WTF Is “Radical Islam”?

Generally, sparring with morons online can be fun. Being told that I’m a pawn of the devil, or a self-hating Jew often makes me smile. But there are more disturbing moments. The ongoing fascist-style campaign to paint all people of Muslim descent as an evil threat to the Western World becomes ever-more reminiscent of what was done to the Jews across Europe and America in the 1930s. Usually, the offenders are semi-literate Bible-bashers, but increasingly, just as in the 30s, secular “liberals” can be found in the melee, swinging a punch or a kick.

Recently, for no apparent reason I could identify, I was accused by some fellow Atheists of “defending Islam”. Now, I’m not aware that I’ve ever “defended Islam”. In fact, that term itself has an Orwellian ring to it, like “supporting terror” or “promoting homosexuality”. It seems “defending Islam” is something that good, secular liberals everywhere must avoid, or face public condemnation. In response, I pointed out that defending Muslims from attack isn’t “defending Islam” – to which I was told: yes it is: because all Muslims uphold Islam, which (as any moron knows) is an evil ideology. I pointed out that I know people who identify as Muslim, but who don’t practise, or in some cases don’t even believe. But these Atheist defenders of rationality told me I was wrong: anybody who claims Muslim identity is bad by definition, I was told.

Fascist stuff indeed: identity, I’ve always believed, is for the individual to choose for himself, and nobody else to force upon him. In my own experience, I tend to feel most Jewish when I encounter anti-Semites (and least Jewish in the company of other Jews). And certainly, a similar transformation is taking place among European and American Muslims: hatred towards Muslims is growing at breakneck speed, and the more times someone has MUSLIM screamed at them, the more Muslim they will feel. Like Judaism, Islam is a deep culture, with its book, traditions and routines. I remember childhood Friday evenings lighting sabbath candles and being allowed a sip of red wine; the prayers and tastes of the Passover dinner; the unique smell of a room decked in fruit and leaves during Sukkot, the harvest festival. My nostalgia over those memories, and my feeling that I was enacting an ancient ritual, are still there, despite my Atheism – the Jewish religion still forms a part of my experience, memories and identity, although I reject its superstitious beliefs. Muslims likewise, both secular and religious, will remember the rituals, the tastes and smells, of their childhoods, and feel Muslim, however little they practise their religion.

The Nazi propaganda campaign against Jews was subtle and sophisticated. How do you persuade Europeans that a tiny minority could be a threat? Some conditions are required: first and foremost, the population must be ready and willing to believe. And indeed, hatred of Jews (and Muslims) is an old European (and Catholic) tradition, dating back many centuries. Next, you take some grains of truth. And then you build up layer after layer of lies.

Post-9/11, the far-right leaped into action and repeated Nazi methodology to the letter. The far-right British National Party didn’t mention Muslims at all prior to 9/11. Their target was “Asians”, but this hate campaign failed to gain much traction. Within days of 9/11, their leaflets were rewritten, and Muslims had replaced Asians as the threat. Those people attacking Muslims today use the Islamophobe’s favourite phrase: I’m not racist; Islam isn’t a race. But to attack Muslims in the UK means to attack Pakistanis, who have been the target of race hate since at least the 1970s. And French fascists now label North and West Africans (who they’ve always attacked) as Muslims. And Dutch or Spanish fascists now label Moroccans (who they’ve always attacked) as Muslims. Bit by bit, European and American fascists have clicked into gear with each other. The anti-Muslim messages have been standardised, strengthened and amplified.

Secular fascism has returned. The Muslim-hating Atheist spreads similar stories of hate to the Christian crusader. Of course, the secular fascist tends to be more intelligent, and more persuasive. Unlike the Christian fascist, the secular fascist can uphold gay rights and women’s rights without hypocrisy, and hence sound more compelling. Secular fascists can sound liberal, and then use their “liberalism” against Islam – or more accurately, against their definition of Islam. Or more accurately still, against Muslims, whatever they believe, and wherever they live. Because the target of European fascism isn’t a religion or ideology, but minority groups: fascism gains strength by demonising minorities. Pre-9/11, there was no coherent “threat” for fascists to unite around. 9/11 gave them a common narrative.

A favourite way to “confront Islam” (or bait Muslims) is to cherry-pick.

“Islam oppresses women”.

“How so?”

“Look at Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan.”

