Britain Equal. Racists last.

First off, I have a qualifying statement. I do not live in East London. In fact, I don’t live anywhere with a high Muslim population at all. I live in an overwhelmingly white area in central Scotland which does have a fair amount of eastern European immigrants (who are a normal part of the community), but very few Muslims. As such, I have never experienced Muslim extremism in my area or in my life. I don’t know what it’s like to see “Muslim patrols” on my streets or feel unsafe on certain streets in my area. I hear from others that there are parts of the country where this is the case, but I don’t have any first hand evidence of whether this happens or, if so, how bad it actually is. My view of Muslim communities is that they appear, in the main, to just be a bunch of people wanting to get on with their lives in peace. Just like the rest of us. Some folk, however, do seem interested in some sort of Islamic cultural and religious revolution in the UK, but they are a very small minority

Regardless of all of this, when I see far-right groups demonising Islam and Muslims because of their religion and the actions of the few it angers me. None more so than this video by Britain First, a political body which has fielded candidates in recent elections and has an increasing presence on social media, particularly Facebook.  In this video the group have announced that they are combating “Muslim Patrols” in what they call “Muslim East London”, by sending out self-styled “Christian Patrols” designed to “take our streets back”.

They start off by showing us evidence of the Muslim Patrols, roaming the street telling people not to drink alcohol as this is a “Muslim area”.

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Now, if this is happening then it clearly needs to stop. Note something, though. The whole way through this section that logo fills the whole left hand side of the screen. This means that you never actually see the faces of the patrol members, just those they approach, like the guy in this shot. We hear the words of the patrol members, but, as far as evidence goes, never seeing them seems a tad suspect. How genuine is this clip? Are we seeing what is actually being presented to us? It’s difficult to tell.

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So, “enough is enough”. What looks like no more than 2 or 3 guys going round telling people not to drink (if that’s what is actually happening) is such a threat that Britain First needs to do something. They need to launch “Christian Patrols”.

Now, to my mind, we already have Christian Patrols. People going out in the name of Jesus helping those on the streets in vulnerable positions to stay as safe as they can. They’re called Street Pastors and they go out in peace, love and compassion on the streets of many of our towns and cities every week.

Britain First has a very different view of what a Christian Patrol should be.

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Here we see the chairman of Britain First, Paul Golding, explaining what they are doing. They will patrol East London with about 10-15 activists (considerably more than the Muslim Patrols seem to have) handing out leaflets, going into pubs and warning people of the scourge of the Muslim Patrol. They will, of course, be peaceful and loving as a group of Christians should be as they patrol London in…

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…an armoured Land Rover! In fact, two armoured Land Rovers. Because nothing says “we come in peace” like vehicles altered to give the appearance of a military convoy in a war zone. Anybody would think they were trying to intimidate people, but that can’t be right. Can it?

He also discusses how, if they come across a Muslim Patrol (something which, pointedly, doesn’t happen in this video) they will confront them and tell them to “sod off”. In a reasoned, polite manner, I assume.

Note the crusader style cross on the leaflets, too. Let there be no doubt that this is nothing to do with stopping fear and intimidation, this is all about trying to assert domination over Muslims by using fear and intimidation.

We then see the Christian Patrol handing out leaflets, harassing people on the streets and telling a bunch of Muslim looking young men that “this is our country and if you want to live here you need to follow our laws”. No context is given at all about these young Muslims who may, as far as we know, be peaceful, law-abiding men. They may not even be immigrants themselves. However, the message is clear. If you’re not white, you’re a target for Britain First’s self-righteous, racist ire.

The next move is for activists to try to bait these Muslim Patrols out by standing outside the East London Mosque drinking and smoking. The hope is that some sort of confrontation will happen in order to “do something”. What, I don’t know.

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Oh! Hold on! That’s a little more than drinking and smoking, isn’t it? That’s outright provocation by means of aggressive language. If a group of young Muslims approached a man about drinking and smoking near a mosque then I could understand the discontent. This, however, is clearly designed to provoke pretty much any passing Muslim into action. If this was turned on its head and a group of young Muslims stood outside my church with a banner saying “We are the Muslim resistsnce” then I think I’d be asking them what they think they’re doing too.

Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to happen. Maybe the attendees at this Mosque just can’t be bothered with this group of idiots.  If so, fair play to them.

They finish with this,

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If this doesn’t anger you, then it should do. Lee Rigby’s family have consistently distanced themselves from Britain First’s use of the murdered soldier in their propaganda. This culminated in their anger over Britain First’s use of Lee Rigby’s name on ballot papers.

