Sunday, November 12, 2006

Nick off Nick

Shared Vision - Griffin (L) and Hamza

Same chromosphere - Nick Griffin and Abu Hamza

Nick Griffin is such a profligate squanderer of space it beggars belief why he is allowed to colonise so much of it. Yesterday the British National Party (BNP) leader was acquitted of inciting race hate, triggering immediate calls for the law to be reviewed so that he doesn’t get away with it next time.

Pause for serious thought about what this means. I think Nick Griffin is a plonker but his capacity for turning dangerous can only be given credence by continuous crude attempts to prosecute him for something that isn’t actually against the law, i.e. being critical of a religion. That puts the right of free speech of all of us under threat. I can hardly wait for the next inquisition. To end up on the same side as Nick Griffin is an abhorrent thought but making changes to laws in order to bag one fringe lunatic is likely to throw us together by default.

It is still legally OK to hate people. This is good news because I hate rather a lot of people at the moment. They are more inclined to be figures of authority, greed and oppression and I hate them for what they do rather than what they look like or believe in. How tolerable would the 80s have been without our universal and collective loathing of Thatcher and regular burning of her likeness? My hatred doesn’t actually spill over into action unless you count snarky emails but it exists in my head and it serves a function. We humans have the capacity for the extremes of love and hate and the tendency to want to protect our rights and beliefs. We sometimes hate our kids, our parents, our next door neighbours and our work chums as well as mysterious strangers and it’s fine to do that as long as our feelings don’t cause us to threaten their wellbeing.

Nick Griffin is an educated man who knows how to put a sentence together which fuels resentment against ethnic and religious minorities but still manages to stay within the law. That may be infuriating for those trying to silence him but his position won’t appeal to the majority of us who have a fully functional brain and a vested interest in getting along. The BNP has only fifty local councillors, mostly concentrated in just a few weak councils. Their political position could be wiped off the map in a single election. Their profile is artificially inflated by media attention, and that’s the way Griffin likes it. He thinks the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) are twats for bringing these prosecutions and so do I.

With the jailing of Abu Hamza earlier this year, the CPS put itself under pressure to pull in a top scalp from the other side, so desperate is everyone for the illusion of ‘balance’. This is their actual downfall. The law doesn’t take the Government’s pathological vanity and hysterical obsession with appearances into account when it reviews serious charges against individuals. The law is only interested in whether the accused has done something legally wrong, as opposed to simply saying ghastly things that the fair minded among us find irksome and uncomfortable but ultimately dismissible.

The media are keen to make something of the fact that the acquitting jury was an all white one. The prosecution participates in jury selection. The obvious presumption here is that they approved the jury because they thought it would give them the best chance of a conviction. The jury is also directed by the judge on points of law. If the Government responds to the verdict by suggesting the law should be changed, that is tantamount to admitting that no presently existing law was broken by Griffin or his BNP colleague Mark Collett.

There are huge differences in the Griffin/Collett and Hamza cases. The CPS case against Griffin and Collett was based on speeches made during closed BNP meetings, one of which was secretly filmed by the BBC. The jury agreed with the defence that these meetings were not public events but private gatherings of ‘like-minded partisans’. Griffin was careful only to criticise the Islamic religion itself which he described as ‘a wicked, vicious faith’. Collett repeatedly called asylum seekers ‘cockroaches’. This is not very pleasant stuff but I have heard worse in community meetings and, I am pleased to say, the people making those statements were challenged and asked to justify their perceptions.

Hamza, on the other hand, chose to preach in the streets outside the Finsbury Park Mosque and other locations in Britain, rather than indoors where he might have been protected by the same claim to holding a private gathering. Hamza also made statements directly inciting Muslims to kill non-Muslims and incautiously committed his speeches to 3,000 audio tapes and 600 videos, clearly intended for wider distribution. You could say that both men are thoroughly evil when it comes to intent but, thank fuck, you can’t prosecute intent. It is frightening that some, in their frustration to see the world come right, dream of such an outcome. The Guardian reports today,

‘Weyman Bennett, general secretary of Unite against Fascism and Racism, said: "It's a tragedy that a fascist and racist organisation can hide behind free speech ... But how do you prove intent without getting inside Griffin's head?’

That is dangerously naïve and, even worse, shows so little faith in ordinary people to negotiate peaceful co-existence. As long as we continue to exert a condescending protectionism over the behaviours of some ethnic and religious minorities, we will never solve the conflicts which threaten the functionality of our communities. I was in Sydney last year when race riots erupted on Cronulla Beach. The most disturbing thing about what happened there was the way mutual disrespect and resentment was allowed to brew unchallenged for years before it finally exploded into a full scale battle.

Young girls have been enjoying the pleasure of gathering on Sydney beaches on weekends to hang out and be girls together for generations. Then things changed. Increasingly groups of girls were being hassled by young Muslim men on some beaches. They were called ‘whores’ and ‘Australian pigs’ and threatened with rape. No one did anything. Then in 2002 a high profile rape case shocked and outraged the country when a group of Lebanese Muslim boys convicted of gang rape showed not only no remorse but actual pride in what they had done. No alarm bells went off, anywhere. The behaviour of all of those boys should have been stopped much earlier. Instead, what happened was a hugely disproportionate and grotesquely ugly response to a relatively minor incident which gave redneck racists the excuse for an alcohol fuelled bloodbath.

Today, of all days, we should not need a reminder of how easy it is for conflicting beliefs to lead to violence and bloodshed. It is a form of racism in itself to have lower expectations of one group in society to conform to its laws and protocols for keeping the peace. If the police and Government in this country could stop tripping over themselves in their misguided efforts to prevent us from offending each other for five minutes, they might start to see that.

As a free society, we are more than capable of discussing the ideological obstacles to living peacefully together without the loss of our rights to free speech. The laws which are there to keep the peace exist as safeguards for when co operation breaks down and behaviour exceeds the capacity of society to deal with it locally. Then the law needs to step in. As long as this Government does not trust us to take care of business at our end, the Nick Griffins and Abu Hamzas out there will gain a foothold. So, it’s now up to us to tell Nick Griffin to ‘nick off’ as we say in Australia. But let’s do it right this time.

Photo of Nick Griffin - The Telegraph. Photo of Abu Hamza - The Scotsman


Steve_East9 said...

Spot on! Historically, laws enacted to allegedly 'protect us' from the 'bad' have invariably ended up being used against the good. Anti-terrorist laws have been used in the last 2-3 years against:
Students at Universities organising protests about cuts and big-business sponsorship and (pensioner-aged!) hecklers at Labour Party conferences!

Anonymous said...

Well said; I think one of the main functions of Remembrance Day should be to try and prevent it happening again.

I posted a poem by Isaac Rosenberg today, who grew up in Cable Street, Stepney. His father had left Russia for fear of being called up, only to have his son die in the trenches. And 18 years after that, Oswald Mosley's Fscists were routed by the people of the East End in the Battle of Cable Street, where Rosenberg had grown up.

Doesn't it say that somewhere?: "Never again." And here we are.

On a more trivial note, are both today's featured extremists blind in one eye? (One each, I mean?)

That's so pants said...

When I found the two pictures I was struck by the resemblence. Griffin's picture has not been doctored, not by me anyway, and I am sure The Telegraph is above such things. Metaphorically, it works rather well I think.

Jo-Jo said...

Great pix. I think its useful to see these extremists are so similar. I prefer if Nick Griffin went to jail to tho.