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Is the EDL Racist?

This is my first video based blog addressing the many lies that the EDL employ in attempting to deflect criticism and winning wider support. The most strenuously denied accusation is that they are a racist organisation. Whilst anti-Muslim bigotry uses near identical tactics of demonisation, dehumanising tropes and negative stereotypes to classic racism, the excuse that Muslims aren’t a race is too easily deployed as an obstacle in the path of the accuser. For this reason I have only included examples of pure racism in this video. I have also chosen not to include neo-Nazism which would by definition qualify as racist behaviour, as I plan on addressing this in a future blog.

It could be argued that racist language by individuals at 8 demos which have drawn up to 3,000 supporters over a period of 4 years isn’t conclusive proof that the EDL is a racist organisation. I would counter that by saying that leaders, organisers and stewards at demos are required to instruct attendees not to use racist language, which is an unusual request to make of adults in a non-racist organisation. It’s also worth noting that at no point in any of the clips does anybody challenge or question the use of racist language. I would also point out that cameras are not able to capture the words of every demonstrator at every march for the duration of the day.

To bolster my case I have included links below to screenshots taken of EDL members on social networking sites using explicitly racist language. This is just a small sample taken from their reaction to the riots of summer 2011 and the Stephen Lawrence trial.

Click images to enlarge

EDL Riots 2

EDL Riots

EDL Riots 3 EDL Riots 4 EDL Riots 5

EDL Riots 7 EDL Riots 8 EDL Riots 9

EDL Riots 10 EDL riots 11 EDL Riots 13

EDL Riots 14 EDL Riots 15 EDL Riots 16

EDL Riots 17

EDL Riots 18 EDL Riots 19 EDL Riots 6EDL Riots 20

EDL Riots 25

EDL Riots 22 
EDL Riots 23

Again, some EDL sympathisers may argue that this is only two dozen examples from a period of four years where the EDL’s social media pages have attracted up to 100,000 users. I would ask them, why do the EDL seem to attract a disproportionate amount of people who are comfortable using racist epithets and displaying open hostility to people on a purely ethnic basis?

To add a little more scientific weight to my case I will provide some telling results from polls in which EDL members and supporters were asked to answer direct questions.

demos.co.uk files Inside_the_edl_WEB.pdf 1320079341

As the table above shows, as part of the Demos ‘Inside the EDL’ study of 2011, the voting preference of 1,295 EDL supporters was measured. 34% of the participants expressed a preference for the racist BNP, which is 17 times higher than the general population, whilst 14% chose the xenophobic UKIP, which is nearly 5 times higher than the general public.

The slides below are taken from Matthew Goodwin’s ‘Men of Violence? The Drivers of Public Support for the EDL’ study which polled 1,666 members of the general public. 298 were classed as EDL sympathisers, 124 self identified as EDL members, and the remainder were considered neither.

Men of Violence  The Drivers of Public Support for the English Defe... (1)

The slide above shows that those sympathising with the EDL have a clear antipathy towards immigrants, multiculturalism and diversity.

Men of Violence  The Drivers of Public Support for the English Defe... (2)

This slide shows not only an inclination towards ethno-Nationalism but also biological racism. As the slide states, these figures point to a more openly racist inner core to the EDL with a xenophobic circle of sympathisers.

Men of Violence  The Drivers of Public Support for the English Defe...

Perhaps surprisingly, the above slide shows that the primary concern for EDL members and sympathisers is immigration and asylum, not Islam or even ‘militant’ Islam. At least a degree of proportion can be found within the rank of the EDL, as Muslims are beaten into third place by concerns over the economy. It’s not apparent whether concerns with immigration are based on fears regarding unemployment, welfare resources and the economy, or xenophobia and racism. But previous slides may provide an insight.

The next three slides illustrate the factors which are most likely to predict support for the EDL. The methodology is explained first.

Men of Violence  The Drivers of Public Support for the English Defe... (5)

Men of Violence  The Drivers of Public Support for the English Defe... (3)

As far as EDL sympathisers are concerned, by far the strongest indicator of support for the EDL is xenophobia, with an inclination to violence in second.

Men of Violence  The Drivers of Public Support for the English Defe... (4)

Not much needs to be added to the summary of the last slide. The key point worth re-iterating is that the EDL core membership is far more likely to be driven by classic racism and be pro-violence than not only the general public, but also the sympathiser. This would go some way to explaining why the more casual supporters are often oblivious to the extreme hardcore, and are confused by the accusations of racism. They may not actually spend a great deal of time socialising online or attend demos with the EDL, so are therefore less likely to have been exposed to the overt racism as the anti-EDL activist.

Is it possible to claim that the EDL is a racist organisation given the information I’ve presented here? The evidence would suggest that it attracts racists and xenophobes in numbers vastly disproportionate to the general public. It also suggests that the closer the individual identifies themselves with the EDL, the higher the probability is that they hold racist views. Add to this the fact that the leadership have a history of support for the BNP and it’s not surprising that they feel at ease doing this in EDL circles. The fact that the group’s raison d’etre is opposition to a religion practised predominantly by people of Asian, Middle Eastern and African origin provides the perfect cover for racists to be able to vent their hate with slightly amended terminology. Despite the disingenuous mission statement and lip service from the leadership, it’s undeniable that the EDL is riddled with racists and it isn’t a coincidence.

All screenshots used can be found in the link below.

http://twitpic.com/photos/EDLNewsXtra

Links to the full reports used are below.

http://www.slideshare.net/matthewgoodwin1/isdtapva2013

http://demos.co.uk/files/Inside_the_edl_WEB.pdf?1320079341

6 Degrees of Anders Breivik

Occasionally I like to indulge my immature side and post something a bit more light hearted than usual, but as ever, there’s always a message.

1. Anders Breivik

Far right extremist, anti-Muslim terrorist, perpetrator of 77 murders in Oslo & Utoya. EDL supporter.

2. Daryl Hobson

EDL organiser & logo designer, Facebook friend of Breivik & recipient of his infamous manifesto.

3. Stephen Lennon

EDL leader & founder, despite denying knowledge of Hobson they have been photographed together.

Daryl Hobson & Tommy Robinson/Stephen Lennon

4. Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer

Namechecked 64 times in Breivik’s manifesto, eminent Islamophobe, co-founder of SIOA and EDL endorser.

5. Douglas Murray

Douglas Murray

Heads conservative think tank Centre for Social Cohesion, has liaised with Spencer on ‘counter terrorism’ issues, EDL sympathiser, influential in formulating David Cameron’s Prevent strategy addressing Islamic extremism.

6. David Cameron

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, denouncer of multiculturalism, Muslim scapegoater.

Despite this being a slightly mischievous post, it’s not entirely frivolous. The issue that has caused these people’s paths to cross socially or professionally is Islam. The thought that the work of Robert Spencer could influence both the acts of a terrorist and government policy on dealing with the Muslim community is worrying to say the least, and is yet another reason to put these hatemongers under the microscope and blow their industry wide open.

The Day Islamophobia Exploded

Many observers, bloggers and commentators have been monitoring and logging the rise of Islamophobia in recent years. I, myself, have expressed concern on more than one occasion that unless the acceptability of anti-Muslim sentiment is challenged it will take a tragedy on a large scale to wake people up to the rise of far right extremism. I have been working on a blog post addressing what I see as an impending tipping point for the EDL at their proposed Tower Hamlets demonstration. I’ve been sitting on it due to further developments and partly because I feared my theory would be considered slightly hysterical. In light of events in Norway this week, it appears that my, and many others fears were well founded.

This is part of the post I was going to title ‘The EDL and their East end Crossroads’.

With EDL demos mainly consisting of congregating, drinking, singing the same few songs and leaving, they achieve absolutely nothing in their quest of halting the Islamic jihad. Tower Hamlets could be the one where the violent online rhetoric is transferred into actions. The consequences of this could spell the beginning of the end for them as an organisation. How much longer will they be allowed to disrupt communities, waste police time and tax payers money? The rise in their profile means that more and more members of the general public are becoming aware of their reputation and what they stand for. Some will sympathise, the majority see them for what they are and reject them.

I predict that the Tower Hamlets event will further drive a wedge between the EDL and mainstream society and many members will have to choose which direction they wish to take. If there is large scale disorder I can see harsher restrictions being put on their marches or total bans. This will lead to frustration among the more moderate members who will become disillusioned and abandon the group. If the demo passes without incident due to kettling or lack of reaction from the locals, the more extreme element within the EDL will also be frustrated that what was supposed to be their showpiece demo failed to live up to its billing. Their resentment towards the government, local authorities, the Muslim community and the ‘left’ will grow, and their already unhealthy paranoia will force them to become more militant to satisfy their appetite for action and to achieve their goals. It will be the end of the EDL as we know it.

The organisation will have shed any illusion of inclusiveness and adherence to an obsolete mission statement, and ‘ordinary’ members will be marginalised. There is a real danger that regional divisions could evolve into underground urban militias, stockpiling weapons in readiness for the civil war that will never materialise. Nevertheless the ever changing demographics of the UK will fuel their paranoia and result in sporadic violence and possibly even terrorist attacks. This may sound like pure fantasy, but it’s already happening. In the UK, the last 2 years have seen over 30 recorded incidents of arson, vandalism or attempted bombings of mosques, assaults on individuals outside mosques or vandalism of Muslim graves. This is more than one incident a month, and many incidents go unreported due to fear of reprisals. I don’t see this stopping anytime soon unless serious action is taken or something tragic happens. Islamophobia and far right extremism are on the rise in Europe, and until they are both addressed on a governmental level they will keep on growing, and only a catastrophic event will cause people to treat the issue with the seriousness it warrants.

Maybe I’m being melodramatic, maybe the EDL will just amble along on the fringes of mainstream society until they realise they serve no purpose, and the movement will fizzle out naturally. But the level of hatred and violent rhetoric that comes from a hardcore of members indicates that they won’t go down without a fight. They actually believe they are fighting a domestic war to win their country back. These people won’t just stop feeling the way they do and will exist in some shape or form, EDL or not. This is the reason I feel things will inevitably escalate before they improve. How quickly they escalate will be decided in no small part on September the 3rd 2011. Hopefully then we can help things improve.

I posted an article recently highlighting the relative scarcity of jihadist attacks in Europe and the US compared to other ideologies and how we need to change the perception regarding terrorism and terrorists. The reluctance to acknowledge the threat of domestic terrorism in order to chase the Islamic bogeyman has caused the powers that be to take their eye off the ball with catastrophic consequences.

Here’s an extract from an article I wrote back in April 2011.

In 2011, no one in the mainstream media would dare espouse openly anti-Semitic views akin to those above. No one would express their wishes to return blacks to the status they had in the Jim Crow era, whether they held them or not. Why then, in the 21st century is it acceptable to do both of these with Muslims?

It worries me to imagine how far this could go before it is seen for what it is. Where is the tipping point? What will be the catalyst that forces people to say enough is enough? Unfortunately it will likely be a tragedy on a large scale. It scares me to imagine how large. People are dying daily in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain. Hundreds of detainees remain in Guantanamo Bay without charge. The civilian death toll in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is in the hundreds of thousands. The people of Palestine are still living in a state of apartheid under siege. How much suffering needs to be inflicted before a watershed occurs?

As long as the GWOT continues, as long as Palestinians resist, and as long as there is oil in the middle east, there will be a need to demonise Muslims and Arabs. In recent weeks we have seen anti-Muslim hearings being held and anti-Sharia laws being passed in America. We’ve seen France criminalise 0.003% of it’s population by banning the niqab. Belgium have already done this. Holland is considering the issue of Halal slaughter. Switzerland has already banned the erection of minarets. Gaza has lost women and children with no media outcry, western condemnation or political debate for a no fly zone.

My hope is that making it as uncomfortable as possible to carry out this demonising will go some way to accelerating it’s demise. Don’t let anyone tell you they can’t be racist towards Muslims, because they can and they are. From the lowliest EDL member, to Republican Senators and Heads of State. Let’s not allow them to hide behind the false claims and propaganda. It’s a huge challenge due to the semantics and misinformation in use and the political implications. The influence of the Conservative Christian right and Pro Israel lobby also cannot be underestimated. But the court of public opinion will always hold considerable power. Public opinion needs to be informed to be able to pass judgement. That’s where we come in. Let’s take this opportunity in the age of social networks and internet revolutions to help raise awareness and stop the hate. Forward, share, join, like, tweet and retweet. Let’s become the generation that said ‘Never Again’ and really meant it.

I blogged this in June 2011.

The acquittal of Geert Wilders in an Amsterdam court yesterday was a victory for free speech. It was also a victory for hate and hypocrisy……What will this mean for Muslims in Holland, across Europe and the West? A report from Belgium shows that Islamophobia is at an all time high there, while anti-Muslim attacks are on the rise in the UK and US, ranging from verbal abuse, to mosque vandalism and physical attacks. France and Switzerland have also introduced legislation that infringe on Muslims practicing their faith. This legal victory will no doubt fortify those who share his views, and I would venture that we can expect some attention seekers to attempt to capitalise on it.

It seems insensitive to say I told you so at a time like this, but many of us did. The only surprise for me was the fact that the attack didn’t focus on Muslims. But something else that has struck me recently is that if there is one set of people the far right despise more than Muslims, it’s ‘the left’. Whether it’s because they see them as dhimmis, traitors, enablers or the manufacturers of the multicultural society they abhor. In some perverse way, the fact that white Europeans were the victims could be less damaging in the long term. It may sound callous, but with Caucasian natives being murdered it may bring home the gravity of the threat to the ruling elite, the media and general public in a way that the deaths of immigrants couldn’t. Also, the bombing of a mosque or immigration centre, with an equal number of Muslim casualties could spark continent wide race riots with dire implications for community relations which could take a generation to rebuild. The most fitting tribute the people of Europe could pay to these innocent kids and their families is to promise not to let this happen again, to anyone.

The only way we can do this is by ensuring that politicians, the media and anyone else with influence are aware of the problem. A good start would be to shine the spotlight as brightly as possible on the anti-Muslim ideologues that inspired Breivik’s imagination and actions. Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders, Daniel Pipes, Fjordman, Bat Ye’or, Brigitte Gabriel, Frank Gaffney, Walid Shoebat, Andrew Bostom, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Melanie Phillips, David Horowitz and Front Page, Steve Emerson, Ibn Warraq, Gate of Vienna, SIOE among others all need to feel the heat. Whilst not directly responsible for the atrocity, their influence is undeniable. Whilst each and every one of them attempts to distance themselves from Breivik’s actions, their words of hate towards Muslims and liberals are freely available to observe on the world wide web.

Robert Spencer – “The girl is right: do not fear. Fight back against the jihad. Fear hands the jihadis a weapon.”

Pamela Geller“And I pray dearly that in the ungodly event that Tehran or its jihadi proxies (Hez’ballah, Hamas etc) target Israel with a nuke, that she retaliate with everything she has at Tehran, Mecca, and Medina…………… Not to mention Europe.” 

Geert Wilders – “We need a spirit of resistance, because resistance to evil is our moral duty.”

Daniel Pipes – “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene…. All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.”

Walid Shoebat – “Kill them (Muslims)… including the children … “

Bat Ye’or“Those churches know perfectly well the dire condition of Christians in Muslim lands. But instead of denouncing it, they adopt the militancy of the Janissaries, those Christian slave militias that were the spearhead of the Islamic war against Christianity.”

Mark Steyn – “The Serbs figured that out–as other Continentals will in the years ahead: If you can’t outbreed the enemy, cull ’em. The problem that Europe faces is that Bosnia’s demographic profile is now the model for the entire continent.”

David Horowitz – “What other people wouldn’t be stringing up the people who were responsible or who they thought to be responsible.”

Brigitte Gabriel –  “America and the West are doomed to failure in this war unless they stand up and identify the real enemy: Islam.”

“It is not yet politically correct to talk about a religious war. But this is exactly what we are facing: a religious war declared by devout Muslims….It’s not radical Islam. It’s what Islam is at its core.” 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali – “No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.  I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. You look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy.”

This is just the tip of the Islamophobic iceberg. So far, this warmongering rhetoric has gone without the disapproval that would greet similar sentiments about blacks or Jews. Despite the rise in Islamophobic incidents, this brand of hate speech has been tolerated or ignored. Many of us who have been casting a more critical and analytical eye over developments have suspected it would only be a matter of time before some radicalised extremist took the only step left to take. Now it’s happened, we’ll see whether they will continue their irresponsible hate mongering. The attack by Breivik is seen by him as the start of a war, one that the aforementioned ‘counter jihadists’ have been using to spread fear and paranoia for years. The reaction of many of them has been one of surprise, as if the holy war they predicted was just a propaganda tool that they never seriously envisaged happening. Well, whether it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy or not, it’s here now and the words and actions of these figureheads and their disciples will be scrutinised to the nth degree. They need to be held accountable and made to answer. If they truly condemn and regret the horrific events of last Friday, they must now enter meaningful dialogue to prove it. Does their humanity outweigh their hate? Are they willing to put their selfish agenda’s aside for the sake of peace? We shall see, as somehow I doubt this is the last I’ll blog on this subject.

For more articles on the threat of the far right and its ideologues I’ve linked some below.

http://yellow-stars.com/blog/2011/07/23/norway-attack-islamophobic-reaction/

http://yellow-stars.com/blog/2011/07/23/norway-and-europe-new-terrorist-threat/

http://yellow-stars.com/blog/2011/06/19/wrong-dangerous-directions-counter-terrorism-western-world/

http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/07/25/rise_of_the_radical_right

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2011/07/26/europe_right_wing_extremism

http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/07/loonwatch-has-been-warning-about-a-anders-behring-breivik-for-years/

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/07/26/what-are-people-like-melanie-phillips-calling-for-then/

Speak And Let Speak

The acquittal of Geert Wilders in an Amsterdam court yesterday was a victory for free speech. It was also a victory for hate and hypocrisy. I don’t believe that any religion should be exempt from criticism in a modern democracy, and critics should be able to voice their concerns without fear of physical reprisals. But what Wilders produces is more than criticism, it crosses all boundaries of respect and strides into full blown hate mongering. Some might argue that freedom of speech should also allow us to express our dislikes without censorship. I’d go along with this, but there needs to be a crucial caveat in my opinion. If you’re going to take advantage of your right to free speech, what you say needs to be based on facts. Especially if the facts are unpleasant and controversial. Much of what Wilders says is unpleasant and controversial, but not all of it is rooted in the truth. His views may be offensive to many people, but he has a right to air them. I argue though that he should also have an obligation to justify these views with fact based evidence. If he thinks women who chose to wear the hijab should be taxed, that’s his right, but his reasoning needs to be sound otherwise he just looks like another Islamophobic bigot. When asked if he would extend the tax to Orthodox Christian head scarves, he said no. So already we can see a clear anti-Muslim bias. Also, calling it a ‘head-rag’  probably doesn’t help his case.

Other views he has expressed include comparing of the Qur’an to Mein Kampf, the view that Holland should halt immigration from all Muslim countries and Muslims living in Holland should be repatriated, that the possibility of Dutch cities becoming majority non-white is a bad thing, and he supports the occupation, theft of land, displacement and violence against Palestinians. These views probably don’t differ a great deal from any other far right group, including our beloved EDL, and as much as I disagree with them and will challenge them, I support their right to express them. Beyond the standard right wing, anti-immigration fare though there lies a more sinister and devious rhetoric that we’re unaccustomed to from British politicians, and is more akin to American Christian evangelists and Zionists. He specialises in the demonisation of Islam and Muslims in a manner which is inflammatory and provocative, offensive and insulting, and wholly misleading and dishonest. Here is a selection of quotes from Wilders:

Islam is not a religion… the Quran is a book that calls for hatred, that calls for violence, for murder, for terrorism, for war, and submission…We should also stop pretending that Islam is a religion…the right to religious freedom should not apply to Islam.”

