Quilliam versus the BNP

The Quilliam Foundation has released a report titled ‘In Defence of British Muslims: A Response to BNP racist propaganda‘. The paper aims to ‘highlight the weak nature of the arguments behind the BNP’s anti-Muslim campaign’. This is a crucial task, given the party’s recent success and the growing confidence of British fascists. UK far right terrorism is now regarded by experts as a threat comparable to Islamist terror. There has been a surge in violence and intimidation against antifascist activists. I suspect that what will emerge is a classical fascist two-tier organisation with Griffin with his suits and platitudes on the campaign trail on the top, and below him an ostensibly non-affiliated thuggish hardcore stamping out opposition at street level.

We obviously need all the ammunition we can get in the battle of ideas. Does Lucy James’s report provide it? Yes and no.

There is a lot of good stuff in the report. James begins with attacking the Eurabia conspiracy theory. Her key points: Muslims consist of only 3.3% of the UK population. France has the highest Muslim population in Europe – of 9.6% at the most generous estimate. There have been Muslim populations in Europe since the eighth century. Moreover, a Caliphate by the back door is unlikely when recent evidence suggests that most Muslims don’t want theocracy and, given the chance, will reject it:

Indonesia, for example, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world has, over the past decade, seen the increasing rise of secular Muslim parties at the expense of the Islamists.

James could easily have developed this line of argument further. David Thompson recalls a debate:

At some point, I made reference to migration and the marked tendency of families to move from Islamic societies to secular ones, and not the other way round. ‘This seems rather important,’ I suggested. ‘If you want to evaluate which society is preferred to another by any given group, migration patterns are an obvious yardstick to use.[‘]

This is key. If Muslims are abandoning the theocratic world for the godless decadent West, what does that say about Muslim support for theocracy? Why try to ‘Islamise’ Europe if you are running from an Islamised Middle East?

Let’s return to the Quilliam report. It gets a little disappointing. James attacks Griffin’s lies about British Muslims but she does this mainly in theological terms – pointing to examples of Quranic liberalism and so on – rather than dealing with the great contemporary lies about housing queues and distribution of resources used to successful effect by the BNP, its supporters and its apologists. We need to take those big lies on: we need a campaign that defends immigrants full stop, not just Muslims.

James’s introduction also dwells too heavily on possible countereffects of antifascist protest. I think it was stupid for UAF to egg Nick Griffin – it allowed him to pose as a free speech martyr – but to describe such protests as ‘thuggery and hooliganism’ is dubious at best and at worst a slur on good and brave activists. (Also, while I’m no fan of violence I wouldn’t lose half a second of sleep over the prospect of fascists getting a taste of ‘well-directed boots and fists’.)

When the BNP are active in an area, racist attacks increase. It’s important for those on the receiving end to know that democrats, liberals and socialists will stand with them physically as well as politically. As my Shiraz comrade echoed recently: no pasaran.


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