The BNP are using the public’s real fear of Islamism to attract support for their racist movement, says Melanie Phillips. If the political class wants to take on Griffin, it must first join the fight against Islamofascism
The frenzy over the participation of BNP leader Nick Griffin on Question Time this week has been a classic case of failing to identify the real elephant in the room. By fixating on the ‘far right’ as the supremely evil force in British public life, the mainstream political class has failed to grasp that a half-baked neo-Nazi rabble is not the main issue. There is another more lethal type of fascism on the march in the form of Islamic supremacism.
The Islamists, or jihadis, are intent upon snuffing out individual freedom and imposing a totalitarian regime of submission to religious dogma which erodes and then replaces British and Western values. Now these two types of fascism are doing battle with each other — and with the white working class and lower-middle classes caught between them. For it is the intense anger of these people with the fact that — as they see it — they are the ignored victims of the jihadis that is driving them into the arms of the BNP.
There are, of course, many factors fuelling BNP support. Most broadly, increasing numbers at the lower end of the social scale feel the mainstream parties are ignoring their most pressing concerns. Most of these anxieties involve British national identity: uncontrolled immigration, multiculturalism, the loss to the EU of Britain’s ability to govern itself. Most toxic of all, however, is the threat from Islamic supremacism and the concern of the disenfranchised white voters that the political establishment is supinely going along with the progressive Islamisation of Britain.
All around them they see the establishment responding to Islamist bullying with acts of appeasement. Jihadis parade on the streets threatening to behead infidels — but it is white objectors whose collars are felt by the police. The mainstream political parties are all petrified of saying anything about either the steady encroachment of Islam into Britain’s public space or the linked phenomenon of mass immigration.
So the BNP have been handed an extraordinary electoral advantage: it can tell voters that it is the only party prepared unequivocally to denounce such things. The rise of Nick Griffin is intimately related to the unchecked march of Islamism in Britain. The BNP is, in one sense, merely the other side of the jihadi coin.
It is highly relevant that Griffin is an MEP for North West England — and did not stand in the old National Front power base around London. His party’s new appeal is based on a new power base — the north-west and Yorkshire. Research by academics at Manchester University reveals that support for the BNP is highest in areas of high Pakistani and Bangladeshi concentration — but significantly, not where there are concentrations of Indians. Strikingly, BNP support actually falls away steeply in Afro-Caribbean areas.
So to try to damn the BNP as racist misses the point by a mile. Not that the accusation is untrue — despite its attempt to rebrand itself, the BNP remains a racist party with strong neo-Nazi overtones. But it attracts votes talking about religion and culture. Crucially, it is cynically using the Islamisation of Britain as cover for its animus against all Muslims and non-white people.
There are many British Muslims, after all, who are a threat to no one, who want to enjoy the benefits of a secular society and human rights and are themselves potential victims of Islamism and sharia law. But the BNP seeks to elide this distinction. It hates not just Islamism but all Muslims; indeed, it has seized upon the widespread concern over Islamic extremism to morph seamlessly from Paki-bashing into Muslim-bashing.
The fears it exploits are those of ordinary white folk in areas of high Muslim immigration who have watched the transformation of their neighbourhoods from communities of people like themselves into a landscape they no longer recognise. The voters the BNP are seeking are bewildered and distraught that no one in authority seems to notice or care — and that they are dismissed as ‘racists’ for expressing such concerns.
It is this asymmetry of anger which helps the BNP so much. Those who this week seemed to be risking an aneurysm over Griffin’s TV appearance either dismiss the jihadis as an exaggerated problem — or, on occasion, even march behind their incendiary and hate-driven banners. There is no Griffin-style outrage over the regular appearances in the media by the fanatics of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas supporters or Iranian-backed jihadis, even though they endorse terrorism and the extinction of human rights.
Liberal society cannot see them as a threat because, under the prevailing doctrines of multiculturalism and moral relativism, minorities can never be guilty of prejudice or bad deeds. Only the ‘far right’, it appears, can be racist. It is not hard to demonstrate that Islamism is a real and present danger not just to democracy, but to groups such as women, gays, Jews, apostates and liberal Muslims. Yet liberals appear to recognise fascism only if it has a white face.
To those at the bottom, who live outside the bubbles of wealth or ideology, the face of intolerance is all too easy to recognise. They can see the churches of Britain being steadily replaced by mosques, can no longer find a local butcher selling pork, or are being regularly intimidated by local youths declaring ‘this is a Muslim area’. They are in no doubt that they are watching the takeover of their country and civilisation.
Stories that attract little attention in the press loom large in the concerns of the BNP target voters. The priests in east London being beaten up by Muslim youths who shout racial and religious abuse. The councils that tear up the planning laws to accommodate the expansion of mosques or madrassas. These are the issues all but ignored by mainstream media and politicians.