Note how these three countries are repeatedly chosen as examples, ignoring most of the other 50 Muslim countries. Never mind that Saudi Arabia is home to a fundamentalist cult, Wahhabism; or that war-torn Afghanistan is home to the ultra-conservative group, the Taliban; or that Iran is a theocracy. Never mind that these three countries have totally different cultures to each other. Never mind that the modern state of all three societies has nothing to do with Islam, and everything to do with 20th century Western and Russian foreign policy, with oil, and the American imperial war. In the mind of the moron, this argument is enough. Of course, anything can be “proved” this way: Christian countries have the world’s highest rates of rape. Therefore Christianity is the rapist religion – easy! But of course, fascism is doesn’t target Christians. It targets Muslims, Jews, Roma, blacks… any group that forms a distinct minority in the West.

This was the Nazi method by which theĀ Jewish Problem was invented. The corruption of a Jewish financier, or the explosion of a Zionist bomb, or the “backwardness” of fundamentalist Judaism were unrelated issues. But a combination of clever propaganda and a moronic public turned them into the same thing. Never mind that most Jews who were eventually dragged into concentration camps were neither Zionists nor fundamentalists nor financiers. The Jewish Problem came to mean everything Jewish.

The modern equivalent of the Jewish Problem is Radical Islam. It is equally meaningless, equally misleading, and equally capable of persuading morons that a real threat exists. It is a term that can be stretched to include any group or event. The 9/11 attacks were by Radical Islam, not Saudi dissidents protesting against US occupation of Arab states. Radical Islam (not the conservative Taliban) stopped women from being educated in Afghanistan, and stops women from driving in Saudi Arabia. Al Qaida, a terrorist organistion, and Hizbollah, which exists to defend against terrorism, are both Radical Islam. It’s enough that both groups are Muslim (although in fact, Hizbollah also has Christian members – details always spoil a simple story). The peace-loving Muslim who prays 5 times a day and the loud-mouthed protester who burns poppies in protest at British involvement in Afghanistan, are both Radical Islam. Support for Iraqi insurgents (and why shouldn’t anyone support those fighting against invasion of their own land?) is Radical Islam, and so is a group of teenagers throwing stones at Israeli soldiers who are helping to destroy their village’s crops. Palestinian activists who belong to the secular Fatah movement are Radical Islam. British Muslims who come out to defend their streets against EDL street thugs are Radical Islam. Women in burqas or hijabs are Radical Islam. The conservative, Islamist government of Turkey is Radical Islam. The conservative Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt are Radical Islam.

Fascism has risen again in Europe, and real people are being hurt today in real attacks – that is the real result of fascists, both religious and secular, “confronting Islam”. When street thugs target Muslim homes and businesses, they don’t care whether the owners are religious or not, political or not. While we’re easily distracted by the moronic antics of street thugs like the EDL, the most dangerous fascism now, as in the 1930s, lives among the middle classes. Generally, fascism is most prevalent among religious conservatives, but secular liberals can be the most persuasive and dangerous advocates of fascism. Seeing some of my fellow Atheists joining the bullying campaign against ordinary people (whether religious or secular) saddens me, but doesn’t surprise me. After all, Atheism isn’t a movement – it’s simple a lack of belief in a god. I find the religious beliefs of Muslims (and Jews, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists) to be ludicrous – but that debate must be one that accepts the right to believe. Using religious intolerance as a proxy for a race war isn’t a new trick – but apparently it’s one that is as powerful today as it always was.

Toulouse Shootings: a Win for Nazis and Zionists

Aftermatch of Jewish School Shooting in Touolouse
Aftermath of Jewish School Shooting

The fallout continues from the recent Toulouse shootings; at the time of writing, a French man of Algerian origin, Mohammed Merah, is under siege by police at his home. Regardless of the motivations behind the attacks, the outcome will be broadly predictable: a strengthening of the racist, moronic right in France and mainland Europe in general, and a win for Zionists. Why? Let’s look at France first.

France, as I’ve reported, is probably the most racist country in Western Europe. Worryingly, this is no recent blip, but seems consistent throughout recent French history. While constitutionally, all citizens are equal, and France has consistently rejected a multicultural approach, in practice, black, Jewish and North African citizens have always found integration difficult, and tend to share the same ghettos. An attack by a North African, one of the most persecuted French groups, would quickly be linked to immigration, boosting the racist right’s claim that there “too many foreigners in France“.

