Last Word: All we have to be afraid of is fear itself

Emails from a member of the so-called anti-extremist English Defence League to our office this week made me ashamed of the town I was born in.

This person, who did not have the bravery to sign his name, other than to call himself ‘Stevenage man’ said the group were organising a march of up to 1500 members from the Stevenage council offices to the former White Horse pub in the Old Town.

Why? Because the Muslim Bangladeshi community in the town want to turn it into a centre for community activities and worship.

Now it turns out the EDL’s press officer knew nothing of this march - members would be gathering force to shout their abuse at Muslims in Dudley that day – but Stevenage Man insisted local members would get official backing and undertake the march on July 17.

He says this will be a peaceful protest. I hope, if it takes place, it is. But past evidence from EDL marches suggests otherwise - undercover and overt video from Luton, Birmingham and Manchester show a brutal gang of thugs chanting death threats against Muslims, clashing with anti-fascist groups and fighting police.

He says they are not racist, only against Islamic extremism. From the evidence this is a lie. They are extremists and should be opposed as strongly as any right-thinking person would oppose a suicide bomber who thinks he is doing God’s work.

A couple in South London who have had the audacity to let their children, aged eight and five, cycle a mile to school on their own have been told they will be reported to social services if they carry on.

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The headmaster of their school in leafy Dulwich has said it is irresponsible and has threatened action citing a legal responsibility to the welfare of his pupils.

What is going on here? Who is to blame for this ridiculous situation? Is it the school – fearful of government rules and regulations? Other parents for putting pressure on the school? The Government for putting obligations on schools to eliminate any possible risks?

Risk is a part of life. It is part of what makes us grow into reasonable adults. Are we so scared that we cannot let our children out on their own? Cannot let them be independent?

Before you ask, no I don’t have children. But I was a child, and I daily walked to and from infant school alone. My parents were not irresponsible, they trusted me enough to make it to class on time and come straight home and trusted society enough to leave me on my way.

Fear breeds mistrust, suspicion and anger and the very kind of insular, maladjusted society that those people who say they are trying to protect us fear.