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By Invoking ‘Judeo-Christian Values’, Nigel Farage Seeks to Marginalise Muslims

By Invoking ‘Judeo-Christian Values’, Nigel Farage Seeks to Marginalise Muslims

Categories: Latest News

Friday June 28 2024

On June 19 Reform UK President Nigel Farage declared at a speech in Blackpool that “Judeo-Christian values” are at the root of “everything” in Britain. The invocation of “Judeo-Christian values” is not a new move for Farage. Earlier in the year, he oddly claimed that the Gaza solidarity protests taking place across the cities of the Western world were a threat to this same values’ system. The nebulous concept has long been a favourite of right wing actors looking to frame citizenship and belonging in Western countries in exclusivist terms, namely White and Christian or Jewish, while marginalising those who do not conform to this religio-racial profile, especially Muslims.

As pointed out by journalist Peter Oborne in his book The Fate of Abraham, the term has been used for decades by Orientalist intellectuals such as Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington to draw a demarcation between the ‘civilised’ democratic world and the assumedly backward, dark and violent domain of Islam. From the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the present day, right-wing politicians, media figures and intellectuals have sought to capitalise on this clash of civilisations narrative which frames Muslims as not only outside of Western society, but posing an existential threat to it and all it stands for. The narrative presents an “exaggerated … values-based incompatibility between all Muslims and all ‘Westerners.” Interestingly, Jewish academic Dr Meredith Warren highlights how not long ago Jews were considered to be outside of the Christian world’s fold – as highlighted by the industrial-level discrimination they have faced throughout European history (including in the UK) – and have only recently been positively incorporated into the mainstream right-wing imagination because of anxiety around growing Muslim populations in the West.

Beyond the fact that “Judeo-Christian values” makes little theological sense, it often goes undefined, and when a definition is offered, it is usually extremely vague and presents concepts that are in no way unique to Christianity or Judaism. In Blackpool, Farage defined it as follows: “the family matters, the community matters, that working with each other matters, the country matters.” In no universe can it be said that these convictions are only reachable through Christianity and/or Judaism. Vigorously engaging in the community and upholding its integrity as the centre point of worldly action and social morality is an integral part of the Islamic tradition. Another key pillar in the Islamic social web – perhaps the most important – is the family unit. Therefore, from the perspective of social values and religious tradition, it is not at all clear why the term should not be, “Judeo-Christian-Islamic values” or “Abrahamic values,” as some Jewish academics have called for. However, the unfortunate fact of the matter is that the deployment of the term “Judeo-Christian values” – whether it be by Farage or Donald Trump or any other figure on the right – has little to do with religion. Rather, in twenty-first century Western culture it is simply dog-whistle Islamophobia used to present Muslims as a values-incompatible fifth column living physically within the West, but socially apart from it.

Indeed, in recent weeks Farage has come under fire for repeatedly claiming that Muslims “loathe” British values. British values are defined by the government as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.” It would seem that by spreading distrust toward Muslim communities, and making sweeping generalisations about their Britishness, it is in fact Farage who is not living up to the ‘official’ definition of British values. Beyond that point, Farage’s arguments simply do not square with what the facts show us, which is that most British Muslims feel a deep attachment to Britain. One poll from 2009 showed that 77% of Muslims strongly identified with the UK. However, what made this poll such a shock was that this was higher than the non-Muslim majority, about 50% of who felt the same way. Later on, in a 2016 survey, 93% of Muslims said they felt they belonged to Britain, and more than half said they felt this way “very strongly.” Therefore, the oft-repeated Islamophobic trope that Muslims do not respect Britain and her way of life simply crumbles in the face of hard data-based evidence.

Unfortunately however, it seems that no matter what British Muslims do, no matter how enthusiastically they engage with Britain’s institutions, people like Mr Farage will never be convinced of their sincerity. This was strongly evidenced following the May local elections when a number of Muslims were elected as councillors. Rather than congratulating these figures for their success, Farage, and those who share his divisive ideology, took to the airwaves to demonise them. On his GB News show, Farage said that Muslims being voted in showed a “growth in sectarian politics” and after showing footage of Muslims celebrating he disparagingly remarked, “this is our country in 2024, this is the diversity agenda.” Former Political Editor of the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh called the situation “deeply alarming, ugly and in fact quite sinister.” It seems that even when Muslims are helping to sustain the central British pillar of democratic engagement, Farage and his friends will still find ways to put a negative spin on it, helping to breathe life into the lie of a Judeo-Christian ‘us’ versus the Muslim ‘them.’

Ultimately, to see that Muslims have always played a seminal role in Britain’s social, economic, political and even military life, all you have to do is cast your eye over the historical record. As MEND shows in its latest report, there is evidence of Muslim influence on the country’s history dating all the way back to the 8th century! There is evidence to suggest that some of the first coins minted in the UK may have had the Islamic Shahada (declaration of faith) printed on them. Muslim sailors from Britain’s South Asian imperium began settling in the UK in the 1800s, where they established local businesses and mixed with the white communities, particularly around the ports of London and cities like Liverpool. During World War I, at least 2.5 million Muslims contributed to the British-allied fight, with an estimated 89,000 being killed fighting under British or French command. Unfortunately, only about 2% of Brits are aware of the heroic role played by Muslims in the Great War. The numbers for World War II are even bigger: approximately 5.5 million Muslims fought with the allies against the Axis Powers, with around 1.5 million being killed in battle. It is estimated that today Muslims contribute in excess of £31 billion to the economy and about 40,000 Muslims work for the NHS. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are more like it which clearly show a defining Muslim presence that permeates British society from the deep past to the present day.

Therefore, it is high time that populists like Farage were challenged every time they invoke the exclusionary concept of “Judeo-Christian values,” which many – including Jewish activists – have argued is only used to alienate and ‘Otherise’ Muslims, who in fact share in that values’ system. The Muslim contribution to this country has been significant, spanning hundreds of years, and attempts by Farage to effectively write them out of it, presenting them instead as troublesome newcomers, should be condemned for what they are: simple Islamophobia.


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