Matthew Taylor, Guardian, October 5, 2006
- Far-right party reproduces images that led to protests
- Move ‘aims to increase community tensions’
The far-right British National party was yesterday accused of deliberately ramping up racial and religious tensions by launching a leafleting campaign with anti-Muslim messages, including controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The depiction of the prophet with a bomb as a turban was one of several images that sparked protests across the world earlier this year. The BNP’s move was criticised as a blatant attempt to reignite the controversy. Azad Ali, of the Muslim Safety Forum, said: “This is a deliberate ploy to create huge tensions … and it is adding to the isolation, fear and frustration felt by many people in the Muslim communities.”
The BNP said the leaflet was part of a “coherent campaign to alert people to the Islamification of Great Britain”. It has produced another leaflet on immigration and a second on Islam, which describes the faith as “a threat to us all”. The leaflet was handed out in Sutton in south-west London. Politicians and community leaders said the BNP was trying to exploit a debate about plans to build a mosque in the area. Lal Hussain, a former Sutton councillor and the area’s first Asian mayor, said residents had been shocked. “This is not the sort of thing we expect round here but there is not a chance they will make any headway with these tactics. People here are far too literate and tolerant.”
Nick Lowles, of the anti-fascist group Searchlight, said the BNP had run a concerted campaign designed to exploit anti-Muslim feeling since the London bombings last year. “Everywhere the BNP appears racist attacks increase and this leaflet will make it more difficult for Muslims and others to go about their day to day business without being threatened and intimidated.”
The row began after a Danish newspaper, the Jutland Post, published cartoons mocking Muhammad. When a group of Danish imams travelled to the Middle East with the cartoons, the affair exploded into a worldwide cultural controversy. The BNP leaflet of Muhammad first appeared earlier this year. The party has also called on Muslims to be banned from flying into or out of the country.
Yesterday Phil Edwards, a BNP spokesman, denied it was trying to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment and defended the “no-fly” policy. “Rather than inconvenience everybody we should ban all Muslims from flying in and out of Britain,” he said. The BNP gained 32 councillors in May’s local elections, including 11 of the 13 seats it contested in Barking and Dagenham, east London.