Salma Yaqoob: Tackling the ‘cancer’ of BNP fascism

Nick Griffin: the leader of the BNP has admitted defeat after failing to find enough far-Right allies to form a new bloc in the European Parliament

Nick Griffin: the leader of the BNP has admitted defeat after failing to find enough far-Right allies to form a new bloc in the European Parliament

The election of two BNP MEPs has removed the cover on a political sewer that should have been sealed for all time. Nick Griffin, a man with a history of anti-Semitism and holocaust denial, now calls for “chemotherapy” against the Islamic “cancer” in Europe (1). The echoes of the past are deliberate. The choice of words is chilling.

Griffin’s election has given the BNP unprecedented access to the media, and he is using it to promote the most vicious racism. His genocidal rantings towards Muslims followed his call (2) for the sinking of ships carrying migrants from Africa to Europe – in other words the premeditated murder of men, women and children on a desperate voyage to escape poverty and oppression.

We should remind ourselves that almost 1 million people voted for the BNP in the European Elections. If there is a cancer in Europe, then it is the cancer of racism. Yet the response from the political establishment to Griffin’s remarks has, so far, been less than overwhelming.

Defensiveness and political compromise has marked the response of mainstream parties to the rise of the BNP. It should be clear enough by now. This is not a temporary blip before we return to business as usual. Ignoring the BNP or playing down their successes will not make them go away. It is time for the anti-fascist movement to go on the offensive.

Griffin’s Nazi-style outbursts cannot be dismissed as an irrelevant excess by a marginal figure. He knows what he is doing. He wants to make legitimate what was once illegitimate. He aims to shift the centre of gravity of political debate sharply to the right. He knows that his more extreme rhetoric is in tune with his party’s membership, and large swathes of his voters. But he also knows that every time mainstream politicians bend to his agenda in an attempt to occupy ground he is staking out, that the racist argument is strengthened.

It is a pattern we have seen all too frequently in recent years. Faced with a rise in racism, politicians seek to ride both horses at once: deploring racism while conceding ever more political ground to the far right.

Isn’t this exactly what Gordon Brown was doing when he called for “local homes for local people”? (3). Concerns about housing are undoubtedly genuine. There are too few affordable homes. But that is because successive governments have relied on the market to provide what it patently cannot do. What should be done is to tackle this policy failure, which would provide affordable homes for all those in need. Furthermore, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has revealed that 9 out of 10 social housing residents were born in Britain, giving a lie to the BNP myths bout “local people” losing out to immigrants and asylum seekers (4). Instead of focusing on these realities, voters are told that their prejudices are justified and that the government will do what the BNP cannot. It is a tactic that is both cynical and ineffective.

Let us be clear. The response to Griffins call to “sink the boats” cannot be one of pledging to do everything possible to keep out immigrants short of launching missiles at defenceless people. His call for “chemotherapy” against Muslims must be met with robust challenge, and not by conceding that fears of Islam in Europe are justified. The alternative is to accept that ever more extreme and dangerous fascist rhetoric will define the nature of political debate in our society.

Those who promote fear and hatred of African immigrants knocking at our door, or of the Muslims already within the gates of Europe, have to be openly and directly confronted. Their arguments have to be dealt with head on.

It is not legitimate to blame migrants or refugees for the recession. They were not the ones who became rich beyond anyone’s dreams while gambling away our economy. It is not legitimate to blame immigrants for rising unemployment. They did not close our factories and devastate our manufacturing base. It is not legitimate to blame ‘outsiders’ for the housing crisis (5). They are not the ones who passed legislation that strangled the ability of local councils to build new housing on the scale we need.

And it is not legitimate to scapegoat Muslims, who represent just 3% of the population, for any supposed threat to British identity. The recent Gallup poll on Muslim integration (6) revealed that while only half the UK population very strongly identifies with being British, 77% of Muslims did so. And only 17% of British Muslims wanted to live in an area consisting mostly of people of the same religious and ethnic background as themselves, compared to 33% of the population as a whole.

