Monday, 18 July 2016

Eritrea: The Forgotten Refugee Problem

If you have been following the refugee crisis in the media you will have almost certainly heard of the terrible situation of the Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees risking their lives in order to escape the vicious conflict in the Middle East. However, many people do not know much about the Eritreans also undertaking this risky journey eventhough they are the fourth largest nationality of people represented among the refugees arriving on European shores. Moreover, there are nearly 92,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Sudan and 100,000 in Ethiopia living in squalid refugee camps.

The main reason Eritreans are fleeing from their own country in such great numbers is because of their dictatorial government which is extremely oppressive. So oppressive that the country itself is commonly referred to as ‘The North Korea of Africa’. This is not a sensationalist comparison, there is truth to it.

The country, located on the horn of Africa is a one party state, ruled by the dictator Isaias Afwerki- leader of PFDJ party- ever since Eritrea got its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. There are no elections. There are severe restrictions on freedom of speech. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners being held in arbitrary detention, often subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman and immensely degrading punishments. The 2015 Freedom House report has ranked Eritrea among the twelve 'Worst of the Worst' countries in the world (along side North Korea, Syria and Saudi Arabia) in terms respect for political and civil rights.

Furthermore, it is arguably the most censored country in the world as President Isaias Afewerki succeded in his campaign to crush the independent and free press. All media in Eritrea is owned by the state which makes it the only African country to have no privately owned news media and is among the worst jailer of journalists in Africa, with at least 23 behind bars-none of whom has been tried in court or even charged with a crime. Internet freedom barely exists, as according to Freedom House: "Eritrea has one of the lowest rates of internet access—1 percent—and mobile phone use—5.6 percent—in the world due to high costs and government restrictions. The government requires all internet service providers to use state-controlled internet infrastructure, and almost all connections remain dial-up and extremely slow."

Then there is the complusory national service program cited by many of those fleeing as the reason why they left Eritrea. The Eritrean state has justified the mass mobilization with the need for national development, instill discipline and work ethic to the younger generation, to foster a common sense of national identity and prepare the nation for future conflict with Ethiopia. It is meant to last for eighteen months. In reality the duration is indefinite and conscripts are often used for forced labour. Unsurprisingly, the Eritrean government have said that these allegations are "totally unfounded" and believes there is a conspiracy to "undermine the political, economic, and social progress the country is making."

The response to this crisis by Western governments has been dreadful, because its focus is on the symptoms; not the cause. The energy and resources are so concerntrated on human traffickers, and even the refugees themselves that we are blind to the root causes of this crisis. EU policy has been to essentially bribe non-EU states, like Sudan, Ethiopia and even Eritrea, huge amounts of money to act as Europe’s immigration police; in effect, relocating Europe’s borders to beyond Europe. Since, there is no monitoring schemes or transparency these funds will likely disappear without trace into the pockets of corrupt regimes.

EU leaders want to push the problem outside of Europe and pretend that it’s not there. This is not a serious moral approach. This is a plain refusal to acknowldge the reality of a very difficult problem, once again turning to financial incentives as simple solutions.

Last year the British government announced a new policy towards Eritrean asylum-seekers, claiming  conscription is no longer automatic grounds for granting asylum because Eritrea had allegedly "ended the practice of indefinite military service." However, as Human Rights Watch has pointed out, it is wholly based on a discredited Danish Immigration Service report. It claimed that the human rights situation in Eritrea had improved and no harm would be inflicted on Eritreans who returned back home, so long as they "signed a letter of apology".

There is simply no credible evidence of the softening of the Eritrean government. This shows that the UK government is more interested in keeping out asylum seekers in order to try to meets its restrictive immigration targets and appease rising anti-immigrant sentiment within the UK. The search for the quick fix continues, while the will to confront the root cause is lacking.

