by Dr Matthew Feldman, on behalf of Faith Matters
This paper provides an overview of anti-Muslim ‘cultural racism’, which has arisen fervently this century – particularly amongst far-right activists and movements. Feldman attempts to map the way in which the far-right has converged upon anti-Muslim prejudice as a strategy for populist mobilization.
In this environment of demonising all Muslims in ‘the West’ as potential extremists, the far right are attempting to make a self-fulfilling prophecy out of the notion of a ‘clash of civilisations’. Yet as Feldman shows, this is hardly a recent idea; even if past usage of this term is far more nuanced than in recent times. In reality, Feldman argues, the only ‘clash’ is between extremists on both sides – in this case jihadi Islamists and far-right movements equally illiberal in their prescriptions for British society – which has contributed toward a ‘cumulative extremism’, whereby both sides are feed off each the extremism of other.
This short study then turns to a short case study on the way in which ‘Islamophobic’ discourse acts as a lowest-common denominator for the various far-right factions in Britain today. This is undertaken by recourse to a lecture delivered by Paul Weston, chairman of the British Freedom Party, in early 2012 yet circulated widely online in notably different far-right contexts. Weston’s rhetoric of impending civilizational war – shared across the spectrum of far-right activism – may be fairly dubbed crusading ‘Christianism’; that is, an inverse of jihadi ‘Islamism’. Despite their many differences, the scapegoating of entire societies by illiberal extremists by both Islamist and Christian extremists shares the notion of an unavoidable ‘clash of civilisations’ – revealed here as scare-mongering that should be rejected by all citizens of goodwill.