This is the positive side of our multicultural society. Being ‘different’ is not a sign of alienation from society as a whole. Yet while Muslims increasingly identify with Britain and value its mix of people and faiths, more and more people conclude that Muslims are a breed apart. There is a gulf between the reality of our lives and the perception that is created by a constant stream of horror stories.

Today, it is anti-Muslim racism that is at the cutting edge of the fascist strategy. It is effective because it feeds on the suspicion and prejudice that is the theme of so much mainstream discussion of our lives as British Muslims.

Its consequences are real. Already, there are signs that attacks on mosques and individual Muslims may be rising (7). The police are warning of the danger of far-right terrorism (8). And, earlier this month we saw an openly racist provocation in Birmingham city centre, under the guise of a protest against “Islamic extremism” – a label that the organiser made clear applied to all Muslims (9).

We, as British Muslims, have a direct and immediate interest in defeating this fascist threat. The anti-fascist movement must reach out to Muslim communities who are at the sharp end of BNP attacks. But the rise in racism is not only a threat to Muslims. The BNP may be playing down their anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism in order to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of society. But to the BNP we are all “racial foreigners”, (10) our very existence as British people denied.

We have to not only unite all those targeted by the BNP, with every possible ally who rejects racism and fascism. We have to also positively assert our multicultural and pluralist society. It is a message of hope that is in tune in an increasingly interconnected world. It is a source of strength and vibrancy. We are one society and many cultures. And we will only remain so if we are prepared to stand up and be counted.

Salma Yaqoob is councillor for Birmingham Sparkbrook, Leader of the Respect party and chair of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition.

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19 responses to this post.

  1. The BNP have this filthy racist doctrine against Islam and people who they consider not to be British well i have news for them the BNP , I am a Muslim and i also happen to be a white British male so where does that leave me in all of this? The BNP are nothing but a bunch of Nazis who want to make war and control people through white supremacy! Now is the time that we as British people make a stand against the BNp and have them closed down for Good! We should write to all our Mps and also we should make public through peaceful means such as protests to make our voice heard!

    One love Celt Islam

    Reply

  2. Posted by Jill on July 16, 2009 at 15:52

    If you read properly whats being said youll see the facts.Its not at all as youre saying.Im not with the BNP im not racist but i do think their immigration issue is a good one.Its what we need.No matter of your colour or religion.People who live here British citizens are British.You say your a white Muslim.Well then wheres the problem? The issue isnt with Muslims,black,white.brown,yellow.Its about keeping Britain British.Can you understand that?Theres no vendetta against people.Except the BNP.Its the media web sites and the politicians that have created this.Where i live our MP is an Asian Muslim man.His policies are to leave the EU and to stop immigration.Now how would you work that one out with the lines youre thinking on?Yes there are lots of Asians and other cultures here in Britain,If they are British then they have the right to be here.They are talking about the large number of immigrants being allowed in via the EU.Which is growing and growing.Our government have an open door policy.We cant continue to accept all these people,for all our sakes,that means all of us.Christians,Catholics,Muslims,Jews etc.Dont be wound up by it all its propaganda.UKIP and UAF are worse and have the backing of david Cameron.I think your voices are being heard loud and clear dont you.There is so much hate being generated its not good for anyone.The media are pushing people into a panic.Step back and think.What harm can 2 MEP’s do anyway.You know they were democratically elected and the people have put them where they are so theres nothing you or i can do about it.They have the right to represent the people that elected them.How can you even talk about closing down the BNP thats impossible.Theyre legally there.What if people didnt like your policies and tried to close your Mosques or centres down.They dont want to make war either.My yur way off line with your comments.Id read up properly if i were you.Your attitude is whats causing all the hate thats going around.

    Reply

  3. Posted by James on July 16, 2009 at 17:21

    How dare the BNP refer to Islam and Muslims as a ‘cancer’. I don’t like the BNP as a party because they are just there for one thing, causing hate.

    They mask it behind concern for Britain, its immigration situation and the European Union. Immigration in Britain isn’t even as open as in other parts of Europe, we take in less people than other European states and we have huge vast plots of land in this country run by rich fat cats who have so many tax loopholes it’s chocking!

