The DUP’s problem with Islamophobia
2018-04-15 11:10:33 -


Mohammed Samaana
Once again, it seems that the Democratic Unionist Party is determined to show that it has a monopoly over Islamophobia in the North, with the far right being its only competitor. 
We all remember well the notorious comments made in 2014 by former DUP leader Peter Robinson in support of fundamentalist Christian preacher James McConnell, who publicly described Islam as a ‘Satanic’ faith.
This time, the DUP fell just short of an Islamophobia hat-trick after two of its politicians turned their social media accounts into platforms for the far-right, racist lies and propaganda that only cause hatred and division. 
It started with Ian Paisely Jr, son of the DUP founder and North Antrim MP. On Monday 2 April he retweeted an Islamophobic post made by the infamous Katie Hopkins, who wrote on a far-right racist website that London had a higher murder rate than New York “and Ramadan’s not yet begun”. 
Of course, this was handy for Paisley to deflect attention away from the Tory government, which is propped in power by the DUP. This is because government cuts, supported by the DUP, affect youth services and have reduced the number of police officers on the streets, both of which contribute to making London increasingly unsafe. It was therefore in the DUP’s interest to use a minority group as a scapegoat.
The fact that Paisley chose that particular quote from that particular person to disseminate speaks volumes. Just look at Hopkins’ previous statements. In a comment intended at the Black Lives Matter movement, she said: “Dear black people. If your lives matter why do you stab and shoot each other so much [sic].” In the aftermath of Manchester Arena bombing last year, she said a “final solution” was needed, a reference to the term used by the Nazis for the Holocaust. 
Talking about immigration in general, Hopkins wrote in an article for a popular tabloid: “These migrants are like cockroaches. They might look a bit ‘Bob Geldof’s Ethiopia circa 1984’, but they are built to survive a nuclear bomb.” On the working class, let us remember Hopkins first made a name for herself when she said she wouldn’t allow her children to play with their classmates if they had ‘lower class’ names.
Meanwhile, the DUP’s cosy relationship with the Tory party and the far-right had another nasty episode after that Paisley moment. That same week, DUP MLA Maurice Bradley retweeted a post from a far-right account with a video featuring a Conservative member of the London Assembly, Andrew Boff, accompanied by text which included the phrase ‘The enemy within: Muslim Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.’ Bradley later deleted the post and, like Paisley, offered an apology.
Yet incidents like this are alarming, and indicate that there is a problem within the biggest party in the North at a very senior level. At this stage, clearly the DUP needs to act, as saying sorry is no longer enough. The party needs to speak publicly against Islamophobia and to act within its ranks, including making equality training compulsory and taking punitive action against members involved by anyway with extremism, no matter how remote it might be..
Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.


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