Since the successful Brexit referendum in June last year UKIP has, inevitably, been struggling to find a new purpose and political identity.
There is much internal party debate, and one of the current hot topics is about how the party should respond to the rise of Islam as a religio-political force across the UK. My contribution was published last week on the blogsite ‘UKIP Daily’, and now here:
Recently UKIP Daily has hosted a number of articles about issues such as halal slaughter, Sharia courts and jihadi terrorism. It is good to see the party is beginning to get to grips with the rise of Islam in our society.
But it seems we are still tip-toeing around the topic and trying to avoid giving offence. One of the contributors even wrote that we should be careful about going too far when discussing Islam in case our political enemies “have us promptly branded as BNP-Lite, or similar” – as if it matters what our opponents say about us.
We cannot do policy by worrying about tomorrow’s headlines.
Islam now saturates our political landscape and dominates the public imagination in the way that, say, Communism/Marxism did fifty years ago, and the UK is being increasingly Islamised. UKIP must therefore develop a coherent approach to the issue if it wants to be a serious political party.
I offer two key principles to guide us:
First we must fully respect Muslims as our friends, neighbours and fellow British citizens who have the same rights and freedoms as the rest of us. Stupidly stereotyping them, insulting them or slagging them down as people is unacceptable.
But, second, we must insist that we are free to challenge all aspects of Islam, unconstrained by political correctness and with nothing off-limits. Nonsense accusations of racism and Islamophobia must not be allowed to shut down necessary debate.
I’ve tried these principles and they work:
In 2005 a fundamentalist Islamic group called Tablighi Jamaat (TJ) announced that they planned to construct one of the largest mosques in the world, with a capacity of between 45,000 and 70,000, at West Ham in east London just a mile from my home and half a mile from the London Olympic stadium. TJ intended to build this as a massive showcase mosque for the 2012 London Olympics and as a global centre to propagate their hostile form of Islam across Europe and North America.
I decided to oppose it without personal animosity towards the Muslims behind the project. Indeed I often subsequently defended their right to propose their mega-mosque just as I defended my absolute right to oppose it. That’s how democracy works in the UK even if not in Saudi Arabia.
Before I started the campaign I tried to meet with the TJ elders in order to explain my opposition. Although they refused, I regularly extended the right hand of neighbourliness to them to show I had nothing against them personally or as Muslims. However they continued to refuse to meet.
I was also ruthless in publicly exposing the political ideology of the group and their underlying hostility to British society, with no holds barred. In my view it would have been utter madness to allow them this huge platform to propagate their anti-social beliefs across the UK and wider.
I launched the campaign via BBC TV in July 2006 and immediately ran into a storm of vitriol and bile, mainly from the Left, with the inevitable accusations of race-hatred, bigotry and Islamophobia. Jonathan Bartley, now joint-leader of the Green Party and that party’s leading UKIP opponent, was one of the first out of the blocks with uninformed and typically knee-jerk comments.
Muslim mega-mosque supporters too attacked me. One even issued a death threat by publishing my obituary on social media.
But as I respect Muslims and am not Islamophobic, I was able to campaign together with moderate British Muslims who also opposed this monstrosity. Our campaign co-operation was telling and in due course the message got through. Newham Council, which previously had been 100% in favour of the mega-mosque, took note, changed its mind and in December 2012 it rejected the TJ planning application. The government followed when in November 2015 Secretary of State Greg Clark MP rejected TJ’s appeal.
A personal warmth towards Muslims, together with an iron determination to publish the unpalatable facts about Tablighi Jamaat and their mega-mosque no matter the cost, were both vital to the success of our campaign.
Islam is a theocratic religion, that is, both a political ideology and a religious belief system. Also, like Communism/Marxism, it wants to take over the world. In our democracy we primarily challenge such take-overs by disputing their ideas and contesting their policies. We must maintain therefore that we are completely free to dispute the Quran, to expose hypocrisy in the Hadith and to rubbish Sharia, for example.
Further, at the heart of Islam lies Islam’s prophet Muhammad whom every stream of Islam claims is the ‘Role Model for All Humanity’.
It is our democratic duty to put Muhammad under the microscope and see what he has to offer UK society.
For instance, he had nine wives, the youngest of whom was aged six when they wed and with whom he consummated the marriage when she was just nine. If our increasingly Islamised society begins to accept Muhammad as a role model for the UK, will this necessarily change our collective view (and, ultimately, our legislation) about polygamy, paedophilia and child brides to a more Islamic approach?
UKIP is a bold radical party that rejects the soggy truth-denying political correctness of the political class. We must be willing, if necessary alone, to raise tough issues, ask hard questions and champion unpopular causes.
And from now on Islam, but not Muslims, must be on UKIP’s agenda and in our political sights.