Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Islamic fundamentalism with leadership election

Times Online

David Charter in Brussels

The UK Independence Party is set to head in a fresh direction, fighting radical Islam, with the election today of a replacement for Nigel Farage as its national leader.

The two favourites to take over from Mr Farage are committed to adding the battle against Islamic fundamentalism to the party’s main goal of withdrawing Britain from the European Union.

Mr Farage resisted strong grassroots pressure during his three-year leadership to broaden UKIP’s focus to include actively campaigning against Islamism and immigration. But both Lord Pearson of Rannoch and the London MEP Gerard Batten - the two front-runners in a field of five candidates - say that they are determined to target Islamic fundamentalism.

The other three candidates are Mike Nattrass and Nikki Sinclaire, both MEPs, and Alan Wood, a councillor from Wiltshire and a senior party insider.

The result of the ballot of UKIP’s 16,500 members will to be announced today. Lord Pearson, 67, an Eton-educated self-made millionaire, was endorsed by Mr Farage as his only “serious” successor this month. Mr Batten called the endorsement an “insult” to the other challengers.

Lord Pearson invited the anti-Islam Dutch politician Geert Wilders to the House of Lords in February only for Jacqui Smith, then the Home Secretary, to issue a banning order so that Mr Wilders was turned away at Heathrow. The Dutchman travelled to Britain in October after overturning the ban.

Lord Pearson’s own outspoken views about Islam were recorded in Washington DC last month. Asked how much time Britain had before losing control of its cultural identity he said: “What is going to decide the answer to that is the birthrate. The fact that Muslims are breeding ten times faster than us. I do not know at what point they reach such a number that we are no longer able to resist the rest of their demands . . . but if we do not do something now within the next year or two we have in effect lost.”

He later insisted that his remark was directed at Islamists. “One is talking about the violent end of the spectrum,” he said.

Mr Batten, 55, has also invited Mr Wilders to speaking engagements and has called the Dutch politician “a brave man trying to defend western civilisation”. This year, writing in the magazine Freedom Today, Mr Batten addressed the notion of the confrontation of Islamism and the West. “It is a clash between civilisation and barbarism. It is a clash between everything that has made the modern world what it is and an ideology that wants to enslave us to a belief system that belongs in seventh-century Arabia and which was primitive and backward even then.”

Ms Sinclaire, 41, a newly elected MEP, has campaigned strongly and is regarded as having an outside chance of taking the leadership. Her main aim is to professionalise UKIP and organise a Shadow Cabinet to extend its appeal.

Mr Nattrass, 63, an MEP for the West Midlands since 2004, believes that UKIP’s main focus should be on winning votes in the next general election but has largely been absent during the campaign due to an illness in the family. Mr Wood is well known within UKIP as its nominating officer.

A UKIP source said that if Lord Pearson or Mr Batten were elected “You are going to see quite a lot stronger position from us. Nigel has always been afraid of the Islam thing backfiring. But the BNP are taking ownership of issues that have not been addressed by Labour, the Conservatives or the Lib Dems and they need addressing.”

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