Nigel Farage came awfully close to far-right rhetoric in Brussels on Monday: ‘we do have, I’m afraid, I’m sad to say, a fifth column that is living within our own countries, that is utterly opposed to our values…we’re going to have to be a lot braver and a lot more courageous in standing up for our Judeo-Christian culture’.
While UKIP is not classified as ‘far-right’ in the classic sense, Farage’s rhetoric in Brussels repeats Islamophobic, neo-conservative arguments about Islam and Muslims. The claim that Muslims are some kind of fifth column, sneakily waiting to take control of European governments, is textbook Islamophobia.
Anders Breivik used the same language in his manifesto claiming that ‘pro-Islamic networks that have been built up by stealth over the decades’ are part of a ‘fifth column without any loyalty to the state’ (p. 534). The next paragraphs calls for an end to all Muslim immigration and ‘presenting the Muslims already [in Europe with] the options of adapting to our societies or leaving if they desire sharia law’. It’s as if Breivik would offer some kind contract for Muslims to sign that ensures that they will renounce their purportedly inevitable plans for installing Sharia law in Europe.
Breivik’s thinking on Muslims does not come from a vacuum. There is a long history to both assumptions that Muslims are a ‘fifth column’ and that the proper way to deal with this ‘problem’ is to cut immigration and force Muslims to take on ‘European’–read, “Judeo-Christian”–values.
Anti-Muslim ideologues across the world have inspired this misguided thinking. A number of ‘Islamophobia misinformation experts’ such as Robert Spencer stress that Muslims have a clandestine plan to use Sharia law to replace Western governments with a Caliphate. The Center for American Progress, in an influential report, examined the relationship between the ‘experts’ that disseminate these false and inflammatory facts.
Activists like Pamela Geller and terrorists like Anders Breivik pick up this misinformation. In fact, these ‘experts’–many based in the U.S.–are widely read by European anti-Muslim activists, such as those at Stop Islamisation of Europe (who link to Spencer’s and Geller’s websites) and have influenced the EDL. All of them, just like Nigel Farage, take the line that Muslim immigration is a security threat, spread fear that Muslims are agents of a Sharia take-over, and demand that Muslims ‘assimilate’ on their terms.
Prominent Ukip members have pushed policies and made statements that demonstrate anti-Muslim sentiment. In 2006, London MEP Gerard Batten worked with a former Muslim, Sam Solomon to write a ‘Muslim charter’ that asks Muslims to affirm that domestic law takes precedence over Sharia (a notion already present in Islamic theology, see Article 2, pg 11 of the Ukip Muslim charter).
Batten reproduces the very same anxieties about Islam that the ‘misinformation experts’ above articulate: “Islamic fundamentalists…believe in Islamic theocracy, a universal Muslim society, the Umma, based on political rule according to the Qur’an and Sunnah.” We see that Batten’s fear is that ‘bad Muslims’ are lurking between the ‘good Muslims’ that want to decimate Western democracy.
This argument is not exactly the same as that of the ‘Islamophobia misinformation experts’ as Batten draws a line between fundamentalists and ‘moderate’ Muslims. Nigel Farage has strategically condemned the Muslim charter and claims that they treat those from all faiths and backgrounds equally.
Farage’s fear of a fifth column lurking in the Muslim contains an implicit demand that the community prove its compatibility with European ‘values’. In fact, it might be that the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris encouraged Farage to take a position even further to the right as he calls for Europeans to bravely stand up against threats to ‘Judeo-Christian’ culture. Just yesterday on Fox News, Nigel Farage said that some parts of France are ‘no-go’ areas for Muslims, causing the French Embassy in London to compare Farage to Steven Emerson (who recently made the same claim about all of Birmingham). Gerard Batten, on his blog, brought up the Muslim charter again following the attack in Paris, claiming that such attacks are a problem that only Muslims can solve.
While many who comment on Ukip suggest that it is not a far-right party, there is a significant overlap in their rhetoric about Muslims that should not be overlooked. Despite arguments that the far-right is in decline it is clear that constituents in support of far-right parties such as Britain First, the EDL, and the BNP are now voting for Ukip. Of course voters do not define a party, but Farage’s comments in Brussels suggest a latent anti-Muslim prejudice may be evident in the UK Independence Party.