If we are serious about reducing the flow of refugees from Eritrea then we need to somehow use our political, diplomatic and financial influence to bring about change in Asmara. Until the principal cause is dealt with, then people will continue to risk their lives. Pressure has to be applied to the Eritrean dictatorship to end the inhumane, indefinite national service. Only this way will the root of the problem be addressed.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Leaving the EU Will Not Address The Real Issues

So there we have it, The United Kingdom will leave the European Union. I was a little surprised when I heard the result this morning, as I really believes that although the result would be close that Remain would clinch it.
Eventhough it wasn't the result I wanted, I'm not submitting to shoddy scaremongering some Remainers are peddling (at least not yet). Western civilisation won't collapse as a result of the UK leaving the EU and The Third World War will not ignite. There undoubtedly will be political and economic turbulence now that David Cameron will resign as Prime Minister and the pound has hit a 30 year low. However, the UK won't be facing the apocalypse anytime soon.

Despite my disagreement with their position, I empathise with why many of my fellow citizens would wish to be rid of the European Union. Its lack of democracy and accountability, its inefficiency, its inability to provide a coherent response to crises and the broader resentment over discussions on immigration.

What disappointed me about the campaign was how these underlying issues behind the hostility towards the EU were barely addressed. The Remain campaign, recognizing that it little to say on these issues without embarrassing itself, has largely avoided these issues, focusing its energy almost entirely on economic arguments. Leave campaigners have been equally opportunistic in the way they have addressed questions of democracy and immigration by manipulating them to obscure the issues and play into nostalgic, pseudo-emancipatory, nationalist rhetoric.

Moreover, for all the economic and cultural beneftis of the European Union, whenever a the EU has faced a major crisis like the Eurozone crisis and the migrant crisis. It has handled it badly by failing to have a coherent response and the 'response' has usually made the situation worse not better. And because it lacks the democratic mandate and a proper sense of democratic legitimacy for such decisions, it can't deal with these crises properly.

With all this to consider, I understand why many people voted to leave and be rid of  the EU. Simply generalizing them as deluded little Englanders or knuckle dragging racists will get us nowhere and will not solve the issues, instead it will make the political climate more toxic than it already is.

While the EU is a fundamentally undemocratic institution, leaving the EU would not, in itself, bridge the democratic deficit. There exists today a much more profound disenchantment with mainstream political institutions, on a national, as well as at a European level, which has led to an upsurge in support for ultra-nationalist and populist parties throughout Europe.

The Brexit result may restore a greater degree of sovereignty, but it will not address the deeper anger at the political establishment and even at the idea of politics. In conflating resentment about lack of democracy with restraints on national sovereignty, Leave campaigners obscure the real problems. The dangers of such conflation can be seen most clearly in the debate about immigration. Leave campaigners argue that outside the EU, Britain would have control of its borders, and so be able to ease people’s fear about immigrantion. As Boris Johnson suggested, "You can only spike the guns of the extremists and the people who are genuinely anti-immigrant"..."if you take back control."

Boris is simply wrong. Britain has been unable to reduce the flow of immigration in areas where it has complete control. Migration to Britain from outside the EU was higher last year than EU migration. EU net migration currently stands at 184,000 compared to 188,000 from outside the EU.

The Tory government made it a promise in their 2010 election manifesto to reduce migration to the ‘tens of thousands’, and being unable to limit EU migrants, they strived particularly hard to reduce non-EU migration numbers, including adopting the ‘points-based system’ favoured by critics of high immigration. Its continued failure to reduce numbers is telling, showing that unless the government wishes to weaken the British economy, its ability to control migration is limited. Promising to limit immigration and failing to do so will, only exacerbate people's resentment and contempt including increase hostility to immigration.

While immigration may be the most potent symbol, to some, of an increasingly globalised world out of control, and of ordinary people having little say in the policies that affect their lives, it is not the reason for the grievances and hardships many people experience.

Britain has experienced a series of economic and social changes over the past few decades which have decimated working class communities such as the decline of manufacturing industry, the crumbling of the welfare state, the coming of austerity, the growth of inequality -combined with political shifts, such as the erosion of trade union power and the transformation of social democratic parties, to create a sense of rage among sections of the electorate.

Immigration and open borders has played almost no role in fostering these specific changes. However, it is the lens through which many perceive these changes and is among the top issues that concerns voters when polled, largely because of the way that immigration has been framed by politicians of all shades over the past half century.