The far-right in France, represented by the National Front, is going through a brand detoxification under its new leader, Marine Le Pen. The National Front regularly polls in the 20% range; additionally a strong racist vote goes to Sarkozy’s right-of-centre UMP, as indicated by Sarkozy’s pandering to racism. Contrast to the UK, where the far-right struggles to gain 5% of the vote, and the strength of race hate in France becomes clear. Anecdotal stories from French friends, both white and brown, strengthen this picture. The French have recovered from any shame they may have felt over their enthusiastic implementation of Nazi anti-Jewish policies, and open racism is again prevalent in the French street.

In summary, the French situation is simple: any race-related attack by anyone will serve to strengthen French fascists.

But Israeli Zionists too will be heartened. The Israeli right has long focused on the anti-Semitism experienced by France’s large Jewish community. While broader Jewish interests would be served by the preservation of what remains of non-Israeli Jewish communities, the Zionist goal is clear: to maximise Israel’s Jewish population in order to strengthen and accelerate the ongoing theft of Palestinian land.

To the Zionist right, the existence of half a million Jews in France is a waste of Jews. Indeed, rather than strengthen and support France’s Jewish community, Zionists (including late PM Ariel Sharon) have often been caught trying to frighten French Jews into migrating to Israel.

As in the 1930s, France has become one of the European strongholds of the racist right. The coming election thus becomes a litmus test of French views: can the National Front increase its vote? Can it again make it through to the second round of voting? If it does, Sarkozy and his previously mainstream UMP will likely strengthen its immigrant-bashing rhetoric in order to shore up its share of the racist vote. France threatens to fall to fascism as it did once before.

Drunken Brawl Excites Morons

Daily Mail Fail
News For Morons

Let me start with some background for people who have never visited Britain: we drink. A lot. And unlike our continental neighbours, who drink moderately most days of the week, we like to binge. This makes for busy times for the police and hospitals at weekends. In fact, if you’re an aspiring war reporter looking for experience, just head for any British town or city on a Friday night. But be careful out there.

Usually, this attracts little attention in the media. After all, it happens all the time, everywhere. But one particular brawl has excited the moronic end of the press, along with morons throughout the Twitterverse: a brawl that took place in the city of Leicester.

What Happened

A group of Somali women attacked a white woman; they claimed they were responding to racial abuse. The incident was captured on CCTV and the women were arrested, charged, found guilty and handed down a suspended sentence and curfew (for the worst offender) and community service for the rest.

Then The Media Got Wind Of It

Drunken brawls happen in every British city, every weekend. The unusual aspect of this was that it involved Somalis: almost all alcohol-related disorder usually involves white British people.

Being Somali, the women are also Muslim – although clearly are not practising Muslims. This helps expose the nonsensical far-right accusation that “Muslims refuse to integrate”. I personally know Muslims who drink and mix freely in British society; the EDL, BNP and other Muslim-baiting morons would have you believe that all British Muslim women wear burqas and “hate our way of life”. It seems that these young women actually like our “way of life” – perhaps a little bit too much.

The right-wing press, of course, sniffed a chance for Muslim-baiting. Rather than celebrate how well adapted these women had become to the British lifestyle, they ran headlines such as The Telegraph’s: Muslim women not used to drinking walk free after attack on woman. The only other papers to carry the story, with the same anti-Muslim spin, were the ultra-right-wing Daily Mail and Murdoch’s Sun. All three papers have great racist form. Oh, and StormFront, a Nazi site, also carried the story.

All three papers managed to mention the women’s religion in their headlines. Strangely, I’ve never seen a headline about Christian drinking violence, although this happens pretty much every day. The “walk free” part of the headline was used to imply that they were let off. This was misleading – as I’ve mentioned, they were found guilty and received similar penalties that anyone else would have done in the same circumstances.

And Then Twitter

The far-right BNP, EDL and their moronic online supporters wasted no time in spreading the story, twisting it more with each telling. What began yesterday as a regular Friday night incident for Leicester police, with a racial twist, is now evidence of a Jihad.

This is a perfect example of the race-hate machine in action: from the seed of any story comes another excuse to stoke up race hate among morons. The fact that around 99% of drunken, violent attacks in the UK are made by white people is irrelevant to them; they only need these isolated incidents to fire up their moronic followers into a frenzy of mouth-frothing hatred.

