Ukip Might Not Get Votes – But Its Anti-Islamic Voices Have a Platform

On anti-Muslim attitudes in the UK and UKIP:

It seems tempting to ignore the election of Richard Braine, the new leader of the UK Independence Party. After all, its former leader Nigel Farage moved on to found the Brexit Party and much of Ukip’s support seems to have migrated there with him.

But it would be a mistake to disregard Ukip. Its strongest impact was never in the parliamentary seats it failed to get, either in the House of Commons or the European Parliament. Rather, it made its mark by moving the conversation dangerously further to the right than was previously acceptable. Take, for example, the first controversy to emerge involving Mr Braine. Footage of a hustings for the leadership race showed him complaining some British towns and cities were effectively no-go areas for non-Muslims and calling for it to be a crime to hand out copies of the Quran under laws connected to violence.

Such virulent anti-Muslim sentiment underpins Ukip and has only become more intense over the years, despite claims that it wants to distance itself from the anti-Islamic views that shaped the leadership of Mr Braine’s predecessor, Gerard Batten. Mr Farage quit the party over the issue of Islamophobia and Mr Batten’s links to far-right activist Tommy Robinson. The footage of Mr Braine seems to indicate it’s a different face at the helm but the same message.

For a party that is arguably on the far-right of British politics, Ukip enjoys an outsized presence in terms of press coverage. The boisterous antics of the likes of Mr Farage boosted his popularity and was handsomely rewarded by a disproportionate amount of airtime on television, a radio show on a mainstream network and a platform with various media outlets.

But as oxygen has been given to such right-wing views in so much of the mainstream media, such voices and their radical views have become normalised.

Ukip began as a Eurosceptic party and leaving the EU was the issue that defined its purpose. It never found a critical mass to vote for it as a party – but it did manage to get a critical mass to take up its one issue. As a result, the Brexit referendum of 2016 happened. The turmoil that has unfolded since is significantly down to mainstream political parties not taking seriously how to provide leadership in an age where Ukip-style populist politics can make a difference.

Mr Farage has now moved on to another political force, one which yielded considerably more success in the recent European elections. But the Brexit Party could never have done so if Ukip had not existed in the first place. Ukip continues to tap into a minority of the British public’s sentiments – an unruly minority that seeks division in order to promote its agenda.

That agenda is increasingly not about leaving the EU, an issue that has been taken up by the Brexit Party, large parts of the Conservative party, and even significant pats of the Labour party. Ukip might deny it is an anti-Islamic party – but the issue of Islamophobia is increasingly shaping conversations both within its ranks and about it.

Since the Brexit referendum took place, it is the issue that has energised the remaining Ukip base like no other. Robinson, currently serving nine months in prison, was until recently serving as a political adviser to Mr Batten. Others, including Ukip candidates Mark Meechan and Carl Benjamin and Paul Joseph Watson, have been accused of racist, threatening language. Mr Watson founded the far-right conspiracy website Infowars which is known for promoting absurd conspiracy theories; he himself declared “Islam control” was needed rather than gun control.

The anti-Islam animus has been present within Ukip since its early days – but it now seems to have overtaken nearly all other considerations within the party today. Anti-Muslim sentiment is a problem that infests many parts of the political spectrum already, including within the ranks of the Conservative party, to the point where even the term Islamophobia is challenged.

Ukip is currently polling badly in the UK. But with anti-Muslim bigotry across Europe on the rise, history reminds us that insignificance at the ballot box doesn’t mean irrelevance elsewhere.

Source: Ukip Might Not Get Votes – But Its Anti-Islamic Voices Have a Platform

Seeing the human side of Islamic State helps to defeat them: H.A. Hellyer

Looks like an interesting series and find Hellyer’s analysis sensible:

When The State was released on British television a month ago, there were those who decried it as a recruiting sergeant for the Islamic State. After all, the series does portray the four British Muslim citizens who travel to Syria as, well, human. So, obviously, the series must be a problem – for IS members cannot possibly be human. They must be insane, and their processes for becoming sympathetic to this veritable death cult cannot be familiar or recognizable in any way. Only that line of thinking is acceptable.

Except, that’s not true – and it is why the series, which was recently released in North America, is actually quite important. At no point does it represent IS in a sympathetic, positive light. On the contrary, the group is presented as despicable, grotesque, and abhorrent. There is really no doubt that can be left in anyone’s mind who watches the series. Yet, at the same time, the series seeks to present how people might actually be attracted to the group.

The sense of belonging, for example, that it purports to present – even though, as one can see in the series, that sense is ultimately a fraud. The desire to be a part of something larger than oneself – the defending of innocent people in Syria from a barbaric tyrant – which, again, is shown to be a fallacy.

But in the discussion around extremist Islamism, the discussion is often dominated by voices who do not want to see nuance. Nuance, it seems, is dangerous – because nuance, it appears, makes us go soft on extremists.

That’s utter garbage, of course – because nuance and genuine insight allows us to understand why IS recruiters might succeed. And if we do not understand how they succeed, we stand a much smaller chance at understanding how to counter their recruitment strategies, and immunizing people from them.

That’s not to say the series does not have its issues – it does. But those issues are less to do with the common complaints that have been thrown at it. The series was rigorously researched by the director and his team, particularly Ahmed Peerbux – and we saw the results through the way the worldview of extremist Islamism was presented on the screen for the audience. What we did not see, which is so deeply necessary, is how those characters on the screen led their lives prior to being successfully recruited.