At the same time, politicians nowadays often express a certain kind of Liberal disdain for the masses whom many regard as provincial, racist, and incapable of adopting a rational view of immigration. Former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown’s description during the 2010 election campaign of pensioner Gillian Duffy as ‘a bigoted woman’ because of her worries about European migrants from Eastern European captured the contempt of elite politicians for the little people’s immigration concerns. This toxic mix of fear and contempt has helped both to stigmatize migrants and to create popular hostility towards the liberal elite for ignoring peoples concerns on immigration policy.

Certainly, the Leave camp have promoted obnoxious arguments about immigration throughout the campaign, from Michael Gove’s warnings about marauding Turks to Nigel Farage’s absurd  ‘Breaking Point’ poster. But supporters of the EU also bare some responsibility creating an anti-immigration climate. For instance, Prime Minister David Cameron who led a campaign against ‘benefit tourists’, despite the government’s own Migration Advisory Committee insisting that there is "little evidence to support the so-called welfare magnet hypothesis as a migration driver across EU countries".

Leave supporters, have not addressed issues of democracy and immigration, but exploited them in an opportunistic, and often in reactionary fashion. In simplifying the problem of democracy to the bureaucratic structures of the EU, they have ignored the shifts in politics and the economy that have left large sections of the electorate (mainly working class people) feeling politically voiceless, and which will not be addressed simply by leaving the EU. In having this narrow, primitive and divisive notion of democracy and promoting strict border controls as the key expression of national  sovereignty, they have utterly obscured the problem. Unfortunately, for the working class people who voted for Leave they have swapped one useless and distant elite for another one who will fare no better at addressing their concerns and worries.

Now that the result is Britain will officially leave the European Union, I believe it is unlikely that the popular disaffection with mainstream political institutions, or the sense of being politically voiceless among large sections of voters, is likely to be eased anytime soon. And it will not be eased until we directly address the reasons for their anger and disaffection.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Young Turks commit a howler on Brexit debate

The Young Turks do it once again! They demonstrate their lack of cross referencing and very simple fact checking leading to an embarrassing situation for an online media outlet that has an alleged intrest in journalistic intergrity and "giving viewers the facts".

They commit a big mistake in their video title and description. They say in the title "Will Britain exit the Euro (Eurozone)". That is not the question being asked for British citizens at the referendum, the question being asked is should Britain leave the European Union not the single currency of which it it not a part of.

For those of that don't know, the European Union is a political and economic union of 28 member states that have agreed on certain things like a common market, common regulation, relaxed border controls, free trade, agriculture policy etc.

The Eurozone is a currency union (of which Britain is not a part of) of 17 European Union member states that have adopted the Euro as their common currency and sole legal tender. Monetary policy of the zone is the responsibility of the European Central Bank (ECB) which is governed by a president and a board of the heads of national central banks.

In all seriousness, if they made this atrocious mistake at a professional media outlet they would be suspended and not even be considered serious by anybody. This is something a very simple google search would rectify. It is stuff like this that demonstrates why The Young Turks should not be taken seriously as a media outlet especially by younger generations who are their target audience because this can easily lead to misinformation, confusion and even ignorance of the politics of foreign nation.

The irony of this is in their video they implicitly condemn ignorant Americans who don't care to know or care about European politics, yet in a way they are reflecting this carelessness and ignorance through their mistake which they still have not corrected a day after the video was released.

This is not the first time something like this has happened, nor will it be the last.

I don't think they're aware Sam. LOL.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

The Hypocrisy of Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk, a once renowned and respected journalist (long before I was born), now a rambling conspiracy theorist penning apologias for the likes of Hezbollah, the Assad regime and the Putin regime in Russia all for the sake of his anti-Western ideological bias.

In his latest disingenous piece, he launched an attack on well renowned and respected Iraq/Syria terrorism expert Charles Lister. He essentially accuses Lister of being an Al-Qaeda apologist, he bases this view on Charles' recent article on Al Qaeda's Syrian afilliate Jabhat Al-Nusra in Foreign Policy. However, judging from the content of the article one wonders whether Fisk actually read it. Lister in his article clearly warns about the danger of Nusra creating an emirate in Northern Syria, whether or not you agree with Lister's policy recommendations no one who has actually read the article can say this is a puff piece on Nusra. How Fisk can claim after reading the article that Lister is trying to falsely portray Nusra as 'moderate' is pretty remarkable. More importantly, how the editors at The Independent didn't seem to fact check this dreadful article is even more worrying.

