THE English Defence League has made headlines for the last eight years with its rowdy anti-Islam street protests.
Here’s everything we know about the group, its leadership and what it stands for…
What is the English Defence League?
The English Defence League (EDL) is a street protest movement co-founded by Tommy Robinson in 2009.
The origins of the group reportedly date back to a protest by Islamic extremists in Luton, during which they hurled abuse at soldiers from the Royal Anglian Regiment as they marched through the town after returning from Afghanistan.
After a spontaneous counter-demonstration led to arrests local football supporters decided to take action, according to the BBC.
The group’s formation was initially structured around a series of football hooligan firms, the report claimed.
Various EDL “divisions” sprung up across the UK, and the group would organise marches in towns and cities across the country to protest against “radical Islam”.
Who is the EDL’s leader Tim Ablitt?
Tommy Robinson stepped down as EDL leader in October 2013 after heading the group for some four years.
He was succeeded by Tim Ablitt, of Poole, Dorset, who had previously been the organiser of the organisation’s South-west England branch.
He was one of six supporters arrested in July 2010 over a suspected bomb plot against a Bournemouth mosque, but was released without charge, according to IBT.
Ablitt was also involved in an unsuccessful bid to merge the EDL with the short-lived British Freedom Party, the report claimed.
What are the EDL’s beliefs?
The EDL describes itself as a “human rights organisation” that is opposed to “religiously-inspired intolerance”.
A mission statement on the group’s website says it is opposed to “the denigration and oppression of women, the molestation of young children, the committing of so-called honour killings, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and continued support for those responsible for terrorist atrocities”.
The organisation’s other stated aims include “promoting democracy and the rule of law by opposing Sharia” and “ensuring the public get a balanced picture of Islam”.
But critics have accused the EDL of being Islamophobic and branded some of its members racist and violent.
And campaigners have accused the “street army” of trying to stir up tensions with its marches.