Britain’s far right is trying to turn Jews and Muslims against each other. Most Jews know better, but a minority has allowed legitimate concerns about Islamist extremism to drive a search for false allies on the far right.
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The appeal is understandable. The extremes of liberal politeness and a well-meaning desire to maintain social order has led some of Europe’s chattering classes to go soft on extremist ideology. Many prefer to view Islam as an alien yet benign culture that simply needs to be ‘integrated’. If the jilbabs can be made tighter, the beards shorter and the curry milder, "Everything is gonna be ok."
It’s within this politically correct straitjacket that some British Jews have seen no option other than to ally with (or at least indulge) people who would, in any other circumstance, be called neo-Nazis.
This mirrors the position some young British Muslims find themselves in. When no one in the mainstream appears to say anything of substance about Palestine or Western foreign policy, it can be tempting to ideologically graze in extremist pastures - even if some of what grows there is poison.
It’s especially tempting when extremists pretend to be your friends. The extreme left will agitate for ‘Muslim’ causes like Palestine and admire Muslims for the ummah’s revolutionary potential. But behind closed doors, they still believe that not only is religion the opium of the masses, but that it is the one drug that shouldn’t be legal.
Similarly, the far right will pose with Israeli flags. But are they really in favor of the Jewish state, or are they trying to use Jews as puppets to inflame Muslim anger? And behind closed doors, how do they really feel about the Jewish people?
British far-right ideologue Tommy Robinson is typical of this phenomenon. He claimed on a recent trip to Israel to be a friend to Jews everywhere. But he is also a friend (or ‘mate’ in his own words) to Jason Marriner, who proudly made a Nazi salute at Auschwitz and boasted that he had upset Jews there by attempting to climb into one of the ovens.
This shouldn’t be a shock. Several years ago Robinson was pictured at a far right British National Party (BNP) rally at a time when one of its leaders, Jack Renshaw, described Jews as Satanists. Also at the rally was veteran Holocaust denier Richard Edmonds as well as John Pater, activist with the BNP as well as the National Socialist November 9th Society.
Even Robinson’s former allies have now called him out as a far right extremist. The counter-extremism think tank Quilliam gained huge publicity by claiming credit for Robinson leaving the English Defence League – a move for which Robinson claims he was paid by Quilliam. The think tank has now denounced him as a far right extremist. He stormed their office in retaliation.
Robinson’s pro-Israel posturing is as skin deep as the fake Zionism used by the far right Northern Irish paramilitaries from which his EDL organization stole crusader imagery and the slogan ‘No Surrender’. These paramilitaries flew Israeli flags simply because their (socialist Republican) opponents Sinn Fein flew Palestinian flags.
Many of these extremists want us to forget that the Spanish Inquisition was as tough for Jews as it was for Muslims.
It is only through opposing all forms of extremism that Britain’s Jews - and other minorities - can protect their communities. Reciprocal radicalization is the shared activity of all these apparently opposing groups. They need each other more than they need us.
Robinson’s career (and dedicated supporters – 365,000 people follow him on Twitter) has been built on hitting Muslims’ nerves and profiting from the mayhem that ensues. His latest book, Mohammed’s Koran - already an Amazon bestseller - is a DIY effort at interpreting the Quran. He has rejected 1400 years of traditional Islamic scholarship as enthusiastically as ISIS do: both quote the book out of context, seeing only what they want to see, and ignoring the consensus of those who came before them.
Robinson has become the mirror image of the jihadist radicalizers he attacks. This is perhaps one of the reasons why he so alarms Muslims. They know how dangerous he is because their communities have been plagued by their own Tommy Robinsons for years.
Robinson and his foreign-funded radicalization of young white men is now at the stage that jihadist radicalization was at in the early 2000s, when some impressionable young British Muslims were listening to Abu Hamza audio files and watching grainy videos of Chechen Mujahideen. A decade later they were on one-way trips to Syria to join ISIS.
If Abu Hamza and his like had been nipped in the bud, online radicalization would never have moved into offline reality in the Muslim community. Are we sleepwalking into the same mistake now with Britain’s angry young white men?
Radicalization is a universal problem that is about the struggle of young people - regardless of creed or color - to find roots in tradition in spite of modernity. Muslims have been begging the world to see this for years. How ironic that it may be Tommy Robinson who finally proves them right.
Muddassar Ahmed is a former U.K. government advisor.