Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen abuses worshippers outside Gillingham mosque last month
It is of course the case that the mainstream right-wing press has played a major role in whipping up the atmosphere of Islamophobia that has allowed far-right anti-Muslim hate-groups to flourish. Nevertheless, yesterday’s Sun featured a very effective exposé of Britain First. You can read it here.
The report is based on an interview with Matthew Lester, the former BF member who to his credit recently broke with the organisation and visited a mosque in Crayford that had previously been the victim of BF harassment in order to apologise.
Matthew Lester’s message is clear – Britain First is a would-be paramilitary organisation that represents a significant threat to community cohesion and “has to be stopped”.
Hope Not Hate rather churlishly describes the Sun report as “pretty poor”, and it is true that it contains a number of errors. Although it is questionable whether this is going to affect the article’s positive impact on Sun readers, the journalist who wrote it, Matt Quinton, clearly lacks any expert knowledge of the far right.
It doesn’t help matters that, in an apparent attempt to rectify this weakness, the Sun has added a short comment piece by academic specialist Matthew Goodwin, who uses the opportunity to push the deeply flawed theory of “cumulative extremism”, raising the prospect that “groups such as Britain First and Islamic extremists could bounce off each other in a spiral of growing confrontation”.
Much more useful is a second comment, by Dilowar Khan of the East London Mosque (which has itself been targeted by Britain First) who rightly criticises the “selective treatment of the different extremist groups within our society that stir up hatred”. This has allowed BF to subject mosques to repeated acts of religiously aggravated harassment – a serious criminal offence that carries a potential 2-year prison sentence – without suffering any legal sanction.
The Sun report reinforces calls by the Muslim community for their places of worship to be afforded the protection to which they are entitled.