The Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank based in the UK, announced this morning that Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll will be leaving the English Defence League (EDL). Robinson and Carroll, who are cousins, founded the EDL in 2009 and have presided over the controversial, anti-Muslim “street movement” since its creation. According to a press release issued by Quilliam, Robinson and Carroll “wish to exit this group, because they feel they can no longer keep extremist elements at bay.”
News of the EDL leaders’ departure comes after a summer where the group has attempted to capitalize on the tragic murder of Drummer Lee Rigby to expand its populist base and further promote its anti-Muslim agenda. Attempts by the EDL to organize a demonstration with allies Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer shortly after the murder, resulted in the two being barred from entering the UK.
So now, Robinson and Carroll are seemingly recognizing the role they and the EDL have played in fostering extremism in Britain. The “extremist elements” they wish to distance themselves from are the product of the recruiting practices they employed in building their anti-Muslim movement. The two likely grew worrisome of their recruits’ extremism and the rising prominence some of the EDL’s regional and splinter groups’ leaders have attained. Power struggles within the EDL are more likely the case for the departure of Robinson and Carroll than anything else and it appears the group will continue on without them. Whoever does go on to helm the group will likely emerge from these internal battles being waged.
If Robinson and Carroll truly wish to disavow themselves of the EDL’s extremism, they must prove they are sincere in condemning the group’s extremist actions as well as the bigoted motivations behind them – something which, at the moment, seems unlikely.