The Racist Tram Woman And Her Moronic Defenders

Racist Tram Moron
Racist Tram Moron

You’ve probably seen the video of racist-tram-woman ranting at “non-English” people on a tram in South London; it went viral yesterday, culminating in the woman’s arrest. The arrest was predictably followed by moronic screams about attacks on free speech or authoritarianism. But the woman’s behaviour was clearly within the definition of hate speech, and was clearly upsetting to those she chose as targets. It also came close to inciting a violent response. It was a textbook example of why hate laws exist.

People who have never experienced such an attack may have difficulty understanding how it feels to be on the receiving end. As I’ve mentioned before, I have experience of being a “visible minority”, to use the politically correct terminology. At my London school, I was among a white minority of around 10%. Through my adult life, largely because of choices I’ve made, I’m often in a minority of one among black people. And black crowds are no more enlightened in their treatment of minorities than white crowds are.

I experienced something very similar to yesterday’s incident, a few years ago on the Subway in Brooklyn. I was the only white person on my train carriage; this didn’t strike me as weird or frightening, as I’m used to being in that position. Nothing happened until I caught the eye of a man staring at me; my natural response was to nod in greeting, to which his reaction was to scream at me: Who the fuck you looking at, you White Bastard? My initial response was rage, then a mixture of fear and embarrassment. In London, I’d know how to respond, but in New York, I didn’t know where I stood. Unlike the other passengers in the South London tram incident, nobody on that train stood up for me. Every coward or racist on that carriage found something else to stare at. If there’s a shred of comfort from the London video, it is that people stood up to the racist bully; London 1, New York 0.

There’s no such thing as “reverse racism”; it’s a myth. Racism is racism, and it’s always moronic. The idea (that I’ve heard from liberals at times) that racism directed at white people is somehow more excusable due to the actions of other white people towards other black people at other times is ludicrous. Because some other white people were/are guilty of “oppressing” some other black people somewhere else doesn’t make my skin colour a valid target of hatred.

I’ve experienced racism many times – usually in subtle forms. Walking with a black woman in London, New York or Accra I have been met with confrontational stares from passing men. My only option as a man on the receiving end is to puff out my chest and stare back. To look down, to back down increases the risk of an attack escalating. This can become tiring; it drains you, makes you angry, makes you start to misjudge people’s attention and see racism where there isn’t any. Those black and Asian people on the London tram have all faced racial aggression before – probably not so overt, but nonetheless, it’s hardly a novel experience for any of them to know that a person dislikes them for their skin colour or accent. I fully understand the reaction of the young black man who rose to respond; but was glad that he was persuaded to sit down again.

People have the right to ride a tram or walk the streets without facing aggression. The moronic woman broke hate laws and it’s right that she was arrested. A failure to react condones the behaviour; at a time when racism and nationalism are on the rise, failing to deal with hate crimes will inevitably result in the crimes multiplying and becoming more serious.

The same applies to hate speech everywhere; for example, South Africa too is experiencing increased racial tension, not just against the white minority but against foreign blacks too. South African minorities need hate laws to be enforced every bit as much as (or perhaps even more than) minorities in the UK need protecting. So do minorities in Rwanda, where hate laws (for obvious reasons) are ruthlessly enforced. Racism is a universal problem, affecting minorities of every race, tribe, religion and colour. To protest that arresting the tram moron was an attack on free speech is simply moronic.

How To Tell If You Live In A Police State

Nazi Searches
Look Familiar?

Remember Freedom? It was that thing we were going to deliver to Afghanistan and Iraq. OK, so it was a little embarrassing when Iraqis joined the Arab Spring to demand the end of the US Occupation, but good intentions and all that…

So anyway, it turns out that the whole “War on Terror” thing may have backfired on us. As the Bush administration was warned, if you’re going to undermine rights on your own territory in order to “fight terrorism”, then, well – the terrorists can claim to have won. And so it now seems. Asian and African leaders can laugh out loud when the US State Department slaps their wrists for doing all the same things that the US has been guilty of over the past decade.

