In London, two strands of extremism share the same world view: Doug Saunders

Good assessment by Saunders:

While these may appear to be two strands of extremism, one Islamist and the other far right, ostensibly posed against one another, any up-close examination of their opinions and rhetoric reveals that they have the same view of the world, the same mirror-image political goals, and now the same tactics.

One of the first to mention this similarity Monday was Brendan Cox, the husband of Ms. Cox, the slain MP, in a message he posted: “Far right fascists & Islamist terrorists are driven by same hatred of difference, same ideology & use same tactics. We’ll defeat both.”

That view was picked up by Prime Minister Theresa May, who had been criticized previously for turning a blind eye to her country’s right-wing terrorism problem. On Monday morning, she denounced it as an equally serious threat, calling this attack “every bit as sickening as those which have come before… an attack that once again targeted the ordinary and the innocent going about their daily lives … There is no place for this hatred in our country today.”

The parallels between these two extremisms had long been visible on Seven Sisters Road.

At some points, especially in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the angry guys on the street would be yelling Islamic stuff. The Finsbury Park Mosque, around the corner from Monday’s attack, had been taken over by a one-armed former Afghan Mujahadeen fighter who called himself Abu Hamza, known in the tabloids as “hooky mullah.” After the congregation banned him in 2002, he would stand on the street outside the mosque just off Seven Sisters Road, gather a small crowd, and shout wild-eyed speeches calling for the death of infidels and praising terrorists.

The multi-hued congregants seemed relieved when Abu Hamza was arrested in 2004 on charges related to organizing terrorism. (He is currently serving a life sentence in the United States). Their mosque is now a moderate place with an explicitly anti-extremist message.

But, in part because of the mosque (and the soccer stadium), the area would often attract far-right extremists from the British National Party, the National Front and other such movements – often linking their anti-Muslim message to the mounting anti-European Union “Brexit” campaign they backed.

They often seemed hard to distinguish from the jihadis in their strident tone, their belief that the world is divided into incompatible civilizations, and their intolerance of the plural and diverse life of modern Europe that is so abundantly visible on Seven Sisters Road. On Monday, the two groups showed themselves to be identical in every imaginable way, including the worst – and we can hope that Britain will now turn against both equally.

Source: In London, two strands of extremism share the same world view – The Globe and Mail

Countering extremism requires political honesty from Theresa May: Shaista Aziz

A valid critique of May who, after all, was Home Secretary for six years before becoming PM:

And what of the woman who wants to be elected Prime Minister when the U.K. goes to the polls in three days time?

Theresa May has shown that she is not interested in looking for real and meaningful solutions to deal with the new reality that terrorism poses to the lives of British people. Instead, she has hit repeat, saying there is “too much tolerance of extremism” in the U.K. – implying that British Muslims have turned a blind eye to individuals pledging allegiance to the Islamic State, trotting out the tired-out trope that British Muslims are the only ones who can stop the terrorists.

Such a claim disregards that the Manchester bomber, Salman Abeidi, was flagged to the authorities at least five times as an individual who was showing signs of radicalization. The same pattern is being repeated (so far) following the London attack, with reports that locals contacted the police two years ago to report the individual believed to be the terrorist ring leader.

After the London attack, Ms. May responded by saying “enough is enough,” and I couldn’t agree with her more: enough is enough, Ms. May.

Enough of the police cuts that have removed 20,000 officers from our streets, including community police officers. We need a properly funded police service to deal with the terrorism threats to our country.

Enough of the narrative that there is an us and them when it comes to tackling terrorism – there is only we.

The U.K. is deeply polarized, and there is a growing trust deficit between many of our politicians and the people. Empty sound bites will do nothing to heal these divisions.

Nobody in this country tolerates extremists, other than extremists.

And enough is enough of Britain’s blind support for the likes of the Saudi Arabian government, responsible for promoting extremism and its sectarian agenda around the world.

If Theresa May is serious about tackling extremism, she will ensure the long-delayed inquiry report into foreign funding and support of jihadi groups in the U.K. will be released immediately.

