Mar 13 2013
The English Defence League (EDL) is exploiting concerns surrounding sex-grooming gangs to fuel its anti-Islam agenda, a university report has said.
The far-right group is using recent cases, such as the nine Asian men jailed last year for grooming girls in Rochdale, to build support, King's College London found.
It is building a far-right network with countries across Europe, according to the university's International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.
Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, one of the report's authors, said: "The EDL has successfully exploited concerns about the sex grooming gangs in the north of England, turning the issue into one of Islam versus the West."
Tommy Robinson, the EDL's leader, is considered a "rock star" by activists across Europe, Mr Meleagrou-Hitchens said.
"They want him to help their own organisations to become like the EDL. There's a danger that the UK will export this kind of vicious, far-right activism to the rest of the continent."
The EDL and its partners have worsened community tensions and further promoted ideas that helped inspire Norwegian mass killer Anders Breivik, the report said.
A theme used by the EDL to try to boost its support is the topic of rape allegedly committed by Muslim men as evidence of the "Islamisation" of the West, the report said.
"This 'rape jihad', as it has become known, is a significant concern for the EDL. Interest has risen since revelations in the British media about the existence of sex-grooming gangs made up of Muslim men of south-Asian origin."
The EDL demonstrated in Rochdale in June last year to try to pressure police to refer specifically to gang members as "Muslim" so any alleged link between the religion and the crime could be inferred, the report said. The far-right group is sharing these tactics with partners in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and other countries, the university department found.