    All of this land is just used for making the rich richer and the poor poorer. People only occupy a small part of Britain so we’re not filling up at all!

    I don’t think we should let anyone in but I don’t think we should take it out on any particular race or religion. Most Eastern Europeans care Catholics anyay so it’s pure BNP proaganda.

    Plus, what if the Spanish told all of our ex-pats to leave their retirement villa sand homes on the Spanish coast, we wouldn’t like it yet we treat others who are in genuine need with contempt.

    Reply

  4. Jill what does it mean to be British?

    Half my family are of mixed heritage who are not white but that doesnt make them any less british, British does not mean being white and christain , those days went decades ago dear.

    The Bnp are anti Islam period!

    Reply

  5. Posted by Shaun G on July 16, 2009 at 17:23

    Jill, I don’t agree with some of your comments. Your concerns are fair and it’s good you don’t support or vote for the BNP but you can’t accuse Salma of being way off!

    The sources for all of the facts she made are from reputable sources and featured in articles from mainstream newspapers, she didn’t pull them out of thin air!

    Go back through the article and read each of the inserted links.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Jill on July 16, 2009 at 19:11

    celt islam,dont dear me. i never said that so dont be making out ok.You know just as well as i do what British is.I DIDNT say white did i.Youre so fixed in your perception you wont even try will you.So youre mixed race big deal.I dont care if you dont.Colour and religion means nothing here.Its about belonging being proud of your heritage.Etc.Surely you know all this its not rocket science dear its obvious.
    A British Citizen born here live here or has a British passport etc.Contributing to the country.

    Reply

    • Posted by Lida on July 17, 2009 at 14:12

      It might be a good idea to check out exactly how many muslims are in highly skilled and professional jobs in the UK, contributing not only vast amounts in tax and NI but also to the nation. You can be white, British, muslim and very pleased to be living here. Look at the statistics of long term unemployed – sometimes generations of the same family and very very white and British.

      Reply

  7. Posted by Jill on July 16, 2009 at 19:15

    Shaun G i accused celt of being way off because of saying that they want war and stupid comments like that.How can we all get along when people are coming out with such silly comments.All its doing is winding people up and causing more hate and tension.
    Make a stand against the BNP and have them closed down.Thats not a stated fact thats a silly comment.

    Reply

  8. Posted by Paula on July 16, 2009 at 19:43

    Well well well…what a mix of responses.
    BNP are still just the old national front in a new suit. I can’t abide their principles at all!. I grew up in a particularly turbulant in the north west of England, where as a school child I witnessed many race riots on my streets. At that time us kids were actively recruited to stand againt nazis…Skool kids against Nazi’s – anyone remember them? I say this to let others know I have experience of living in densely populated areas with an enormous array of differing cultures. To me it was the norm. For many, it still is.

    My point here is that no matter what my opinion of BNP might be; they were voted in! Maybe they fed on peoples fears – or maybe some believe the BNP actually listen? SOMEONE has to! All arguments aside, some people in the UK really do need to find a way to express their fear without being branded racist. People DO feel disenfranchised, aliens in their own country, ‘our’ culture erroding, our family values disappearing and so on….
    Why can’t England have its own representation in govt? Much the same as the Welsh and Scots do? Who protects the English interest above the national interest in this way? The dept of Culture, Media and Sport? People ARE concerned about a loss of traditional English values – not just by the rubbish the read in our national ‘news’ papers, but also from what they see on their streets and know to be the case.

    Apologies if this is poorly expressed. Time and tide wait for no man and I need to get on with my evening.

    Reply

  9. The Filthy Racist BNP have nothing to offer , the sooner they are closed down and outlawed the better. I thought the world had been taught a lesson from Hitler and his racist facist ideology hummm seems like some dumb people cannot see the wood for the trees here lol.

    Jill the bnp are nothing but racists who want to remove all people from Uk they consider none british plus the fact that also have a long list of members who are C18 who have criminal records for racial abuse and racist attacks , these people are nothing but thugs who fuelled with beer culture and braindead footballism and thats putting it light lol.

    I am against any form of racism or predudice and in my humble opinon i believe that such racist political parties should not be allowed to exist .

