion of the devil", along with Hinduism and Buddhism.

Gainesville is best known as the home of the University of Florida, where there are about 2,000 Jews in the year-round community with three congregations, Conservative, Reform and Jewish Renewal to serve them. On the campus itself, Hillel and Chabad-Lubavitch cater for nearly 7,000 Jewish students.

According to Rabbi Berl Goldman, co-director of the Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Centre on campus, Pastor Jones is not even on the local community's radar. He said: "I've been here 10 years and I don't know of any formal ties or relationship between Jones and faith-based organisations. I've never seen him at any meetings of the Campus Ministry Co-operative which has representatives of all different faiths and denominations in Gainesville. The Jewish community is very distressed at his provocative actions."

Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Centre (the Montgomery, Alabama-based civil rights organisation) confirmed that Pastor Jones is extremely isolated. "I very much doubt if he has connections with anyone except a dozen or so followers."

    Last updated: 8:57am, May 6 2011