Not only is Fisks claim incorrect, offensive, libellous and actually laughable on its face, it also comes from a man who in the past few years has explicitly apologised for the Hizbollah and the Fascist Assad regime by for instance repeating the falsehood that "no moderate opposition exists" in Syria. Even popes get removed for insanity yet this pro-Fascist hack and conspiracy theorist Robert Fisk still has a job at The Independent.

These series of tweets by Lister showing his record from his work where he writes about Nusra as a threat thoroughly refutes the absurd accusations penned by Fisk that Lister is portraying Nusra as a moderate organisation.

The irony of this is Fisk once wrote a fawning piece giving a sympathetic portrayal of none other than Osama Bin Laden in 1993. The piece is so bad it is almost has to be satire.

It is not only this that makes Fisk a hypocrite. Fisk warns us to be careful of the word terrorist believing that it is a pretext used by Western governments to legitimise state sponsored violence, violate civil liberties and supress dissent domestically and oppress Middle Eastern societies. Yet, he has no qualms in falsely accusing people of being Al-Qaeda apologists when it suits his ideological thrills and his obsessive anti-Western agenda. Likewise, he doesn't have the moral authority to condemn 'Al-Qaeda supporters' when he has essentially become a mouthpiece for the Assad regime and Hizbollah who in conjuction with each other have killed nearly 300,000 Syrians in their brutal suppression of the Syrian revolution to help a totalitarian regime survive. In addition, he uncritically repeating their narrative of the Syrian civil war (this is what happens when you rely on corrupt government sources for your information). This is what makes him hypocrite.


Monday, 15 February 2016

The Independent UK is wrong on Cologne Sex Attacks

You may have encountered this article in The Independent claiming only three of the people under investigation for the Cologne sex attacks on New Years Eve were recent refugees from The Middle East and North Africa.

However, The Associated Press reported Cologne prosecutor Ulrich Bremer telling them that the the majority of suspects are asylum seekers, describing recent reports of only three of the suspects as refugees as "total nonsense."  However, Bremer did tell The Local that he couldn't give specific figures as to how many were refugees and how many were illegal immigrants. Only revealing that the majority of suspects arrived in Germany in last year and they come from countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Iraq. The Independents error was that they misintepreted comments given by Bremer in an article by German newspaper Die Welt which at no point does he give numbers on the asylum status of individual suspects.

It was very interesting to observe media sites like Huffington Post, Metro and Russia Today run with this story since it supports their predisposition to idealize the refugees and ignore any faults or imperfections that may be among them.

With this in mind, I will address this article in the same site by a serial merchant in dishonesty, Nabila Ramdani. She seems to suggest that concern about the problem of sex crimes among recent migrants into Europe, most of whom are of Middle Eastern and North African stock, therefore means you are playing into the agenda of Neo-Nazis.

In all fairness to Nabila, she calls out far-right propaganda that do otherise and generalize all refugees as rapists or foreign, Muslim, sexual creatures thirsty for native European women. Moreover, their selective outrage in being champions of women's rights; They'll fly the flag of feminism if European women are attacked by Muslims, but say nothing if the same crime is perpetrated by non Muslims . That's good. And yes she is absolutely correct in saying "Brown men are not inherently more misogynistic or brutal than white men, and Muslims are just as likely to be family-orientated, peaceful citizens as their counterparts from other religious and cultural heritages." The problem is she mixes this up with deflection and denialism.

Firstly, she makes a small, yet critical error. She claims Pegida are a "Neo Nazi" organisation. Whatever your opinion of Pegida, (and I am not a fan by any means) a reasonable person has to admit this claim is false. Pegida's ideology is not Neo-Nazism, they don't have Nazi imagery or portraits of Hitler at their rallies. In fact they actively try to keep out Nazis from their rallies because they know it will hurt their image therefore it is disingenous to say they are Neo-Nazis. Amongst other things this is just lazy journalism.

