I was just thinking about Nigel Farage and how he had been re-elected to leader of UKIP and thought it might be interesting for readers of this blog if I reeled out an old interview I did with him before the election. Its still getting hits on my (now defunct) other blog, so might be of interest…
Joe Dyke speaks to Nigel Farage about how he justifies banning the burka, why its potentially unworkable and why he hates the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Q: You have come out in favour of a ban on the burka. In what context exactly do you mean? In all areas or in public life?
A: I mean in public life and that means schools, it means airports, it means on buses it means on underground stations, it means in banks, it means in shopping centres. It doesn’t necessarily mean walking down the street, that’s rather different. In all of those places I have mentioned, most of us would not be allowed to wear crash helmets or balaclavas, there is the need in the modern security age for us to show our face and there needs to be a level playing field on that.
This is not simply an issue about Islam as such because nowhere in the Koran is this demanded. But it is an issue about the growth of radicalisation and it is an issue about the gutless, hopeless, useless establishment in our country that show every sign of wanting to give in to this sort of thing. So much so that the Archbishop of Canterbury even suggest two weeks ago that the imposition of Sharia Law in Britain’s major cities is inevitable. Well the UKIP message is, it is not inevitable and it most certainly is not desirable.
Q: What the Archbishop was getting at was the fact that within Muslim communities’ Sharia law is de facto already in place. In which case do you not see that for this to be enforced would be incredibly draconian? If you have two million Muslims in this country who, by and large, do not want to accept this how exactly would you go about enforcing it?
A: The first thing to say about that is there are very powerful and strong Muslim voices that take a similar attitude to UKIP on this. One thinks of Yazmin Alibhai-Brown, one thinks of Sara Khan who won The Apprentice last year, there are some strong voices within the Muslim community. They both make the point that this subjugates women, so that’s them saying it rather than me, if you like.
But I accept that enforcement of these things is a problem. President Sarkozy, who is heading down the same lines in France, is also having difficulties in working out in practical terms how you enforce this. So I accept that it is not perfect but I do believe that it makes a very strong statement about the type of country that we want to live in.
Q: You are referencing President Sarkozy but the historical precedent of France is they have a secular constitution. Our constitution is a Christian constitution that has no history of banning religious sentiment in public arenas.
A: Look, there is no party in British politics that is more of a classical liberal party than UKIP. We’re the ones who have always said we don’t want hunting bans and smoking bans and all the rest of it. The point about liberal democracy is that whilst we tolerate and whilst we are happy with other cultures and other religions existing within our country, the point at where liberal democracy needs to be rethought is where you have a small minority who want to impose their world view upon the rest of us. And our concern is that that is beginning to happen.
Q: I want to press you on the legality of it. There is no point saying it if UKIP can’t deliver it. How can you promise it?
A: Smoking is now banned on Liverpool Street Station. It didn’t used to be, for 150 years but now it is. If I am court on CCTV on Liverpool Street Station I will get a fine of some kind. Similarly, if I walk into blue water wearing a hoody the security guards will chuck me out. If I go into a NatWest bank to try and cash a cheque and I am wearing a motorcycle helmet I will be ejected. So it is possible to enforce these things and to some extent these things are being enforced already on the vast majority of the population and what we are saying is the laws should apply equally.
Q: If, as you say, there are issues with the Muslim community not integrating, then will this policy not push them into feeling more embattled than they already are?
A: No I very much hope that what we are going to promulgate by talking about this is a bigger, broader, wider debate, especially within the Muslim community that I very much hope does begin to make people rethink and begin to make people realise that they are better off pursuing their own faith but actually integrating into British society because it’s better for them and its better for us.
Q: Do you agree that British foreign policy in the Middle East has led to many Muslims to feel that they are the other, that you are killing fellow Muslims in another nation?
A: I am afraid to say that I rather subscribe to that view. I felt that the Afghanistan War was a war that frankly could hardly be justified in the name of the war on terror and was likely to be provocative, increasingly divisive, and not to achieve a peaceful, long-term solution. So I do subscribe to some of those thoughts I must say.
Q: And the Iraq War?
A: Yes, absolutely. They are not wars that, in my view are actually winnable, and I don’t think we should have entered into them.
Q: When you talk about Sharia law what is your understanding of what it means in the UK?
A: There are lots of different interpretations as you know; the most extreme being in parts of Nigeria where there are crimes of apostasy and all the rest of it. I will answer you by saying this: whatever form Sharia Law manifests itself in it must not be superior to the law of the land in the United Kingdom.
Q: But Sharia Councils in the UK are inferior to British Law. If a British Sharia court ruled someone should have their hand chopped off it would not happen. Is it not merely a religious application of British Law?
A: This happens in Jewish courts for dealing with community disputes as well. What is being called for by the extremists, and what is being accepted by people like the Archbishop of Canterbury, is that they should be able to set up Sharia Law areas within parts of our major cities where if they make a decision that decision stands and we don’t bother to interfere. That goes against every message about an integrated, united British society. I am not saying we have got there yet but the worry is that is what is being called for.
Q: Is this part of your election manifesto?
A: Yes, over the next few weeks, roughly at a rate of one policy a week we will be unveiling policy in terms of unemployment, the economy and all of those things, our vision. We have been very good at telling people what we are against; we are starting now to tell people what we are for. That’s our vision for a United Kingdom independent of a European Kingdom.
Q: And what would be a good result for UKIP at the General Election. Is there any hope of seats?
A: Who’s to say? It’s very difficult to call. Of course a good result would be a significantly increased proportion of the electorate than we got last time round and I think we are in place to do that. And I think the fact that we are broadening and selling our wider domestic policies is very much part of that aim. It’s something I fought very hard against before the European elections, I wanted to keep us down to the European question, but we are now beginning to broaden. Can we win seats? Here and there we have started winning district and county council by-election seats, often with very dramatic scores. I just do not know what the prospects are, we’ve certainly got a chance against Bercow in Buckingham but there will be other constituencies in which if the perception becomes that UKIP have got a chance, then UKIP have got a chance. But I am not pretending that First Past the Post is easy, it damn well isn’t.