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By Jason Michael
UKIP has unveiled a policy statement on integration in the United Kingdom, a document that is unparalleled in its flagrant Islamophobic and racist rhetoric in modern British politics. This is where the lurch to the right in the UK is taking us.
Integration is a deeply problematic concept for any multicultural society. It implies, and is often used by policymakers to force, the assimilation of minority cultures into “our” – or the dominant or hegemonic – culture. Defenders of integration will argue, as they do, that multiculturalism – the racial, religious, ethnic and cultural expression of difference – is intrinsically bad for Britain, for our way of life; suggesting that it poses a challenge to our values, and may even pose a threat to our national security. It does nothing of the sort. This insistence on cultural assimilation is nothing more than a slightly more nuanced form of racism and discrimination.
It is important to recognise that when the proponents of this integration use the term “multicultural,” they are referring only to the culture of non-white foreign communities. UKIP’s Integration Agenda, launched earlier today, could not make this clearer. Germany, France, and the United States, for example, have their own distinct national and regional cultures, but no one demands that German, French, and US citizens living in the United Kingdom compromise their cultural values to accommodate us. There is no expectation that people from white majority nations assimilate to our way of life and our social and cultural values. Their whiteness gives them a free pass.
This document also, and more interestingly, ignores the fact that the UK is – by definition – multicultural. As its name suggests, the United Kingdom is a composite state polity, a political union of nations as opposed to being itself a nation. Each of its component parts is home to distinct ethnic and national cultures and local and regional cultural variations – all of which are host to other minority communities.
Moreover, integration – as a cure for “dangerous” multiculturalism does not work. Research into antisemitism in Europe and North America has shown that assimilation actually aggravates racism. Where people have expressed anti-Semitic opinions, those opinions are more intense when they are directed towards Jews who “look and act like us.” Ask an Islamophobic racist who he or she hates the most – a Muslim in “traditional” Islamic attire, speaking Arabic, or a well-paid religious Muslim professional speaking with an educated British accent?
The problem is not difference or diversity. The problem – as it has always been – is racism, and racists will be racist no matter how the target of their hatred dresses or speaks. It is that simple.
Today Paul Nuttall, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, with his deputy Peter Whittle, UKIP’s Education spokesperson David Kurten, and its Women’s and Equality spokesperson Margot Parker, launched his party’s “Integration Agenda” in London. This document – 297 words of pure unmitigated racist bile – singles out only the British Muslim communities; claiming that it “addresses a wide range of cultural issues that have worked against communities coming together.” We shall briefly examine each of its eight paragraphs below.
Pass a law against the wearing of face coverings in public places. Face coverings are a deliberate barrier to integration and, in many contexts, a security risk too. The time has come to outlaw them. People should show their face in a public place.
No fear, this is not the proposal of a law against motorcycle helmets, wedding veils, or sun glasses. This is about religious face coverings – specifically the niqāb worn by a tiny minority of Muslim women in the UK. Like everything else in this rancid policy proposal, it is thinly veiled racism – intended to target Muslim women.
Abolish postal voting on demand and return to a higher threshold of demonstrable need before a postal vote is granted. Postal votes on demand have led to a boom in electoral fraud and vote-stealing, especially among minority communities.
Only minority communities, according to UKIP, are guilty of electoral fraud. Again we find that this is a pointed reference to Muslim communities – namely the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities accused of defrauding the postal voting system by Eric Pickles in 2016. While such a claim does need to be investigated by the authorities, as all electoral fraud should, it is far from representative of how the overwhelming majority of British Muslims behave during elections. Yet it has become a trope of Islamophobic racist ill-opinion in far-right discourse across the UK, and so has been taken up by UKIP in its appeal to the racist sentiment of its supporters.
Explicitly ban sharia – which is intended as a rival legal system and which undermines women’s rights – from being applied in the UK and establish a legal commission to draw up proposals to disband sharia courts.
Okay. In no sense is Islamic sharia law a “rival legal system” to British law. Sharia is a customary religious law derived from the Quran and the Hadith, and as such it is not entirely dissimilar to the Jewish religious law of halakha and Christian canon law, and its courts not unlike the Jewish beth din or a Christian ecclesiastical court.
Yes, law derived from the Quran – an ancient religious text – can be pretty barbaric, but, as is the case in Judaism and Christianity with their laws derived from a 2,500 year old religious text, reason and modernity trump strict adherence to the letter of the law. Just as it is in Christianity and Judaism, interpretation is what it’s all about, but – playing on people’s ignorance of Islamic theology and practice – UKIP is again whipping up racist opinion.
Implement school-based medical checks on girls from groups at high risk of suffering FGM. These should take place annually and whenever they return from trips overseas.
