Neofascist against Islamofascist?
Keeping up with the national politics of European nations is an endless task, especially for an American expat like me living in Korea, where I'm more affected by the day-to-day politics of Northeast Asia, but difficult to miss is the rise in respectability of the racist right in some European countries.
Take Britain. The British National Pary (BNP), along with its suited and photogenic leader Nick Griffin, has recently been burnishing its image, partly by Griffin's willingness to revise some of his more controversial spoken opinions. An article in The Independent, "A right menace: Nick Griffin" (May 23, 2009), recalls some inconvenient facts:
It was in 1995 that he joined the BNP, where for two years he edited a magazine called The Rune which, after three years of wild anti-Semitic stories, got him convicted of inciting racial hatred. In the witness box Griffin infamously said: "I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that six million Jews were gassed and cremated and turned into lampshades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the world is flat."Prior to joining the BNP, Griffin had belonged to the openly neofascist National Front, having joined as a teenager in the late 1970s, but that political association had fallen by the wayside, as The Independent notes:
But the National Front fell apart a decade later. Griffin was a key figure in the foundation of one of its successor factions, the International Third Position (ITP), advocating a blood-and-soil alternative to communism and capitalism. In it he praised the black separatist Louis Farrakhan, met David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, travelled to Libya at the expense of Colonel Gaddafi and expressed support for Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini -- who also had a strong dislike of Jews, women's rights, homosexuals, liberal democracy, international capitalism, Coca-Cola and McDonald's.These days, however, Griffin is more concerned about Islam in Britain, and his willingness to speak out against Islam is drawing support from people worried about the rise of Islamism, with its explicit aim of promoting shariah and with its extremists even using violent jihad to accomplish this aim.
Melanie Phillips, writing recently for The Spectator, offers her opinion in "The clash of uncivilisations" (October 24, 2009) on the reasons for the rise in respectability of Griffin's image and that of the BNP among the British public:
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.Phillips considers the BNP's altered position on Islam to be cynical but effective among the working class and lower middle class:
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.To which, she adds:
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.The implications for British politics are not good, as Phillips points out:
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.Phillips therefore calls for a redirection of attention:
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.A redirection of this sort would certainly take the wind out of the BNP's sails and leave it too politically insignificant for its national leader to appear on such prestigious television programs as the BBC's Question Time, for as Phillips points out, "there is far worse on the horizon than a nasty man on Question Time."
That 'nasty' man won't be going away, but Phillips is right, and the debate in Britain over Islamism needs to be brought onto more respectable ground.