While British "fascism," both in theory and electoral support, struggles to exist, "anti-fascism" is a booming industry.
In terms of a defined political creed, there are no "fascist" academics in British universities, no "fascist" politicians in the British parliament and no "fascist" newspapers. In short, British fascism means little. Yet, to listen to the alarm sounded by campaign groups, media, politicians, and interfaith and minority organizations over the "fascist threat", it would appear that fascism is swallowing Britain.
When using the label "fascist," British commentators seem to be referring to anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish or nationalist political groups such as the British National Party and the English Defence League. These movements regularly promote a "white-only Britain" and encourage violent hostility towards Jews, Muslims and other minorities.
In practical terms, then, "anti-fascism" means opposing the work of thuggish, disorganized street groups. Many of the "anti-fascists", however, are just as unappealing as the groups they claim to oppose. Unite Against Fascism (UAF), for example, is a project of the Socialist Workers' Party, a Marxist group that supports the violent overthrow of liberal democracy in favor of a totalitarian Marxist regime.
Most recently, the Socialist Workers' Party has voiced support for Hefezat-e-Islam, an extreme Islamist group in Bangladesh, which advocates the death penalty for "atheists" and others whom they claim "defame Islam."
As with its parent organization, the UAF's record on Islamist extremism is one of complicity. The UAF's vice-chairman, for instance, is Azad Ali, an Islamist activist, who works for the Islamic Forum of Europe -- a fundamentalist group which constitutes the British branch of Jamaat-e-Islami, the violent Islamist party responsible for war crimes in 1970s Bangladesh.
Azad Ali opposes democracy, "if it means at the expense of not implementing the sharia [Islamic religious law]." He admits to attending talks by Abu Qatada, the spiritual leader of Al Qaeda in Europe, and he has stated that the leader of a prospective Islamist caliphate should be Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Palestinian terror group Hamas. Ali is also apparently an ardent fan of the late Al Qaeda terrorist, Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was killed by a US Drone.
The UAF's Assistant Secretary, Martin Smith, also a leading member of the Socialist Workers' Party, is a vocal supporter of Gilad Atzmon, a Holocaust denier who has argued that burning down synagogues is a "rational act."
Peter Tatchell, a prominent gay rights campaigner, has noted: "UAF commendably opposes the British National Party and English Defence League but it is silent about Islamist fascists who promote anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and sectarian attacks on non-extremist Muslims."
The UAF is not, however, just silent; it is actively complicit. It has, on a number of occasions, joined in with the Al Quds Day March -- an annual Iranian-organized parade in Tehran, London and a number of other European cities – in which crowds chant and march in support of the Iranian regime, the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, and the Palestinian terror group Hamas.
Following the murder of a British soldier by Islamists in Woolwich, the UAF recently held a demonstration called "Don't Let the Racists Divide Us." One of the speakers was Shakeel Begg, an imam at the Lewisham Mosque, where the Woolwich terrorists worshipped.
Begg is a well-known hate preacher who describes jihad as the "greatest of deeds." He was previously the Muslim chaplain at Kingston University in London, where, during one address to students, he advised, "You want to make jihad? Very good… Take some money and go to Palestine and fight, fight the terrorists, fight the Zionists." He is also an outspoken supporter of Al Qaeda terrorists imprisoned in Guantanamo, whom he describes as "inspiring."
Despite the connections to hate preachers and extremists, Unite Against Fascism enjoys support from scores of MPs, including Prime Minister David Cameron, who is a founding signatory.
A number of critics have suggested that the UAF and other "anti-fascists" are just as violent as their ideological opponents. Former members have accused the UAF of inciting racial hatred and encouraging violence, and on a number of occasions, the police have blamed the UAF for violence.
In 2009, for instance, a fundraising event for the British National Party was interrupted by a mob of several dozen "anti-fascists" -- armed with bats, knives and hammers -- who attacked several of the BNP activists. One man was hospitalized after he was repeatedly beaten with a hammer. In 2010, the UAF joint secretary, Weyman Bennett, was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to organize violent disorder.
The UAF is just one project within the Socialist Workers Party's repertoire of ethical-looking activism. A number of these campaigns promote ideas similar to the values of the groups they claim to oppose. The Stop the War Coalition, for example, professes to oppose tyranny and unjust wars, but on a number of occasions has expressed support for the Iranian and Syrian regimes. Similarly, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which claims to advocate peace in the Middle East, supports the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, rejects the idea of a two-state solution and works to marginalize moderate voices.
