| ||Edmund Standing (pictured), author of the Centre for Social Cohesion report on ‘The BNP and the Online Fascist Network’, reviewed by ENGAGE here, responds to criticisms leveled about the report’s downplaying of the BNP’s anti-Muslim racism in an article on eGovMonitor. |
‘In 2000, BNP leader (and now MEP) Nick Griffin stood before an audience of American 'white nationalists' and proposed that while he had no intention of 'selling out' the BNP's principles, he now wanted to 'sell' the party. So, he stated, the BNP would now use 'salable' words such as 'freedom' and 'democracy', and replace discourse about 'racial purity' with talk of 'identity'. In recent years, particularly following the 7/7 terrorist atrocities, the BNP has sought to align itself with what is loosely termed the 'anti-jihad movement' and to shift its focus from attacking Jews and black people to opposing 'Islamification'.
‘Recently, I have been accused by the usual suspects of not bothering to properly examine the BNP's anti-Islamic rhetoric because I don't take anti-Muslim bigotry seriously enough or don't really care about it. At worst, it has been implied that I am an anti-Muslim bigot myself or, to use the catchphrase, an 'Islamophobe'.
‘This approach indicates a complete failure in understanding of the true nature of the BNP's anti-Islam campaign, and the fact that writers who are supposedly anti-fascist should choose to attack a report aimed at exposing racism is disappointing to say the least. The reality is that Griffin and co don't really care about Islam. Griffin may be an odious figure, but he's not a complete idiot, and he knows very well that Britain is not on the verge of turning into an Islamic State.
‘Following his strategy for making the BNP electable, Griffin has tried to steer the party towards populist issues, picking up on fears and resentment among the electorate in an attempt to use such issues as a Trojan horse for his underlying racist agenda. The truth is that the BNP hates Muslims because they are predominantly brown skinned. In 'white nationalist' ideology, everything ultimately boils down to an obsession with race.
‘When it comes to Islam, the BNP hasn't exactly had to work hard to whip up anti-Muslim bigotry and paranoia about 'Islamification'. Looking at the scare stories on its website's news section, a large number of them are drawn straight from mainstream media sources, and the party is being greatly assisted by the grossly disproportionate coverage given in newspapers to the outrageous statements and provocations of Anjem Choudary and his motley crew of social misfits who go under a variety of names but are essentially Al-Muhajiroun. In hysterical report after report a tiny minority of bin Ladenist fanatics and fantasists have been presented as a serious threat to our society.
‘The fact is, of course, that while Al-Muhajiroun is a dangerous group with many links to terrorism, it represents only the tiniest handful of Muslims in Britain, not that you would know that given the amount of time Choudary gets in the media. So, when the BNP claimed in its European election material that it would 'ensure that British troops are not abused on the streets of our cities by Muslims', it was in particular cynically appealing to the concerns of those who get the majority of their understanding of the world from reading simplistic and hyped up tabloid stories.
‘It's not just a case of media scare stories, however. Another important factor that is undoubtedly greatly assisting the BNP in its promotion of anti-Muslim sentiment is the problem of largely self-appointed Muslim 'community leaders' and organisations and their very vocal and, to the majority of Britons, unreasonable lists of demands of how British society should change to accommodate what is presented as Islam and the 'rights' of Muslims.’
British Muslims have for many years campaigned for laws that would close the caveat in current race relations legislation that allows the BNP to provoke anti-Muslim sentiment with impunity because Muslims are not classified as a race. And while Standing is right to point out that much of the BNP’s anti-Muslim feed comes from mainstream newspaper articles, arguing that the BNP is merely posturing when it demonises Muslims ignores the very real consequences of the media’s contribution to this anti-Muslim bigotry. To say that the BNP is simply pushing whatever button is likely to provoke a sympathetic response, begs the question of why it works with anti-Muslim prejudice and why more isn’t being done to challenge it?
In part the problem lies with Standing’s remark on ‘self appointed community leaders’. Standing repeats the oft used ruse of critics of organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain; that they appoint themselves to represent Muslims, and make 'demands' that are 'unreasonable', thereby inviting the BNP's wrath. The truth, which Standing et al fail to acknowledge and face is that the MCB is not the ‘self appointed’ community cohesion obstructing organization that its critics like to portray it as. It is an organization borne of the desire of many British Muslims, and the myriad of local, regional and national organisations that are affiliated to the MCB attest to this, to develop a coherent, structured, national body to support the full integration of British Muslims into British society through, for example, challenging the rise of the far right and its explicit anti-Muslim discourse.
The MCB has partnered with anti-fascist organisations for a number of years now in raising awareness of the BNP threat to social harmony and the dangerous consequences of its anti-Muslim bias for British Muslim integration. In discounting the MCB’s contribution to these campaigns and the importance of its involvement in eradicating the ignorance and fear of Islam peddled by the BNP, Standing undermines an essential plank in the anti-fascist movement.
Sadly, by largely omitting mention of the BNP's anti-Muslim bigotry from the CfSC report, in treating the BNP’s anti-Muslim racism as transient, and in criticizing those organisations that are committed to challenging this racism in our media and politics as inviting Islamophobia through their own actions, Edmund Standing isn’t in much of a position to offer answers on confronting the BNP short of blaming Muslims and their 'demands' for ‘rights’.
Hat tip: Islamophobia Watch
|< Prev||Next >|