We are judged by the company we keep and by our actions. It is time for Ms. May to walk the walk and not just talk the talk on countering extremism.

Source: Countering extremism requires political honesty from Theresa May – The Globe and Mail

Britons abroad for longer than 15 years denied vote in general election | The Guardian

While as I and Rob Vineberg have argued against indefinite voting rights (Canadian expats shouldn’t have unlimited voting rights), it is nevertheless somewhat amusing that the May government made this commitment, tabled legislation, and then failed to implement, perhaps fearing that most non-resident Britons, particularly those resident in the EU, oppose Brexit and thus likely may be less likely to vote Conservative:

Campaign groups accuse Tories of breaking promise made in October to scrap time limit

Up to 3 million Britons living overseas are to be denied a vote in the general election, the Cabinet Office has confirmed.

In a letter sent to the New Europeans campaign group on Friday, the Cabinet Office said that “unfortunately” British citizens who had lived abroad for longer than 15 years would not be entitled to vote on 8 June.

The letter has prompted a furious reaction from Britons living abroad, and in Europe in particular, with campaign groups accusing the Conservatives of breaking yet another promise.

Nathan Lappin of the constitution group in the Cabinet Office told New Europeans that “there is no sufficient time to change the relevant primary and secondary legislation to enfranchise all British expats, scrapping the 15-year time limit, ahead of the dissolution of parliament before the general election”.

“The people most affected by the referendum were not allowed to vote in it, simply because they exercised their right to live in another country,” said Dave Spokes, one of the founders of the support group Expat Citizen Rights in EU. “Now it seems they will miss out again as their government has repeatedly failed to honour repeated promises to repeal this unjust and unfair rule.

“These people spent their lives working in the UK and many still pay taxes there. It is quite disgraceful that any government can so disregard so many of its citizens.”

Jane Golding, a British lawyer living in Berlin and campaigner for the rights of Britons abroad, said the promise has been broken twice as it was in the Conservative manifesto in the 2015 general election and the Queen’s speech that followed.

“So that is twice we have been denied the right to vote and to participate in the democratic process when this had been promised on an issue, leaving the EU, that directly affects our personal and professional status,” she said.

Last October the government promised to scrap the current 15-year time limit as part of a bid to strengthen ties with emigrants following the decision to leave the EU.

The plans followed a court battle spearheaded by the second world war veteran Harry Shindler, who fought in the Battle of Anzio in Italy in 1944. The 95-year-old, who moved to Italy to be near his grandson in 1982, has been unable to vote in the UK since 1997 but cannot vote in Italy either.

As recently as February, the constitution minister Chris Skidmore assured Shindler and others the government was on track, telling them “their stake in our country must be respected”.

In a written answer on the topic to the New Europeans founder Roger Casale, Skidmore promised “this government will not deny them the opportunity to have their say in how the country is governed”. He also revealed that the government estimated “a further 3 million British citizens resident overseas will be enfranchised”.

Samia Badani, director of New Europeans, said the decision not to expedite legislation was devastating for Britons desperate to have a say on their own futures in Europe but it was not too late to get them on the electoral register. “The time for legislation is now. When there is a will, there is a way,” she said.

Badani said: “We are very disappointed – this is another broken promise. We have been campaigning for the removal of the 15-year rule – which is very arbitrary – for years. We were promised that at the next general election all UK citizens could vote, but it now looks like a double-whammy: they couldn’t vote in the referendum and now can’t vote in the next general election.”

Source: Britons abroad for longer than 15 years denied vote in general election | Politics | The Guardian

Court case ruling may allow Britons to keep their EU citizenship and rights | The Independent

Interesting wrinkle:

Britons might be able to keep their EU citizenship and rights to live, work and claim healthcare across Europe, even if Theresa May walks out of the negotiations with no deal.

This could depend on the outcome of a legal case brought by four plaintiffs, who are seeking a ruling from the European Court of Justice over whether Article 50 can be revoked without the permission of other EU states.

