Written by Student Rights on 28 September 2015 at 12pm

Tommy Robinson event at Edinburgh raises concerns

Here at Student Rights we have argued in the past that, if counter-extremism work is to be successful, there must be the prospect of redemption for former extremists.

This would include providing platforms for those whose views have changed, and who may be able to provide an insight into the processes that led to their radicalisation.

On 21st October, the former leader of the English Defence League (EDL), Tommy Robinson, is due to appear at the University of Edinburgh to discuss online extremism with students.

He will be joined by the high-ranking Al-Qaeda defector Aimen Dean, who worked as a spy within the organisation for a number of years.

Using former extremists to provideinsight into their former organisations”, as this event hopes to do, can only be successful if the individuals in question have actually changed their views.

In Robinson’s case, serious concerns remain about whether this has actually happened.

While he may have left the EDL, as recently as July he askedwhen did I ever claim to have reformed?” and claimed that: “…everything I said when I left the EDL was the same as I had said whilst leading EDL”.

Robinson has also regularly used his Twitter account to refer to an ongoing “rape jihad” throughout 2015, and has frequently claimed there is a “Muslim invasion” of Europe.

He has also shared a video attacking “the horrific Muslim infiltration of Britain” on more than one occasion, and another called “Islamic invasion of Sweden has led to rape crisis”.

That Robinson still expresses such views suggests his views haven’t changed from his time leading the EDL, and will leave many Muslim students feeling deeply alienated on-campus.

This must be taken into account by the event organisers, and we hope that they would reconsider giving Robinson a platform as an expert of the processes of radicalisation.

The organisers have also stated that Robinson “will not be discussing his views, either former or present” – and, if the event does go ahead, this must change.

Instead, there must be an opportunity for students to challenge Robinson on his extreme views, otherwise the event will provide legitimacy for a man whose views remain deeply concerning.