UKIP Tries to Stay Relevant by Turning to Islamophobia

The Brexit vote rattled Britain and the world. The death of the European Union and the rise of a new world order seemed imminent with Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen’s mobilisation of alt-right voters. Almost a year on, many of these fears have faded while new implications have surfaced.

Emmanuel Macron’s resounding victory over Le Pen in the French presidential election signaled a halt to nascent Euroscepticism. The 39-year old’s victory has not jettisoned Euroscepticism in Europe altogether, but has to some extent muzzled it. Macron has the unprecedented task of uniting and healing a broken France, somewhat serving as a microcosmic symbol of the maimed EU. His victory signifies that, contrary to what was initially feared, the EU will likely not collapse under the weight of pervading racism and nationalism, not to mention an anti-establishment fervour born out of socioeconomic resentment.

Britain’s messy ongoing divorce from the EU has served as a warning to other member-states to refrain from following suit. Britain, for the moment, will remain the sole renegade. EU bureaucrats will be relieved. Although, if further EU exits are to be prevented there must be fundamental internal reforms that increases multilevel cooperation as well as granting significant, yet limited, member-state autonomy. The EU will have to compromise its terms. Imposing bendy banana laws and migration laws undermine nation-state autonomy – not that its migration laws that are particularly bad, but they attract the most ire. Sure, the European Parliament allows for member-state influence through representation, but the increased bureaucratisation of the EU has limited member-states’ authority over their own affairs. Brexit then, one would hope, should galvanise radical internal change in the EU to create a more democratised system of governance.

The most intriguing ramification of Brexit is that United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) no longer has a reason for existing, a structural drive. Its sole purpose was to withdraw Britain from the EU. Now that it has achieved this, UKIP is lost without a cause and you’d think it would need one with an election less than two weeks away. Their solution? Islamophobia.

UKIP jockeyed for a Brexit using hard racism and now it is funnelling that ideology into even more radical policies and a new identity – the anti-Islam party. The party’s leader Paul Nuttall recently announced that his party will push to ban the burqa and sharia courts (which usually take the form of community arbitration councils). Nuttall is using heightened security threats and a ‘lack of integration’ to mandate this proposal. No doubt last week’s Manchester attack will further fuel their rationalisations for driving a wedge between themselves and the other.

Muslim women being forced to abandon an important religious component hardly sounds like integration, it sounds more like imposed adherence to secular practices. Nuttall contends that sharia courts undermine Muslim women’s rights, but stripping away such courts would revoke their right to use their own divorce courts, which would paradoxically further suppress their rights.

Other policy proposals such as integrating Muslims into mainstream British society by temporarily banning new Islamic faith schools in the state sector is trammelling and deplorable. Not only is it condescending and racist, but it is also completely futile and pointless. UKIP is supposed to be patriotic, but it clearly does not embrace and celebrate all citizens. Regardless, such policies would likely never be passed into law as it almost certainly contravenes existing equality legislation.

UKIP voters are abandoning the party for the Tories in droves (yay?) so even if the said policies did not contravene equality legislation, such measures are highly unlikely. Thanks to Brexit and UKIP’s subsequent loss of identity, the election will be tarnished with the anti-Muslim rhetoric of a bunch of lost souls from the far right. Thankfully, it seems, their voice is fading.

This article first appeared in Issue 13, 2017.
Posted 11:51am Sunday 28th May 2017 by Cameron Meads.