    I suggest you watch this and tell me that the bnp are not racists : BNP Exposed – The Secret Agent (BBC)

    Reply

  10. Posted by Matthew Brent on July 16, 2009 at 22:29

    I agree with you Jill that people should put their British heritage first but isn’t British heritage made up by and crated by the people who live in this country?

    Isn’t British heritage the evolution of our cultural, social and traditional norms? These will keep changing. If we agree that all upstanding citizens are british then theeir culture and languages and ideas are now a part of Britain and will evolve to make our future heritage. Therefore, protecting and respecting our heritage isn’t about trying to return to a pre-1940s Britain.

    Our heritage is what we make it and what it has become. All the things we traditionally class as ‘British’ came from other cultures and countries or were created over time using external and ethnic influences of migrants etc.

    Therefore, the BNP trying to suggest our culture is being eroded don’t really have a point at all…

    Reply

  11. Posted by Joshua on July 16, 2009 at 22:36

    i agree matthew, our culture a heritage comes from all over so we should embrace the change and accept it. we can’t hate poeple for simply being different. that’s not a ‘threat’.

    a threat is criminal activity.

    fish and chips became a national dish despite only being a popular food amongst fishing working class folk in britian in the 19th century. the Balti has become a part of our national heritage after becoming a common restaurant dish in the 20th century. Nearly all of our national dishes are influenced by ethnic and other foods.

    We have all accepted a German family as the precursors to our Royal Family of today and we have accepted foreign workers and settlers to contribute and make up our history throughout time so we shouldn’t expect people to be British or else. We are britain, they are britain and whatever we are is and becomes ‘being British’.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Jill on July 16, 2009 at 23:24

    Matthew thats what i am saying.I believe that. All i am saying is that we must keep our identity.By that no way do i mean get rid of people that arent white or who are of another religion to Christianity.I have many friends from different cultures.I strongly believe that we are going to loose our identity if the country is flooded.There are new countries all the time joining the EU.Our government seems to have an open door policy and were just not big enough to take them all in.
    The BNP are the only party that are saying what 1,000,000 people are thinking.No way am i a racist,surely the people living here who are British even though they may not be as i am belong as much as i do.They must have concerns too .I mean absolutely no one any harm or ill feeling.I just think that we all must look after our country.Its time to put our selves first for once.That means all of us regardless of colour religion etc.We all want the best for the same reasons surely.

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  13. Posted by Jill on July 16, 2009 at 23:29

    Hopefully the BNP getting the 2 seats will shake up the government.make them realise they cant thieve from us and ignore our concerns.Yes different cultures bring diversity.How much can we accept from other countries.You see if the new countries joining the EU wish to come over here they will be welcomed which is only right.Numbers should be limited and people let in that have something they can offer to contribute to our society.The numbers can be cut down instead of an open door we cant carry n that way.Its common sense surely.

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  14. This issue Jill is not really about the numbers of imigrants coming into the UK and the Bnp havin the only voice of the imigration problems this issue is about the Bnp being nazis and anti Islam.

    Ask this queston to yourself with sincerity, what does the Bnop think of Muslims and Islam?

    What does Nick Griffin think of the Qur’an?

    and one more! what constitutes a true british person in the eyes of the Bnp?

    Jill you say you want the best for this Little Britain we happen to live in yes? so why would anyone want to vote in a white supremacist racist party such as the Bnp?

    I tell you this for nothing lol The bnp and its voters are a prime example of racism in UK and that the Uk is still full of racists and this i find a problem which must be dealt with.

    Uk still has far too many racists and biggots and this is all down to ignorance and lack of serious education plus the fact that some people think of themselves superior to others hence why most Bnp members are riddled with Nazi ideologies and criminal offences for racist crimes .