The case, brought by the Good Law Project, is an attempt to get a ruling over whether Brexit could be reversible until 29 March 2019.

But it will also be asking whether or not UK citizens would remain EU citizens post Brexit.

The argument is based on Article 20 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which states that EU citizenship is additional and separate to national citizenship.

There are no provisions for removing this citizenship and its associated rights from individuals, regardless of whether their nation leaves the EU.

The case will argue that it is unclear from current legislation whether UK citizens can be stripped of their EU citizenship.

Speaking to Buzzfeed, Jolyon Maugham QC, a lawyer helping to bring the case, said: “There seems to be an assumption – convenient both to a particular type of Brexiter and to those voices in the EU that would rather be shot of the UK – that the citizenship rights of UK nationals can be taken away from us.

“Whether that assumption is right is ultimately a question of EU law. And it’s very unclear to us that it is.

“The question is likely to be of particular importance to those – very often British pensioners – who have made their lives abroad in France or Spain.”

Source: Court case ruling may allow Britons to keep their EU citizenship and rights | The Independent

Has Multiculturalism Failed? After Brexit, Britain Grapples With Issues of Immigration and Integration

Good in-depth coverage of some of the integration debates in the UK:

In 1966, then-Home Secretary Roy Jenkins of Labour gave a speech setting out a policy of multiculturalism, though he didn’t use the term. “I do not think that we need in this country a ‘melting pot’, which will turn everybody out in a common mould, as one of a series of carbon copies of someone’s misplaced vision of the stereotyped Englishman… I define integration, therefore, not as a flattening process of assimilation but as equal opportunity, accompanied by cultural diversity,” he said. Katwala [head of U.K.-based think tank on integration and migration British Future] says he was probably right to do so, at a time when immigrants, largely from former colonies, had quite a strong sense of British culture and its expectations anyway. But over time, as immigrant groups grew more diverse and ideas of what British culture was became less clearly defined, this approach looked less satisfactory. By 2011, former Prime Minister David Cameron had declared that multiculturalism had “failed,” but nobody was clear about what was supposed to replace it.

In recent years, politicians and the type of people who read policy reports have been well aware that there’s something of a vacuum between talk and action. As Casey put it in her review, “Numerous reports on community cohesion and integration had been produced in the preceding 15 years but the recommendations they had made were difficult to see in action.” A controversial topic like integration may be guaranteed to grab punchy headlines each time a review is announced, but generally proves far more complex to actually address.

One reason for the absence of government policy on this issue might be that there is less of a problem than it often seems. Buried in the Casey review were plenty of positive statistics: 82 percent of Britons socialize at least once a month with people from a different ethnic and religious background. Over 98 percent of people living in the U.K. speak English. Many supposedly isolated communities turn out on closer inspection to be boringly similar: extensive polling by the center-right London-based Policy Exchange think tank in December, for example, found that “In terms of their everyday concerns and priorities, British Muslims answer [our survey] no differently from their non-Muslim neighbors.”

And, some would argue, as long as people are generally getting along OK, why should they have to subscribe to sets of ill-defined cultural values that nobody can agree on anyway? “There’s a brilliant quote from the rapper Heems where he says: ‘My parents didn’t come here to assimilate, they came here to make money,’” says Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good Immigrant, an essay collection on the British immigrant experience. “Wherever [people] move in the world, their first thought isn’t ‘I’m moving to integrate into society.’”

Defending her review from critical questioning by MPs in parliament on January 10, Casey gave examples of supposedly British traits Eastern European immigrants had not learned, including taking out the trash on the right evening and being “nice.” Neither is a practice unique to Anglo-Saxon culture.

However overblown the headlines that emerge after reviews like Casey’s, it’s important not to forget that some genuine issues do exist. Katwala points to the problems with integration, particularly how concerns about the topic are a significant driver of the spiraling anti-immigration feeling in Britain. “If you’re a country that’s quite confident about integration…you’re probably a country that’s got more consent for immigration,” he says. To take the issue of language, for example: While the vast majority of people in the U.K. speak English, there were 850,000 immigrants in 2011 who did not, according to the last British census, making it far harder for them to navigate British society by themselves.

