UK's Tommy Robinson: Racist, Bigot, or Hero?

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LUTON, England -- Stephen Lennon, perhaps better known as Tommy Robinson, is the former head of the English Defence League, an anti-Islamist protest movement.

For years, he has been Britain's bad boy. A hero to some, Britain's Left has labeled him a racist and a Nazi.

Lennon adopted the pseudonym Tommy Robinson in the early days of the group when it was risky being a member.

CBN News interviewed him before he shocked Britain last month by announcing he was leaving the EDL.

What is EDL?

The EDL began in the working class town of Luton in 2009 when militant Muslims protested against British soldiers returning from Iraq. From there it grew to become a self-styled defender of democratic values against the spread of radical Islam and Sharia law.

The EDL was able to turn out thousands of supporters at its demonstrations -- tough men from the working class that look like extremists themselves.

"Working class communities in this country are rough communities," Lennon explained. "It was never gonna be doctors and nurses to stand up to militant Islam in the streets of this country."

"When we first formed, we faced a very violent response by members of the Muslim community who would come out," he continued. "And images were sent across this country of our supporters on the floor getting their heads kicked in. Now, when we went to our next demonstration, how many 30-year-old school teachers are going to come out and oppose militant Islam?"

"There's a certain kind of man who decides to dig in the trenches and fight for our queen and our country, in faraway fields against forces of Sharia in Afghanistan and Iraq, the same sort of man who's willing to protect their home," Lennon said.

Throwing in the Towel

But after years of trying to keep extremists and Nazis out of the EDL, last month Lennon threw in the towel and left.

"I battled for four years to keep racists, Nazis, extremists out of this movement," he told BBC's "Newsnight" program. "I've battled and dedicated my life to it. And they were invited back. And I felt let down by the people in the organization who were in positions of leadership, the same people who are calling me a traitor now, who invited Nazis to stand with them in the streets."

"People like to talk about my criminal record," he said. "One of my offenses is for knocking out one of these Nazis. In the early days of the English Defence League -- purity comes with time in any organization -- when we formed a nationalistic organization, it attracted the wrong sorts as well as the right sorts."

"It took us years of battling these wrong sorts and these Nazi elements, to get rid of them, to let them know we stand with Israel, that we fully support Israel," he explained.

The other charge against Lennon hears over and over is that he's a racist.

"I was on BBC last week and the host said, 'You're a racist bigot,'" Lennon recalled. "'Ok,' I said, 'Please tell me how I am a racist. Please explain.' 'Because you are,' the host replied."

"'No, I'm not a racist bigot because you tell me I'm a racist bigot. No,'" Lennon said he told the host. "'This far left-wing view and agenda that anyone who has a different opinion than you is a racist and bigot is the reason grooming gangs have been facilitated in this country.'"

"'People have not been allowed to say how they feel because 'bang bang'- you're beaten back down, and then if you're a labeled a racist you lose your job,'" Lennon continued. "'My goddaughter's black. My niece is mixed race, so Englishness is not about the color of your skin.'"

Stage Set for Civil War?

Lennon warns that British authorities are creating the conditions for civil war by allowing the spread of radical Islam while restricting freedom of speech to criticize and protest against it.

"We have this democracy in which some of our members have been given 10-year ASBOs [anti-social behavior order] not to protest against Islam," he told CBN News.

"Really?" he challenged. "This is a land of democracy. If you're disgusted with what's happening in this country, what are you supposed to do? Because through democracy, when you're angry, you channel that frustration through peaceful protest."

"You take that right away from people, and what are they going to do? They're going to be responsible for creating a monster," he said.

"The last thing we want is a war in this country, but it is the inevitable outcome for the way the country is going," Lennon warned. "Now, the British people are not going to sit back and take much more."

Turning Political Tide

Lennon believes the political tide is turning after the murder of Lee Rigby and news coverage of the epidemic of Muslim grooming gangs.

"Politicians are cowards in this country, complete cowards and hypocrites," Lennon told CBN News. "And they're all the same. There's no difference between the Labor Party and the Conservative Party in what they say."

"Now, when they see this swing from Left to Right, it's under way. There's no left-wing organization that can stop it," he said. "There's no police force that can stop it. They're trying to do all these tasks forces to stop what is happening. You can't stop this."

"It's going to be so powerful when the country wakes up and is turning, and that's what's happening now," he warned.

Even though he has left the EDL, Lennon said he has hasn't changed his opinion that Radical Islam is still the biggest threat Britain faces.

"Previous prime ministers, be it William Gladstone who said, 'There will never be peace on this earth as long as we have the Koran, it's an accursed and violent book.' Then we have Winston Churchill who said, 'Islam in a man is like rabies in a dog.' And then we have David Cameron, who says Islam is a religion of peace. What's changed? Because the [Koran] hasn't changed," Lennon said.

Threats Continue

Now that Lennon has left the EDL, there are fears that it could splinter and become what it was always accused of being -- a violent, dangerous collection of neo Nazis and white supremacist.

Lennon said he's chosen a new strategy of working with moderate Muslims in the hope more people will listen to him. But even though he has left the EDL, he still faces a daily threat of death from radical Muslims.

CBN News asked Lennon if he regrets the life he has chosen.

"Yeah, of course -- for my wife, my three children," he replied. "As a father, I have serious concerns about what life will be like for my kids, if I'm even here."

"Am I scared of the death threats, and people who want to kill me and the attacks against me, etc? Yeah, I am. Of course, I am," he said. "I wouldn't be human if I wasn't. But I am terrified for the entire next generation of this country, and its history, its culture, its identity -- it's all under attack."

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CBN News
Dale Hurd

Dale Hurd

CBN News Sr. Reporter

A CBN News veteran, Dale Hurd has reported extensively from Western Europe, as well as China, Russia, and Central and South America.  Since 9/11, Dale has reported in depth on various aspects of the global war on terror in the United States and Europe.  Follow Dale on Twitter @HurdontheWeb and "like" him at