As a result, the debate is allowed to descend into a clash of extremists. Last March, for example, Islamists demonstrated against a parade in Luton of Royal Anglian Regiment soldiers returning from Afghanistan. The jihadis were protected by the police, while the only people arrested that day were locals protesting at this provocation. That event led in turn to a demonstration in Birmingham last August by the self-styled anti-Islamists of the so-called English Defence League (EDL) and other groups.
The cycle continued. The EDL provoked a counter-protest organised by Unite Against Fascism and a day of violent disorder. Similar clashes have subsequently occurred in Luton, Birmingham and in Harrow — brawls invariably characterised in the media as between the ‘far right’ and ‘anti-fascists’.
This is where it gets messy. The so-called ‘anti-fascists’ include a number of Islamic fascists, not to mention far-left boot-boys. As for the ‘far right’, the EDL furiously protests that it has no connections with the BNP and stands against them. But one or two individuals in the EDL have been associated with the BNP in some form or other. Most tellingly of all, EDL leaders have admitted that it is opposed not only to Islamist extremism but to ‘all devout Muslims’ — a BNP-style pitch.
To our progressive elite, however, the credentials of such groups are irrelevant. In any street altercation like this, the anti-Islamist demonstrators must be aggressors and those who confront them must be either their victims or heroic anti-fascists.
The left has a blind spot when it comes to defining ‘fascism’. In its Manichaean way, it views everything that is not ‘left’ as ‘right-wing’, everything that is ‘right-wing 217; as evil and everything that is evil as ‘right-wing’. Fascists, therefore, are inescapably ‘the far right’. The left rest their own claim to moral virtue on their imagined historic role in fighting fascism. So they jump at any chance to wrap themselves in that heroic mantle.
Thus the Communities Secretary John Denham compared the EDL to Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts, who in 1936 were repulsed in the battle of Cable Street when they tried to take over London’s East End. ‘The tactic of trying to provoke a response in the hope of causing wider violence and mayhem is long established on the far right and among extremist groups,’ he said. This was as absurd as it was offensive.
The most alarming point was that Denham ignored the Islamist protests which inspired the EDL in the first place. This is the same John Denham who told a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference that there was a need for ‘critical engagement’ with lawful groups with whom one disagreed. Would Denham ‘critically engage’ with the BNP or EDL? Hardly. He’s apparently still fighting them at Cable Street.
But he would, it appears, engage with jihadis who endorse the Islamisation of Britain, death to gays and apostates, the destruction of Israel and the second-class status of women. It is this kind of cravenness and moral inversion that makes people despair of mainstream politicians and sends them towards the BNP.
Worse still, the label of the ‘far right’ toxifies everything it touches. There is now a real danger than anyone who opposes Islamic supremacism will find themselves vilified not only as ‘Islamophobes’ but also as BNP fellow-travellers. Such an intellectual atmosphere would leave liberals reluctant to speak out against Islamism. This would be the surest way to ensure that Nick Griffin is given access to a far greater audience than the million-odd voters he has so far attracted.
The tactics, for both the jihadis and the BNP, is clear. The Islamists have an incentive to provoke a violent reaction by white groups calling themselves names like English Defence League — simply in order to produce yet more demonisation of the anti-Islamists. In this way, the jihadis can establish control of an area as they become untouchable — and the fortunes of Nick Griffin and the Muslims he despises become inextricably intertwined. When these groups are left alone to fight each other, they both win.
This poses a grave challenge to liberals. If they absent themselves from this fray, the battle lines over the survival of Western freedoms will be drawn between the neo-fascists and the Islamofascists. At a time when there is such contempt for our established political parties, this is a fearsome prospect. As such disorder grows more violent, all minorities will be caught in the firing line, and society risks lurching into ever more panic-driven and repressive measures. And the wedge driven into the ranks of the defenders of the West makes the Islamists’ eventual victory more likely.
There is already a huge fissure among anti-Islamists over whether or not to ally with European neo-fascists. Since liberals are either silent, or even aligning with the jihadis on the grounds that ‘we are all Hezbollah now’ and turning instead upon the pivotal victim in this civilisational war, Israel, some anti-Islamists say that allying with neo-fascist groups is a no-brainer, because ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’.
But this is a highly dangerous course. Islamic fascism must be fought to defend Western values of freedom, democracy and tolerance. This cannot be done in an alliance with white neo-fascists bent on their negation. Sometimes, my enemy’s enemy is also my enemy.
This is why all decent people must join in the fight against Islamic supremacism. Support for the BNP would plummet if the political mainstream were to limit immigration, denounce cultural Islamic imperialism and refuse to give one inch to sharia law, saying no to polygamy, sharia finance, sharia courts and all attempts to set up a parallel Islamic society in Britain.
Freedom can only be protected if its defenders are united. But with Britain’s collective brain turned to multicultural jelly, liberals are refusing to acknowledge the civilisational battle now under way and gathering pace. The obsession with the ‘far right’ has cemented progressive opinion into its current lethal state of cultural somnambulism. Liberals must raise their eyes, raise their game and ask where this is leading. For there is far worse on the horizon than a nasty man on Question Time.