The study found the image of young unemployed people alienated by tough economic times and turning to the anti-Muslim and anti-immigration group was a myth. In fact half of sympathizers are in full time work, almost one in five is university educated and more than two thirds own their own home. The report, by the think tank Chatham House, warns ministers and those combating extremism need to reassess who they target. Its author, Dr Matthew Goodwin, also warns that the EDL is part of a new breed of far right extremism that is more “confrontational and unpredictable” and more likely to support violence on the streets. He describes the new groups as “counter-Jihad” and said supporters believe violence between white Britons and Muslims was not only justified but imminent.
More than 1,666 people were polled for the study, of which 298 identified themselves as EDL supporters. The report, The Roots of Extremism, found 53 per cent of sympathisers were in professional, management or non-manual jobs and another quarter were in skilled work. Only three per cent were unemployed and 60 per cent were aged over 45. Groups like the EDL also shun images such as “racial supremacism” and actively sought to recruit people from Jewish, Sikh, Pakistani, Christian and gay communities, the report said. Dr Goodwin said: “Some of the best known stereotypes about counter-Jihad supporters are wrong. “Policy approaches that frame the counter-Jihad challenge as being primarily a phenomenon among deprived working class communities should be reassessed.”
He said supporters are also not anti-democracy and are more likely to vote than the average citizen. However, he also warned that the new forms of far right extremism, like the EDL, are more “confrontational, chaotic and unpredictable” that established extremist political parties. Many who identify with them are more likely to favour street confrontations with Islamic groups than political battles. “Most appear united by the belief that a period of group conflict and chaos is imminent,” the report said. They “appear united by the expectation that the country will soon descend into communal violence and are more likely than their fellow citizens to view violence as a justifiable course of action to counter ‘extremists’”.
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