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His mother is absolutely clear that they have no support for Britain First’s views and that Lee would not have done either.

This group are nothing but far-right, racist, intimidating thugs. They have, through some rather clever manipulation, built up a decent following for their bile on Facebook. Many who follow and share their material are reasonable people who are being emotionally manipulated by people who claim the moniker of Christian. Please do not fall for it.

“Do not judge others, so that God will not judge you,  for God will judge you in the same way as you judge others, and he will apply to you the same rules you apply to others.  Why, then, do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the log in your own eye?  How dare you say to your brother, ‘Please, let me take that speck out of your eye,’ when you have a log in your own eye?  You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5 GNBDC)

Yes, there are extremists out there. Yes, we need to fight back against extremism. But that’s the point. It’s not Islam which is the enemy, but those things which distract us from love and turn us into people who hate. You can’t fight extremism with more extremism. You can’t look at Muslim extremists and hate Muslims any more than you can look at Christian extremists and hate Christians. Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Atheists and those of all other beliefs (or lack of beliefs) need to work together to combat this through education and understanding of each other. We can’t do it through propagating fear and hatred.

Please, if you follow Britain First on Facebook or Twitter, stop. They are not “patriots”, they are not “Christians”, they are right-wing extremists. They are fascists. They are racist.

They need calling out for this and being ignored for it.

Don’t get fooled again.

Do you ever wonder why you even bother? Why you talk about the important stuff, try to get your point across, highlight the fear and prejudice being perpetrated around you, only to go unheard and ignored? Why you try to promote love, only for people to choose hate?

That’s pretty much how I feel right now. The European elections have seen gains for the fascist Golden Dawn in Greece, a win for the National Front in France and, closer to home, the populist UKIP in the UK. These parties have flourished on three big selling points; anti-EU sentiment, anti-establishment rhetoric and, strongest of all, anti-immigration policies.

Sorry… not anti-immigration. I mean anti-immigrant.

There is a huge difference. Anti-immigration, which forms part of their policy (singular), is the idea that letting too many people into the country causes an excessive strain on public spending and services, meaning that there is less to get around for those already in the country. It’s an understandable argument, although when immigrants pay more in tax than they take out of the economy and are statistically less likely to claim benefits, it’s also a poor argument.

Because it’s a poor argument, these parties rely on the latter tactic. Anti-immigrant. We should feel uncomfortable about having Romanian neighbours because they are mainly criminals. There are 25 million out of work Europeans who all want your job. Foreign immigrants are diluting our culture, identity and way of life. This isn’t an argument against immigration as a concept, but a tactic which uses fear of the unknown, in this case people from other countries, to bypass the logical arguments against them and automatically leave many people feeling that something as a “bad thing” because it is to be feared and worried about.

I have friends who genuinely are scared of “what is happening to our country” and the “erosion of the British identity”. However, I haven’t heard what actually us happening and how this erosion would be a negative thing.

There are as many UK citizens living in other EU countries as EU citizens in the UK. The main difference is the multicultural aspect which, to many of us, is actually a positive. The rich diversity of human life coexisting on one small set of islands, learning from and teaching each other about language, custom, food,  art, music, fashion and so much more is surely to be celebrated. This isn’t an erosion of identity, but an evolution of it.

Yet, many have chosen to swallow the line from these populist and far right politicians. The gains they have made have been dramatic (although not quite the “earthquake” the media keep stating) and the mainstream parties are talking about learning lessons from this. I pray thus means how to fight back, not how to bow down to them, but I’m not holding out any hope.

One of the lines used a lot recently is how the UK is a Christian country.
Great! Let’s act like one, then.

“And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34 GNBDC)

“I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink; I was a stranger and you received me in your homes” (Matthew 25:35 GNBDC)

“He must be hospitable and love what is good. He must be self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” (Titus 1:8 GNBDC)

“That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19 CEB)

Is that clear enough? Love, hospitality, caring for strangers in a strange land. This doesn’t mean ignoring immigrants who are criminals or a threat to our security. Those issues must always be addressed. But we must also treat people as people as people. Human beings. God’s children. And we must fight against this increasing culture of hatred amongst our politicians, media and, yes, ourselves.

We have to fight back. We have to campaign,  speak out, argue, educate and vote against this politics of evil. We have to stand together, act in love, but in utter defiance against hatred. We have to make this the “Christian country” that people queue up to tell us that we are or aren’t.

This isn’t leftie ranting. I’m appealing to left and right wing people. Religious and atheist. Young and old. Man and woman. Gay and straight. English, Irish, Scottish Welsh and any of the many nationalities who inhabit our islands and the rest of Europe. Vote against the EU or for it. Vote against established parties or for them. Just please, please fight against prejudice in all its forms. We are all better than that.