So where there are problems, what can the British government do to address them? For the opposite approach to Britain’s—with its own substantial pitfalls—we can look to France, where immigrants have traditionally been expected to sacrifice many aspects of their home culture in the name of becoming French. This more “assimilationist” approach goes back to modern France’s revolutionary origins, as Joseph Downing, a Marie Curie fellow at Aix-Marseille University, explains: “The political elite after the French revolution felt that the ethnic diversity of France itself…was a weakness,” he says. The Constitution of the Year III, adopted by revolutionary France in 1795, enshrined the country’s colonies as “integral parts of the republic.” From that era on, the French approach has broadly been to ignore ethnic differences and maintain a strict separation between religion and government in favor of a shared national identity.

In his report, Umunna [British Labour Party MP] says changing Britain’s approach to integration should stop short of France’s “assimilationist politics.” It’s right to say that the French approach has brought substantial problems, says Downing: “because the state doesn’t recognize difference, it doesn’t have the means to fight…discrimination.” This “colorblind” approach has led to entrenched inequality in a range of areas of French life, from prisons (it is estimated that 70 percent of inmates are Muslim, but the lack of official statistics that confirm that add to the difficulty of tackling the problem), to schools (the equality required by the constitution has made it difficult to pass laws to make it easier for poorer students from different backgrounds to reach the top universities until recent years). At its most extreme, it manifests itself in policies like last summer’s attempted ban on the burkini, Islamic swimwear for women, that sparked condemnation across Europe.

One answer, says Katwala, is to work out what demands should be made of British citizens, and then communicate them not only to immigrants and the descendents of immigrants but to white British people too. Often, as Shukla points out, the integration debate “lacks nuance, because it seems to just go on skin color.” People whose families have lived in the U.K. for generations are lumped in with recent arrivals, while the responsibilities of white British people are ignored. “Integration has now got to become a sort of ‘everybody issue,’” Katwala says. “The majority hasn’t really known what its role or place in integration is.” Any approach to integration in contemporary Britain will need to emphasize the responsibility of all citizens equally, says Katwala, or risk provoking a backlash.

But in more concrete terms, where there are clearly identifiable issues, the problem often comes back to government planning and funds. A report by the think tank Demos published in 2014 blamed language problems among immigrants partly on “a poor understanding of the scale of need, and of the quality of provision” of language classes. The APPG report noted that the economic security of immigrants is one of the most important factors in how easy they find it to integrate, and said there might be a need for government to invest more in helping migrants to enter the labor market. It also said that local government should take more of the responsibility for improving integration, to increase pressure for change and ensure policies are carefully tailored to requirements in an area.

After Brexit, immigration is likely to be at the heart of the British political debate for some time, and it’s essential that the conversation focuses on how British society works, not just on the numbers of people arriving. But any such discussion has to acknowledge Britain’s relative success so far at integrating migrants, and address immigrants arriving in the country as equals, not treat them as problems to be solved. “I don’t think acknowledging that migration and population change can pose challenges means that we need to kowtow to a UKIP agenda,” Umunna says. However, only a genuinely positive and inclusive approach to drawing British society together can solve the problems that do exist, without creating new ones.

UK – Anti-Semitism: Official definition ‘will fight hatred’ – BBC News

Sharp contrast to the US Congress’s proposed definition that explicitly included criticism of Israel rather than the more focussed definition of IHRA (their working definition of antisemitism also includes examples where criticism of Israel may cross over to antisemitism):

The government plans to adopt an international definition of anti-Semitism to help tackle hatred towards Jews.

Police, councils, universities and public bodies can adopt the wording, Theresa May will say in a speech later.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which the UK belongs to, created the definition.

