bbc.co.uk
Home
Explore the BBC
3 Oct 2014
Click for a Text Only version of this page
BBC Homepage
BBC Radio
TodayBBC Radio 4
Today
Listen Again
Latest Reports
Interview of the Week
About Today
Britain at 6am
Have your Say
Contact Today

BNP attempts to forge ethnic minority links
By Social Affairs Reporter Barnie Choudhury
The British National Party has told the Today programme that it has made a huge shift in policy towards ethnic minorities.

I met Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, last May. It was Bank Holiday Monday and I had been up the entire evening covering and witnessing the second night of riots in Oldham.

An opportunity to meet, what the Anti-Nazi League would describe as the Devil Incarnate, was not to be missed. The surprising thing is that this former Cambridge educated convict has no horns - visible anyway.

I half expected, half hoped, given his past he would not want to be interviewed by an ethnic minority.

But he was polite and statesmanlike, a real politician in the making. Booted and suited he was the antithesis of the right-wing thug. He even asked whether he could shake my hand afterwards.

This got me thinking. Is the BNP really shifting its attitude towards ethnic minorities?

Certainly forced repatriation of immigrants and their families is no longer party policy . If you want to go home, Mr. Griffin says, we will help you to go back. But if you want to stay you must obey our laws.

Then another subtle shift. He was no longer denouncing "Asians" or "West Indians".

"There's Hindus in Oldham who've been burned out of their homes (sic). There's West Indians who've been pushed out as well (sic). This is not an Asian problem...this is a Muslim problem." he stated publicly.

Weeks later I was in Bradford having breakfast with Hasmukh Shah. Mr. Shah is a very influential man. He's one of twelve International Trustees for the World Council of Hindus. His organisation reckons it has the support of three quarters of the ONE POINT TWO MILLION Hindus in this country.

As I was leaving Mr. Shah told me the BNP had been in touch with him. My news nose began to twitch furiously. I asked him to keep me updated.

Not that there was any connection, but that night Bradford exploded in violence. It was the worst the city has seen in recent times.

I stood in the middle of Manningham as the missiles and petrol bombs flew past over head wondering whether this was any way for a grown man to make a living.

In the past Mr. Shah has been a fierce critic of, what he describes as, a minority of young Muslim thugs. But on Thursday the twelfth of July even he was surprised to see the leader of the BNP walk into his Bradford office:

HS: He asked whether I would, as a representative of the World Council of Hindus, be prepared to issue a statement with him. At that point I clearly said I would not be a part to any statement he would give. BC: How much do you believe he was trying to get you to sign up to condemning Muslims? HS: Well that's the only purpose I can think of his coming to see me, no other reason.

But the BNP leader denies he has ever met Mr. Shah:

"It's logical and had I known about Mr. Shah, it's probably something I would have gone and done," he told me "We took the decision on the eighth of July that no senior member of the BNP would be in Bradford because the situation was so tense. We didn't want to get accused of being there to stir up trouble. So I definitely wouldn't have been there."

Hasmukh Shah, says he has no reason to lie about meeting Nick Griffin.

Mr. Griffin is clear about one thing. He would encourage a meeting with Mr. Shah to forge closer links - something the Hindu leader will never entertain:

"We ourselves do not subscribe to any part of the BNP philosophy and we ourselves want to crush the ugly head of racism in the form of the BNP."

But here is the rub. The British National Party policy towards ethnic minorities has undergone an almost Paul type Road to Damascus conversion.

Mr. Griffin says the dream of an all white Britain is no longer feasible. Indeed "getting everybody out is neither humane nor practical or going to happen". Britain needs to make the best of a bad job and that means talking to groups who might think they're poles apart from the BNP. Is this for real?

NG: I've had quite a lot of conversation and discussion with a member of the Sikh community down in Southall. And although we may disagree with some things we found we have a great deal in common and were able to exchange a great deal of information about the problems our people and their people have had with Muslim extremists. BC: You've met this person in Southall? NG: No, we've discussed at length over the phone. We've got a meeting tentatively arranged for the tail end of the month but no more than that.

Hasmukh Shah is adamant he will not support or share a public platform with the BNP. But he has a warning for Muslim communities: "This is clearly a warning to the Muslim leadership that they should take full responsibility of the behaviour of the youths otherwise the BNP will come again and again and again."

Anti-racism campaigners are concerned about this latest move. They are urging Sikhs and Hindus to avoid jumping into bed with the BNP. After all, they say, demonising a community leads to bloodshed. Just look at what happened to six million Jews.

LINKS
Barnie Choudhury's report on Asian Vigilantes
Race tension in Bradford


BNP leader - Nick Griffin
Listen - to our report that the BNP is planning a tactical shift in its policy towards ethnic minorities. Response from Shahid Malik 6/9/01
Listen - BNP's leader has been consulting with a Sikh group - Barnie Choudhury reports 10/9/01
Rioting in Burnley
>
More Politics Stories


About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy