Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Guardian - Why let in Le Pen but ban Farrakhan?

For once, a Guardian opinion piece I'm in complete agreement with. Here's a clearcut case of a double-standard in operation. What's worse yet is that black separatists constitute a minute proportion of a tiny minority of Britain's population, and that minority is easily outnumbered by the sorts of bigots for whom the message of Le Pen and the BNP are music to the ears.

"At a time of simmering racial tension in some of our northern towns and cities, the last thing Britain needs is a visit from the high priest of racial divisiveness." So read a Daily Mail leader. Sadly, though, this wasn't taken from yesterday's paper, which offered no condemnation of Jean-Marie Le Pen's weekend stay in the UK. The quotation is from August 2001, and refers to the prospect of a visit by Louis Farrakhan, of the US-based Nation of Islam.

Fortunately for the Mail, David Blunkett was also exercised about Farrakhan, and went to the appeal court to ensure that his exclusion order against the American was not revoked. However, in the case of Le Pen, the leader of the French National Front, the home secretary's hotline to his lawyers went cold. Blunkett told Sunday's Breakfast with Frost that "If [Le Pen] behaves himself, he's free to come and go as any other citizen in Europe" - forgetting that he does have the power to exclude EU citizens if their presence is against the public interest.

Both Farrakhan and Le Pen have been rightly condemned for their slurs against Jewish people (though only Le Pen seeks the suppression of millions from minority groups as a point of principle); so why is our home secretary hellbent on ensuring one never gets near our country, and yet so relaxed about the other? Why does one have such powerful enemies, and the other not? Guess which one's black, and which one's white.

When Farrakhan's right to entry was being contested, Blunkett's QC, Monica Carss-Frisk, said: "Mr Farrakhan is well known for expressing anti-semitic and racially divisive views, particularly at a time of unrest in the Middle East. To allow him into the country would pose a significant threat to community relations and public order."

Fine sentiments, you might say, but even more valid in the case of Le Pen, who arrived at a time when the Middle East was more tense than ever. Moreover, he came specifically to gain publicity and votes for the British National party, which is putting up candidates for the European elections. The BNP's Oldham and Burnley strongholds are just miles from where its grinning leader, Nick Griffin, ecstatic at the national exposure he was receiving, welcomed Le Pen.

Phil Edwards, a BNP spokesman, said of Le Pen's visit: "It raises our profile that an internationally important figure is interested in helping our campaign. It shows that we are real and we are significant."

In a region where racial tensions are already high, and in a national climate where the daily tabloid scapegoating of Muslims and migrants has pushed the issue of asylum seekers above schools, health and transport - not to mention Iraq - in most voters' minds, it takes little imagination to predict the impact of this "higher profile". Suffice to say, it goes way beyond votes in ballot boxes. Starry-eyed Griffin had his guest protected by Warren Bennett, formerly of the far-right terror group Combat 18, and would no doubt have introduced him to Tony Lecomber, the BNP national organiser, who has 12 convictions, some under the Explosives Act.

[............]

Unlike Le Pen, who has at least six convictions for racist and anti-semitic incitement, Farrakhan has no criminal record. He has never been banned from any other country - even Israel let him in - and his visits have never provoked violence.

Mr Justice Turner, the high court judge who ruled in 2001 against the exclusion order, said that there was a "complete absence of evidence" of religious or ethnic tension between the UK's black Muslim and Jewish communities to justify continuing the ban.

Blunkett's appeal against this judgment was allowed on the basis that it should be for a "democratically accountable" politician, rather than a judge, to make the exclusion decision. Nevertheless, the appeal judges criticised the home secretary for refusing to reveal the information on which his banning order had been based. (emphasis added)

It's noteworthy that despite the block on Farrakhan's entry into the UK having been made on grounds of his anti-semitism, even Israel, where one would think people would have taken much more umbrage to what he had to say, saw fit to let him in. I say bullshit, opposition to anti-semitism had nothing to do with it, or the UK wouldn't have so many imported radical Islamists openly parading around and calling for "jihad" against "Zionists and Crusaders", even while collecting welfare benefits. Blunkett's action was nothing more than an attempt to appeal to the sort of bigoted "middle England" fools who read the Daily Wail, where it's always 5 minutes before midnight and the imaginary tens of millions of angry negroes are about to Mugabe-ize the Blessed Isle.