Tommy Robinson Stands Down From The EDL

Tommy Robinson has quit as leader of the English Defence League because he says he can no longer control extremists within the far-right group.

Mr Robinson, who set up the anti-Islamist group in 2009, said the EDL had become increasingly influenced by extreme elements that did not represent what he stood for.

"I apologise for the fact that what I've said has not resonated individually with Muslims," he told journalists at a news conference.

"I don’t hate Muslims. Luton is a completely multicultural town and from day one we've wanted to embrace everyone; all colours and creeds.

"I have a passion to combat Islamist ideology and I want to lead a revolution against that ideology, but I don't want to lead a revolution against Muslims."

Mr Robinson said he took time to evaluate his position after spending 18 weeks in solitary confinement, following a conviction for travelling on someone else's passport.

"I thought about how I'd neglected my wife, my children and my family and I asked myself a lot of questions. I've got three young children. I want what's best for them."

He added that in order to solve what he sees as the problem of Islamist extremism in Britain, he needs to work with Muslims not against them.

"We had fought for three years to keep fascists and racists out of the EDL. When I attended our demonstration in Manchester I saw White Power flags that didn't represent me.

"Am I willing to be the public face for them? No I'm not.

"I believe that the revolution needs to come from within the Islamic community and they need to stand up. And I believe this is a step forward not a step back."

Mr Robinson and EDL co-founder Kevin Carroll announced their departure through counter-extremism think tank Quilliam.

The organisation said: "Having set up the EDL - infamous for its street protests - in 2009, they wish to exit this group because they feel they can no longer keep extremist elements at bay."

In a statement released through Quilliam - which claimed to have facilitated the pair's departure - Mr Robinson said he acknowledged "the dangers of far-right extremism".

Mr Robinson - real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon - confirmed the news on Twitter, posting a link to the Quilliam statement and telling his followers: "Hope people listen to my reasons."

Quilliam said it hopes to encourage "his critique of Islamism as well as his concern with far-right extremism" and called on his EDL followers as well as leaders of extreme Islamist groups to quit.

Quilliam chairman Maajid Nawaz said: "We have been able to show that Britain stands together against extremism regardless of political views and hope to continue supporting Tommy and Kevin in their journey to counter Islamism and neo-Nazi extremism."

Quilliam was founded in 2008 by three former members of hardline Islamist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, which campaigns for the unification of Muslim countries under Sharia law.

It opposes Islamic extremism and has worked with government to oppose radicalisation of young Muslims - but has come under fire for "smearing" moderate Muslim groups and for receiving around £1m of public money in its early days.

The EDL started in response to a demonstration by Muslim extremists as soldiers marched through Luton.

It has become infamous for marches through UK towns and cities, often marred by violence as its members clashed with opposing groups such as Unite Against Fascism.

It is unclear whether the EDL's latest protest - scheduled for October 12 in Bradford - will still go ahead.

Home Affairs Select Committee chair Keith Vaz said: "Any resignation from the EDL is welcome. Mr Robinson and Mr Carroll have previously engaged, promoted and expounded extreme views.

"Leaving the organisation is an acceptance that their opinions incite hatred and their previous actions have unnecessarily cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds."