The government was moved to sack its housing adviser, Roger Scruton, after he seemingly reiterated anti-Semitic statements and referred to Muslim immigration in Hungary as an “invasion” in his dismissal of Islamophobia.
The comments emerged in an interview with the New Statesman, and soon after, excerpts of it flooded social media, prompting fierce criticisms. Within this interview, the right-wing philosopher was unrepentant about his position on George Soros, the philanthropist who has often been the subject of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. He also defended Hungary’s authoritarian right-wing prime minister Viktor Orban.
Scruton told the New Statesman that “anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.” This came after previous references to Jews in Budapest as being part of a “Soros empire”. These comments were accompanied by a dismissal of Islamophobia as a concept “invented by the Muslim Brotherhood in order to stop discussion of a major issue.” He proceeded to describe Hungary as overrun by a “sudden invasion of huge tribes of Muslims” and accused the Chinese of “creating robots out of their own people.”
The comments are shocking on their own but coupled with his historic rhetoric, as well as the greater focus on Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Britain’s mainstream political parties, and you can’t blame the government for moving swiftly to dismiss him. But it does bring into question why he was appointed in the first place, given his views were not exactly private. Iman Atta, director of the anti-Islamophobia charity Tell MAMA, said: “Such dehumanising language falls far below the standards of those who advise government and undermine the struggle against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred, antisemitism and racism. Concerns were raised about Scruton’s opinion on homosexuality and Islamophobia before his appointment and that shouldn’t be overlooked.”
It does appear that his comments regarding China were not so much about the ethnic essence of the people but China’s suppression of freedom. But even then, he used a racist trope in his description of China’s totalitarianism. The context provides an insight into what he was trying to say, but what he said was terrible.
However, there is no context to his theories about Soros and his terrible slur of Muslim immigrants in Hungary, a country governed by a rabidly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim government. He played on two classic stereotypes: that Jews run the world and that Muslims are the invaders of Europe. And in light of growing anti-Semitism in the UK and Europe, and what happened in New Zealand, it’s important that racist tropes are immediately addressed.
The comments regarding Soros reflect the toxic levels of anti-Semitism in many parts of the West today. Beleaguered Jewish communities have faced high levels of hate crime, been victims of terrible conspiracy theories and collectively blamed for the crimes of the Israeli government. Within Britain, this racism has attacked them across multiple fronts: far-left, far-right and Islamist. It has been terribly handled in Labour, as the left-wing party has often sought to deny, minimise, deflect and contextualise the racism in its ranks. The language by Scruton, a right-wing philosopher, illustrates the multi-pronged racism that the Jewish community faces.
The language around Hungary’s Muslim population is the sort of rhetoric one would find in the pamphlets of Generation Identity. You would not have to look too far to find that the New Zealand terror suspect, Brenton Tarrant, also regarded Muslims as the invaders of the Western world. This language towards Muslims initiating the cultural and ethnic obliteration of Europe has always been embedded in Western literature. Muslims, derided as the “Saracens” in medieval folklore, have always been othered as the violent, barbaric outsiders with terrible civilisations and societies. This has been rooted deep within the psychological frameworks of Western societies.
The far-right have always whispered into society about an Islamic takeover. How the Muslims are forcing the ‘inhumane’ halal slaughter into British society (ironic how ethical slaughter suddenly matters where it concerns Muslims). How there are too many mosques about. How Muhammad is going to become the most popular boy’s name soon because the Muslim population will outgrow us. The stereotypes of savage Muslims taking over and imposing Sharia Law has become rife within our society.
This is what the language of calling Muslim immigration “invasion” evokes quite often. Invasion is a deeply hostile word that prompts a violent response to it. If you are being invaded by something, you do not resist passively but aggressively. Scruton’s language was just another indication that some regard Muslims as an alien group in the West.
This is even before you get to his dismissal of Islamophobia. In light of Christchurch, and the 593% rise in anti-Muslim hate crime in Britain in the first week since the shooting, this is something that has to be firmly resisted by the government. What Scruton did was to paint the term Islamophobia as an extremist ploy, to further dampen belief in it but also create the sense that it is simply the work of foreign extremist elements seeking to weaken the country and prevent criticism of Islam through a hate crime that doesn’t actually exist.
This is the endpoint of Scruton’s views. He has dabbled dangerously in racist stereotypes towards Jews and Muslims alike, utterly unrepentant in his views. Some will protest his dismissal and insist he wasn’t being racist about Chinese people and that this is political correctness gone mad. Maybe it is political correctness gone mad. But people in positions of power have power through their views, actions and rhetoric. And tolerating racism from those in power only gives fuel to those on the streets to do the same.