The slide from democracy into a police state is subtle. Some of the very people trumpeting the danger are the same ones supporting attacks on civil liberties. Here is a list of ten ways to spot the trend:

  1. The prison population increases. This isn’t due to increasing crime, but increasing fear of crime resulting in more laws and harsher punishments. Large prison populations are incompatible with freedom – that seems obvious, but morons don’t seem to have noticed. The US has the world’s biggest prison population (24% of total), followed by China (17%) and Russia (9%). Smell the freedom!
  2. You hear a lot about a “terrorist threat”. This is an excuse that has been used by dictators from Hitler to Gaddafi. The tiny number of successful attacks on Western targets in recent years is an indication that the “threat” is hugely exaggerated. But don’t expect morons to understand that.
  3. You hear a lot about “crime increasing” even if it isn’t. Crime is at a historic low in much of the Western World. Crime surveys agree with the official figures: people feel safer in their own neighbourhoods. However, the conservative media’s job is to convince people that life is becoming more dangerous, and the drip-feed of scare stories about crime takes its toll on morons. Fear of crime means that the police are allowed to get away with more abuses, most of which aren’t noticed by the frightened middle classes (though working class people in the inner cities certainly feel the pain of all that extra police attention).
  4. You hear about “knife crime epidemics” that don’t actually exist. This is a favourite in London. A growth in knife crime was “discovered” by the British media just before the mayoral election in 2008, just in time for the right-winger Boris Johnson to be elected. This led to more stop and searches by police (largely on young, non-white males). The UK murder rate has remained extremely low throughout. But morons are frightened, and fear allows the police state more leeway to act as it likes.
  5. You hear scary new phrases like “sexualisation of children”. “Sexualisation” was a clever PR invention by a UK-based Christian lobby group. This was drip-fed through the media so that the average moron has come to believe this is a sudden new problem, indicating some kind of moral breakdown in society. The truth is, all children become sexualised; it happens when they hit puberty, just as it has always done. However, it’s now being used by the UK government (and others) to justify new censorship measures, from Internet filtering to attacks on “explicit” music videos. The S-word has also recently been spotted in the US and Australia.
  6. Minorities become a “threat”. This, of course, is standard far-right methodology. Find a scapegoat that is too powerless to fight back, and imbue it with threatening attributes. It worked against the Jews and this time Muslims are taking the brunt. Moronic attacks on Muslims are gathering pace, especially in mainland Europe. Many morons believe in this “threat”, as a glance at my Twitter family will reveal.
  7. The police are allowed to stop and search someone without good reason. One of the foundations of a free society is that you don’t get harassed by the police unless they have good reason to believe you have committed a crime. This has clearly slipped a long way already, especially in the inner cities. And when young people finally get sick of it, the police are given even more powers to harass them.
  8. The police start finding new reasons to stop people. Terrorist laws are always (yes, always) used to attack free speech. In the UK, terrorism law has been used to harass press photographers who might expose police behaviour. In the US, the Patriot act has been abused to attack Occupy protesters. But the most pernicious of all are the drug laws; while these aren’t new, they are enforced, or not, at the whim of the police. Millions of people use illegal drugs, and always will, but that’s not the police’s concern; the drug laws are simply a proxy for being able to stop anyone, anywhere, any time.
  9. The police get ever-better weaponry, despite crime falling. The police recently deployed rubber bullets for the first time on the UK mainland. Because of increased violence? No, to create increased violence. This adds to the increasing armory of the police, already carrying tasers, batons and pepper spray. Thirty years ago, with much higher crime rates, the police managed without most of these weapons.
  10. Fellow citizens take an increasing interest in your private life. Before we go blaming the state for everything: remember, a police state depends largely on a moronic, frightened citizenship that believes the scare stories served out to them on a daily basis. Effective police states like that in Communist East Germany require citizen spies. Today, citizens are stoked up into constant fear about crime and terrorism and asked to report on “any suspicious activity”.

We’ve got ourselves into a mess. Many things need doing, including:

  • Repeal the Patriot Act and similar “anti-terrorist” laws elsewhere.
  • Make concerted efforts to cut prison populations – however much the morons may squeal.
  • Decriminalise drug possession, removing the police’s single biggest excuse to stop people.
  • Tighten stop and search powers to prevent their random use.
  • Confiscate the police’s arsenal of anti-citizen weaponry.
  • Strengthen laws against police violence – almost no officer is ever prosecuted, even when someone is killed.
  • Educate the morons: their fear drives a vicious circle of ever more aggressive state behaviour.

American Morons Defeated Three Times In 24 Hours

Bye Bye Russell Pearce

I’m under no illusion that the world will run short of morons any time soon, any more than the Sahara will run short of sand. Sometimes good news seems hard to find, and it can be hard to find new words to describe the sheer craziness of politics. But progress does happen, and although optimism isn’t always easy, morons don’t win every battle. It’s worth noting, and celebrating, three significant moron losses in the past day or so.

