Quilliam versus the BNP

August 18, 2009 at 6:45 pm (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, immigration, Max Dunbar)

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.

19 Comments

  1. charliethechulo said,

    Whatever the shortcomings of the Quliiam Foundation, it is most cetainly a m illion miles in advance of its pro-Islamist detracters, like the piece of upper-class Stalinist shit Milne:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/jul/17/islam.race

  2. Posts about racism (best posts combined for review) as of August 18, 2009 | Discrimination Law News said,

    […] credit to his name. Blomkamp was born in the setting of District 9, Johannesburg, South Africa . Quilliam versus the BNP – shirazsocialist.wordpress.com 08/18/2009 The Quilliam Foundation has released a report […]

  3. Rosie said,

    Interesting report. I have a gut feeling that the BNP are banging the anti-Muslim drum and going light on the usual enemies of white supremacy, Jews & blacks & Asians in general, because of the hostile and extensive coverage that Islamism and Muslims too receive in papers like the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail. Both those papers disapprove of the BNP, but both of them run massive articles about Anjem Choudary, for instance, way out of proportion of his influence and the number of his followers. In fact, Left groupuscules should feel pissed off that they get far less coverage than he does. Non-stories, often completely fabricated, about Muslims protesting about The Three Little Pigs, get wide coverage. All of this creates a climate, and the BNP are taking advantage of it.

    Re the egging of Nick Griffin – there was a satirical report on something like Saturday Live in the USA about the BNP getting Euro seats. When the presenter said sarcastically, And we see how popular Nick Griffin is in Britain, on the footage you saw the eggs being chucked and heard the voice saying, Fuck off Nazi Scum, I felt pretty pleased with the egg-chucking heckler for saving a scrap of national honour in that way.

  4. SimonH said,

    Very good article.

    I think we need to recognise that the majority of immigration is motivated by economics and not flights from theocracy. China has recently seen a marked increase in immigration; does this suddenly mean people are fond of human rights abuses and totalitarian state control?

    The resurgence of fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East could be seen as a reaction to Western imperialism and economic misery.

    I think it correct to expose the obvious lies of the right, by pointing out the population stats etc but that, on its own, plays the BNP game. We should also point out that even if Muslims constituted 50% of the population, so what?

    I also think the tactic of confronting the fascists on the street is spot on.

  5. Rosie said,

    The resurgence of fundamentalist Islam in the Middle East could be seen as a reaction to Western imperialism and economic misery.

    So why do we get it here, then? Or why does Indonesia get it?

  6. maxdunbar said,

    Charlie

    Yeah, Quilliam as a whole are worth supporting.

    Simon

    I think we need to recognise that the majority of immigration is motivated by economics and not flights from theocracy.

    Possibly ‘theocracy’ is too specific. I’ve worked with people who were running from war zones, people running because they had been targeted by the authorities in their home countries. In my experience, and from the NCADC case studies I’ve read, most asylum claimants are running from serious trouble, not because of economics.

  7. Laban Tall said,

    I’ve heard some interesting ‘nothing to see here’ arguments recently, but the ‘they wouldn’t leave if they liked the religion so much’ argument has at least originality, if nothing else, to recommend it.

    Peru, Brazil, Mexico,Virginia, 1580 :

    “This is key. If Christians are abandoning the theocratic world for the infidel West, what does that say about Christian support for theocracy? Why try to ‘Christianise’ the American continent if you are running from a Christianised Europe?”

    I think you should all take a look at this review of race relations in Bradford, UK, produced a few months before the riots :

    There are three other areas for concern. They cannot be definitely proven but there are growing indications that they are real. They are the desire for Muslim only areas, the change in attitude from immigrant to colonist and the apparent collapse of family control over their young men.

    Not all Muslims in Bradford want Muslim only areas. Traders, retailers, restaurant owners want and need a broad-based custom profile. However, there is a drive amongst the mosque-attending older generation who would like sharia areas. There is also the minority of highly disaffected young men who want to control their patches. These two opposite ends of the spectrum desire the same thing albeit for different reasons and it is likely that they will support each other in order to attain their goals.

    The second issue relates to the first. It is less easy to pinpoint but evidenced by ways of life. The first generation of immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh came here as “immigrants”. They came expecting and wanting to integrate to some extent into the existing community. The collection of photographs taken of the first generation by the photographic studio in Manningham Lane illustrates this. The first week’s wages went on a Burtons suit and the men proudly displayed watches, pens and radios, mostly supplied by the photographer.