It calls anti-Semitism a “perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”

Prime Minister Theresa May will argue that a clear definition means anyone guilty of anti-Semitism in “essence, language or behaviour” will be “called out on it”.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance hopes its definition, agreed this year, will be adopted globally.

It defines anti-Semitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”

It adds: “Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Legally binding

Downing Street said anti-Semitic behaviour could be overlooked because the term is ill-defined, with different organisations adopting their own interpretations.

The IHRA – which is backed by 31 countries, including the UK, USA, Israel, France and Germany – set its working definition of what constituted anti-Semitic abuse in May.

The group said having a “legally binding working definition” would give countries the “political tools” to deal with anti-Jewish hate crime.

Conservative MP and special envoy for post-holocaust issues, Sir Eric Pickles, told the BBC that the new definition “catches up with modern anti-Semitism”.

“I think it’s important not to conflate Jewish people with Israel,” he said. “That actually is the point in the definition.”

‘It is unacceptable’

Police in the UK already use a version of the definition. However, it will now also be used by other bodies, including councils.

Mrs May will say: “There will be one definition of anti-Semitism – in essence, language or behaviour that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews – and anyone guilty of that will be called out on it.”

She will add: “It is unacceptable that there is anti-Semitism in this country. It is even worse that incidents are reportedly on the rise.”

Source: Anti-Semitism: Official definition ‘will fight hatred’ – BBC News

Enclaves of Islam see UK as 75% Muslim | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

Failure of British integration and related programs. Some interesting observations at the end of the article about the risk of monocultural white schools and far right radicalization:

Some Muslims lead such separate lives that they believe Britain is an Islamic country where the majority of people share their faith, according to a report to be published this week.

Evidence gathered by Dame Louise Casey, the government’s community cohesion tsar, will lift the lid on how some Muslims are cut off from the rest of Britain with their own housing estates, schools and television channels.

Her report finds that thousands of people from all-Muslim enclaves in northern cities such as Bradford, Dewsbury and Blackburn seldom, if ever, leave their areas and have almost no idea of life outside.

A source who has read the report said: “Certain Muslims, because they are in these communities and go to Muslim schools, think Britain is a Muslim country. They think 75% of the country is Muslim.”

The correct figure, according to the 2011 census, is 4.8% of the population in England and Wales. Christians account for 59.3%.

Casey’s report will be embarrassing for ministers, and Theresa May in particular, because it will say the government does not have any serious integration strategy.

The report will criticise the Home Office, which May used to run, and other departments for not doing enough to manage the pace and consequences of mass immigration.

“It will say that nobody has been on it,” said a source familiar with the contents.

A source close to Casey said: “There is a desire [among policymakers] to tolerate such a level of significant difference that you have overcompensated and gone way too far.”

Those familiar with the report say Casey, who investigated failings by children’s services at Rotherham council after the child abuse scandal, has seen off attempts by the Home Office to water down her report. One described it as “full-fat Louise”.

The report will “send shock waves through the system”, a Whitehall source said, adding: “It’s going to be quite hard reading for some people.”

Casey will attack the police and other state bodies for “weakness” and pandering to false notions of what they think ethnic communities want — such as a police chief who said female officers could be allowed to wear the full veil.

“The report will say that we are in a vicious circle where some institutions are so wrongfully interpreting their version of political correctness that they are gifting the far right,” a source said.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the departing chief inspector of schools, warns today that about 500 schools in England are either 100% white or 100% ethnic minority — and pupils in them are at risk of alienation and radicalisation.

Wilshaw told The Sunday Times that parallel communities were developing in Britain and children growing up in monocultural schools in these communities were in danger of being cut off from British values and vulnerable to either far-right or Islamist causes.

The chief inspector said that he was particularly worried about a cluster of 21 schools in Birmingham — many of them primaries with predominantly Muslim pupils — where there were no white pupils. Nearly half of the schools have been judged “less than good”.

“We have to make sure these schools are good schools so youngsters in them feel they are part of British society and they have to respect other people’s faiths and cultures,” Wilshaw said.