Bye Bye Russell Pearce

Arizona became famous in 2010 for introducing the Support Our Law Enforcement And Safe Neighborhoods Act. When an act has a sensible-sounding name that couldn’t offend anyone, you just know it’s going to be moronic. The law, better known as SB1070, was the most draconian anti-immigrant law in modern history, and was sponsored by Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce. SB1070 has been copied by other conservative states in attacks on illegal immigrants (or anyone who might possibly be an illegal immigrant… think Mexican-looking) and people who employ them. Alabama’s equivalent law, introduced this year, led to immigrants fleeing the state, crops rotting in the fields and huge losses for farmers: morons would rather damage the economy than allow illegal immigrants to harvest their crops.

All this closeted-racist stupidity became too much even for many conservatives. A recall was issued against Russell Pearce, and yesterday the result was announced: Pearce lost by a good margin and was thrown out of office. His replacement is the conservative Jerry Lewis, but this result is a loss for right-wing extremism and the Tea Party which has backed authoritarian laws across the US to hound illegal immigrants.

Mississippi Personhood Law

Talking of moronic laws, the good people of Mississippi voted this week on the introduction of a “Personhood” law. This is a piece of “pro-life” extremism that declares life begins, and should be fully protected, from the moment of conception, giving a single fertilised cell the same rights as a person. It would not only outlaw ALL abortions (yes, including pregnancies brought about by rape and incest) but also ban the use of some contraceptives such as the morning-after pill, and prevent many fertility treatments. As usual, the “pro-life” brigade has shown that they care little about abortion, but a lot about preventing the spread of sexual freedom. Their actions are designed to actually increase the number of unwanted pregnancies – presumably thus punishing people for daring to enjoy recreational sex. They also fail to explain why miscarriages take place, and whether God would be in breach of the proposed law for allowing them to happen.

In the event, the initiative was soundly rejected, again showing that extreme religious-right views may not be as strong in Mississippi as many had believed.

Ohio Rejects Union-Bashing Law

Meanwhile in Ohio, the spate of attacks on union rights that began in Wisconsin seemed to have been halted when voters heavily rejected anti-union legislation that had been introduced by Ohio’s moron Governor John Kasich.

In these bizarre times, the ebb and flow of ideas happens faster than ever. The far-right Tea Party has been on the march for a couple of years, apparently trampling progressives in its path. Now, with the sudden rise of the Occupy movement and a series of defeats for the moronic right, it looks like moderates are fighting back, and are perfectly capable of winning.

The Reality of Right-Wing Nationalism Hits Norway

75 years ago this October, my grandfather, the son of Jewish immigrants to London’s poor East End, took to the streets with thousands of others to stop the ultra-nationalist British Union of Fascists from marching through a largely Jewish area. The event turned into a pitched battle, with Oswald Mosley’s fascists and the Metropolitan Police on one side, and locals, Jews, Irish, socialists and communists on the other. The fight (which became known as the Battle of Cable Street) ended with victory for the anti-fascist side, with the fascists and police beaten off the streets.

Following the Holocaust, Fascism became a dirty word, but Nationalists have continually tried to detoxify their brand and reinstate themselves into the mainstream. Mosley returned in the 1950s, this time labelling black immigrants, rather than Jews and Irish, as the main “threat” to the “British way of life”. In the late-60s, Conservative MP Enoch Powell became famous for predicting that mass immigration would lead to “rivers of blood“. Through the 70s, right-wing nationalism and street-thuggery rose in the form of the National Front, but the movement was resisted on the streets, and finally dissolved in the early-80s as a new, multicultural music scene brought young black and white people together socially. By the 90s, nationalism seemed to be a thing of the past, but the 9/11 attacks gave the racist right a chance to re-brand as an anti-Islam force. Nearly ten years on, and we can see that the “Islam is a threat” message has worked its way from fascist meeting rooms into the political mainstream-right in Europe and the US.

Gradually, the anti-Islam message has morphed back into a more traditional anti-immigration message, being amplified by the right-wing tabloid press here (and Fox News in the US). The nationalist, anti-immigration message isn’t easy to sell; it relies on persuading people that the past (or rather, an imaginary, idyllic past) is being replaced by a more dangerous future as immigrants join their society. Prior to 9/11 it seemed that the Western World had moved beyond irrational fear of foreigners, and that society’s liberal tendencies had prevailed; but we soon learned that race hate and xenophobia weren’t far beneath the surface; that US and European society had changed less since the 1940s than we’d convinced ourselves.

