Last weekend the BNP’s annual shindig ‘Red, White and Blue’ took place in a small town in Derbyshire. Reports said that the number of attendees was only marginally more than the number of anti-fascist protesters who congregated outside the gate. Unfortunately, these anti-BNP protesters soon became violent – leading to a total of 19 protesters being arrested. Although it is good to see ordinary people protesting against the BNP, such protests become ineffective when they descend into thuggery and hooliganism. Just a week earlier, for example, violent clashes erupted between the English Defence League and Unite Against Fascism in Birmingham, leading to bottles, sticks and banners thrown, and brought police in riot gear onto the streets. This ended up actually boosting the BNP after the Daily Mail and other papers ran full-page pictures of Asian youths attacking white protesters.
Violence is not the answer to countering the BNP. The BNP is best opposed through a systematic deconstruction of their slurs against ethnic and religious minorities. In a paper entitled In Defence of British Muslims: A response to BNP racist propaganda [pdf], I aimed to do just that. Since about 2006, particularly post-7/7, the BNP has consciously changed their rhetoric from being anti-Asian, -Black and -Jewish, to being ardently anti-Muslim. Released last week, the paper takes 10 of the key accusations thrown against Islam and British Muslims by the BNP, and points out their intellectual inconsistencies and factual weaknesses. Rather than simply dismissing the BNP’s ideology as racist or bigoted (an approach which the BNP’s steady popularity proves is not working), there needs to be a greater focus on intellectually undermining and countering their arguments.
This is not particularly taxing. Griffin’s broad argument is that Islam is an ‘efficient imperialistic machine’ with a ‘conscious and deliberate plan’ to take-over, Islamify and install an Islamic state in Europe. Such arguments are easily undermined using proper statistics, and historical and textual evidence. For example, given that Muslims constitute roughly 3.3% of Britain’s entire population (according to government estimates in 2008) it seems somewhat unlikely that the UK is going to witness an Islamic takeover. Without directly countering these arguments we risk these ideas taking root in segments of British society that already feel abandoned by politicians and mainstream society.
This intellectual battle needs to take place at all levels of society. In terms of the specific allegations against Islam, this needs to be done by the Muslim communities themselves, as well as by the British politicians who claim to represent them. The British MEPs’ recent shunning of Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons in the European Parliament is certainly a step in the right direction, but we also need a simultaneous breakdown of their arguments. Nick Clegg’s description of the BNP as ‘a party of thugs’ or David Cameron’s statement that he was ‘sickened’ by their EU election success will not alone persuade people not to vote BNP.
This is why I welcomed the contribution by representatives of each of the three main political parties in the foreword to this paper: a united political front intellectually ousting the BNP from the mainstream politics of this country. Jon Cruddas, Labour MP for Dagenham, wrote that ‘the political class has recoiled in shock and indignation following the BNP’s recent electoral successes, yet has failed to confront the way they demonise British Muslims … Because of this vacuum the BNP have been able to focus on an extremist Islamism as being representative of the views of all Muslims.’ It is time that British politicians, the Muslim communities and British society at large start responding more thoughtfully to the racist propaganda of the BNP or else face terrifying (and increasingly violent) consequences.
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