“As one who exchanged blows rather than opinions with the National Front in the 1980s, it gives me no pleasure to say this. But we ought to uphold the right of the British National Party to express its views, however vile, after Merseyside Police arrested 13 of its members for distributing leaflets. I’m afraid that free speech means freedom for fools and scumbags, too.
“The BNP pamphlet doled out in Liverpool was called Racism Cuts Both Ways. You can see it on its website. It argues that everybody knows racial hatred is wrong, but that few realise that ‘the vast majority of the real racism that scars Britain involves white victims from the indigenous community’.
“It lays the blame for much of this on ‘relentless’ discrimination against British natives by ‘an institutionally hostile ruling class’ but also claims that ‘our people are the silent victims of an epidemic of racist violence, sexual exploitation and murder’ by Muslims and blacks.
“… racism is not a crime. And while police chiefs may judge ‘racist content’ to be offensive, that does not make it a criminal offence. It should not be the job of the police or the courts to outlaw any ‘ism’, idea or ideology.
“Incitement to racial or religious hatred is a crime, but difficult to prove (the BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin, was found not guilty in 2006). And rightly so. We should draw a clear line between words and violent deeds. The old playground saw about sticks and stones seems a more grown-up guide than current policy. That leaflet is arguably guilty of incitement to elect BNP councillors….
“For this old libertarian Marxist, state action against a political party, however odious, is nothing to cheer.”
Mick Hume in the Times, 25 November 2008
Libertarian Marxist? Give us a break. The political tendency with which Hume is associated, once known as the Revolutionary Communist Party, long ago morphed into a bunch of cheerleaders for right-wing individualism.
Let us remind ourselves what it is in the Racism Cuts Both Ways pamphlet that has resulted in Bruce Kent, for example, demanding that the BNP should be prosecuted. Under the heading “Racist ‘Grooming’ What It Is – and How to Stop It” we find the following:
“All ethnic groups contain paedophiles – sexual perverts who target children, generally by ‘grooming’ them with presents, and then have sex with them. But in most communities these sickos operate alone, ashamed of what they do.
“One community, however, is different. Wherever there are large numbers of young Muslim men, groups of them team up to lure girls – often as young as twelve or thirteen – into a nightmare worid of sexual abuse, rape, heatings, drug addiction and prostitution. Some of these perverts are recently arrived ‘asylum seekers’, others come from settled immigrant communities and were born in Britain.
“But what all the Muslim sex gangs have in common – on top of their religion, with its low status for women – is that they never target girls from their own community. The vast majority of the victims are white, although Sikh, Hindu and West Indian girls are also targeted.
“This deliberate preying on girls from other communities – together with the refusal of Muslim leaders to condemn what is going on – show that these campaigns of sexual abuse are racist. They would never do it to their own girls. The British National Party has been campaigning to expose this scandal of racist paedophilia since worried parents first asked for our help back in 2004.
“Since then we have warned the police about Muslim paedophile gangs operating all over the country. In response to pressure from the BNP and from groups of parents, the authorities have made a few arrests, but all too often the police and the media turn a blind eye to the scandal and the suffering.”
What is this, if not an attempt to incite hatred against Muslims? Does anyone seriously doubt that this sort of vile propaganda doesn’t have actual consequences for the Muslim community in terms of increased hostility, discrimination and even physical violence? Of course, Hume is not a member of this vulnerable community, and therefore not on the receiving end of the BNP’s campaign to whip up hatred against it, so he can easily afford to take a “libertarian” view of the fascists’ right to “free speech”.
It is certainly true, as Hume says, that charges of incitement to racial hatred are difficult to prove and that Nick Griffin was found not guilty of incitement at Leeds Crown Court in 2006. But the main obstacle to a successful prosecution of the BNP is that Muslims (unlike Jews or Sikhs) are not legally defined as a mono-ethnic faith group and the fascists can argue that the promotion of hatred against Islam and its adherents cannot therefore be racist.
The government tried to overcome the problem by means of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act, but this was sabotaged by an amendment requiring that the words or actions complained of should be explicitly “threatening” (which the above passage from the BNP pamphlet is not) and that the prosecution must prove intent (which is in practice almost impossible). Consequently, the law against incitement to religious hated is almost completely useless.
Contrary to Hume’s arguments, the real lesson of the present situation is not that fascists should be free to incite hatred against a minority community without hindrance, but that the government needs to revisit the current religious hatred legislation and bring in a law with real teeth which will enable the successful prosecution of anti-Muslim racists like the BNP.