Ever heard of Mosquebusters? It was the original nom de guerre of a gang of jerks who have vowed to help British Islamophobes oppose any plans the Muslims might have to erect big, fat mosques in their particular enclave of Albion.
But Mosquebusters don't do this by turning at up building sites when all that's left to do is put the crown on the minaret, or by driving bulldozers menacingly around mostly-Islamic neighbourhoods at night. They use planning permission, or rather they support anyone who wants to protest when planning permission is granted for mosques to be built. They've been really, really successful at it, too, citing things like a non-regulation number of parking spaces to baffle mosque planners into bureaucratic failure.
In an attempt to dent Mosquebusters' 100 percent win rate, last year Spike Johnson (who went to the gypsy eviction at Dale Farm for us last year) spent a day working undercover with the organisation, which has now changed its name to the more corporate-friendly Law and Freedom Foundation. I spoke to Spike about his time with this secretive cabal of white-collar bigots.
VICE: Hey Spike, how are you?
Spike: Hey, I'm good thanks.
How did you discover Mosquebusters?
I started looking at extremism for a story. On the EDL website, they have links to all kinds of pseudo-racist things. One of them was an advert asking for people to do volunteer work for Mosquebusters, but it's gone now – at some point, they just began to shut down all their websites.
So do they still exist?
Oh, they still exist, definitely. They're using the new name now: the Law and Freedom Foundation. It's run by the same guys and it's the same company.
So you applied as a volunteer to try to get access to them?
Yep. Gavin Boby – who runs Mosquebusters – was interviewing me. I was going to accompany him to court hearings and video the proceedings. He was beginning to get a lot of attention and wanted video evidence of things. To start with, I had access for maybe 24 hours and he sent me all of their instructions on how to do what they do and all of that crap. But then he figured out who I was and he shut me down.
So they try to keep what they do secret, despite a logo with a cartoon Abu Hamza on it and a name like "Mosquebusters"?
Is any of what they do illegal?
No, it's all completely legal. I just think they realised that the majority of the population frown upon what they do.
You used the word “insidious” in your original investigation into what Mosquebusters do. What do you think is more damaging to the Muslim community – Islamophobes using bureaucracy to quash plans for mosques, or EDL numbskulls shouting insults at them in the street?
The former, for sure. And they realise it as well. You know, they're not stamping their feet, they're not waving flags. They're being a bit quiet and cerebral about it. They realise that in order to make a change they have to go about these things from kind of a lateral route.
What did the members of the EDL that you spoke to think of Mosquebusters?
I went to a few rallies and the guys on the street don't really know about Mosquebusters. Lately, I think Gavin Boby has been trying to distance himself from the EDL. The Mosquebusters don't want that kind of publicity, they want to keep really quiet behind the scenes.
Did you speak to any of the everyday Islamophobes who'd used Mosquebusters' petitions to complain about a mosque being built?
Yeah. I followed the case of this mosque that some Muslims were trying to build in West London. The people making the complaints against it sent Mosquebusters' pre-written petition to the council.
They didn't look like EDL skinheads or anything, more like old grannies?
Yeah, they're just ordinary people. Old people in a white neighbourhood who have lived there all their lives and they don't want change. In a lot of these people's cases, I'm not sure that it's malicious or racist or bigoted, I just think that they like their little town how it is. The thing is, though, is the Mosquebusters exploit that. There's strength in numbers; if you have a massive petition then a local council is gonna bend to it.
Do you think it will become more common?
I guess so, yeah. Boby's stature is growing. And he works pro bono.
Does he have a day job?
He's a planning lawyer in Bristol. I think he's actually a barrister. It's a labour of hate. When there's a planning application for any building in the UK now they list it on the internet. You follow a link and get to this specific application and you can lodge an objection to the council. So what Boby does is he appeals to other anti-Islamists on other continents to follow these web links and lodge objections regardless of their nationality. So it's not local any more, it's global.
Were the Muslims you met who were applying for mosques to be built aware of Mosquebusters?
They weren't aware of it at all, no. I went to the largest mosque in western Europe and they didn't know about the Mosquebusters and these guys were stopping their application. So, I told them who they were. I was expecting a negative reaction, but the main imam, he was quite sympathetic and he asked for Gavin Boby's contact information so that he could contact him and work together in combating extremism within Islam.
OK. But Boby seems to hate all Muslims.
Yeah, true. I was pretty shocked by that opinion, I just left it with him.
When you spoke to the people who had supported a particular petition against a mosque, did you explain to them what Boby is doing?
Mostly they just said “Yes, and we welcome it.”