The Rise of the Far Right in Europe

December 30, 2009 at 7:24 pm (Global Issues, Islam, Khilafa) ()

Source: Khilafah Magazine


The BBC Question Time programme on 22nd October 2009 was host to a controversial member of the panel; Nick Griffin, Leader of the British National Party (BNP). Mr Griffin was openly given a platform by the BBC to express and defend BNP views towards Muslims and ethnic minorities etc.This has provoked much debate about the limits of ‘free speech’ and a question mark on whether a plural society should be tolerant of far right and fascist views. Reactions from politicians towards the BBC’s decision to welcome Nick Griffin to Question time have yet again been exploited for party political broadcasts and winning hearts and minds.

“This could end up blighting the lives of many decent people in Britain just because they are not white.The BBC should be ashamed of single-handedly giving a racist, fascist party the biggest favour in its grubby history” (Peter Hain).

Ironically Justice Minister Jack Straw was one of those sharing the platform with Mr Griffin – both gaining notoriety for causing controversy and spreading anti-Muslim fervour. Such irresponsible journalism and comments by politicians have yet again placed ‘fascism and racism’ in the spotlight.

The Rise and Impact of the Far Right in Britain Far right parties have been in existence in the UK since the 1930’s.The evolution of the far right in the 60’s and 70’s became centred around white supremacy and responding to non-white and Muslim migrations from the former colonies. Specific propagators of such views included the National Front (NF). This trend has continued in the views of the British National Party (BNP).The wish of such groups was to preserve what they perceive to be British culture and actively campaigned against ‘non¬indigenous’ ethnic minorities and asylum seekers and promoted repatriation. Despite recent election gains the BNP remain a fringe party.Whether the far right parties have been central to the tensions and anti-Muslim sentiment in Britain is another question.

The rise of attacks against Muslims in Britain has been the greatest post 9/11 and while the west has been engaged in the prolonged war in Iraq,Afghanistan and Pakistan. Fringe parties such as the BNP have contributed minimally to rising tensions when compared with provocative comments from the likes of Jack Straw (Niqab), Blair, Blunkett and others.The impact of Western foreign policy on Muslim lands has been the greater contributor to anti-Muslim sentiments in Britain.

The Rise of the Far Right in Mainland Europe Post 9/11, an accelerated vocalisation of anti-Muslim fervour has plagued Europe. From the publishing of the nick-griffinDanish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (saw) infuriating the Global Muslim population to the production of Geert Wilders abhorrent ‘Fitna’ video; the subject of Islam has been a target for relentless attack. Further to this, policies in France and parts of Germany banning the Hijab in some public premises has resulted in Muslim women being denied the basic right to education, employment and healthcare facilities. Such a phenomena of hatred towards Muslims and ethnic minorities could be argued to be ingrained in the history of mainland Europe. Indeed history can testify to the lack of welcome of ‘foreigners’ by the ‘host population’ – many being unforgiving and unforgetful of past differences.Tolerance of the other has been overwritten by the overwhelming sentiment of bitterness and resentment. For instance the tensions between Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia by Serbs, the Nazi slaughter of Jews and Gypsies have left bitter scars in peoples’ attitudes and perceptions.Tolerance in plural societies is therefore a somewhat farfetched idea when the cause behind such wars have been lack of coexistence or acceptance of differences, and an attempt to forcefully assimilate those of other beliefs and values.

Can secular plural society harness tolerance? A pivotal element of plural society has been the idea that individuals have the right to exist in one society though they may carry differing values.This presupposes that there must be acceptance of differences in values. It also positions the debate of ‘free speech’ as pivotal for discussion in relation to its place in society. Should free speech be for all or confined to a few? A closer look at the status of societies in the west, only point to the conclusion that societies are fraught with tension particularly towards Islam and Muslims and are in no position to give up liberal values or accommodate other values conflicting with liberalism. Melanie Phillips in her cover story on how the West was lost concerning Pim Fortuyn states:

“Just like Fortuyn, the young understood that their precious free-and¬easy lifestyle was threatened by rising numbers of people who were not prepared to tolerate it. In the capital of social tolerance, the threat of such intolerance was simply intolerable. Muslims not only despise Western secular values as decadent, materialistic, corrupt and immoral.

