Imran Shah of MPACUK says Brexit is fundamentally a racist, anti-Muslim project and Muslims should be at the forefront of making sure it doesn’t happen.
Aside from the sheer disbelief, perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of the Brexit referendum was what happened after it.
The nation was still getting to grips with the assassination of Jo Cox MP by the time the result was announced, but the outpouring of racism and anti-Muslim hatred only cemented the idea that the core narrative that was driving Brexit was xenophobia.
It was reported that both racial and religious hate crime spiked after the referendum. Three years on, we know more about what is motivating people to push so fervently for Brexit – the main figureheads such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Aaron Banks, Nigel Farage, David and Frederick Barclay (owners of The Telegraph) all have their own particular reason for pushing so hard for it.
All of them have been mentioned in the Panama Papers, documents that exposed global players who have horded millions in the offshore industry as a means of tax avoidance and to use it for political activity.
The EU is due to pass legislation that makes it illegal for companies and individuals inside the zone to avoid tax, especially through offshore sites like Panama or the Canary Islands. So it doesn’t take a genius to see why these guys are so desperate to leave the EU.
Brexit and English Nationalism
But what about the rest of the UK?
There’s a lot to say about the grinding austerity and disenfranchisement that started from the Blair years. It has clearly taken its toll on a lot of communities.
Many say this was expressed through the Brexit referendum. That may be true but for a long time right-wing papers such as the Daily Mail, Express and others have been making good money from pushing the idea that White Britons are poor because foreigners are coming over and taking their jobs. As well as bringing crime and their backward cultures of course.
But Scotland has shown a much more inclusive way to challenge austerity without scapegoating the most powerless of society. So, was it just a protest vote? I think not.
The biggest pushers and zealots (and there’s a lot of them) of Brexit do not care about a hard boarder in Northern Ireland and the violence it can bring back. Nor do they care about the real possibility of Scottish or even Welsh Independence. They only care about exiting the EU by any cost even if it breaks up the Union. The biggest support for this is in England, mainly in rural areas.
This is very much the classic mantra of English nationalism. We’ve seen it before with the BNP, Combact 18, EDL, Britain First and others. It’s this that’s driving the political agenda with all the racism and xenophobia that comes with it.
Many have criticised the recent Tory Party purge and made it a clear line of attack against Boris Johnson’s leadership. In fact, it’s done more to prove to their membership and voters that they are serious about Brexit.
It will make the party stronger, not weaker, motivating their grassroots and bringing the masses of Brexiteers firmly on their side. This is especially the case at the next General Election, which will possibly be soon.
When we see the Tory party driven by this English Nationalism, their view on Islam is no longer surprising.
A poll published in June 2019 stated the following about Conservative Party members:
- 40% want limits placed on Muslims entering the UK
- 43% said they “prefer to not have the country led by a Muslim”
- 45% believe that there are no-go areas for non-Muslims in the UK
- 67% believe there are “areas in Britain that operate under Sharia law”
- 39% believe that “Islamist terrorists reflect a widespread hostility to Britain amongst the Muslim community”
- 79% do not believe there is a problem with Islamophobia in the party
The same papers and voices which are informing these people about Brexit are also informing them about Muslims and Islam.
And given that key figures in the party, including Boris himself, have gone back on their word on an independent investigation into Islamophobia in the Tory party, it’s safe to say that they don’t plan on challenging these beliefs.
This makes the Tory party currently a real threat to the Muslims in this country.
Brexit will harm Muslims
Many Muslims voted for Brexit in then hope that it would help distance and protect us from a Europe that has seen a rise in anti-Muslim movements and governments. Yet they failed to comprehend critical points.
The first is that the British government itself is clearly anti-Muslim, racist and xenophobic. Unlike in other places in Europe where far-right views became mainstream with the rise of far-right movements, the Tories have continuously absorbed those views in order to retain power and momentum during Brexit. Racists are no longer voting BNP or UKIP anymore; they are voting Tory.
So by supporting their agenda on Brexit, we give them more legitimacy. It’s no wonder that we’ve got a racist Prime Minister and Cabinet running the show now.
The second point is that ideology and its propaganda permeate borders. We have seen Islamophobia go around the world and back. Yet this is a point that few Muslims comprehend. It doesn’t matter if you set up a hard border with the EU, hatred will still spread. This literally has zero impact on Islamophobia.
In fact, leaving the EU stops us from being able to organise with Muslims across Europe to counter the clear and co-ordinated organisation of Islamophobes in Europe and around the world.
The Muslim Brexit vote is either an expression of ignorance or running away from the problem of Islamophobia by trying to survive by doing as little as possible… like how we treat Islamophobia here.
Brexit, so far, has been driven by bigotry, scapegoating and contempt of democracy. History has shown us that once a society is gripped by those three concepts, it will only lead to fascism. If Brexit happens now, it will only reinforce those ideas and give open space to hate-preachers who champion them.
You can follow Imran on Twitter here.