I care little for the politics of the United Kingdom Independence Party. It strikes me as a collection of Thatcherites, disenfranchised with the Tory Party over its current stance on the EU and immigration. The brighter ones do anyway. The remainder constitute what David Cameron rather cogently summed up as ''fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists''. It's rare that I agree with our illustrious Prime Minister but, on this occasion, I am forced to concur with his analysis.
The most recent source of mind-numbing ignorance from within UKIP's ranks comes from Mr Gerard Batten, MEP for London in Strasbourg, who suggested to The Guardian on Tuesday that Muslims should sign a charter rejecting passages in the Qur'an that promote jihad.
This, according to the MEP himself, would be no issue at all for ''any reasonable, normal person''. In truth, any reasonable, normal person would not be living in such abject terror of Britain's Muslim population as to require some kind of assurance that we are all safe from violence.
In a statement, Batten said,
"Who is in favour of jihad? Apart from the jihadists of course? I was, and still am, happy to speak out against it . . .''
The hapless fellow is evidently labouring under the delusion that jihad is exclusively about violence. He is mistaken. Jihad literally translates as 'struggle'. All devout Muslims are in favour of jihad, but it should not cause anyone to tremble in the kind of tormented fear which brings about documents entitled 'A propsed charter of Muslim understanding'. In actuality, all internal jihad entails is struggle within oneself, in order to be a good Muslim. Jihad's meaning goes far beyond violence, and transcends Mr Batten's somewhat limited knowledge on the subject.
Having no wish to make it an isolated display of personal ignorance, Batten continued,
''They [Muslims] don't allow Christian churches or Hindu temples to be built or any kind of non-Muslim place of worship in many of their countries and certainly not in the heartland of their religion''.
Perhaps there is a kind soul that exists in Batten's life who could gently explain to him that Christianity's very origins are in the Middle East, in what are now predominately Muslim countries. Christians are still welcome and indeed reside in them. Moreover, churches exist in a whole range of Muslim countries.
All credit where it is due, Batten is correct that non-Muslim places of worship are not allowed in Saudi Arabia. If he believes, however, that the majority of the world's Muslims identify with the extreme Wahhabi brand of Islam found in Saudi Arabia, he is again mistaken. This, incidentally, is a country with which - despite a grotesque human rights record - Britain trades regularly. UKIP's endorsement of free trade is publically brandished on its website and presumably mirrors that of the late Margaret Thatcher, who had no qualms about supplying weapons to brutal despots (Suharto of Indonesia, General Pinochet of Chile, and Saddam Hussein of Iraq to name but a few). It would be interesting to learn of Batten's opinion on whether Britain should cease its lucrative arms deals with Saudi Arabia until churches materialise on Saudi soil.
Unfortunately for UKIP, Batten's misinformed rambling is the latest in a series of bizarre utterances from its party members. In January, UKIP Councillor for Henley on Thames, David Silvester, blamed the recent flooding on gay marriage. As if actively seeking bad publicity, Silvester further argued in a radio interview that homosexuality is a ''spiritual disease'' which can be healed.
Then of course comes Godfrey Bloom, the man who has much to say about foreign aid's cost to the national budget, but seemingly nothing about tax avoidance. A Libertarian through and through, who can't quite seem to understand why it's not acceptable to use terms such as 'slut' or 'Bongo Bongo Land', chalking up the subsequent distaste which they incurred as ''mock outrage'' motivated by political opportunism. Bloom proved too much of a clown even for UKIP, and had the whip withdrawn following what Bloom himself now refers to as the 'slutgate' incident.
If UKIP took itself about as seriously as the Monster Raving Loony Party takes itself, then it would be a laugh a minute. The fact that UKIP does take itself seriously is actually rather sad.