Huffpost UK Politics uk
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Humza Yousaf Headshot

Time to Stop Mainstreaming the Far-Right

Posted: Updated:

A lot has been written in the aftermath of Anders Breivik's rampage in Norway two weeks ago, there is no doubt that it will take many years or perhaps even decades for the country to fully understand what happened on that awful day. However, what we cannot do is wait decades to learn the lessons from this particular tragedy.

Recently, on this very forum, I wrote about the need to tackle the ideological roots of Al Qaeda inspired terrorism. Going after the figureheads has its benefits but to defeat this scourge of extremism you have to deconstruct and dismantle the Jihadist's rhetoric and perverted ideology. Exactly the same approach must be taken if we wish to overcome violent far-right extremism.

As Breivik's 1,500 page manifesto demonstrates, from burkas to the BBC and Marxism to Muslims, there is much that angers those on the far-right. However, central to all of their reasoning is the notion that a minority are in the process of suppressing the rights and values of the so-called indigenous majority.

Over the last two decades and in the case of Anders Breivik, this notion has manifested itself through claims that Europe and the West are at risk of Islamisation. The far right presents an almighty clash of civilisations and seeks to convince us that in 50 years' time Islam will dominate Europe with the Anglo-Christian way of life buried under a pile of headscarves and halal meat.

The response to this notion should be to ridicule, to deconstruct and to challenge, but instead has been to give it validation through the reaction of the mainstream media and certain sections of the political classes.

Where we should take on the issues that drive people to the far right and address the misconceptions about immigration and integration, we have instead created a battleground in which mainstream media and politicians fan the flames of far-right extremism.

When we are inundated with stories about how Christmas trees and Christmas lights must now be replaced with "winter" decorations and hot cross buns to be substituted with fruit scones to appease the minority Muslim population, as is claimed by the peddlers of the Islamisation myth, their extreme views are given mainstream airtime. However, when Muslim communities are approached about such stories most of them shrug their shoulders, say they quite like hot cross buns and believe it or not even some Muslims put up fairy lights outside their house at Christmas time.

Such stories only serve to give strength to the central tenant of far-right extremism; that the West's centuries old Anglo-Christian traditions, customs and way of life are being polluted by incoming and settling minorities.

Last year two British daily newspapers ran a story regarding an Englishwomen's battle to save her Café's extractor fan being pulled down by the Local Council. The Daily Mail originally went with the following headline 'Café Owner Told to Remove Extractor Fan In case Smell of Frying Bacon Offends Passing Muslims'.

This story was designed, and was successful, in causing outrage that the traditional British breakfast staple, the bacon roll, was under attack from Islam and Muslims.

Once the facts of the case were examined it became clear that no Muslim actually objected to the application for an extractor fan. The successful objection was from a Mr Graham Webb-Lee, a non-Muslim who lived next door to the Café. He made mention of his Muslim friends who he believed may not visit him because of the smell of bacon frying, which he said made him 'physically sick'. He also made reference to non-Muslim friends not liking the smell, his daughter having an eating disorder which was exacerbated by the odour and his clothes smelling of bacon - but of course this was all conveniently left out of the story.

The failure to challenge these stories and the notion they promote of Islam dominating the domestic culture of a country builds a baseless fear that has led to a ban on minarets in Switzerland, the portrayal of the headscarf as a political symbol against France's proud tradition of secularism and regular reports that the availability of halal meat is a sign of Muslims forcing their traditions and customs on our animals as well as humans.

Far from giving far-right groups and individuals a platform and legitimising their myths we should be challenging their rhetoric. The truth is Britain's Nick Griffin, France's Marine Le Pen and the Netherland's Geert Wilders are hate preachers who are no different to Anjem Choudary of Islam4UK or Omar Bakri Muhammad of Al Muhajiroun.

All of these extremists claim to be non-violent, however, there is little doubt that the message of hate they regurgitate is designed to cause fear, alarm and mistrust between communities. And it only takes one person, like Breivik, who is a deadly product of this hate preaching and believes that there must be a revolution in Europe, to act on it.

This is not to say anyone who has concerns over immigration, worries over community integration or who harbours conservative-right wing views is to be silenced. Nor am I advocating a ban on any group, I never have. However, we cannot continue to give those who espouse hate a free ride, they cannot be viewed as a mainstream of public opinion and we cannot give a platform, or even worse legitimise by accident or design their warped views.

Yes challenges exist, in all communities and nations they do, but if we continue down the path of mainstreaming the views of the far-right then the consequences will undoubtedly be deadly.