The Ideology and Discourse of the English Defence League: 'Not Racist, Not Violent, Just No Longer Silent'

George Kassimeris, Leonie Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Research Highlights and Abstract: This is the first discursive study of the EDL's publicly available articles and gives an important insight into their ideology. The study problematises the EDL's claim to be an anti-racist human rights organisation and analyses EDL discourse as racial discourse, demonstrating that the apparent gulf between the group's ideological Islamophobia and their violent and intimidating street protests is largely illusory. Understanding Islamophobia as culturally racist and the EDL as a culturally racist organisation is important to deconstructing their claim that Islamophobia is a rational reaction to deviant Muslim presence in the UK. The key contribution is not only a deeper understanding of the group and why they have been so successful in mobilising a section of the public to demonstrate against Islam, but also how this discourse fits in to the larger public debate on Islam and Muslims in the UK.

The English Defence League (EDL) emerged in 2009 and quickly became a major 'anti-Islamist' street protest movement, able to attract thousands to its national demonstrations. Despite the violence and anti-Muslim rhetoric associated with its protests, the group claims to be an anti-racist human rights organisation dedicated to protecting liberal freedoms. This article employs a critical methodology to address these claims, analysing EDL literature alongside strategies identified as typical of racist discourse construction. The representations, narratives and rhetorical strategies used by the group support the analysis of EDL Islamophobia as a form of cultural racism that constructs opposing 'British' and 'Muslim' subjects and functions to maintain traditional ethno-cultural dominance of the former over the latter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-188
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Politics and International Relations
Issue number1
Early online date20 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2015
Externally publishedYes


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