BNP leader held by police over racist remarks

Police have arrested the leader of the far-right British National Party after he was secretly filmed calling Islam “a wicked, vicious faith”. The arrest of Nick Griffin, one-time host of French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, was warmly welcomed by Muslims, some of whom said the government should ban the BNP altogether.

Police arrested Griffin, 45, at his family farmhouse in Wales and took him to West Yorkshire, where officers are conducting a major probe into the activities of BNP members. Griffin, later released on bail until next March, told reporters on Tuesday: “This is an electoral scam to get the Muslim block vote back for the Labour Party.”

Griffin’s arrest came two days after police detained the party’s 70-year-old founding chairman John Tyndall. They have now arrested 12 people on suspicion of incitement to commit racial hatred since the investigation began five months ago. None has been charged.

The police probe was triggered by a BBC documentary, broadcast in July, which included footage of Griffin giving a speech in the northern town of Keighley in which he railed against Islam and its holy book, the Koran. “This wicked, vicious faith has expanded through a handful of cranky lunatics about 1,300 years ago until it’s now sweeping country after country,” he said.

Other footage in “The Secret Agent” documentary – watched by some 4 million viewers – shows another BNP member expressing a wish to blow up mosques with a rocket launcher and machine-gun worshippers with “about a million bullets.” Another member told how he put dog faeces through an Asian shop’s letterbox, while a third described how he beat up a Muslim man. “I’m kicking away…it was fantastic,” he said.

Muslims were jubilant at news of Griffin’s arrest.

“At last!” said Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which has long urged the government to outlaw the BNP. “This is extremely important. It should have been done long ago. There is no place in British society for the bigots of the BNP,” he told Reuters.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), the biggest lobby group for the country’s 1.8 million Muslims, also welcomed the arrests, saying it hoped police would now press charges. “The BNP has been trying to develop a more polished image and a more sophisticated discourse but the BBC documentary showed that behind that facade, the ugly reality is still the same,” said MCB spokesman Inayat Bunglawala.

Reuters, 14 December 2004

Update:  The Guardian reports: “The BNP is confident a prosecution of Mr Griffin will founder because the offence of incitement to racial hatred does not cover multi-ethnic faith groups. The government is proposing a bill which will close this loophole.”

Guardian, 15 December 2004