Tommy Robinson and deputy Kevin Carroll quit far right group

The leader of the English Defence League, Tommy Robinson, has announced he is leaving the organisation, saying it has become too extreme and its street protests are no longer effective.

Robinson, who led anti-Islam demonstrations that often turned violent and were marked by racist chanting, said he had not changed his views but realised Islamist ideology should be challenged “not with violence but with better, democratic ideas”.

Robinson, who set up the EDL in 2009 ostensibly to combat extreme Islamism in the UK, is facing criminal charges in relation to his activities with the group. The 30-year-old from Luton, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, said: “I have been considering this move for a long time because I recognise that, though street demonstrations have brought us to this point, they are no longer productive. I acknowledge the dangers of far-right extremism and the ongoing need to counter Islamist ideology not with violence but with better, democratic ideas.”

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