“In white-only schools the same thing applies. Though we might not be as concerned in white communities about radicalisation, certainly we are worried about alienation and the rise of the far right.

“If these children have not been well educated and cannot get jobs as a result that will feed into alienation and the espousal of right-wing ideologies.”

Casey has examined the social alienation felt by the white working class. Although her report will not dismiss the far right it will say that Islamist extremists pose a more serious threat.

The report will also attack the government for not doing enough to defend Prevent, its embattled counter-extremism policy, against misinformation put out by Islamist and far-left groups.

Source: Enclaves of Islam see UK as 75% Muslim | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

Hate Crimes Rose By 41 Percent After Brexit Vote – The Atlantic

A reminder how xenophobic political discourse has consequences:

England and Wales saw a sharp rise in hate crimes since the United Kingdom voted in a historic referendum to leave the European Union, a report by the U.K. Home Office revealed Thursday.

Police in England and Wales recorded 62,518 hate crimes between 2015 and 2016—a 19 percent increase from the previous year. Of those incidents recorded, 79 percent were classified as hate crimes based on race, 12 percent on sexual orientation, 7 percent on religion, 6 percent on disability, and 1 percent were classified as transgender hate crimes.

The most alarming rise in hate crimes, however, took place in the month after voters in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland cast their ballots in favor of Britain leaving the EU. In July, a total of 5,468 hate crimes were reported to the police—41 percent higher than July 2015. More than 200 incidents were reported on July 1 alone.

Here’s more from the report:

“There is an increase in these offences recorded in June 2016, followed by an even sharper increase in July 2016. The number of aggravated offences recorded then declined in August, but remained at a higher level than prior to the EU Referendum. These increases fit the widely reported pattern of an increase in hate crime following the EU referendum. Whilst January to May 2016 follows a similar level of hate crime to 2015, the number of racially or religiously aggravated offences recorded by the police in July 2016 was 41% higher than in July 2015. The sharp increase in offences is not replicated in the non-racially or religiously aggravated equivalent offences.The spike in hate crimes coincided with the announcement by Amber Rudd, the Home secretary, of a government initiative urging victims to report incidents of hate crimes “so that the full scale of the challenge facing communities can be understood and tackled.” It is unclear how much of the increase is due to the heightened willingness to report hate crimes.”

“We are the sum of all our parts— a proud, diverse society,” Rudd said. “Hatred does not get a seat at the table, and we will do everything we can to stamp it out.”

A survey by The Guardian last month found that European embassies in Britain reported an increase in suspected hate crimes against their citizens in the UK after the Brexit vote; a majority of complaints came from citizens of Eastern European countries. A total of 31 hate crimes were reported to the Polish Embassy, including the high-profile death of a Polish national who was killed following an alleged attack by a group of teenagers in Harlow, England. Six people were arrested in connection with the killing.

 Source: Hate Crimes Rose By 41 Percent After Brexit Vote – The Atlantic

Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer blasts Labour and says it DOES have anti-Semitism problem | Daily Express

Article more nuanced than the headline (as is Bauer who I got to know during my time as Canadian head of delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance):

Yehudi Bauer, the 90-year-old academic, was speaking at a lecture about anti-Semitism in the modern age at the London School of Economics.

One of the world’s leading Holocaust historians, Professor Bauer, condemned the current situation in the Labour Party saying: “I think there is a problem in the UK’s Labour Party, but there is not in every left-wing party – not in Scandinavia or Germany.

“There has been an unease about Jews in European society for hundreds of years.”

Professor Bauer said Shami Chakrabarti’s report on anti-semitism and racism in the Labour Party which concluded it was “not overrun by anti-semitism, Islamophobia, or other forms of racism” was “wishy washy” and “turned horses into camels”.

The Czech-born author of dozens of books about the Holocaust said that it is a “shame on society” that Jewish people in Europe and America still need to have security to protect them.He said: “Anti-semitism is not just a European phenomenon and it is usually matched by anti-liberal tendencies.”He said even Shakespeare and Chaucer wrote anti-semitic statements when there were hardly any Jewish people living in the UK.