If the series ever does come for a second season run, the writers should tackle what had happened to those characters that made them vulnerable to extremist recruitment. These are not aliens from outer space. Nor is it Islam that makes them into ticking time bombs. If the latter were true, then several million British Muslims would have already joined the radical group – an infinitely tiny proportion has done so.

Should the series tackle that prerecruitment phase, it’s likely they are going to find that a plethora of factors play a role. Yes, there is an ideological component, which is rooted in a particular reading of purist Salafism – and not all readings, mind you – a reading that ought not to be underestimated. But it is not ideology that is always the strongest component: indeed, it is probably in a minority of cases where ideology is the deciding factor in the impetus of radicalization.

Of course, that’s not the nuance that our public discussion around these issues is keen to hear. We want to hear that these young people are crazed nutcases; that the only thing that is important to understand is how evil the ideology is; and for a not-insignificant portion of the right wing and the left-wing parts of our political spectrum, that ideology is Islam, simply.

To recognize that these young people start out as hardly insane – though they are certainly fools – is not what we want to hear. Our populist demagogues don’t want to recognize that it isn’t Islam en masse that is to blame for this ideological construct that underpins the likes of Islamic State, nor do they want to recognize that ideology is only part of the phenomenon in the first place.

But while we may want to look for easy, black-and-white answers, life isn’t really that simple. Indeed, life is complex – it’s part of the urge to find such simplicity that allows some young people to be recruited in the U.K. by these depraved monsters. We will be able to disrupt their efforts far better when we realize and recognize that indeed, complexity is the name of the game.

Source: Seeing the human side of Islamic State helps to defeat them – The Globe and Mail

After Egypt attack, sectarianism and extremism go hand in hand: Hellyer

Good commentary and linkages:

Here is something else we know. The primary targets of the attacks today were Christian – their Christian identity is what singled them out for the attackers, and they paid for that identity with their lives. No one should be under any delusion in this regard – IS propaganda spoke specifically about Christians, and Christians were specifically targeted. This deadly sectarianism has to be identified as what it is – hateful, bigoted, and murderous.

But blood doesn’t know those boundaries. Among the dead today, Egyptians shared pictures of Muslims who died in the blasts – more than half a dozen Muslims, men and women, who died in the course of their duty, as police officers, protecting the security of their Christian compatriots. Had they not fulfilled their duty, many more in Alexandria would likely have paid the ultimate price. Their being Muslim did not immunize them from the crimes of the attackers. It wouldn’t.

Indeed, it is also being reported that the Egyptian security services dismantled a bomb in a mosque in Tanta today – a mosque that is known particularly for an adherence to Sufism, which is part of normative Sunni Islam, historically. But the likes of IS, informed as they are by an extremist form of Wahabism which rejects much of normative Sunni Islam in the first place, may have targeted the mosque anyway.

There will be those from the majority Muslim community who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their Christian compatriots. There will be those who marched on the church to show solidarity with their Christian compatriots, which likewise happened in Tanta by imams. It’s one type of model. It’s a model which, regrettably if ironically, is rejected by anti-Muslim bigots in the West, many of whom took the opportunity today to further Islamophobia. Hatred, it seems, also loves company.

But there will also be those who will deceitfully condemn the murders on the one hand – and create the conditions for the sectarianism that inspired it on the other. Sectarian incitement has been an issue that far too few have been willing to tackle head-on when it comes to the pro-Islamist universe – and that includes the Muslim Brotherhood. For years, anti-Christian populist sentiment is a currency that too many in these movements traffic in – and too little attention is given to confronting it.

It would be wrong and inappropriate to associate the entirety of the Islamist camp with the radicalism of the likes of IS – but likewise, it would be the height of naiveté and an utter fallacy to assume that sectarianism is only a problem in the pro-IS faction. It goes far beyond that. Condemning the attacks, for example, in English, while propagating conspiracies and “false flag” theories about them in Arabic, only means that the mood music for sectarian incitement is left unchecked even further.

To avoid further tragedy, we need to recognize that sectarianism and radical extremism remain crucial problems to resolve.

Source: After Egypt attack, sectarianism and extremism go hand in hand – The Globe and Mail

British government must proceed with caution in reviewing Muslim Brotherhood

Interesting commentary on the review of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK and some of the domestic and international risks that Dr. Hellyer of the Royal United Services Institute in London and the Brookings Institution in Washington DC thinks are significant:

The likely outcome of the review is not a terrorist designation, if the evidence being relied upon is the same that has been available thus far. There is evidence to suggest the Muslim Brotherhood is sectarian, permissive of incitement, and other such unsavoury characteristics, including a willingness to engage in violence for political ends. Such characteristics differ widely across the organization, depending on the country. However, it would be difficult for such evidence to amount to a terrorist designation for the Brotherhood. It is dubious to think that the review will deliver such a verdict unless the Brotherhood changes quite dramatically between now and the time the review is completed. Such a designation, it ought to be remembered, would have to stand up in a British court of law.

The review, therefore, is likely to deliver a rather unflattering picture of the Brotherhood, but not result in a terrorist designation. The timing of its delivery is also quite important to note: it is due to happen in July, which is close to when parliament ends its session in the UK. It is also when the Arab world will slow down owing to the summer holidays, Ramadan and Eid. Indeed, it is entirely plausible the review will be completed, and its results are not even reacted to by very many people at all. However, the UK government will be able to note that it has taken the concerns of its allies in the region seriously, without actually doing very much at all.

British government must proceed with caution in reviewing Muslim Brotherhood – The Globe and Mail.