as a fig leaf for racism
BNP is now riding a broader wave of respectable Islamophobia
a BBC reporter infiltrated the British National Party by posing
as a football hooligan, he caught on camera several activists
admitting to violent assaults on Asians and repeatedly putting
excrement through the letterbox of an Asian family's home.
Six of the people he secretly filmed were arrested this week.
This appears to confirm the effectiveness of this hard-hitting
demolition of a party desperately seeking respectability.
however clear its exposure of repelling beliefs and values,
the documentary did not seek to address the reasons why 800,000
or so people voted for the BNP in the European elections.
What has made so many people ready to support the myth-makers
of "Britishness" under threat?
of the answer is obvious. Many of those unable to escape poor,
white communities have seen their status decline from working
class to underclass in one generation. The devastation of
the industrial base was scarcely less traumatic than its imposition
upon a wasting peasantry 200 years ago; and those left behind
are indeed victims of global forces over which they have no
control. The hatred of the stranger appears to give substance
to the existence of these forces: xenophobia readily sees
enemies in fellow-victims. And far from having been crushed
by the BBC programme, the BNP was permitted to achieve the
rarest of political breakthroughs: it was able to express
what many other people are thinking.
Islamophobia embraced by the BNP as a surrogate for its formally
disavowed racism is by no means confined to the wasted landscapes
of former working-class communities. It is deeply rooted and
Islamophobia is the only form of prejudice to which the middle
class can readily admit: a religion which is perceived as
advocating repression of women and hatred of gays renders
acceptable forms of prejudice that would be unthinkable if
directed against any other social group.
all "right-thinking" people have forsworn racism,
now believed to fester principally among the no-hopers on
rough estates. But Islamophobia is the half-open door through
which it makes its triumphal re-entry into respectable society.
In recent articles in the Sunday Telegraph, Will Cummins has
urged the Conservative party to espouse a more aggressive
stand against Islam. "Do the Tories not sense the enormous
popular groundswell against Islam? Charges of 'racism' would
inevitably be made, but they would never stick. It is the
black heart of Islam, not the black face, to which millions
this accounts for the extraordinarily easy time Newsnight's
Gavin Esler gave Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, after
the documentary was screened. Esler appeared stupefied by
Griffin. He failed to challenge him when he stated that one
of the "angry young men" in the documentary had
been "ethnically cleansed by elements of the young Muslim
community". Nor did he contest the demented assertion
that Islam spread through "the rape of non-Muslim women".
He let pass, too, remarks on "the progressive Islamification
of the west. The total destruction of our civilisation within
the next few decades" - a conspiracy theory that is emerging
out of the shadows of the far right into an increasingly turbid
mainstream: only this week the Spectator's cover story was
headlined The Muslims are Coming.
Blunkett's desire to protect people from the incitement of
hatred on the basis of religious belief is a recognition that
Islamophobia has become a refuge for racists. As Griffin was
quick to point out, even secular liberals increasingly define
"Britishness" in opposition to "medieval"
Islamic values. They feel comfortable condemning Muslims because
Islam is a religion, an adventitious rather than an ineradicable
attribute. Ignoring the shift in self-identification that
has taken place in recent years, and the fact that the overwhelming
majority of Muslims are non-white, liberals argue that being
Muslim is quite unlike ethnicity because people are free to
embrace religion or set it aside.
threat we now face is not simply the brutal behaviour of a
minority of poor white men, but the creeping acceptability
of the view that Islam itself represents a retrograde and
"primitive" kind of faith, which "we"
in our wisdom have outgrown.
which liberals are so proud of, is not the opposite of the
archaic superstition which they attribute to Islam. If we
want to compare civilisational flaws, we are looking for our
own in the wrong place. These occur in a quite different arena
from the repression of women and gays, and are located among
the injuries of excess that we have come to regard as normal;
and that includes the impoverishment visited upon millions
of people who thought they were working class, and woke up
one day to discover that they were only white trash after
Seabrook 's latest book is A World Growing Old. This article
was first published in The Guardian.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004