“It is not a coincidence that every terroristic act, almost every terroristic act, aimed and based on this fascist book, the Koran, and this wrong ideology, Islam, unfortunately has been done by people from Islamic [background]“

(Completely false, and a claim I will put to bed in a future post)

“I don’t believe in a moderate Islam.  I don’t believe in what some people call a European Islam. I don’t think there will be [a moderate Islam] and if there will be, in time, it will be in two or three thousand years.”

“Madam Chairman, this country has an excise tax on petrol and diesel, it has parking permits and a dog tax, it has an airline ticket tax and has a packaging tax, so why not tax the headscarf? A Head Rag Tax.”

“The Quran asks, commands Muslims to kill non-Muslims.”

“The purest joy in Islam is to kill and be killed.”

“Muhammad was a warlord. In establishing Islam he preached violence, he preached the slaughter of non-Muslims.”

“Europe is beginning to look, slowly but gradually like Arabia.” (VERY slowly. There are approx. 45m Muslims in Europe, only 5m are Arabs. 9% of a Muslim population that accounts for 6% of the total.)

“We need a spirit of resistance, because resistance to evil is our moral duty.”

“The media call it an Arab Spring, I call it an Arab Winter. Islam and freedom, Islam and democracy are incompatible.”

The claim that there is no moderate Islam, and other accusations of violently homicidal tendencies inherent to Islam will be news to anyone who has read the extracts below in the Qur’an, which Wilders claims is not open to interpretation.

There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. [2:256] 

“And do not kill yourselves, for God has been merciful to you.” (4:29)

‘He who has killed one innocent soul, it is as if he has killed all humanity. And he who has saved one soul, it is as if he has saved all humanity . . .’ (Quran 5:32)

“…Take not life, which Allah hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that ye may learn wisdom.” (al-An’am 6:151)

“Nor take life – which Allah has made sacred – except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, We have given his heir authority (to demand Qisas or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life; for he is helped (by the law)” (al-Isra’ 17:33)

“Whoever hurts a Non-Muslim citizen of a Muslim state hurts me, and he who hurts me annoys God.” (Bukhari)

All accusations can be refuted at the drop of a hat. It’s scaremongering at it’s worst, and if it’s not hate speech I don’t know what is. His views and proposals are blatantly constructed to discriminate against one section of society. He endorses the overt targeting of Muslims for unequal treatment. He wants to ban the building of new Mosques, ban Madrassas, ban the Qur’an, introduce a licence for the hijab, ban Halal slaughter, ban Muslim immigration, repatriate existing Muslims, enforce assimilation to his idea of western culture, the list goes on. All of this based on a totally false and distorted image of Islam.

The irony of him being the leader of the Freedom Party seems lost on him. It appears that basic human rights of freedom of speech, worship, expression or any other kind isn’t extended to Muslims in his world. Not just Muslims either though. This is where his hypocrisy becomes laughable. Wilders supported the rights of a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten to publish insulting cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, yet when a Dutch website hosted an illustration of Wilders manning a Nazi style concentration camp for Muslims, he called for their suppression and bullied them into removing it. He has also condemned criticism from opposition parties and demanded apologies for what he deems to be insults. He actually succeeded in getting a prominent philosopher banned from criticising his party in a University lecture. These double standards are fairly typical for far right groups who purport to champion free speech.

It’s tempting to imagine how much leeway would be given to Wilders if he was demonising Jews for example. Consider that he recently spoke at a Christian college in Toronto, while the same Canadian city’s council has unanimously voted to outlaw criticism of Israel. Anti-Semitic hate speech is quite rightly off limits, as it seems is pointing out the transgressions of an apartheid state, but blatant Islamophobia is apparently acceptable.

Unsurprisingly, Wilders supporters were jubilant at his acquittal. Not only is it a triumph for free speech, but indicates to them that comparing Islam to Nazism is “…acceptable within the context of the public debate.”

What will this mean for Muslims in Holland, across Europe and the West? A report from Belgium shows that Islamophobia is at an all time high there, while anti-Muslim attacks are on the rise in the UK and US, ranging from verbal abuse, to mosque vandalism and physical attacks. France and Switzerland have also introduced legislation that infringe on Muslims practicing their faith. This legal victory will no doubt fortify those who share his views, and I would venture that we can expect some attention seekers to attempt to capitalise on it.