Let me be clear, this is not to say Pegida are not a problematic group, they are. Neither to say they don't evoke bigotry, they do. My point is in order to defeat one's enemies you have to know them,  understand them and be truthful about what they believe. Hurling slurs like 'Neo-Nazi' when it is inaccurate only serves to debase the term of any meaning.

Secondly, she is using false information to support her argument. She claims Ulrich Bremer told her that, "of the 59 suspects pinpointed so far, just four are from war-torn countries (Syria and Iraq)."this is false, because as I have demonstrated previously, the majority of suspects fall under the general category of refugee.

When Raheem Kassam of Brietbart (Yes, I know its Brietbart) tried to confront Nabila on Twitter on the false information she used. She quickly rebutted by throwing ad hominems at him, thus avoiding his point which is correct, as I have demonstrated earlier with Ulrich Bremers remarks. Will Nabila call him a Neo-Nazi?

Thirdly, She underestimates the problem of sex crimes committed by migrants/refugees of a muslim background or sex crimes amongst the Muslim communities in Western socities. She completely focuses on Cologne, yet ignores there were other similar incidents in other European countries like: Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland and other cities in Germany, all done by migrants. Ignoring this; implying concern about this trend is "racism" is unwise . On a side note, I dont think this is a religious issue, it is more cultural in my opinion, or at the very least there is a cultural element.

I understand the discussion around migrants and refugees in Europe is awkward, complicated and sadly, increasingly more toxic. Moreover, I understand the far-right and the anti-immigrant brigade will use the increasing suspicion in addition to mistrust of refugees as a platform to lauch their anti-immigrant propaganda. Of course, I oppose those cultural jerks. Their idea that any amount of people of a Muslim background - no matter their individual beliefs- will all of a sudden destroy European Christian identity, therby making Europe into Eurabia. Nevertheless, you have to be factual, distorting facts is not the answer even if it is uncomfortable. We cannot deal with the problem if we don't know the truth.

I do hope the media sites that did run the original story would correct their mistakes.

If you wish, here is my piece on how to address the Cologne attacks, plus the wider phenomenom of sex crimes committed by migrants without falling into Denialism or Bigotry.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Is The Special One right for Old Trafford?

The Special One to Old Trafford. I honestly never thought this could actually become a possibility, since all previous links throughout the years were mere crazed tabloid speculation. This time the speculation seems legitimate, with the BBC first reporting a week ago that Mourinho was 'in talks' with United over replacing Louis Van Gaal. However, Sky sources understand Manchester United are happy with Van Gaal as the manager and plan on allowing him to complete his three year contract that he signed in 2014.

For the purpose of this article, I am working under the assumption Louis Van Gaal will leave in the summer and Mourinho will be brought in as his replacement. This is not confirmed by any means but the current press speculation is so heavy especially with The Independent reporting that a deal has been agreed 'in principle'. In addition, there was reports of a 'dossier' authored by Mourinho sent to Manchester United outlining his plans for the club. It is fair to assume there has to be some truth to it.

His appointment would be a show stopper, a good response to Manchester City landing Pep Guardiola as thier new manager. But, it could also reveal the United board are a little desperate as they really want United to be back challenging for trophies once again, not scraping for 4th place. Secondly, they do not want to fall behind rivals City. Thirdly, it shows that the last three years with two new managers, all the money on transfers has been wasted.

Van Gaal's appointement in 2014 made it abundantly clear that United's medium to long term future was being considered. Presumably, the plan was Van Gaal would stabalise the club after the disatarous 2013-14 season under David Moyes, then his successor will be there for the long term whether Giggs or someone else. Nevertheless, this plan has not worked out, United have barely improved under Louis Van Gaal despite the fact he has spent over £200 million on players. They are nowhere near challenging for the title, instead they are struggling for 4th place which for Manchester United standards is nowhere good enough.

The problem I have with the potential Mourinho appointment now is, it vindicates what the critics of United claimed and what United fans feared would happen in the Post-Ferguson era. United will be like any other club, stuck in a conveyor belt of manager after manager, each one failing to meet expectations. Instead of being the club that did things differently; giving managers a chance, looking long term and putting its identity, tradition and history over the money, greed and corporatism that currently corrupts Football.

