CAIRO - An interview with the leader of the far-right English Defence League in which he denied any role in attacks on mosques in Britain has triggered uproar in the country for poisoning airwaves with anti-Muslim views.
That interview did not constitute scrutiny. Unchallenged lies and hatred poison our national debateâ¦, Polly Billington, Labour candidate for Thurrock, wrote on Twitter and cited by The Daily Telegraph on Tuesday, June 11.This did not clear the air. It poisoned it
Hosted by the BBC Radio 4's Today program, EDL leader Tommy Robinson has denied responsibility for attacks on mosques in Britain.
"If something was set fire and someone wrote David Cameron on the side of it, does it mean he did it?" he said.
"If I'm honest, I'm completely skeptical that it is even non-Muslims that have done that."
An Islamic center was burnt down in London last week. Initials of the English Defence League were scrawled at the walls of the building.
Days later, an Islamic school in London sustained damage in a fire that gutted the building.
Repeating his anti-Muslim views, the EDL leader said his group wants the government to outline a "convincing strategy for defeating Islamist extremism, the Muslim community to make serious efforts to counter extremism, and an open and honest debate about the issue.
"There is a massive undercurrent of anger across this country," he claimed.
Robinson, who has a number of convictions for violence, also called for banning Islamic Shari`ah, halal meat and the building of new mosques in Britain.
"I'd stop the building of mosques in this country until Islam reforms in such a way and works in this country with Western democracy and freedom.
The EDL, a far-right group that emerged in 2009, has held numerous protests against what it calls Islamic extremism in Britain.
Far-right groups like the EDL and the British National Party (BNP) are playing the card of immigration to stoke sentiment against Muslims and immigrants.
In November 2010, British police warned that the anti-Muslim demonstration by the EDL fuel extremism and harm social cohesion in Britain, which is home to nearly 2.7 million Muslims.
Platform For Lies
The interview has earned the BBC the ire of many Britons for turning into a platform to broadcast lies against Muslims.
"Now Today provides non-critical platform for EDL. Has she [Sarah Anne Louise Montague] ever seen them close up? Heard their racist insults? Violence threats?" Former Labour MP Denis McShane said on Twitter, referring to the interviewer.
"Sorry forgot EDL is a gentle, peace loving, outfit. Everytime I saw fascist thugs screaming abuse at non white citizens it wasn't EDL."
Al-Jazeera presenter and Huffington Post political director Mehdi Hasan also criticized the BBC for giving the EDL leader a platform without counterbalancing discussion of his own background.
"EDL leader claims to be a peaceful protester on the Today program. No mention of his own history of violent behavior on air," he said
The Mirror's political commentator Kevin Maguire also vented anger at the British broadcaster.
"Woeful @BBCr4today interview with convicted footie hoolie Stephen Lennon aka EDL's Tommy Robinson. He'll laugh all the way to next EDL brawl."
Other Twitter critics, including Louise Hutchins, said the interview was "irresponsible soft soap".
Labor councilor Kevin Peel asked: Why on earth is the disgusting leader of the EDL being allowed to spout lies, racism & anti-Muslim sentiment to millions on #r4today?!
Every time the #BBC give the EDL unchallenged airtime they help legitimize them. Useless interview this morning on #bbcr4today, added Kasaf Chaudhry.
Hostility against British Muslims has been on the rise since the machete attack of an army soldier in London last month, which Muslims condemned as running against the basic Islamic teachings.
Some 212 anti-Muslim incidents have been reported since the May 22 killing, according to Tell Mama project, which monitors anti-Muslim attacks in Britain.
The figure included 11 attacks on mosques, in a series manifestation of anti-Muslim sentiments.
Britain is home of a Muslim community of nearly 2.7 million.
A Financial Times opinion poll showed that Britain is the most suspicious nation about Muslims.A poll of the Evening Standard found that a sizable section of London residents harbor negative opinions about Muslims.