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Sunday, 5 September 2010

The Patriotic right as an anti-liberal pendulum in Britain

An interesting article from a Russian Magazine website

The Patriotic right as an anti-liberal pendulum in Britain

Boris Volkhonsky
30.08.2010,From the voice of Russia

On Saturday, August 28, a demonstration, organized by a far-right group named English Defense League (EDL) in a northern English town of Bradford resulted in intense clashes with the police and with a counter-demonstration led by anti-racist groups and the local Asian diaspora, mainly of Pakistani origin.
The two groups, divided by a strong police force, threw bottles and stones at each other and at the police. As a result, 13 members of the far-right EDL were detained by the police. The main accusation against them was that the EDL was granted a right to hold a ‘static’ protest, but not a public march.
It is doubtful whether a demonstration of some 700 supporters of a rather marginal political group could be worth of mentioning. Bur actually, the event in Bradford raises a lot of questions, which the dominant British (as well as European, as a whole) establishment would like to avoid.
First, the choice of Bradford, a townlet in Northern England with a population of little more than 200,000 people was not accidental. The fact is that this small town has a huge Asian, namely Pakistani, i.e. Muslim diaspora. And therefore it has for a long time been a target for far-right demonstrations under the slogans of ‘defending the British identity’. A similar demonstration occurred last year, and riots of 2001 virtually tore the town apart.
This time, fearing a repetition of 2001, about 10,000 local residents signed a petition demanding a ban on the planned far-right demonstration under anti-Muslim slogans. The local authorities banned the march, but the ban did not prevent the EDL supporters from coming in bus-loads to Bradford for participating in the action.
Second question arises if we connect the demonstration in Bradford with the last year’s elections to the European Parliament. It is worth mentioning that in June 2009, for the first time ever, two candidates from the far-right British National Party (BNP) become European MPs. And that was far from being a single accident in the all-European trend of nationalist and isolationist movements gaining momentum. In fact, the wave has swept over all of Europe, with a wide spectrum of anti-immigrant, nationalistic and xenophobic elements showing much better results in comparison with the previous years and arriving at mainstream politics from what previously seemed just a marginal political outskirt.
Now, the nationalist parties that have asserted themselves as a part of mainstream may say as much as they will that they do not have anything to do with the events in Bradford. Well, maybe legally they don’t – the EDL is quite new phenomenon in British politics, and at the moment there is no solid ground to state that it is organizationally linked with the BNP.
But if we look at the public statements made by BNP leaders in 2009, we could see a clear cross-reference between the slogans of the Bradford demonstration and the BNP program mottos.
As BNP leader Nick Griffin said a year ago, "this (Britain. – B.V.) is a Christian country and Islam is not welcome, because Islam and Christianity, Islam and democracy, Islam and women's rights do not mix.”
Is there ground to wonder why the demonstration in Bradford was held under anti-Islamic slogans?
So, the spiritual and ideological roots of the far-right demonstration in Bradford seem to be very clear. But there still remains a question whether the anti-immigrant trend is a one-way traffic. Remember that the strict measures against public demonstration of Muslim identity (like wearing head-scarves in public places) in France have led to a number of clashes initiated by French Muslims, but actually drove the French far-right to oblivion.
At the same time, the more liberal stance of other European, as well as North American government which allow immigrants not only to settle in the country, but also to continue abiding their national and religious laws, often in a violation of European (i.e. Christian) rules and values, has resulted in a steep rise of far-right sentiments and has brought to the frontline of mainstream politics a number of far-right parties which were virtually unknown some ten years ago (Austria, the Netherlands are just among most striking examples).
As for Britain, it has always been rather skeptical of the all-European integration. But, at the same time, has followed the general liberal guidelines in its immigration policies. Isn’t it the time to gather stones scattered away in the previous years?