This is a guest post by Lucy James from the Quilliam Foundation
Following the BNPâ€™s annual event â€˜Red, White and Blueâ€™ the other weekend, what should have grabbed the headlines (and which was only mentioned in passing was the racism endemic in the event itself.
What in fact grabbed the headlines were the 19 protestors arrested largely for public order offences (4 of whom were charged), and the Â£500,000 policing cost at public expense. Only a few weeks ago, violence had already made the headlines.
Whilst I am by no means undermining the importance of peaceful protest as a legitimate method of getting heard (I do, in fact, attend rallies), if the right-wing extremists remain predominantly challenged by the left-wing extremists, the argument against the BNP gets distorted. In fact, it can serve to bolster the BNPâ€™s message as did the photographs of young Asian men attacking white-protestors during the Birmingham riots. Moderates need to reclaim the upper hand by systematically challenging the BNPâ€™s ideology rather than resorting to violence.
Since about 2006, particularly post-7/7, the BNP has consciously changed their rhetoric from being anti-Asian, -Black and -Jewish, to being ardently anti-Muslim. In a paper that I authored entitled In Defence of British Muslims: A response to BNP racist propaganda (pdf), I therefore took 10 of the key accusations directed against Islam and British Muslims by the BNP and systematically deconstructed them by highlighting their intellectual inconsistencies and factual weaknesses.
Such arguments are easily undermined using proper statistics, and historical and textual evidence. For one, Islam is not a religion with a cunning master-plan for its adherents to emigrate with the intention of mass conversion. The Islamic concept of migration (hijrah) is to flee from religious persecution rather than a calculated drive for world domination.
The incredible level to which the BNP will stoop was revealed by Lee Barnes in a blog on the drugs problem in the UK. Referring to a young student, Rachel Whitear, who died of a heroin overdose Barnes wrote:
‘She was not an angel, she was an accomplice to genocide, terrorism and a funder of the most vicious criminal gangs on the planet as she funded the terrorists and gangsters that cause such misery across the planet. The idea that she should be regarded as a victim is repulsive. Every junkie is a criminal, not a victim. The body of every dead junkie should be photographed and hung on a wall of shame in every community so that young kids can see the real price of heroin. Their lives should be regarded as a disgrace not as victims.
The BNP will stop at nothing it seemsâ€”not the manipulation of the death of an innocent young girlâ€™s life or the damning of an entire religionâ€” for the furthering of their cause. Luckily for common sense, a man was charged with incitement to religious hatred the other week for distributing the said leaflets.
The BNPâ€™s accusations against Islam are offensive to any Muslim, but easily torn apart by intellectually countering these arguments. The BNP are drastically short of funds, and the number of votes has not actually increased on 2004 (rather their share of the vote increased with the slump in Labour support). We donâ€™t need to panic. Instead, members of British society, Muslim and non-Muslim, desperately need to start intellectually reclaiming the debate and systematically challenge the BNPâ€™s racist and inaccurate arguments.
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Filed in: Race politics,The BNP