In December 2014, Word Cloud published an info-graphic (see right) using key words from Islamophobic social media statements collated by Islamophobia-watch group “Tell Mama UK”. The larger the words on the info-graphic, the more those words have been reported. The graphic provides a telling window into the mind-set of Britain’s growing far-right, Islamophobic extremist movement.
The most striking word in the graphic is “Rotherham”, prevalent in an excessive number of Islamophobic statements given its objective relevance to Islam or even Islamic extremism. The August 2014 Rotherham Scandal involved the revelation that around 1,400 children had been sexually abused between 1997 and 2003. Throughout the media frenzy that followed the harrowing revelations, numerous mainstream news agencies inexplicably felt the need to emphasise the ethnic origin of the main perpetrators. This irresponsible reportage has unleashed a beast which promises only to promote further innocent suffering, as Far Right Extremists groups such as “Britain First” and the “English Defence League” [EDL] took it upon themselves to champion the reactionaries. Both groups marched on Rotherham City Council, with the former brandishing a banner reading “Justice for Victims of Muslim Grooming” while EDL supporters sported placards with fanciful statistics such as “80% of Child grooming is carried out by Muslims.”
This theme of supposed Muslim grooming or rape-gangs has been a prevalent aspect of far-right propaganda, and the Rotherham revelations have propelled it to the forefront of the Islamophobic propaganda arsenal, something their on-line supporters have gleefully embraced. As can be seen from the info-graphic, words such as “Rape” and “Abuse” have abounded, as well as “paedophiles” and “rape gangs” in smaller but still notable measure.
Now what makes this trend so notable is the context in which it is happening, for alongside the Rotherham scandal, another larger child-abuse story has been dominating the headlines since 2012 – Operation Yewtree. This high-profile investigation has seen a slew of celebrities in the docks under charges of child-abuse, most if not all of whom have been non-Muslims. The silence of the far right on this issue is symptomatic of a common trait among radicals of all ideologies. They are slaves to their cathartic narratives – narratives that place existential importance on self-redemption through the demonisation of “the other” or “out-group”. When overwhelming evidence demonstrates the fallacy of such narratives, the radicalised group or individual will tend to merely ignore it rather than allow their saving ideology to be challenged. It is for this same reason that radicals are so quick to believe propaganda that supports their narratives, no matter how scant or suspect the evidence.
The cathartic demonisation of “the other” can blind an individual to reason. Again the supporters of Britain First form a prime example. When on 16th December 2014 gunmen from Islamic extremist group Tehrik-i-Taliban massacred 82 children in a school in Peshawar, Britain First’s own extremists, so ensconced in their narrative of a monolithic Islamic bogeyman, seemed torn between anger over the violence of one segment of the demonised “out-group”, and jubilant over the suffering of the other. While the rest of the world mourned the loss of innocent life, one Britain First supporter commented on Facebook “82 less future terrorists”.