There would be positives to Mourinho taking the helm at Old Trafford. I have no doubt that United will get immidiate, short term success under Mourinho, he has a proven track record that is undeniable. He previously won silverware, domestically and in Europe, for FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid, his CV is impeccable which is why he is one of the most successful managers of his generation. Also, his presence will will lift the club and the fans into some much needed positivity, after a poor season where United are likely to miss out on a Champions league spot.

Nevetheless, we better be ready for the baggage and drama that comes with him. His recent spell at Chelsea with the sheer volume and variety of drama is going to be a cautionary tale for the United board. From the Eva Carneiro saga to Diego Costa and his angry bib removal, there has barely been a week of this season in which Mourinho did not prominently and negatively feature in the media. Old Trafford will be turned into a circus, a very intense one, given the forensic level of coverage paid by the media. We have to ask ourselves, will it be worth it?

Likewise, his preferred style of play is not suited for United's ideals; using homegrown talent and playing lightening quick, attractive, attacking football. Mourinho is notorious, particularly during his first tenure at Chelsea and Inter Milan for grinding out 1-0 results, playing a more cautious game or 'parking the bus' as its popularly referred to as.

However, in recent years Mourinho has proven he can be a little adpatable and play a more attacked minded game. His Real Madrid side with superstars like Ronaldo could easily beat any team 4-0. Moreover, for the first half of last season, Chelsea played some nice football, with Hazard and Fabregas at their skillful, silky best. So maybe, just maybe, Mourinho will adapt slightly for the fans exepectations for how Manchester United should play.

Overall, despite his faults and the criticism he endures, I really like Mourinho. Not so much his preferred style of football but his mystique, the charisma, the unorthodox personality, his memorable quotes and so forth. A little like Sir Alex. In spite of this, we must acknowledge that after the train wreck of Moyes and the inconsistency of Van Gaal, this has to be right. Manchester United is at a turning point in its long, eventful history. We are three seasons where we have have mounted a serious challenge for the title, nowhere close as a matter of fact. United have to start gaining ground soon or else it will fall behind its rivals, if we don't then we could experience a silverware drought that Liverpool experienced during their decline after their last title win in 1990. Or to use an example closer to home United could see a repeat of history where it could go into a coma post-Ferguson in a similar manner to how it went dormant post-Busby. Mourinho would be our last chance to resusetate ourselves from this coma we currently find ourselves sinking into.

Whether the special one would be right for this special club is yet to be seen. If he did come, two things would be certain. Firstly, things would get way more interesting at Old Trafford. Secondly, his appointment would bring more questions than answers.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

An Assessment of the PEGIDA UK rally

On a rainy Saturday 6th February, Pegida UK launched its inaugural demonstration in Birmingham, with similar rallies happening across Europe. An estimated 200 protesters attended the demonstration, which took place on a barren industrial estate miles from the city centre.

The march was peaceful and went smoothly without incident. No thugs, no fights, no Nazis, no inflammatory speeches. However, the rallies in other European countries did see some trouble with a fight in Dublin and some arrests in Calais.

The new Pegida UK was keen to dispel allegations of racism or of being the EDL 2.0 but without the booze.  They placed warnings on pre-protest information, saying Neo Nazis would not be accepted at the demonstration. Likewise, Tommy Robinson in his speech talked about meeting a man with swastika tattoo on his finger on Friday night, and then said (in an obviously frustrated voice): “six years on and I’m still having to tell you: if you’re a Nazi, if you’re a racist, and you’re watching this – you’re not welcome on the streets in the UK with us."

Moreover, the people who attended the demonstration were not a singular, unitary, monolithic bloc.  One protester NOTA Network interviewed said he came because he was worried about English identity and culture being threatened by Islam. Another one said he was not against "all immigration" but wanted "limited immigration". And another protester said he was here to "defend free speech". It would be slightly unwise to arrogantly dismiss them all as racists and xenophobes, though that doesn't mean they were liberal democrats either.
There was not anything that struck me as worryingly racist in the interviews we did or at the rally generally. I say this as a black man who was with my friend Sam Sholli, who is of Iranian stock. We did not feel like we were in danger or anyone was racist towards us. They just seem to be people that are fed up with a status quo that is not working for them and their communities.