Mr Nuttall, concerned as he is for the wellbeing of little Muslim girls, would like to see their vaginas every time they have wandered out of his inspectorial sight. Female genital mutilation (FGM) or female circumcision is a custom stemming from pre-Islamic central-north Africa and – while it is not mentioned in either the Bible or the Quran – has been practiced by some African and Middle Eastern Christian, Muslim, and Jewish groups. In the main all three religions have condemned the practice, with the Islamic al-Azhar Supreme Council in Cairo ruling in 2007 that the practice has “no basis in core Islamic law or any of its partial provisions.”
That’s not good enough for Paul Nuttall, because – obviously – what Muslims do and say in the absence of good white men has to be inspected. Like little girls’ nether regions. In 1997 the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and UNFPA defined FGM as the “partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” In this respect it is no different to MGM or male circumcision, still practiced by both Muslims and Jews – even in the UK. One gets the impression that had this practice been abandoned by Judaism – a far more well-established and, in some places, well-connected, minority community – Paul Nuttall would be down on this too.
Of course FGM is abhorrent – like MGM – and should be challenged by the law. But UKIP’s reasons for being on this bandwagon have precious little to do with the health and wellbeing of girls and women, and everything to do with finding yet another excuse to single out and victimise Muslims.
Make failure to report an instance of FGM by someone who has knowledge that it has taken place a criminal offence itself. The CPS to operate under a presumption of prosecution of any parent whose daughter has undergone FGM.
In cases where the victims of grooming gangs are of a different racial or religious group than the offenders, the CPS should cite this as an aggravating feature of the offence when prosecuting, opening the way to a longer sentence.
“Paki Grooming Gangs,” à la the coverage of a series of arrests of Pakistani men in Bradford in 2012 by the far-right’s favourite online forum Vanguard News Network, is another favourite trope in the mythological canon of racism in the UK. Making a reference to this incident is a real vote winner for UKIP, but it bears no resemblance to the morality of most Muslims in Britain or anywhere else. But this is Brexit Britain – the right-wing media has made it impossible for a great many people to differentiate Islam from child rape and predatory grooming. Nuttall is merely capitalising on another moral panic surrounding a tiny criminal element. It just so happens that the bad guys in this case were Muslims.
Knowing what we know of the culture of silence in the BBC pertaining to the behaviour of Jimmy Savile – where even Esther Rantzen knew what he was doing and said nothing – we have to ask why UKIP hasn’t asked that such grooming in contexts where the perpetrators belong to a different social class from their victims or who are media celebrities also be considered “an aggravating feature of the offence.” We know why – they’re not Muslims.
Immediate closure of schools where there is evidence of Islamist ideology being taught or imposed on children. A moratorium on new Islamic faith schools until substantial progress has been demonstrated in integrating Muslims into mainstream British society.
Muslims in the UK make up a meagre 4.4% of the population, but somehow it is Muslim faith schools and Muslim children that we should be most concerned about. Nuttall isn’t at all worried about the millions of other faith schools teaching children that it is a sin to be homosexual, that God made the world in six days, or that the world will soon be ending when the Jewish people take back their land in Palestine. There are far more biblical fundamentalist Christian faith schools in the UK, and what they are teaching their children is dangerous and has real world, geopolitical consequences. But they are white, or at least they’re not Muslim. UKIP isn’t interested in them.
Fundamentalism, fanaticism, and extremism exist in all religions, but this is only a tiny percentage of the religious expression of Islam and Christianity in Britain. Where it does exist, yes, we must have safeguards and laws in place. But by singling out Muslim schools UKIP is deliberately playing on the popular fears of Islam that have been manufactured by the British tabloid media. It is all directed to the ends of racism and intolerance.
CPS and police to be instructed to treat a so-called “honour” dimension of any act of violence as an aggravating factor, leading to it being accorded a higher priority for investigation and prosecution and not a lower one.
“Honour killings” and acts of violence with an “honour” dimension are only ever committed by Muslims and dark skinned people, have you noticed that? Good Christian white men are only ever charged and convicted of domestic violence in which they assault and sometimes kill their spouses or female relatives. “Honour” sounds that little bit more savage – so that’s what brown and Muslim men do. But, in reality, these are the same things, and – regardless of the term UKIP is using – we should all be in favour of protecting women and girls from abusive people; people like Paul Nuttall who want to peek beneath their underwear and people like Nigel Farage who has been reported to have given his wife a good ol’ British thrashing on a few occasions.
UKIP’s new policy agenda is nothing short of Islamophobic racism and an incitement to violence; cynically pointing out spurious charges against obscure Islamic teachings, and against individual and small groups of Muslims to create a general impression of the faith – and Muslim communities – as dangerous.
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