Friday, October 21, 2016

"First They Came for Asia Bibi"

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 nonsense.
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.

No comments: