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situation of solidarity activists in the U.S., who, from all I hear, have a tougher time obtaining a fair hearing on the Palestine issue from their elected representatives, never mind persuading them to stick their necks out to condemn the wall or support the people of Gaza; nor does the level of trades union support come close to that achieved in Britain or some other European countries. I have great respect for the way these activists battle on in the face of a strong Zionist lobby and the prevailing pro-Israel sentiment in the American political and media establishment.

A Check to Islamophobia While in Britain, I also caught up on news concerning one of the more regressive tendencies of recent years: the rise in Islamophobia—fed, of course, by the 9/11 attacks and subsequent bomb attacks in London. Among those who tried to make political capital out of this situation was the farright British National Party (BNP). In the past decade, the focus of its racist campaigning has alternated between asylum seekers and Muslims. The latter were presented as being a menace to others and possessed of a relentless determination to impose their wishes and authority on the rest of society. Party leader Nick Griffin has called them “the enemy within.” Until the last decade, the electoral success of the BNP was negligible, but it began to make an impact as it distanced itself somewhat from its earlier thuggish image and took advantage of an increasing disenchantment with the mainstream parties, particularly Tony Blair’s New Labor, which a growing number of working-class people in economically depressed areas considered to have abandoned them. Some of BNP’s breakthroughs occurred in largely white areas close to districts with large Muslim populations of South Asian origin, including old industrial towns in east Lancashire and west Yorkshire, in the north of England. Since the BNP had won some 60 council seats and had two members elected to the European parliament, it went into the national and local elections of May 2010 confidently expecting further gains. Instead it lost nearly half of its council seats and failed by a long way to win any seats in the national parliament. Its losses would have been even greater if all council seats had been up for election. Another focal point for anti-Muslim activism is the English Defense League (EDL), which is a relatively loose network rather than a party. Many of its particiDECEMBER 2010

pants are soccer hooligans, and they include a sprinkling of current and former BNP members. EDL started after a group of Muslim extremists under the name of Islam4UK held a protest demonstration at the homecoming parade of the Royal Anglian Regiment from Afghanistan in March 2009. EDL claims to be against Muslim extremists rather than Muslims as such, but the entire tenor of its protests says otherwise. At the time of writing, it has held over two dozen demonstrations, with a maximum attendance of 2,000 people. It seems to have lost impetus recently, but could be a rallying point for those in

the BNP who despair of electoral politics. How much appeal such Islamophobes have is partially dependent on events in the wider world: there is no point in pretending that a violent attack by a Qur’anquoting terrorist does not give them a bigger audience. Campaigns of public education and mobilizations by those who oppose the politics of such groups have clearly had an impact in countering their influence, including in the very recent past, and can go on doing so, despite the kind of grim economic climate that often has historically provided rich pickings for racist groups. ❑

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