This week the BNP released its party political broadcast in the run-up to May’s local council and European elections. The BNP youth has also made its own poisonous contribution to the debate. The BNP have released a hurriedly edited version following complaints from the BBC that the broadcast did not meet its editorial guidelines, which state that such broadcasts have:
‘an obligation to observe the law (for example on libel, copyright and incitement to racial hatred and violence) and [must follow] the BBC Editorial Guidelines on harm and offence’.
The BBC evidently did not believe the video met these guidelines. Instead, it featured caricatured ‘Muslim’ grooming gangs, a woman in a burqa begging, and a bloodied silhouette of Michael Adebolajo, the killer of soldier Lee Rigby. The other half of the video is given over to ‘man on the street’-type interviews with, amongst others, someone dressed as a member of the armed forces, and someone the viewer is meant to assume is a member of the clergy (i.e. a man in apparently clerical garb outside a locked Church). This man is a Mr Robert West, some-time BNP party activist. He is not a vicar.
As a Supernumerary Methodist Minister, I cannot recognise anything of the Christian faith I espouse in the fear-mongering of the man outside that church. He says:
‘the BNP is the only political party which will stop the Islamification of Britain, ban the Burqa, and do its utmost to uphold your culture, heritage, and identity.’
To you, Robert, if you happen to read this blog, I say this: we need to talk. Perhaps we should speak about faith. In particular, I feel that we should talk about the ways in which tolerance, pluralism and basic human kindness are foundational tenets of both Christianity and British culture, heritage and identity. Your church door might be locked, but mine is open.
The response to the BNP from various religious figures in the UK in recent years gives a rather different impression of what the Christian response to the BNP is, and should be. The Lord Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, took out an anti-BNP advert in the run-up to local council elections in 2007. In 2009, when a BNP advert asked – ‘What would Jesus do?’ – the Methodists, Baptists and United Reformed Church put out a statement condemning the adverts. Many more faith leaders came together to sign an anti-BNP pledge. Indeed, the Church of England general synod voted overwhelmingly to ban its clergy and some lay members from joining the BNP.
Those who reject the far-right’s scaremongering must remain united in the fight against extremism. Only then can being to create the democracy we long for.