The significance of the far right should not be "overplayed" after clashes between anti-Islamic groups and Asian youths, the head of Scotland Yard warned on Thursday.
Far-right protests in Birmingham, Luton and Harrow had caused distress to Muslim communities, said Sir Paul Stephenson, commissioner of the Metropolitan police, "and I anticipate further problems".
But he said: "We've got to be very careful to keep the problem in context and not to overplay [the far right's] significance and give them an oxygen that serves their purpose."
Sir Paul told the Metropolitan Police Authority the EDL and Stop the Islamisation of Europe were not viewed as extreme rightwing groups and could not be barred from protesting under the law that bans incitement to racial hatred.
What Stephenson told the MPA, in response to a question about the SIOE/EDL demonstration against Harrow Central Mosque, was that the EDL "per se are not viewed as an extreme right wing group in the accepted sense and have the right to protest".