Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adbowale have been convicted at the Old Bailey for the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, in which he was run over by a car, then repeatedly stabbed, then nearly beheaded in Woolwich in May. Hardly unexpected, nevertheless, one aspect of the case can now receive the spotlight it deserves. Principally because it reveals so much about the state in which Britain currently finds itself.
Since Islamist extremism first came to Britain in the last two decades, anybody who objected to the horror was subjected to accusations of bigotry, fascism, racism and — during the last decade or so — “Islamophobia.” Some of these slurs were made casually while others came from the organized left who like to describe themselves as “anti-fascist.” If this self-appointed title has always sounded slightly off-kilter and self-aggrandising, it is because it is. After all, it was brave and important to be an anti-fascist in, say Germany in the 1930s. But in Britain in the 21st century there just aren’t many Nazis.
However, for a certain people being “anti-fascist” is still so important that they will adopt this identity even if there are no “fascists” to be “anti” at. “Anti-fascists” need “fascists,” and so find them even when they are not there. The only bloc in Britain which could warrant their attention, the British National Party (BNP), are, thank goodness, an exaggerated threat and an insignificant political force. Yet they do provide “anti-fascists” with some of their old cause. But otherwise the problem for “anti-fascism” in Britain is that it is essentially a movement that has lost its enemy.
Unless, of course, you count the form of Islamic fascism which has been resurrected in recent decades. Anti-Semitic, homophobic and otherwise minority-hating, Islamic extremism provides the closest thumbprint imaginable to the fascism that the far-left campaign group Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and others once claimed to oppose.
Yet having sat through 9/11 and 7/7, groups such as UAF only really found a cause in that fight once they felt able to claim a perceived “backlash” against Muslims in general. Then they identified anyone tackling radical Islam — rather than the Islamists — as the “fascists” and lined up against them.