They see themselves as the vanguard in a battle for the soul of Britain against extremist Islamist forces — the "enemy within" bent on imposing Sharia. Casuals United announced their arrival on Saturday when a small army of shirt-sleeved, middle-aged men with beer bellies clashed in a flurry of punches and kicks with young Asians in Birmingham city centre.
The group, which is closely affiliated with the far-right English Defence League, insists that it is a peaceful movement representing ordinary working people angered by the sight of Muslims hurling insults at British soldiers on homecoming parades. But if the chants of "England, England" and the aggressive posturing appear familiar, it is because they are.
The members of Casuals United are largely former football hooligans drawn from the terraces and, according to their critics, are essentially the BNP and National Front repackaged. The groupings have attracted the support of BNP activists including Chris Renton, who created the English Defence League website.