When the drum of fear and hate is being pounded consistently, the infection will naturally spread. For most fear-infected morons, the outlet of Twitter or a blog is enough. But it’s inevitable that angry or mentally-disturbed individuals like Anders Behring Breivik will become infected too, and violence will follow, as it did last Friday in Norway. Breivik’s choice of target, the mainstream, liberal Norwegian Labour Party, was a natural one for anyone understanding the history of European nationalism. He chose a multicultural youth camp, something designed to ease racial tensions in Norway, but also proof (in Breivik’s confused world view) that evil forces were trying to dilute Norway’s racial and cultural past into something new and alien.

Whether Breivik acted alone, it can be stated with certainty that he was influenced by master-manipulators of the nationalist movement. It’s already been established from his own blog (English translation provided by @Dilmunite) that he admired the far-right English Defence League; according to many EDL Facebook posts, Breivik had many EDL Facebook friends, and attended an EDL rally in the UK in 2010. I’d recommend following @BanTheEDL and @EverythingEDL on Twitter for a collection of evidence linking group members with Breivik.

Another key Breivik influencer was someone I’ve often mentioned: Pamela Geller, a self-appointed “defender” of America against “creeping Islamification”. Pamela spent the weekend tweeting new myths distancing herself from the terrorist, for her army of moron followers to disseminate.

In my Twitter feed, I’ve long watched morons large and small disseminate misinformation about Islam, Muslims and immigration. Their purpose was to spread enough hatred widely enough that sooner or later someone would take action, and set a chain of violence underway. It looks as though they found a new disciple (though not their first – right-wing terror plots have long been of concern, especially in the US), and no doubt other “white heroes” are watching and contemplating whether to follow Breivik’s example (as was clearly his intention).

Western governments now need to decide whether Islamaphobic lies and smears equate to hate speech, and whether to prosecute the most virulent of these liars. The shock following the Norway attacks will quickly pass, and lack of action against armchair-nationalist morons by governments will result in more confidence in the nationalist movements, and inevitably more violence.

Is Fascism Back in Europe? Did It Ever Leave?

Like all European Jews, I was taught about the Holocaust during childhood. The facts of the event are too staggering for even an adult to comprehend, let alone a child. But the explanation given was fairly straightforward: the German people went through some kind of temporary madness; the “good guys” (Britain, The US and the Soviet Union) went to war; we won and killed Hitler; surviving Jews were freed from the camps; it couldn’t happen again.

Some less palatable facts were left out of the account; the Holocaust was massive in scale, but was just one of countless European attacks on Jews and Gypsies throughout history; it wasn’t just the Nazis, or just the Germans, but a mass genocidal movement that rose spontaneously across large parts of Europe; the only reason it may not happen again was that this time it was a “success” – so many Jews were killed, and so many more fled to New York and Israel that Europe’s thirst for Jewish blood may have finally been sated.

What was “special” about Jews and Gypsies? Simply this: that both groups originated outside of Europe. And Europe hates outsiders.

Most people I know like the simplicity of the “one-off madness” theory. It saves thinking too much, and avoids any worry that similar could happen again. British Jews in particular like to blame Germany for everything; acknowledging you live in a continent that has taken repeated joy in slaughtering our ancestors is too much for most Jews to think about.

I believed in the simple view myself until I started travelling to Italy on a regular basis. I’d fallen in love with the style and beauty of the country, and learned to speak Italian to a good level. Visiting a friend’s family in the Alto Adige, a mixed Italian/German province in the far north-east of the country, helped open my eyes. It was casually explained to me that the city council of Bolzano (the main city of the region) regularly changes hands at elections – between the German-speaking Fascists and the Italian-speaking Fascists. I thought this must be some mistake; surely Fascism died in 1945, never to return?

While in Bolzano, I accompanied a friend to visit her father’s grave. She thought I’d be interested in the Jewish section of the cemetery so we walked around it. She said she didn’t think there were any Jews left in Bolzano – but she didn’t know where they had gone. That was my moment of revelation: by punishing the Nazis for the crimes of WW2, most of the guilty had gone free. History had been re-written. As Europe rebuilt, it had learned fewer lessons than it liked to pretend.