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  15. Posted by Zahid on July 17, 2009 at 20:23

    til y’day it was anti-semitism, anti-blacks. now it’s anti-islam. what’s in store for tomorrow? a dangerous trend i must say. i’m not a british, i dont live there. But that doesn’t mean i’ve no right to comment. it’s a global issue, islamophobe is no myth, be it in india, Europe or US. I read somewhere keeping the identity alive, let me ask you what’s an identity of any use when there’s no humanity left? why let boundaries define feelings? why cant we see the world as a unified humanity? everyone has a point to comment on terrorism, but none goes to extend why did terrorism exist in the first place. a wise man said “two wrongs doesn’t make a right” , it’s not bombs that will thwart terrorism, to stop terrorism we should stop feeding it with reasons!! everybody wants peace. but malcolm x said it better “You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom”.

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  16. Posted by Zahid "let's not trade humanity for patriotism" on July 18, 2009 at 08:43

    it was anti-blacks and anti semitism, today it’s anti-islam. what it would be tomorrow i’ve no idea whatsoever. am not a british, nor do i live in britain, yet i think it’s necessary to comment on it, because it’s a global issue. I come from a country where the british exploited it for more than 200 yrs! so is that the heritage every british is supposed to be proud of? or is it the total 700 yrs of occupation and subjugation carried out by the british empire? or is it the recent exploits in the countries where they dint have the authority to kill hundreds of thousands of people? no my friend, heritage has no place in this world, cos it’s all flawed and its a shame! let patriotism not make you blind at what is wrong! to add, two wrongs doesnt make a right! if yer still not at terms with it, jus think as it a payback time!!

    Reply

  17. Posted by Sally on August 12, 2009 at 11:22

    You’ve been suckered!

    Image – the true face of the UAF – thugs attacking innocent white people.

    This letter below says it all.

    Finally a decent (ex) member of the UAF who has seen the light, that the aim of the UAF is to increase racial tension so it can profit from racial violence it incites and then use that racial violence as justification for its own pernicious existence.

    No doubt this poor guy will now be targeted by the thugs of the UAF, abused and attacked for his bravery and honesty.

    http://www.birminghampost.net/comment/letters-to-the-editor/2009/08/11/uaf-protester-sorry-rally-got-out-of-hand-in-birmingham-65233-24365332/

    UAF protester ‘sorry’ rally got out of hand in Birmingham

    Aug 11 2009 Birmingham Post
    Comment (1)
    Recommend

    Dear Editor, I would like to start by apologising to the people of Birmingham for the events of Saturday evening which I am highly ashamed to have been a part of. However, as a moderate who took part in the UAF protest I would like to set the record straight.

    I, like the vast majority of people in Birmingham love the fact that our city is so diverse and vibrant. I felt that this was worth defending, especially from a bunch of trouble makers many of whom were from outside the city.

    Unfortunately it turned out the UAF were no more interested in our community than the racists many of us turned out to oppose!

    The young Muslims who rampaged through the city streets were incited to violence by UAF activists. I was near the front of the rally in Rotunda Square and I saw how they worked and I saw how it got out of hand.

    The UAF should have switched rhetoric when they saw that the young Muslims were getting restless and angry. Instead what they did was get increasingly aggressive speakers to talk about ‘smashing the BNP’ (who not directly involved with the protest) whilst sending agitators into the crowd, with megaphones, to whip up anger there.

    Only a few members of the Socialist Workers party, some trade unionists and a few moderate Muslim blokes who had been recruited as marshals on the day, remained to help the Police calm the riot.

    I would like to commend the West Midlands Police Force for their sensitive handling of the protest and us protesters during what was a very difficult situation.

    However, the ten or so members of the Muslim community who stayed with the protest whilst it was settled are the true unsung heroes of the sad event.

    I never got to know their names, however, I am very proud to have worked with them in defusing the tensions that built up between rioters and Police. A true example of why our city is great.

    As to the UAF well, I don’t mind announcing that I will never join one of their protests again. Once again I can only say how sorry I am that it all got so out of hand. If we had known how it would turn out then I’m sure a lot of protesters would have stayed home.

    The UAF has achieved nothing except to create racial tensions were non existed before.

    Yours in penance,

    Josh Allen, Bournville

    Reply

  18. Posted by felicia on October 4, 2009 at 21:06

    British heritage? The only heritage the British have is everything they have stolen from the world, and killing lives to obtain. Or have they forgotten that?

    Reply

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