    Immigrants come to a country expecting to change their lifestyles. They can and often do maintain key elements of their culture for generations, particularly their religion, but in many ways they adopt the dominant culture in such aspects as work, dress, leisure, housing and family composition… this process seems to be thrown into reverse in Bradford. The Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities now expect to recreate the environment of their country of origin. They have settled in village patterns which reflect their origins and they constantly reinforce this by bringing in new members from the country of origin. This, in turn, leads to spatial and social immobility, communities which are internalised on themselves and are relatively self-sufficient in social and cultural terms although reliant in many ways on the economic and government resourced infrastructure.

    And re the numbers. I think you’ll find that at around 4 children per female for ethnic Pakistanis and 4.7 for Bangladeshis (ONS figures here – page 14) you’re better off with the “even if Muslims constituted 50% of the population, so what?” argument – one I’m sure we’ll hear more of. Keith Ajegbo’s government report of late 2006 estimated that within 10 years 15% of the workforce would be Muslim. Not that numbers are everything. The Muslim population of Burnley and Bradford respectively at the time of the riots was less than 8% and 15% – not a massive percentage. The real key stat was that half were under 18.

    One question – serious one. I’m presuming that “when the BNP are active in an area, racist attacks increase”, which I’ve more often seen in a “when the BNP get a high vote in an area, racist attacks increase” variant, is a liberal myth in the style of the “thousands of women who died from back-street abortion before 1967” myth – i.e. no statistics to back it up.

    Always willing to be proved wrong – are there any such stats ?

  8. Laban Tall said,

    PS – I’m not a follower of the Eurabian thesis, but in your haste to diss it you’re going too much in the other, ‘nothing to see here’ direction. In fact I think an increasing Muslim population may have some benefits, although they may accrue mostly to Muslims:

    I can’t see mixed secondary education surviving the next 20 years in places like Manchester, where there are already pressures for single sex schools. Sex education will vanish likewise – after all, Pakistanis have the lowest rate of STI infections and I’m pretty sure it’s not because of all that excellent sex ed, but because of ‘the role of cultural norms regarding issues such as multiple partners and the age of losing one’s virginity, with the substantially older age of first intercourse and lower number of partners among Indians and Pakistanis coinciding with low STI rates.’

  9. Edwin Greenwood said,

    When the BNP are active in an area, racist attacks increase.

    I’ve never seen any but the flimsiest of anecdotal evidence presented for this assertion.

    But let’s assume it is correct. Does the very presence of the BNP incite racism, as you seem to imply? Or does the pre-existing presence of racial tensions in a locality make support for the BNP an attractive resort for those of the White population who feel — rightly or wrongly — aggrieved.

    I think we have a horse-and-cart situation here.

  10. socialrepublican said,

    I’ve nowt to add particularly on the BNP, but in Stormman’s Eurofascism, he does provide a survey of a general increase in race attacks and tension in areas the FN get elected

  11. maxdunbar said,

    Laban

    That’s an interesting report. Any kind of sharia areas/sharia court proposals is something to be shot down immediately, although I’m not sure who apart from Rowan Williams is calling for sharia.

    I’m not convinced we would have a problem even if the most generous birthrate projections were correct. Don’t assume that the sons and daughters of Muslims will feel the same way about society as their parents, even if we are in danger of being ‘colonised’ by a wave of Egyptian cab drivers and Pakistani GPs. I mean, do your kids agree with you about everything?

    Of the subject of racist attacks in BNP-heavy areas:

    The general consensus among equality chiefs is that the BNP is to blame for racial tensions. Dr Richard Stone, a member of the Stephen Lawrence public inquiry, told OBV that the climate that led to Stephen Lawrence’s murder was associated with the BNP in Bromley down the road. He said: “Whenever the BNP are active police always do report a rise in racist attacks. There is a correlation between BNP activity and the rise in race attacks. People did have that impression. The country should know whether there is a link.”

    http://www.obv.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=339&Itemid=152

    You could argue, of course, that correlation is not causation and that there is an absolute and total Berlin Wall of separation between the BNP and random racist thugs. It’s possible. But it’s naive and certainly not the immediate assumption you should be making.

    Edwin

    Does the very presence of the BNP incite racism, as you seem to imply? Or does the pre-existing presence of racial tensions in a locality make support for the BNP an attractive resort for those of the White population who feel — rightly or wrongly — aggrieved.

    I think we have a horse-and-cart situation here.

    I think we have a situation where rightwing commenters for some reason ascribe racism to everything except the activities of racists.

  12. Laban Tall said,

    “Don’t assume that the sons and daughters of Muslims will feel the same way about society as their parents”

    I don’t. They seem to be developing a stronger Muslim identity than their parents.