Despite initially being dismayed at the decision, and angry at the reaction from the usual candidates, I’ve taken stock. I now wish to issue a challenge to the supposed free speech advocates on the far right. I accept and respect your right to speak your mind, no matter how hateful. Now that the precedent has been set, I expect you to abide by the same ethos. Don’t like what us liberals have to say? Tough. Don’t like whatever rubbish MAC are spouting? Deal with it. Don’t want to be called fascist? Prove you’re not. Freedom of speech works both ways. We all have the right to it. I also urge you to remember this. Challenging what you say isn’t stopping you, state your case but expect me to state mine. It’s how a debate works, if you have a valid case there shouldn’t be an issue. Shouting people down, smearing, insulting and abusing them doesn’t prove your point or win an argument, quite the opposite. If you want this country to be the free democracy you claim Muslims are trying to put an end to, speak and let speak.

Patriotism vs Nationalism

Patriotism is a devotion to one’s country. In a generalized sense applicable to all countries and peoples, patriotism is a devotion to one’s country for no other reason than being a citizen of that country.

patriot (plural patriots)

1. A person who loves and zealously supports and defends his or her country.

Nationalism involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms. It can be a belief that citizenship in a state should be limited to one ethnic, cultural or identity group.

An issue that keeps nagging away at my subconscious is the relationship between patriotism and nationalism. Whether you can express one without the other, whether feeling either is compatible with liberal values and principles, and what drives the sentiments. This dilemma was brought to the fore again this week with the Welsh Assembly local elections. Having voted Labour and Lib Dem in the past, and not particularly enthusiastic about doing so again, it was a choice between the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru. If you’ve been brought up in South Wales with family ties to the coal mining community (my maternal Grandfather was a coal miner in the Rhondda Valley) and witnessed the pain and poverty the Thatcher years and it’s aftermath brought to the area, voting Tory is not an option. It looked like it was going to be Plaid. I had already voted Plaid in the General Election of 2010 so it wasn’t a big deal, but the old question of nationalism reared its head once more. Now I know voting for a party such as Plaid or the SNP is a million miles away from giving the thumbs up to the BNP, but the perception of nationalism is still something that rankles with my desire to be part of a global community, not isolated and exclusive. The spectre of separatism still looms with the ideals of nationalism, whether left or right wing.

Is the Welsh nationalism of Plaid Cymru the same as that of Meibion Glyndwr (Sons of Glyndwr), Mudiad Amddiffyn Cymru (Movement for the Defence of Wales) or Byddin Rhyddid Cymru (Free Wales Army)? Possibly, but the crucial difference is the method by which independence is to be achieved. For Plaid it would be a referendum, for the aforementioned paramilitary groups it was burning holiday homes and bombing water and power lines. Welsh nationalism is defined as: emphasises the distinctiveness of Welsh language, culture, and history, and calls for more self-determination for Wales, including independence from the United Kingdom. Aspirations held by all Welsh nationalists, but there’s a risk that this could alienate non-Welsh residents (as well as Welsh), and if you ignore the history of Wales these sentiments look quite BNPesque. This is where my discomfort must come from. Looking at the Plaid platform it’s obvious that this is not the angle they are coming from:

1. To promote the constitutional advancement of Wales with a view to attaining Full National Status for Wales within the European Union.

2. To ensure economic prosperity, social justice and the health of the natural environment, based on decentralist socialism.

3. To build a national community based on equal citizenship, respect for different traditions and cultures and the equal worth of all individuals, whatever their race, nationality, gender, colour, creed, sexuality, age, ability or social background.

4. To create a bilingual society by promoting the revival of the Welsh language.

5. To promote Wales’s contribution to the global community and to attain membership of the United Nations.

You only have to look at the candidates put forward in Cardiff to see that Plaid are true to their word. The candidate for my particular constituency this time around is Liz Musa, a Cardiff born daughter to a Welsh mother and Nigerian father. At the General Election the candidate was Farida Aslam, a Muslim single mother. Plaids Riverside councillor is Mohammed Sarul Islam, and former candidates include Mohammad Ashgar the first AM from an ethnic minority and daughter Natasha Ashgar. In 2006 on the International Day of Peace, the group Muslims for Plaid was launched as a reaction to the party’s stance on the Iraq war. The BNP have recently called Plaid a ‘fake nationalist’ party and claimed that a vote for them is a vote for the further Islamification of Wales, due to the growing relationship.

