CST Blog

Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism

29 May 2014

A new report (pdf) looking at connections between integration and extremism has been published by the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London; COMPAS, University of Oxford; and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

The report includes a chapter by CST's Dave Rich on the relationship between antisemitism and far right or Islamist extremism. Other chapters look at integration, extremism and British Muslims; drivers of far right extremism; and the relationship between ethnicity, economic disadvantage and class.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf). An extract from Dave's chapter is below.

The first and most obvious point to make is that far right and Islamist extremists try to use antisemitism for political purposes. It can be argued that this political mobilisation of antisemitism is its defining characteristic, which differentiates it from other forms of bigotry. This is most commonly found in antisemitic conspiracy theories that blame a Jewish ‘hidden hand’ for the ills of a particular society, party or community; and that accuse Jews of ‘dual loyalty’ – the idea that Jews are loyal only to each other or, nowadays, only to Israel.

This political use of antisemitism by far right parties and movements form a familiar and tragic part of European history. In recent years explicit antisemitism has largely disappeared from the public propaganda of Britain’s main far right movements, but the underlying ideas remain in euphemistic references to ‘international finance’ or ‘Zionist businessmen’. In 2000, British Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairman Nick Griffin advised BNP writers to get around the law by using “Zionists” as a euphemism for “Jews” when writing articles. This is not to suggest that anybody who criticises Zionism is antisemitic; just to note that genuine antisemites developed an antisemitic usage of the word "Zionism" a long time ago. Three years later, Griffin blamed the Iraq war on what he called Tony Blair’s “pro-Israeli big business backers”. In 2006 he changed tack, publicly denouncing antisemitic conspiracy theorists as “Judeo-obsessives”; only to return to their ranks a few years later in describing the English Defence League (EDL) as a “Zionist” plot.

Less well known is the use of antisemitism by Islamist extremist movements, again for their own political purposes. The Egyptian Islamist ideologue Sayyid Qutb, in his 1950s essay Our Struggle with the Jews, claimed that Muslim societies were threatened by large numbers of Muslims acting as “Jewish agents”. He included academics, writers, scientists, journalists and even Muslim religious authorities – all serving, he claimed, a vast Jewish conspiracy to undermine Islam. In this example, Qutb was using antisemitism not against Jews, but against Muslims who disagreed with him. In its leaflets, Hizb ut-Tahrir falsely describe Uzbek President Islam Karimov as Jewish, while in Britain, Islamist organisations regularly claim that British politicians and media are under the sway of Jewish or Zionist financial influence.

Recently the question of antisemitism within British Muslim communities became a topic of mainstream debate, after the Labour peer Lord Ahmed was revealed to have blamed his 2009 imprisonment for dangerous driving on a Jewish conspiracy. He was condemned by a range of Muslim commentators, one of whom, Mehdi Hasan of the Huffington Post, warned that antisemitism is “routine and commonplace” in “some sections of the British Muslim community.” “There are thousands of Lord Ahmeds out there”, he wrote: “mild-mannered and well-integrated British Muslims who nevertheless harbour deeply anti-Semitic views.”

Pears integration report2

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