In 2009 when the troops returned from the conflict in Iraq to Luton, they were greeted by a returning home parade. They were also greeted by a handful of Muslims with extreme views, who protested and caused an angry response from some of the supporters of the troops. This violent response led to a number of arrests and a growing sense of sheer detest to these few extreme Muslims. These people went on to form the English Defence League (EDL), a far right group that primarily is anti-extreme Islam. The group did initially grow some momentum with several marches, including a couple in the founding town of Luton. The EDL provoked a reaction from the far left, namely a group called Unite Against Facism (UAF) and amongst the Muslim communities, the Muslim Defence League (MDL). These groups and a number of others have primarily been trying to counter the EDL, branding them as racists and extremists in their own right.
Fundementally, the supporters of the EDL feel un-listened to about some genuine concerns and a number of their supporters have hijacked their core stance towards other imigration and race related issues. The UAF and MDL have reacted so strongly towards the EDL that they have become just as violent and regularly are the ones who get arrested at counter demonstrations. They are almost racists to who they consider racists.
Both sides appear to have truth and genuine concerns and yet both sides have very little time to sit down and create real dialogue about the issues. In my Peace for Luton project I am hoping to use the starting point of Iraq and use a dramatic symbol for peace to be a starting point for dialogue and peace. The tensions are UK/Europe wide, but Luton has become one of the media's main focussing points. THis is partly due to the large Asian populations in Luton and the fact that a number of the main organising people of these groups come from the area. Although it is worth noting, that few of the actual members of the groups live in Luton.