They do not accept the distinction between the spiritual and the temporal, the division which in Christian societies confines religion to the margins of everyday life. Instead, for Muslims, the whole of human life must represent a submission to God.This means that they feel a duty to Islamicise the values of the surrounding culture.”

Though the ethos of plural society is acceptance of variable values, in the case of Islam, it is viewed to be threatening to western society and a recurring call for Muslims to assimilate has echoed throughout Europe and resulted in violence and tension between Muslims and non-Muslims.Western society is unable to harness a society tolerant of differences and persists on the subjects’ acceptance of western values as universal.

Free speech for some or for all? Can speech be completely free in secular society without consequence? The belief that individuals should have the right to express their views and not feel silenced or policed is a central pillar in the four freedoms upheld by secular democracies in the West. However promoting free speech has resulted in huge debates about what the limits to free speech should be. Questions like whether free speech is also a licence to insult another religion have arisen following the publication of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (saw) by a Danish paper, the book ‘Jewels of Madina’ and the ‘Fitna’ video are just a few examples of the controversy and double standards that the idea of free speech has created in society. Freedom of speech has been understood as the freedom to insult and has been the cause for much tension and abuse between Muslims and non-Muslims.

The Khilafah State and Citizenship The Islamic belief does not discriminate based on colour, background or place of birth. Islamic history has a wealth of examples of how Islam managed to bond people together based on creed regardless of skin colour or background. The early companions such as Bilal from Abyssinia and Salman from Persia uniting and living in the first Islamic State in Madinah and the freeing of slaves from slavery are just a few examples of how Islam succeeded to strip the shallow compartmentalisation by the then societies in the Arabian Peninsula. In addition to this, the Islamic state was not just a state for Muslims of all backgrounds, it was a residence and safe haven for many non-Muslims who shared rights as law-abiding citizens of the Islamic State. Indeed the domain of the Islamic state was vast. People varied in language, religion, traditions and practices, but the Islamic state was able to mould such people into one entity without mass conversion by the sword. Many factors led to the successful moulding of disparate peoples into one Ummah, the most important of which are:

• Teaching of Islamic law (the law applied for all citizens)

• The mixing of Muslims with non-Muslims in their daily lives and work

• Granting of rights and good treatment to all citizens Muslim and non-Muslim

• The enforcement of shariah rules concerning relationships, transactions and penalties on every citizen – Muslim and non-Muslim alike

• Non-Muslims are not interfered with regarding their beliefs and worships and their private life unless it disrupts public order.

Because the main focus of the state is all citizens rather than the ‘indigenous people’ or the majority, it views the contract of citizenship as a relationship binding on the state and the individual regardless of religion, gender or ethnicity. In such a way it is able to ensure non-Muslims accept the Shariah as the law of the land which they adhere to because it is the law, even if under their own beliefs they do not accept that it is divine law.

A Way forward for Muslims in the West Muslims in the west, must not fall into a defensive victim mentality, but rather rise to the challenge of discussion and debate.

We should:

• Raise debate about the fundamental values of freedom in secular society and its effects on society. Show alternative viewpoints and values that we hold and how they help promote morals, ethics and chastity for individuals and society

• Raise debate about how a society should view citizenship and that having a passport does not equate to adoption of western values

• Hold firm to Islamic values without compromise and be an example of such values in our interactions

• Show the fallacy of free speech and highlight how it is a cause for lack of tolerance and increased insult upon Islam and Muslims

Such engagement will raise questions and dispel misconceptions and allow the Muslim to earn the reward of Allah (SWT) by giving this da’wah.


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