Since the collapse of the English Defense League (EDL), a British group that intended to counter the rising tide of Islamic influence in the United Kingdom, a number of far-right organizations have been vying for the honor of leading the country's racists into a battle that no one else thinks they need to fight. One such group is Britain First, whose members like to see themselves as the elite of the national far-right—a kind of Navy SEALS complement to the EDL's regular army.
Their meme-heavy Facebook group makes it clear that Britain First's members believe they are Christian soldiers on a crusade. They don't bother with mass street protests, preferring instead to target their actions against people they consider to be enemies of their country. So far, this has been limited to hassling the more extreme fringes of British Islam. They set up a "Christian Patrol" in response to Anjem Choudary's "Muslim Patrols," which have been walking around East London bugging drinkers, gay people, prostitutes, and anyone else who has the temerity to act like Britain isn't a country ruled by Sharia law. (We made a film about all of this; it's called London's Holy Turf War.)
This weekend, however, Britain First retrained its focus, as it made the bold decision to harass ordinary Muslims in Yorkshire, a county in Northern England, as well as Scotland.
With their flat caps, All Saints haircuts, and matching windbreakers, Britain First members look a bit like those people who try to sell you discount stand-up comedy tickets on the street. But they're not; they're just an innocent far-right gang who want to be free to roam the city in uniform.
According to Britain First's Facebook page, Saturday "saw the launch of Britain First's Yorkshire brigade with a day of action in heavily Muslim Bradford." In the group's own words, “Our newly formed units descended on around 10 giant mega mosques, madrassas and Islamic centres across the town to distribute British Army bibles and anti-grooming leaflets.”
There's already a Muslim-led anti-grooming initiative based in Bradford, but apparently this didn't convince Britain First leader Paul Golding to go hassle the BBC or some Catholics instead.
No doubt this guy was charmed to have his attempt at piety interrupted by a roving racist who'd come along to tell him that he's worshiping the wrong god.
But there was more. “Our brave activists also invaded the campaign HQ of Bradford Labour Party and spent a considerable amount of time giving the local councillors a dressing down for their inability to fight Muslim grooming gangs in their community."
If Britain First don't stand up to the wrath of local Labour Party officials and their weekend lackeys, who will?
Also given a serious "dressing-down" was this guy: a worker at a Subway that serves halal meat. I don't know for sure, but I suspect it's not the guy who works the Sunday shift who's in charge of sourcing those delicious meatballs.
“Finally,” Britain First is proud to declare, "after the Mayor of Bradford declined a meeting request, the assembled patriots visited his home address only to find he was too cowardly to come out and face us.”
Well, why wouldn’t the city’s serving Asian mayor want to spend his day off chilling with a bunch of Islamophobes who put stuff like this on their Facebook page all the time?
Maybe they wanted to have a constructive dialogue about the radicalization of some members of the Muslim community, or maybe they wanted to bash him over the head with a mace. It's impossible to say.
So, all in all, it was a busy day for the uniformed activists, who ended their report from the front line with the menacing promise that "this is the first of many such operations that are due to be launched across Yorkshire against Islam."
"The Yorkshire brigade is finally here and has 'blooded' itself in the most heavily Muslim town in Yorkshire,” they said.
On the one hand, Britain First's bizarrely over-the-top rhetoric is kind of funny. On the other hand, their Facebook page—and the hundreds of comments, like the one above, that are getting tons of "Likes"—are a bit worrisome.
Whether Britain First keeps its promise to make Yorkshire a Christian heartland remains to be seen, but it seems that the group is determined to spend the summer bothering Muslims. So that's something for everyone to look forward to.
Follow Si Cunningham on Twitter.