Their claim to being a multi-racial movement is questionable, because aside from me and Sam Sholli (my NOTA Network colleague) there was only one other non-white person at the rally. So they do still have that obstacle to overcome where ethnic minorities would feel comfortable associating themselves with Pegida UK. I doubt this this will change anytime soon.

Yes, there was no racism (at least in its common understanding). BUT.....

That doesn't quite get them off the hook. There were still illiberal sentiments present at the rally. For example, many protesters held placards featuring Donald Trump's image saying 'Trump is right'. This possibly is an implicit endorsement of the hopeful presidential nominee's call to halt all Muslim immigration into the United States. If this is the case then this is simplistic and objectively bigoted, because it views Muslims as a monolithic bloc who all think in the same way. There were other sorts of unsophisticated propaganda, like other placards saying 'Rape culture is being imported' and 'Islamism = Nazism'.

Beforehand, NOTA Network interviewed the Pegida UK leadership; Tommy Robinson, Anne Marie Waters and Paul Weston. Tommy surprisingly was open to the idea of creating a buffer zone in Syria in order to keep Syrian refugees safe. But he was not in favour of military intervention in Syria against the Assad regime. He also said he wanted British embassies in the Middle East to give women and children fleeing a chance to leave. However, he would not extend this to young men because he feels "they should be fighting".
Weston was asked whether he would stand by previous comments where he suggests Muslims should be banned from public office. He defended his comments. When he was asked if this would even apply to liberal Muslims like Maajid Nawaz, he stood by his comments again even as he admitted it was "discriminatory", because he felt it would be for the "greater good". This is clearly an illiberal, bigoted, anti-democratic belief contradicting the very values Pegida UK is claiming to defend.

Anne Marie Waters was asked for her opinion on Weston's views on Muslims not being allowed to hold public office, something which is not believed to be Tommy's position. Her slippery, cowardly reply was "that's Paul's opinion....I don't agree with it, but I don't passionately disagree with it...I don't have an opinion, I never thought about it, I will now."  The fact she couldn't give a clear answer to what was a very fair question is telling.

The above picture shows a speaker who has been ignored by mainstream media outlets, like The Guardian, Telegraph and Huffington Post. This is telling given that he asked the media not to "edit me out" and to "report this fairly". His name is Mohammed Fiaz, an ex Muslim, Christian. He was very keen to defend Tommy Robinson and Pegida UK from accusations of racism, though he weirdly claimed that if you call Tommy or Pegida far-right you are playing into the hands of "the Muslims". He even asked the rain-soaked crowd to raise their hands if they were far-right or anti-Asian. As expected, no one raised their hands. Mohammed then told the tragic story of a friend, a fellow apostate who was hated, had his knee smashed and his kids spat at by a neighboring Muslim family when they found out he was an apostate.
Tommy Robinson claimed that a "seed has been planted" with the inaugural protest that could grow into a worldwide, popular protest movement, mobilising against the 'Islamisation' of Western civilisation. Likewise, Paul Weston felt they would be able to muster "100,000 people" for a future protest. Not going to happen. Despite the tense atmosphere currently engulfing Europe and even if a 9/11 style terrorist attack were to happen again, I really doubt Pegida UK would be able to get 100,000 people to attend a rally of theirs. 10,000 is possible but nowhere near 100,000.

Above all, while Pegida UK are clearly not Neo-Nazis and it's a good thing that  they try a peaceful methodology and don't have that hooligan aura that the EDL had. However, the fact that the three leaders cannot agree on something as simple as whether a Muslim can run for public office does weaken their claim to be defending liberal democracy, as Weston's suggestion is plainly anti-democratic and bigoted. 
Likewise, the endorsement of Donald Trump's illiberal views and defending of 'Christian culture' also is not going to win them many friends in the mainstream. They don't have an ideology or a positive alternative worldview to present to oppose the status quo. They are just an unguided, incoherent, reaction to the very real problem of Islamism and a residue of Cologne. Despite the fact Tommy Robinson wants to start anew, I believe the already tainted brand of Pegida will be a detriment, not a help to him.