Shortly after his election to the European Parliament, BNP leader Nick Griffin told a television interviewer that there is “no place in Europe for Islam”.
He added: “Western values, freedom of speech, democracy and rights for women are incompatible with Islam, which is a cancer eating away at our freedoms and our democracy.” Griffin declared his agreement with the words of Flemish far right MP Jurgen Verstrepen: “We urgently need global chemotherapy against Islam to save civilisation.”
This was just the latest in a long series of Islamophobic statements by Griffin. In 2004 he told a BNP meeting that “this wicked, vicious faith has expanded from a handful of cranky lunatics about 1,300 years ago to it’s now sweeping country after country before it, all over the world”. He accused Muslim gangs of systematically raping non-Muslim women and claimed that this was authorised by the Qur’an: “go and buy a copy and you will find verse after verse and you can take any woman you want as long as it’s not Muslim women.”
During his resulting trial on a charge of inciting racial hatred Griffin justified these statements on the grounds that Islam is “a dragon … the terrible mortal enemy of all our fundamental values and something which, unchecked, will bring misery and disaster to this country”.
In 2005 Griffin explained the centrality of Islam in the BNP’s current political perspectives: “A generation ago the revival of the historic Islamic threat to Europe would have been unthinkable; now it is clearly destined to be the great issue and decision of our time. For us, the closely linked threats of mass Third World immigration and Islamification outweigh all other considerations.”
I could go on producing quotations from Griffin and other party leaders to further illustrate the point that Islamophobia is now a major plank in the ideology of the BNP. But then, nobody who has studied the BNP would dispute this, would they? Well, nobody except Edmund Standing, author of the recently published Centre for Social Cohesion pamphlet The BNP and the Online Fascist Network.
We have already replied to Standing here and here. In response, having first resorted to abuse, Standing then produced an attempted defence of his position. Trying to make sense of Standing’s incoherent exercises in self-justification is the intellectual equivalent of wrestling with a blancmange. But his main charge against critics like Islamophobia Watch and ENGAGE (see their comments on Standing here and here) seems to be that we accept the BNP leadership’s claim that the party has changed its character and has become a right-wing nationalist, rather than a racist and fascist, organisation.
In fact, my own view of the BNP’s claim to have undergone a genuine political transformation is very much in line with this article, which states that “the public downplaying of anti-semitism by the BNP under Griffin’s leadership is just another tactical manoeuvre that does not affect the party’s basic ideology”, and argues that “the fact that the Griffin-led BNP has publicly dispensed with the Nazi trappings of the past does not mean that it has evolved into some sort of post-fascist right-wing populist party”.
I also agree with the article’s conclusion that the BNP is best described as “neo-fascist”, in the sense that it “draws its inspiration from fascist movements of the past while adapting its ideology and forms of organisation to the political situation in Britain today”. And the BNP’s adoption of paranoid fantasies about the imminent Islamification of the West is a clear example of that adaptation. As it was, the BNP leaders already held “beliefs about a well planned conspiracy by ‘international Jewry’ to destroy the white race through immigration and the promotion of race mixing”, to quote Standing himself. So it really wasn’t that much of a stretch for the fascists to embrace Eurabia-style theories about a Muslim plot to conquer Europe.
Just because Griffin and other BNP leaders remain at heart a gang of Nazi admirers and Holocaust-deniers who, in order to make the party electable, have chosen to cover up those aspects of their ideology and promote Islamophobia instead, it does not follow that they regard the latter as a mere sop to popular opinion, an opportunist attempt to “jump on the bandwagon” of anti-Muslim feeling, as Standing contends.
After all, Griffin’s “wicked, vicious faith” speech attacking Islam was not intended for public consumption. It was delivered at an internal BNP meeting, to an audience made up exclusively of party members and supporters, and obviously reflects the sort of political indoctrination that takes place within the BNP’s own ranks. It is hardly accidental that Arthur Kemp, the South African white supremacist whose latest book is entitled Jihad: Islam’s 1,300 Year War On Western Civilisation, is in charge of ideological education in the party.
Standing’s suggestion that the BNP leaders’ Islamophobic ravings are just a cunning political trick, and that “Griffin and co don’t really care about Islam”, is laughable. And Standing makes himself ridiculous by continuing to defend this position.
Postscript: Some further points on British fascism and race, of which Standing presents a simplistic analysis.
If you look back to the 1930s you’ll find Arnold Leese of the Imperial Fascist League publicising pseudo-scientific racial theories and justifying the IFL’s incitement of hatred against the Jewish community on those grounds (see for example chapter 2 of Leese’s book My Irrelevant Defence). But Oswald Mosley, leader of the much larger British Union of Fascists, was unenthusiastic about such theories, and the BUF instead attacked “organised Jewry” on the basis of its supposed domination of national life, generally without attempting to relate this to spurious notions about the racial character of Jews.
Of course, this didn’t mean that the BUF renounced racism. In October 1936, when thousands of Mosley’s Blackshirts lined up in Royal Mint Street for the demonstration that would end in the Battle of Cable Street, chanting “The Yids, the Yids, we’re going to get rid of the Yids”, it didn’t make any difference to them whether their organisation theorised its antisemitism in cultural or biological terms. They just hated Jews.
The BNP has its origins in the Leese rather than the Mosley wing of British fascism. Hence the stuff in the BNP constitution about the party representing the interests of “the indigenous Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Norse folk communities of Britain and those we regard as closely related and ethnically assimilated or assimilable aboriginal members of the European race also resident in Britain”.
But the BNP’s turn to Islamophobia has led the party to adapt its theories accordingly. Thus Arthur Kemp is the author of the notorious book The March of the Titans: A History of the White Race, which promotes its white supremacist message through reference to “racial types”, explaining the rise and fall of civilisations “in terms of their racial homogeneity”. But, as noted above, Kemp has more recently written Jihad: Islam’s 1,300 Year War On Western Civilisation, which sidelines the categories of racial theory in order to present Islam as a threat to the West on the basis that it is historically proven to be a violent expansionist faith.
Contrary to Standing’s analysis, it is not the case that classic far-right racial theory is the only “true” ideology of the BNP. Rather, what you now have is a situation where the party’s traditional biological racism is complemented by a more up-to-date cultural racism.