Grace Dent on TV: EDL Girls: Don’t Call Me Racist BBC 3

Gail said she was no racist, just ‘offended by people who look like bin-bags’ 

In the midst of mutterings about BBC 3’s “closure” and its planned switch to a web-only home, the channel boasted, with irony, one of the week’s most interesting shows. I’m sure the BBC’s line on this would be that EDL Girls: Don’t Call Me Racist – a thoughtful look at northern women versus, to their minds, Muslim extremism – would have been made regardless for BBC1.

I’m not wholly sure that it would because EDL Girls was a very BBC 3 sort of documentary with some of its best subjects being young teen girls, like Katie. Sixteen, bright and kind-faced, Katie was just at that age where being yelled at in the street for wearing a revealing pink mini-dress by some lads could make a young girl believe joining the EDL was some sort of pro-feminist statement. To chivvy her along on this transition was Katie’s big sister’s new father-in-law, Jay, an assertive, verbose bloke and an EDL blowhard.

Jay was often centre-stage at Katie’s home, confidently spouting pertinent “facts” to illustrate how Britain’s gone down the pan. Like how Kingsmill bread is halal, don’t you know, and therefore can’t be eaten by Christians. Makes him mad, it does.

In fact, pennies from every loaf went to put bullets into the guns of Taliban soldiers! I noticed Tommy Robinson spouting similar views in a documentary recently rejecting a perfectly tasty looking home-made pakora that Mo Ansar’s family offered him – despite being starving – on the grounds he can’t eat halal as a British person.

“Oh Tommy you are a numpty,” I recall thinking, because it’s tempting sometimes to treat the EDL like slow-witted scamps rather than a fearsome fighting force. Later on in EDL Girls, new EDL recruit Amanda was told off for posting photos on Facebook of herself wearing a Hitler moustache and doing a Nazi salute. It’s like a deleted scene from Chris Morris’s Four Lions. “You can’t do this,” an older woman told Amanda, “Because Hitler, well, he was an, um, racist.” Amanda looked confused. She clearly had no idea who Hitler was. None. “And some of our older members have granddads who fought against Hitler,” the woman continued, “So that’s, um, quite bad.”

Jay convinced Katie that she should stand in Reading town centre to support his wearing a niqab so he could make the point that white men aren’t allowed to cover their faces like Muslim women are, “which under the equal rights act is against the law”. This appeared, at least, to be what Jay thought his protest was. Is it an offence for a white man to cover his face in public? A balaclava won’t win you many friends at a bus stop, but would the police carry you away? Jay thought yes. Jay is not a racist, he claims. He just wants the right to put a niqab on over an EDL badge emblazoned hoodie and stand beside the Koran School leaflet kiosk telling passers-by his freedoms are being encroached by “them fundamentalists”.

As Katie sloped away, growingly mortified, a variety of erudite passers-by came to reason with Jay. A Muslim man in his thirties tried to tell Jay he, personally, had never ever met a terrorist and in fact didn’t even know any women who covered their faces. A bookish teen tried to tell Jay that a cornerstone of the British constitution is for us all to be able to practise our religion. Jay had no answer for this. Or, more accurately, Jay had lots of answers about grooming-gangs, Muslim bombers and the determination of British Muslims to have us all live under sharia law that could only leave the Saturday shopper keen to escape. But there’s no escape for Katie, her entire family chatter about “the Muslim problem” all day long.

EDL Girls’ most unsettling story was of Gail, a Yorkshire EDL regional leader and one of the founding EDL Angels. On the surface there was a lot to admire about Gail as she was resourceful and dependable and seemed at her happiest brushing her dogs or making her son bacon butties. Gail didn’t think she was a racist, but then she would say things like, “Muslims find the way I am offensive, but I’m offended every time I see a bin-bag wander down my street”. Other EDL members spoke of being offended by “people talking foreign on the bus cos they could be planning to kill me” and “the Muslim plan to stop me smoking in the street”. Gail’s life was committed to fighting against “the way this country is going”, from leading an EDL rally into the middle of Tower Hamlets to make the point that this is their country, to staging England Days full of drinking and shouting.

The film followed the court case of men accused of breaking her jaw in seven places. The accused walked free, leaving Gail more vengeful than ever before. I’d have been keen to watch a follow-up but the channel’s been more or less scrapped so this may never happen. Never mind, I’ll busy myself with Wodehouse romp Blandings on BBC1. The pig is loose again and Lord Emsworth is furious. Stop, my sides are splitting.

Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home