The Institute for Race Relations, another example, condemns bigotry on one side of the political spectrum while ignoring, and even promoting, extremism from the other side. The Institute claims that Islamist extremism is a whipped-up hysteria designed to encourage anti-Muslim sentiment. The Institute also has denounced the work of counter-extremism groups on the grounds that the discussion of Islamist extremism only serves to encourage anti-Muslim sentiment.
In 2010, the Institute promoted a legal defence campaign for twenty-two protestors jailed for smashing shops, including a Starbucks cafe, which they claimed was linked to the Israeli state (the chairman of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, an American, happens to be Jewish).
The Institute has promoted the work of extremists such as Moazzam Begg, whom the human rights activist Gita Sahgal describes as "Britain's most famous supporter of the Taliban;" Victoria Brittain, who has expressed support for Abu Qatada, the Al Qaeda cleric, and Asim Qureshi, an Islamist activist and supporter of the Wahhabi group, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the members of which have called for Muslims to "support the jihad of our brothers and sisters in these countries when they are facing the oppression of the West."
"Anti-fascism" is a fig-leaf for political groups whose members' expressed fury against their ideological opponent serves to sanitize their own corrosive activism. This deception is buttressed by politicians, media and human rights groups, who, ever keen to demonstrate their modish ethics, voice support for the "anti-fascism" industry as evidence of their opposition to a section of politics considered to be socially and morally unacceptable.
Jewish organizations seem happy to campaign against one form of extremism but not the other. The British Board of Deputies, for example, regularly produces articles and statements advising British Jewry to campaign against the British National Party; and Jewish students have set up a number of campaigns to highlight the racism and bigotry promoted by organizations such as the English Defence League.
Although these campaigns are certainly warranted -- both the British National Party and the English Defence league express anti-Semitic and anti-Western sentiment -- no such important efforts have been made to counter the influence of the far more influential Green Party, the representatives of which have accused members called "Levy" of being Zionist agitators; have circulated emails from David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan, on how "Jewish Zionists" are working with President Obama to shape American policy on Israel; and whose senior member and former candidate for party leader, Pippa Bartolotti, has posed with a swastika and has objected to being represented by a member of the UK diplomatic staff who happened to have a Jewish name.
Further, no campaigns have been organized against the Respect Party, founded by a mix of Islamist and Marxist activists who boast the pro-Syrian MP George Galloway as their leading representative. Respect's woman officer, Naz Kahn, has said: "It's such a shame that the history teachers in our school never taught us this but they are the first to start brainwashing us and our children into thinking the bad guy was Hitler. What have the Jews done good in this world?"
In 2011, the chairman of Tower Hamlets's Respect branch, Carole Swords, was filmed shouting at a group of Jewish activists, "Go back to Russia." The party leadership did not censure either official.
At the last general election, the Green Party stood down its candidates in favour of Respect candidates, and vice versa, across a number of constituencies. Both Respect and the Green Party have seats in parliament; the British National Party, however, has never won a seat. Despite this, anti-extremism campaigns are devoted solely to campaigning against the latter.
Moreover, Islamist extremists have infiltrated and exploited many aspects of British society. Scores of Islamist leaders preach hatred towards Jews, homosexuals and women on university campuses; leading charities, such as Interpal, openly consort with the Hamas terror group; British MPs promote organizations such as the anti-Jewish Palestine Solidarity Campaign; and the British taxpayer funds violent movements such as Jamaat-e-Islami, which is responsible for the mass-murder of Bangladeshis.
Extremists should not be defined by their political or religious affiliation, but rather by whether or not they promote violent ideas. In the enduring hunt for moral credibility, politicians and community organizations issue panicked warnings about the threat posed by "fascism". These same organizations, however, refuse to acknowledge that a number of "anti-fascist" groups are part of a collectivity that is just as destructive as its ideological opponent.
The expressions of alarm in Britain over "the fascist threat" are unremitting -- whether from politicians, the media, minority groups or think-tanks. These same voices, however, consider warnings about other political or religious extremism to be examples of hysteria or conspiracy.
Most mainstream organizations seem to regard the issue of counter-extremism as an opportunity for posturing, rather than as a broader threat that must be urgently defined and seriously challenged.