A reply to Nigel Farage

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Nigel Farage has come under quite a lot of fire over the last couple of days following comments made during an LBC interview with James O’Brien. Admittedly,  not the same sort of storm which Gordon Brown faced after the Gillian Duffy incident or Andrew Mitchell during the “plebgate” scandal,  but hey,  they only insulted (allegedly,  in Mitchell’s case) a member of the public and some police officers.  Farage grossly insulted a whole nation and,  but he likes cigars and pints,  so let’s let him off lightly,  eh?

His main comments involved stating how uncomfortable he’d be if a group of Romanians moved in next door due to their criminality, then,  when asked what would be the difference between that and a group of Germans moving in,  answering,

“You know what the difference is. ”

Charming!

In order to address the relatively muted criticism which followed (next to no coverage by mainstream TV news) he has written this explanation of his comments. So,  that’s OK,  then. All explained. Nothing any right minded individual would disagree with.

Well,  maybe not. Let’s take a look at what he says.

“UKIP will never allow the false accusation of racism levelled by a politically correct elite to prevent the raising of issues that are of concern to the great majority of the British public.”

A politically correct elite,  Nigel? Really? I have two questions:

Firstly,  what,  exactly,  is wrong with political correctness? What is wrong with wanting all people to be treated on their individual merits,  rather than their race,  colour,  nationality,  gender,  sexuality or religion? Why do you object to that so much? Is it,  just possibly,  because prejudice against certain groups forms the basis of so much of your populist rhetoric? Is it because preying on fear and prejudice is how you intend on winning votes? Looks that way to me.

Secondly: Why “elite “? Exactly what is elite about hundreds and thousands of ordinary people taking to social media and radio phone-ins to call a racist spade a racist spade? I am a coach in an office processing pension transfers and I earn less than £25k. I have no degree,  no party political affiliation and virtually no influence. I take my views on you from what you say and do.  What,  I ask you,  is elite about me,  or the many like me,  Nigel?

As for the great majority of people in the UK being concerned by immigration,  I’ll give him that one.  However,  why are people concerned? How many people are genuinely,  directly affected and how many are worried simply by scare stories they hear? I can’t find research to answer that,  so I’ll leave it as rhetorical.

“The unfortunate reality is that we are in political union with a post-Communist country that has become highly susceptible to organised crime.”

We are also in political union with post fascist countries which have been susceptible to organised crime,  but I don’t hear the same concerns about Italians or Spaniards (thankfully).

“Where there are differential crime rates between nationalities, it is perfectly legitimate to point this out and to discuss it in the public sphere and I shall continue to do so.”

No,  there are different crime rates between different countries. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that,  rather than come to the UK to commit crime,  many Romanians may be coming here to make a new start in a country with a much lower crime rate.  If so,  it seems fair to help them.

“Police figures are quite clear that there is a high level of criminality within the Romanian community in Britain. This is not to say for a moment that all or even most Romanian people living in the UK are criminals.”

Ah,  so most of them aren’t criminals,  then!  What’s the concern,  then? Surely,  if they,  on balance,  are unlikely to be criminals,  then there’s no problem with them?

“But it is to say that any normal and fair-minded person would have a perfect right to be concerned if a group of Romanian people suddenly moved in next door. So far as I can see most of those media commentators objecting to this statement are people living in million pound houses for whom the prospect of such a turn of events is not a real one.”

The normal and fair-minded person argument?! Really?! So I assume that,  by disagreeing strongly with Farage,  I am not normal or fair minded? This is a pathetic,  but well used line.  It is immediately dismissive of opponents by questioning both sanity and motive.  It is disingenuous and,  may I say,  something which the “political classes and media elite” which Farage claims to oppose have used for years.

And “suddenly”? Why use that word? Is is because,  if something happens suddenly then it is unexpected? A shock? Probably unwanted? If they just” move in”, it doesn’t sound as sinister,  does it?

And again,  why look at the richer people who criticise UKIP? Because it’s easier to generalise,  after all,  it’s what UKIP do with everyone else. Plenty of normal,  every day people react in the same way to UKIP’s rhetoric.  But,  hey,  we’re all abnormal and wrong-thinking.

“Of course, if we were able to operate a proper work permit scheme for Romanian nationals, with suitable checks, as recommended by UKIP, then nobody would need to be concerned if a group of Romanian nationals moved in next door to them. “

So,  you want to discriminate against particular nationalities? Germans,  French,  Italian,  Dutch etc. are all fine,  but we need to vet Romanians first because,  well, you know the difference…

And maybe,  just maybe,  people wouldn’t worry about Romanians moving next door if they were discussed as the human beings they are,  rather than some sort of underclass.

