Islamism must be on the agenda in this election

Nigel Farage’s hamfisted Hamas comments must not be used to shut down the debate.

Fraser Myers

Fraser Myers
Deputy editor

Topics Politics UK

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We are less than a week into the UK’s General Election campaign and we already have our first race row, courtesy of Nigel Farage.

Speaking on Sky News’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, the Reform Party president said that there is a growing number of British Muslims who ‘do not subscribe to British values’ and ‘loathe what we stand for’. To back this up, he cited ‘recent surveys’ that say ‘46 per cent of British Muslims support Hamas – support a terrorist organisation that is proscribed in this country’.

Phillips immediately hit back. ‘Can you imagine how offensive that is to British Muslims?’, he asked. The backlash didn’t stop there. The Muslim Council of Britain has denounced Farage’s ‘horribly Islamophobic, racist and hate-filled rhetoric of misinformation’. The Lib Dems have called his remarks ‘a grubby attempt to divide our communities in a desperate attempt for attention’.

Now, there are good reasons to think Farage was exaggerating when he said that British Muslims ‘support’ Hamas. The poll he cited, published back in March by the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, seems questionable. Poorly worded questions can produce wildly unrepresentative polling results. And as spiked columnist Rakib Ehsan has pointed out elsewhere, the question that produced this result was more than a little leading. British Muslims were not asked ‘Do you support Hamas?’, but whether they feel more sympathy for Hamas or for Israel. Those polled were essentially given a binary choice, with Hamas presented as the only pro-Palestine option.

When the general population were polled, 16 per cent expressed more sympathy with Hamas than with Israel. Admittedly, this is a far lower proportion than among British Muslims, but do we seriously think it is likely that one in six Brits – or almost half of Muslim Brits – actively ‘supports’ a proscribed Islamist terror group, to use Farage’s wording? I dare say we’d struggle to replicate these findings. There is also plenty of evidence that British Muslims are themselves worried about Islamist extremism and are more willing than the general population to work with the authorities to stop it.

But none of this is to say that there aren’t serious problems in pockets of Britain’s Muslim communities – problems that politicians have every right to raise during a General Election campaign.

Islamist extremism remains the predominant terror threat in the UK. Islamist terrorists have claimed the lives of 94 people from the 2005 7/7 bombings onwards (far-right terrorists, for all the media hype about this threat, have killed just three people in the same period). The weekly ‘pro-Palestine’ demos in London and elsewhere have given vent to all manner of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Polling shows that anti-Semitic views (while nowhere near a majority) are more likely to be held by Muslims than the general population – especially by Muslims who are poorly integrated into British society. Sectarian voting along religious lines is also fast becoming a grim feature of our politics.

Ironically, these are just some of the problems that Trevor Phillips has himself tried to talk about in the past. He once lambasted the ‘squeamishness’ of the political class for its refusal to confront ‘the dark side of our diverse society’. In Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence, a 2016 pamphlet for the Civitas think-tank, he described British Muslims as ‘resistant to the traditional process of integration’. Unless we talk about this openly, he said, then Britain risks ‘sleepwalking into a catastrophe that will set community against community, endorse sexist aggression, suppress freedom of expression, reverse hard-won civil liberties and undermine the liberal democracy’. As if to prove Phillips’s point – that such criticisms have become unsayable in polite society – these remarks contributed to his suspension from the Labour Party back in 2020.

By all means, we should call out Farage for exaggerating the scale of British Muslim support for Hamas. Not least as this is likely to alienate the sensible majority of Muslims who we need to be a part of the fightback against the more regressive elements within their communities. But we cannot allow these problems – from the failures of integration to the rise of Islamist extremism – to be shut out of this election campaign – to be dismissed with knee-jerk accusations of ‘Islamophobia’. That would do a grave disservice to British voters, British Muslims included.

Fraser Myers is deputy editor at spiked and host of the spiked podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @FraserMyers.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Politics UK


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