    “When I got home I was overtaken by a desperate need, the likes of which I had never experienced, to cover my head. I put on my scarf and called my mum…”

    I mean, do your kids agree with you about everything?

    But “our” culture has been smashed. “Theirs” is strengthening. Remember how those early Pakistani immigrants in Bradford proudly put on their Western gear to send the photos home.

    “I feel for those guys, proudly wearing their Burton suits (perhaps made from cloth they had helped to weave in the Bradford mills) and watches, holding pens and radios. Like the Windrush generation, they came to partake in British culture – just as that the elite of that culture, aided by a host of suburban revolutionaries (mea maxima culpa) decided that British culture was essentially worthless, and embarked on the revolution which got us where we are today.

    Given that, can you blame the elders for seeking to create the certainties of Mirpuri village life in Girlington or Great Horton ? What else is there ?”

  13. Laban Tall said,

    Sorry – I banjaxed the link to the Bradford story.

  14. maxdunbar said,

    But “our” culture has been smashed. “Theirs” is strengthening

    You have no idea, just no idea, how ridiculous you sound.

    If you think British culture can be ‘smashed’ by a few Kashmiri restaurants and girls in headscarfs then you can’t have had much faith in British culture to begin with.

  15. Laban Tall said,

    Max, you misunderstand me. Our smashed culture has absolutely nothing to do with immigration. It was smashed in the Cultural Revolution of approx 1965-1985 (the exact dates are moot but not important), which you may be too young to remember, when Christianity ceased to be the bedrock of British society. The change has been gigantic – but it didn’t come from outside. We smashed it ourselves. Mass immigration is a symptom of the collapse of cultural self-confidence, not a cause.

    … the social system was at least as authoritarian as the political system. It was shocking for an unmarried couple to sleep together and a disgrace to have a baby out of wedlock. A homosexual act incurred a jail sentence. Divorcées would not be considered for the honours list or the Royal Enclosure at Ascot. Procuring an abortion was a criminal offence. Violent young criminals were birched, older ones were flogged, and murderers were hanged. Two years’ National Service was compulsory for 18-year-olds. Small children sat in rows in the classroom and were caned if they misbehaved. Drugs were confined to the surgery (and the aristocracy). The bobby on the beat made sure the streets were safe at night. And for an England cricket captain to miss a Test Match by flying home to be present at the birth of his child would have ruled him out of serious consideration not just as a cricketer but as a man.

    So what happened ? How did we get from there to here ?

    That’s Britain under the Attlee government, 1945-51.

  16. Laban Tall said,

    To expand – you may feel that the liberal culture we live in now is the way it was and will always be. I think we’re in an interregnum. Nature abhors a cultural and spiritual vacuum.

  17. maxdunbar said,

    Oh I see. Thanks for the clarification. We are simply going to have to agree to disagree. I think the changes since 1965 in terms of social and sexual liberation, secularisation, abolition of the death penalty as well as improvement of work and leisure conditions and increased productivity have been overwhelmingly for the better. My parents feel the same way. The picture that forms when I read your italicised quote is fairly grim.

    Incidentally do you think Thatcherite monetarism was part of this 1965 – 1985 cultural revolution? I think there’s a case for arguing that it led to increased selfishness, family breakdown and crime – would you agree?

  18. Laban Tall said,

    You may have a point, if only a partial one. There’s no doubt that the destruction of (mostly male) industrial jobs and communities contributed to the disaster zones which are the former industrial areas of the UK.

    But most of those areas also got smashed in the 1930s – yet didn’t turn into smack-ridden disaster zones, but remained essentially law-abiding, tight-knit communities. What changed between 1930s and 1980s ? IMHO the culture.

    You might be interested in the works of an academic (and slightly big-headed IMHO) criminologist called Steve Hall, who thinks it’s all down to the evil capitalists but is a thought-provoking read nonetheless. A couple of my run-ins with him on this very subject are documented here and here.

  19. Laban Tall said,

    The hippies and lefties of the cultural revolution (with the exception of the odd Richard Branson or Felix Dennis) forgot that the abandonment of the old verities wouldn’t just apply to them. They seemed to think that the employer class would remain decent churchgoing paternalist Rotarian types. So it was a shock when in the 80s they discovered that the one thing worse than a capitalist was a capitalist who took “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” as his motto. Of course there was a battle in the Tory party between the old school and the new one. The new lot won – which is why directors pay has gone up 15% pa for the last 20-odd years. The new, more selfish (aka individualist) Tories were a distorted mirror image of the new, more individualist (aka selfish) ‘left’.

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