By Jeremy Seabrook The British National party is expected to make gains in the council elections in the former mill towns of Lancashire and West Yorkshire and in Black Country sites of industrial dereliction. But its “success” should be judged less in terms of seats won than in its disturbing ability to connect with an older story of the meaning of Britishness. For the BNP, Islam is the new Popery. The superstition and malevolence once projected on to Catholicism appear to be made manifest once more in the fanaticism and extremism which new holy warriors believe they have located in Islam. Folk memory is a powerful generator of fables for those who know how to manipulate them. The tale the BNP tells today, in the rundown streets of the fearful old and the disinherited young, is about the spread of an alien creed, aided by the fifth column of an enemy within, and of hordes of migrant strangers at our border. The detail – “islands of Islam in our communities”, “a race relations industry kowtowing to the apologists for terror”, even “the imminent extinction of the white man” – however ghoulish, is less significant than the narrative of the nation in danger; for this resonates strongly with earlier versions of these islands in jeopardy.
By Waleed Arafa The ban on hijab has stirred a great deal of discussion that has gone far deeper than simply the issue of hijab. “Islamic Identity in European Communities: Abdications and Integration. A Reading in the Current French Scene” was the title of a two-day conference held at the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences, Cairo University, as part of the Program for Dialogue of Civilizations. On February 18 and 19, 2004, intellectuals and specialists discussed the issues involved in depth, leaving their audience with a variety of perceptive opinions and questions to contemplate. Discussing “Place” &”Time” The furor over hijab became the mandatory gateway to most of the issues. Dr.Mona Abu al-Fadl began by mentioning the date of the first incident over hijab in France; the year was 1989. She attempted to link it to the global winds of change that were taking place during the period 1989 – 1992. Before then, Muslims had been present in France for years and years without a single problem concerning hijab. Later Dr. Amr Al-Shobaky discussed “Place”. France! Why France in particular and not Britain for instance? The answer, in his opinion, is based on the uniqueness of the French secular model versus other models, especially the Anglo-Saxon model. A third speaker, Dr. Salah Jaa’frawy, argued that secularism should not be used as a comprehensive excuse for such practices, because other European countries have certain tilts towards certain religious groups. The Christian Democratic Party, currently ruling in Germany , where Dr. Salah lives, is an example. He mentioned that there is a race amongst German states to formulate laws banning hijab. Dr. Pakinam Al-Sharqawy confirmed that some people in the West simply like to attribute the problems of Muslims to Islam, and then link the problems of Islam to the problems of Muslim women, finally they reduce all the above to a secondary issue like hijab. She firmly stated, “They are escaping the bigger questions because eventually they will find themselves equally as guilty of Muslims’ problems, and that is a responsibility they do not want to take.”