The European far-right struggled to re-establish itself for decades, but bit by bit it has returned to strength. The movements are deeply adaptable – unlike its cousin in America that finds it hard to hate anyone except black people, the European far-right is pragmatic in its choice of scapegoats. It’s no longer considered acceptable to blame Jews for everything? Then parade your “love” for Israel and blame Muslims instead. Homosexuality has become acceptable in Europe? Then gays will no longer be lynched – in fact the new fascists positively embrace homosexuality, brandishing their “tolerance” to show how “intolerant” Muslims are (cleverly ignoring the fact that European gays used to travel to Morocco on vacation when they were not acceptable to the average European).

Suddenly, apparently within a few months, far-right nationalism is confident and resurgent. The seed of this growth was in large part sown on 9/11, but it’s taken a decade for the anti-Muslim narrative to evolve. Mostly, the new nationalism is finding strength in the same places that embraced fascism in the 1930s: France and Italy, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, across much of Europe. Nationalism is presented in fresh, acceptable forms. While we were on the lookout for jackboots and racist mobs, it instead presents itself in the form of Geert Wilders, who has gained popularity in The Netherlands, Marine Le Pen in France, and the boringly-British duo of Nick Griffin and Nigel Farage in the UK. It cloaks itself as “concern” over “excessive” immigration or as “defending our sovereignty” from the European Union. We forget so fast that Europe, by nature, is the world’s most warlike continent, and that the EU has created the longest period of peace in European history.

So here we are again – it’s not so much that far-right nationalism is back, it’s just that we forgot it never went away.

(Update: a Dutch translation of this article is available. Thanks to krapuul.nl)

France’s Racist Burqa Ban

So France, flying the flag for secularism, equality and modernity, has bravely banned an item of clothing worn by an estimated 2,000 women – the veil properly known as the niqab, though often referred to as the burqa. Before we congratulate the French for this bold move, let’s explore some background.

Anecdote: A Mauritian friend, a light-skinned, mixed-race guy, was in Paris recently visiting family. Walking down the road with his blonde wife and their toddler, they passed a respectable-looking guy… who racially abused them and spat on their child.

Anecdote: A French friend of mine, “N”, grew up in the notorious estates (projects) in the Paris banlieues (suburbs). His mother was French, father was an Indian Muslim immigrant, and so in French terms, he’s foreign. He grew up along with other excluded sections of French society: Arabs, North Africans, Jews, Sub-Saharan Africans. Racial harassment from police was a daily part of life. He became a gifted graphic designer, but no company in Paris would hire him. He moved to London and quickly found a well-paid job. He still sees France as home, but without employment, couldn’t live there.

Anecdote: A French friend of mine lives in London. She’s white, “native” French. She visits family regularly. She tells me that racist talk is now openly accepted among white French people, with no shame or stigma attached.

Anecdote: The black British journalist Gary Younge studied for some time in Paris. He’s written of his experiences during that time, when he faced regular racial abuse and police harassment, to the point where he began to feel hatred for white people.

Anecdotes are interesting but don’t prove anything: But what about the UN report that advised on a “significant resurgence of racism” in France? The 1998 poll showing France to be the most racist country in Europe, where 38% of French people described themselves as racist? The 2005 uprisings by poor North Africans who had finally had enough? My friend N’s experience wasn’t unusual: in 2005, 5% of white graduates were unemployed, compared to 26.5% of graduates of North African origin.

Outside of football, non-white faces are barely seen in public French life. France applauded itself when its first black newsreader appeared on TV. In the 70s? 80s? 90s? Actually, it happened in 2006.

The picture at the top of this article is of a yellow Star Of David with Juif written on it (“Jew” in French). In Nazi Germany and occupied Poland, Jews were forced to wear stars saying Jude – “Jew” in German. But in Vichy France, the French carried out the persecution of Jews, and they did it the French way. While some European countries resisted German demands to hand over their Jewish citizens, France sent over 75,000 French Jews, Jewish refugees and other French citizens to the death camps. After World War 2, Germany was forced to live up to the horror of what it had perpetrated; but France was not. The willingness with which the French turned on their own Jewish population was buried, and the myth of the French Resistance was amplified instead, to present France as a heroic nation under occupation.

This is the France that banned niqabsyesterday. Europe’s most racist country, a segregated state that has never allowed equality or integration for its minorities, a country where people of Muslim origin have trouble finding employment or good housing, and face routine harassment and brutality from the police. Those who believed that this is about women’s rights or promoting secularism have been fooled – this is simply France doing what it does so well: bullying powerless minority groups that can’t hit back.