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Press: Anti-Islamism line helps to harvest the haters  

01 March 2024


PEOPLE who hate fascism tend to hate fascists; people who hate Communism tend to hate Communists; those who hate Islam tend to hate Muslims, though they prefer to say “Islamists”. This is not surprising. Only intellectuals can really hate ideas; for it is only to intellectuals that ideas are real enough to hate. For the rest of us, ideas come attached to people, and it is those people that we first and foremost hate. This is especially true if we don’t know any of them as individuals, and cannot imagine what it is like to be one of them.

If you’re a politician in a democratic society, this raises an obvious question: who is to speak for the people who hate Muslims, and who is to harvest their votes? Of course, you can’t ask the question out loud, but you can accuse your opponents of hating Islamism insufficiently. The message will get through, and the votes will be yours.

But you have to be a little careful. You can say that marches in support of Gaza are “hate marches” “fuelled by Islamists” and should not be allowed, but you may not say that Sadiq Khan, the Muslim Mayor of London, is the tool of an Islamist conspiracy. That is why the MP Lee Anderson had the Conservative whip removed, but his message is extremely popular among the members of the Tory party who understand exactly what he is saying. As the Daily Express put it: “Get him back: Tories rally behind ‘Race Row’ Lee Anderson”. The Telegraph opened its coverage with “Red Wall revolt over Anderson sacking”.

These headlines are aimed at an audience of party members, and their message is clear: if the Conservative Party is not to be the natural home of those who hate Muslims, some other party will be. Mr Farage stands ready.

PERHAPS it is in this light that we should look at the extraordinary saga of Sir Paul Marshall’s tweets. Sir Paul is an incredibly rich member of the congregation of Holy Trinity, Brompton. He funds its theological college, St Mellitus, and the UnHerd website, besides owning half of GB News, which pays Lee Anderson £100,000 a year as a presenter. He is also bidding for the Telegraph newspapers and The Spectator, something that worries liberal opinion.

The charity Hope Not Hate dug out — and the podcast The News Agents reported — a number of really demented and unpleasant things that he had re-posted on the social-media site X (formerly Twitter) last year, such as “a matter of time before civil war starts in Europe. The native European population is losing patience with fake refugee invaders.” And he “liked” a post that said: “If we want European civilization to survive we need to not just close the borders but start mass expulsions immediately. We don’t stand a chance unless we start that process very soon.”

Naturally, The Spectator published a piece in his defence, claiming that the real hate was coming from Islamists. A statement issued on his behalf said that this kind of thing was “a small and unrepresentative sample of over 5000 posts . . . [which] does not represent his views”.

I suppose the real question is not whether he is a more suitable owner of the Telegraph and Spectator than his main rivals, the Qatari government, but whether either of them can possibly damage the country more than the present owners have done, who brought us Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. No doubt we will find out.

IN NEWS, of course, entirely unrelated, the Synod speech by the Bishop of Dover, the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, which The Guardian reported as “a stinging rebuke against government ministers and others ‘who are threatened’ by the social justice movement”, was reported by the Telegraph under the headline: “Church of England tells parishes to set up ‘race action plan’ put forward by pro-BLM bishop”. The Telegraph also noted that no one rose to speak against the Bishop’s motion. This suggests to me that no one had thought about it very much.

Racism is evil, but anti-racism can become a grift like any other, as The Sunday Times illustrated with the story of the Revd Yvonne Clarke, aided by a press release from her lawyers. “The first black woman to be ordained by the Church of England is fighting to keep her job after the church tried to bring in predominantly white leadership to replace her and her parish council,” the paper reported.

This is a ludicrous account of the problem: she had run up a deficit in parish share of £57,000, brought the regular congregation down to ten, and employed her sister, who had been sacked for gross misconduct from a previous job at the diocesan board of finance. The archdeacon who had to deal with it at the time was herself black (and is now the Area Bishop).

Nicholas Hellen, who wrote the story, presumably knows all this, because he wrote the same story in 2021, when her appeal to the Church Commissioners failed (News, 1 October 2021). She is now appealing to the Privy Council. But, since the diocese will say nothing while legal proceedings are ongoing, the story writes itself, as they say.

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