So, I’m satisfied that a vote for Plaid is progressive and not at odds with my leftist leanings. They’re nationalist in the sense that they aim to promote the Welsh culture and language that has been eroded with Anglicisation since the days of the Welsh Not and earlier, but not in the sense that it should be done at the expense of other cultures that have found home in Wales.

What about patriotism? It’s a word that has been hijacked by the right-wing in recent years and has come to evoke sentiments similar to nationalism, the Union Jack and the St. George’s flag. In the minds of Teabaggers and EDLers, any inclination towards the left, any criticism of our troops and foreign policy, or any feelings on immigration, Muslims and multiculturalism that edge towards sympathy or objectivity are considered unpatriotic. Anything that doesn’t put white Britons first, second and last is unpatriotic.

There is also the feeling that the concept of being so proud of somewhere just because of an accident of birth is strange one. Yet I still get goosebumps singing Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the hairs on the back of my neck still stand up watching footage of Barry, Gareth, JPR, Gerald and Phil from the 70’s. It still fills me with pride to remember great Welsh people like Aneurin Bevan, John Charles, Richard Burton, Dylan Thomas, Carwyn James and Tommy Cooper, to name but a few. My sense of national pride comes from knowing the history of my country and its people, the achievements of these people, and how we continue to overachieve in the fields of sport, the arts and culture. Not from any sense of superiority we have over any other country. Not because of any military conquests, an ability to build empires or the arrogant belief that we brought civilisation and democracy to the third world.

The EDL have a slogan that goes along the lines of ‘Patriotism isn’t Racism’. As a statement of fact, this is 100% true. But the EDL definition of patriotism has more in common with right wing nationalism or jingoism.

More on nationalism:

It can also include the belief that the state is of primary importance, or the belief that one state is naturally superior to all other states. In some cases the identification of a national culture is combined with a negative view of other races or cultures. Some nationalists exclude certain groups. Some nationalists, defining the national community in ethnic, linguistic, cultural, historic, or religious terms (or a combination of these), may then seek to deem certain minorities as not truly being a part of the ‘national community’ as they define it.

Jingoism is extreme patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy. In practice, it is a country’s advocacy of the use of threats or actual force against other countries in order to safeguard what it perceives as its national interests. Colloquially, it refers to excessive bias in judging one’s own country as superior to others – an extreme type of nationalism.

I saw the EDL being described recently as ‘Untranationalists’.

Ultranationalism is a form of nationalism that expresses intense support for one’s nation, and is often characterized by authoritarianism. It can lead to reduction or stoppage of immigration, expulsion, oppression, demagoguery, emotional aspects, talk of presumed real or imagined enemies, threat to survival, crack-down, limit of trade through tariffs, tight control over businesses and production, militarism, populism and propaganda. Ultranationalism has the potential to lead to conflict within a state, as well as between states, and in its extreme form leads to war, secession or, in the case of enthnocentrist ultranationalism, genocide

They would certainly tick a few of those boxes.

Patriotism is a celebration of ones own country and countrymen, once it strays beyond that it ceases to be patriotism. Is it possible to be patriotic without being nationalistic? It would seem so. Is nationalism necessarily a negative trait? It doesn’t have to be as far as I can see. As with any political ideology there’s a broad spectrum of ideals that pick up more unpleasant characteristics as you approach the extreme right. When ethnicity, culture or religion is targeted in a notion of nationalism, the sense of pride has been overtaken by a sense of supremacy. That’s when I get off the ride. I’m happy to celebrate and promote the people, the country, the cultural history and the language of Wales, but I’m also happy to welcome other people and languages that will enrich the cultural history. I don’t want the Wales of 2011 to be the same as the Wales of 1811, but there’s no reason why I can’t be proud of both.

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