He said: “There is not a European Government that is anti-semitic, although they may not be effective in fighting it.”

Yehuda BauerGETTY

Bauer has written dozens of books on the Holocaust 

Professor Bauer said that whenever society has gone through a crisis, it has turned against Jewish people as they have been in the minority.He also said Jewish people can not live in non-liberal places.The academic stated that even when there is no conflict in societies and anti-semitism will continue as Jewish culture is based on controversy and is “different” and “complicated”.

Earlier this year, the professor said if he were British Jewish, he would be worried claiming Ken Livingstone was a “violent antisemite” and Jeremy Corbyn “has a problem”.

Mr Livingstone has been suspended from the Labour Party for claiming that Hitler supported Zionism but has repeatedly denied accusations of anti-Semitism.

Speaking about Islam, Professor Bauer said that the “integration of Muslims is an action against anti-Semitism” as when Muslims are not integrated, they can turn against Jewish people.

He said: “Radical Islam is a danger to the whole world. Non-radical Muslims need to fight it.”

Source: Holocaust historian Yehuda Bauer blasts Labour and says it DOES have anti-Semitism problem | World | News | Daily Express

UKIP Could Be About To Talk More About Islam

Interesting developments and analysis:

UKIP under Farage, by comparison, concentrated more generally on the impact of immigration. So could we start to see more of a specific focus on Islam in the party’s rhetoric?

“It’s quite plausible,” says Rob Ford, a professor of politics at Manchester University and co-author of Revolt on the Right , a book on UKIP. “In some ways, if you just look at some of the raw attitudes, it looks like there’s a very big potential market for it. British views of Muslims are often quite negative, there are a lot of anxieties particularly around cultural practises, cultural integration and so on.”

The party is also in need of a new USP (unique selling proposition) after Britain voted for Brexit, and its old rhetoric on immigration was largely focused on the issue of unskilled immigration from the European Union. Assuming new restrictions are placed on freedom of movement once Britain leaves the bloc, that won’t cut it any more.

But, Ford says, there are caveats to this. First, under the U.K.’s first-past-the-post electoral system, winning even the 20 to 25 percent of the vote that might be highly concerned about Muslim integration is not a recipe for success, unlike in some European countries with more proportional systems.

But also Britain has, Ford says, “been ethnically, racially diverse for longer than many countries and we’ve been actively talking about it for a lot longer than many countries.

“Germany denied that it was even a country of immigration until the late 90s and in France they still won’t gather statistics by race… We’ve had 50 years of discussion and work in terms of setting up and policing certain boundaries of political rhetoric,” Ford says.

An ongoing row in France, and Duffy’s response to it, illustrates his point. Fifteen towns on the French coast have moved to ban the “burkini,” full-cover swimwear worn by some Muslim women. When asked about the bans, Manuel Valls, the country’s prime minister and a politician on the mainstream center-left, responded without hesitation that the burkini was “not compatible with the values of France.”

Duffy [UKIP leadership candidate], by contrast, doesn’t even back the ban, which she calls a step too far. “If a motorcyclist sat on the beach and he wanted his helmet on, that’s up to him. He might sweat a bit. But I’m not going to prescribe what people should or shouldn’t be wearing,” she says.

Duffy says that her policy on Islam is aimed at boosting equality for Muslim women as much as anything else. “I’ve worked with a lot of British Muslim females and they haven’t had the same opportunities that I’ve had or my daughters will have,” she says. Of course, plenty of politicians with far tougher anti-Islam platforms make the same argument.

Still, however cautiously, the issue of British Islam has been forced higher up UKIP’s agenda, and it’s hard to imagine it won’t stay there in some form. UKIP is, Duffy tells Newsweek, “unique as a party in talking about challenging issues and opening the debate. And I think if we don’t start talking about the potential of what radical Islam can do to our country moving forward then we are missing a trick.”