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Leaked emails show Ukip leader comparing Muslims to Nazis

The Guardian logo The Guardian 22/08/2019 Rowena Mason Deputy political editor
a man wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Richard Braine disputed the accusation that his comments were whipping up hatred against Muslims. © EPA Richard Braine disputed the accusation that his comments were whipping up hatred against Muslims.

Richard Braine, the new Ukip leader, has been accused of whipping up religious tensions and anti-Muslim prejudice after leaked emails showed he argued that people should no more want Muslims to settle in their country than Nazis.

Braine, who won the leadership after a campaign in which he expressed anti-Islam views, also suggested that non-Muslims needed to help Muslims to “cast out their demon” and argued there was no such thing as “moderate Muslims”.

One email reads: “The nonsense of the moderate Muslim is trotted out repeatedly by so many people with good intentions, but wilful ignorance of Islamic teaching. There is no moderate Islam. Get used to it. It’s a fact. When people talk about moderate Muslims they are making an error. It is like saying Hitler wasn’t such a bad fellow, quite a laugh actually, an entertaining speaker, a patron of the arts – he loved Wagner – he made the trains run on time, and just look at his smart uniforms. It is to ignore completely the ideology to which the person is religiously wedded.”

He added: “You should no more apologise for a moderate Muslim, and wish him to settle in your country, than you should a moderate Maoist or Nazi.”

The emails to associates were leaked to the Guardian from within Ukip because of alarm among some left in the dwindling party about its continued links with the far-right figure Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

Matthew McGregor from the anti-fascist campaign group Hope Not Hate said Ukip was now “the party of Tommy Robinson and anti-Muslim prejudice”.

“Despite all the chaos around Brexit, the party is mired at 1% in the polls. They’re seeking to stoke tension in communities in the desperate hope of regaining relevancy. It’s time for them to join previous failed far-right parties in the dustbin of history,” he said.

Braine disputed the accusation that his comments were whipping up hatred against Muslims and took issue with the allegation that he was Islamophobic on the grounds that it was not irrational to have a problem with Islamic scripture.

He said: “It was part of a discussion about the fact there are many immoderate verses in Islamic scripture. It was about the immoderate verses that essentially cannot be denied by moderate Muslims. In Islam in its proper scriptural sense you are not free to deny verses like say Surah 47 verse 4. It is not moderate and it does promote the slaughter of the infidel.”

Asked if he really believes Muslims want to slaughter “infidels”, he said: “Clearly not. What is wonderful is that Muslims are good people like the rest of us but it is the scripture that encourages violence.”

Asked about the accusation that he is Islamophobic and whipping up hatred against Muslims, Braine said: “I certainly don’t wish to whip up ill feeling or hatred. I don’t believe in hatred, I come from a part of the world that has its basis as Christianity. And I myself am someone who I’d like to think is pretty kindly to everyone I meet ... But to some extent I reject the criticism of Islamophobia for the reason we have had a large number of violent Islamic attacks in 55 countries and I normally think of Islamophobia as an irrational fear. I don’t think Islamophobia is appropriate for people scared of violent attacks routinely that we see in the press and on the streets of Britain.”

On the comparison of Muslims with Nazis and Maoists, he said: “It’s a matter of degree. There have been people who supported their ideologies in Britain and there probably are people in Britain today who are Maoists and Nazis. The question is: do you support scriptures that promote or command the killing of people? ... I’m not saying Maoism is the same as Nazism or Nazism is the same as Islam. But I do think in each case we are talking about the kind of extremism and ideologies that are to some extent disregarding the value of human life.”

When presented with the four emails in full and asked for a response, a Ukip spokesman said: “The sentences are taken out of a wider context. Without the context, it’s impossible to see the point that was being made.”

The issue of Islamophobia has deeply divided Ukip, which has slumped in the polls and is struggling for relevance in the face of the rise of the Brexit party, founded by Nigel Farage after he quit Ukip over the former leader Gerard Batten’s anti-Islam views and links to Robinson.

Ukip’s ruling national executive committee was so alarmed at Batten’s stance that it blocked him from standing again for the leadership, but his ally Braine was elected instead by the membership.

In a vote of members with a turnout of about 25%, Braine received 53% of the vote. Freddy Vachha was second with 20%, followed by Ben Walker on 14% and the former deputy leader Mike Hookem on 13%.

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