Is Britain becoming a Nazi state? It would seem unlikely, but to listen to some of the critics of the Conservative government in recent days it would appear that we are only moments away from become a racist despotism.
Last week the convener of the Scottish Parliament's Equalities and Human Rights Committee, one Christina McKelvie, pronounced
that the Conservative party is displaying "some of the most right-wing
reactionary politics that I've heard in my lifetime" and claimed that
the Conservative party's recent conference showed what will happen in
Britain "if we become bystanders and do not speak out against
discrimination." She said that some recent Conservative proposals were
"reminiscent of the rise of Nazism in the 1930s."
Higher up the Scottish Nationalist Party food-chain, one of their MPs, Mhairi Black last week also compared
the recent Conservative party conference to the Nazi party. She wrote
without irony that she was vexed by its alleged "nationalism', all the
more "when that "nationalism" is used as a motivation or an excuse for
racist, bigoted and small minded policy." The policies of the
Conservative party, she claimed, were increasingly "reminiscent of early
1930s Nazi Germany." As though to demonstrate how sparse her knowledge
of that period is, she concluded her piece by citing -- as though no one
could possibly have come across the quotation before -- Pastor Martin
Niemoller. "First they came for the Jews."
Having sparked some criticism, other nationalists soon came to the aid of Ms Black. Notable among them was Humza Yousaf,
one of the ministers of the SNP and himself a member of the Scottish
Parliament. While many people on social media criticised Ms Black's
absurd rhetoric, he chose to back her up. "Those criticising, I have
friends/family who have applied for dual nationality with Pakistan. Feel
UK will be unbearable for Muslims in future." This gained headlines of
its own. But nobody pointed out the twin outrages of this grotesque
First, although it should be obvious, a country the citizens of which
elected a Muslim (Sadiq Khan) as the mayor of their capital city, is
highly unlikely to become a place where pogroms against Muslims are
imminent. Second, in making this comparison, Mr Yousaf unwittingly
pointed to one of the greatest outrages of our time.
While the Conservative party in Westminster is portrayed by these
supposed defenders of human rights as some kind of Nazi offshoot, life
is, in fact, unequalled in Britain for being good for people of any
faith or background. It would be hard to find a society anywhere that
has been more tolerant of mass immigration or tried to make life good
for the immigrants who arrive, whatever background they are from.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is a country which could hardly have a
worse record on all of these matters. It is a country where racism and
ethnic and religious hatred are rife. People of the "wrong" background,
caste, or ethnicity experience infinitely more racism in Pakistan than
in any country in Europe. Even people who are the "wrong" type of
Muslim, such as Ahmadiyya Muslims, are the subject of constant and
routine persecution and bigotry. The persecution of Ahmadiyya Muslims is
so rife in Pakistan that this July, it even spilled out onto the
streets of Glasgow in the murder of an Ahmadiyyan shopkeeper, Asad Shah.
There is also almost no country in the world today (Saudi Arabia and
Iran perhaps aside) that is more intolerant of people of other faiths.
The same week that Mr Yousaf was extolling the idea that Britain is a
proto-Nazi state and Pakistan a potential safe-haven, the Pakistani
authorities saw the latest round of the interminable and unforgivable
saga of Asia Bibi.
This is the woman who has been on death-row in Pakistan for no crime
other than the crime of being a Christian. Bibi has been awaiting
execution for five years, purely because a neighbour claimed that Bibi
had insulted Mohammed during an argument.
As it happens, the case of Asia Bibi has now been delayed yet again
because the judge has removed himself from the case. He has done so
because he knows that if he were to release Asia Bibi, he will himself
be assassinated in the manner of the late Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
While last week's hearing was going on, hundreds of riot police had to
be deployed outside the courthouse in Islamabad. This was because
everything about Asia Bibi and her case brings out mobs in Pakistan;
thousands of Pakistani nationals have said that if Asia Bibi were ever
released, they would kill her.
So this is the situation the ridiculous nationalists of the SNP and
others who are like-minded find themselves in. They attack the
Conservative government of the UK for Nazism while not merely praising,
but lauding as a safe haven, a state which actually persecutes and
murders people because of their religion.
If Black, Yousaf and company were merely ignorant that would be one
thing. But they cannot possibly be so ignorant -- or at least Yousaf
cannot be. He must know enough about Pakistan to know the prejudice and
ignorance that goes right through Pakistani society. Which means that he
is doing what many other people today are doing, which is knowingly to
cover for a racist despotism, so long as it is despotism with an Islamic
face. As for the colleague whose rescue he ran to, perhaps the next
time Ms Black ponders the lessons of Pastor Niemoller she could tell her
readers, "First they came for Asia Bibi. But I did not speak up, for I
had never heard of her." That, at least, would be honest.