“High levels of crime associated with Romanian nationals in Britain, corroborated by police sources and statistics, have been a major talking point in the British media for several years.”

Hold on! I thought there was a media campaign against UKIP? But they’ve been talking about this for years? Sounds like there are plenty in the media (many of whom “are people living in million pound houses for whom the prospect of such a turn of events is not a real one.”) who are willing to agree with you and spout the same sort of fear inducing claptrap (oh look,  it’s the Sun,  Mail and Express!)

There is nothing wrong with discussing immigration levels.  There is nothing wrong with addressing genuine concerns about crime levels. There is,  however,  something wrong with deliberately demonising groups of people based on nationality because some of them are criminals. Tarring everyone in an ethnic grouping with the same brush and deciding they are to be feared and treated differently is very wrong. It’s not political discourse,  it’s hatred.

James O’Brien’s first question in the interview was to ask Nigel Farage why he thought people accused UKIP of being racist.  Farage evaded the question over and over,  finally deciding to pretend not to understand what racist meant. He wouldn’t answer it,  so let me.

It’s because UKIP are racist.

They are the only party to have a rule barring ex BNP and NF members joining because they are the only party who needs one.  Their policies and rhetoric attract that kind of mind.

There are plenty of parties out there who represent an alternative to the main three parties.  Please don’t use your vote on one who want you to fear and hate your fellow man.

Update: The interview is, finally, getting some coverage by the BBC. Still not a Duffy moment, but getting there.

Give Subway a break

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There is a bit of a media storm going on at the moment regarding food.  This isn’t about food hygiene or finding horse meat in a lasagne. No, this storm is about the decision of Subway to convert 185 stores to ones which only serve Halal food, which conform to Islamic laws about the purity of food.

Subway have done this in areas with high Muslim populations after what it calls “requests from local communities”, with a spokesman saying,

“The diverse multicultural population across the UK and Ireland means we have to balance the values of many religious communities with the overall aim of improving the health and welfare standards of animals,”

This seems, to me, to be fair enough. There are areas of the UK where there are very high concentrations of Muslims, higher than non-Muslims in some, so to ensure they are catered for seems fair, as well as being good business sense on a local level. After all, if a high proportion of your local population are forbidden from eating what you serve then you are automatically reducing your own customer base, so doing something about that would appear to be sensible.

Of course, some of the concerns are centered around animal welfare, as the Subway spokesman alludes to in that statement. Subway have said that, before any animals are slaughtered, they will be electronically stunned to ensure minimal suffering (ignoring the fact that Islamic law states that the animal should be killed quickly and not suffer). This, then, appears to be a very minor concern.

However, the picture at the top of this post draws attention to the main worry of most people; namely, the idea that Sharia Law is gradually creeping in.

If that is you, let me ask you a question; if Subway had announced Kosher stores to cater for Jewish customers, which also served no pork or non-Kosher products, how would you react?

The answer I’ve seen to that is “ah, but they haven’t,  have they?” Well, yes, they have. In the USA, Subway have had Kosher stores for many years. They have not been successful and their numbers are dwindling, but it was done. And where was the media storm? Nowhere. Why? Because one of the main “bad guys” in modern society’s narrative is Islam. Put any other religious group up there and there isn’t a problem, but the fear created due to the actions of a few extremists and a sensationalist media means that there is an immediate negative reaction to anything like this.

There really is no need. Islam is no more “taking over” the UK than afro-carribbeans were in the 50s and 60s or Jews or Irish were in the 1800s.  Like all ethnic groups they are adding to a rich diversity of an already diverse culture. When you visit areas of our country and walk down a street to hear 8 or 9 different languages and see people of several different races and cultures it is amazing. It’s like the world has come to us. To have part of these groups’ native culture take hold is a natural process. There is no one British culture,  just a collection of diverse ones which converge and diverge all over the place and we are richer for that.

If you go into a Subway wanting a ham sub and they no longer serve pork, get one elsewhere. There are plenty who do. However, don’t let this stop you eating there at all. If, as David Cameron argues, we are a Christian country then you are going against Christian teachings to do so. God declared all food clean, and made no exception for Halal (not that it existed then, of course).

This isn’t the thin end of the wedge. This isn’t a Muslim takeover. This isn’t another step down the road to Sharia Law. This is a company addressing the needs of communities and maximising their customer base.

And this is coming from a real bacon lover!