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Nigel Farage row: When Muslims have their bank accounts closed, nobody cares

British Muslims were the first to suffer from bank account closures, but nobody protested. When the same thing happens to Nigel Farage, it’s close to a national scandal
British politician Nigel Farage speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference 2022 (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida on 25 February, 2022 (AFP)

Every major British media outlet has reported the revelation from British populist politician Nigel Farage that his bank accounts are to be closed without notice or explanation. 

The Times, Financial Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Independent. Mail, Express, Evening Standard, Spectator and others have awarded Farage ample space. He's compared modern Britain to communist China - and claimed that without a bank account: "I won’t be able to exist or function".

This is more than empty hyperbole. 

In the modern world, a bank account matters as much as electricity or running water. Without one you cannot travel overseas, you feel like a criminal and normal life becomes impossible.

I know this because, over the last decade, I have spoken at great length to dozens of people who have had their bank accounts removed without explanation - the same fate as Farage. 

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One lost his job, another saw his life’s work, a charity, wiped away. Yet another, a proud man, broke down in tears as he described the humiliation inflicted upon him and his family.

An attack of the vapours

I have written up many of these stories in Middle East Eye. Not one of them has been followed up in the British media, or taken up as a cause by politicians.

No prizes for guessing why not. The individuals concerned, though mainly British citizens, were Muslims.

Four years ago, I reported how the World Uyghur Congress, which raises awareness about the terrible plight of Chinese Muslims, was having bank transfers blocked. Completely ignored in British media, I rang up journalistic colleagues urging them to follow the story.

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Not interested, even though the World Uyghur Congress was blacklisted on the basis of Chinese disinformation that it was a terror group. 

I revealed how Interpal, one of the leading British charities focusing on providing relief and development aid to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, was prohibited from raising money.

I described how Anas Altikriti, chief executive of the Cordoba Foundation, had lost his bank account, along with members of his family, with no reason given. Ditto the Finsbury Park Mosque, stripped of its account after being falsely listed as a terrorist organisation.

I also exposed how the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign received letters - out of the blue -  from their bankers closing down their accounts, and giving no reason or right of appeal. When I wrote about the problem in The Daily Telegraph a decade ago, the newspaper suppressed my report.

This week, it gave ample space to Farage's supposed banking trails.

Sinister authoritarianism

I raised the subject personally with George Osborne when he was chancellor of the Exchequer.

I went into the Treasury to meet his junior Harriet Baldwin, the minister responsible, and explained the plight of Muslims deprived of a bank account. I also briefed her successor John Glen who turned out to be a timewaster.

Contrast the Westminster reaction when a Muslim loses her or his account - total lack of any interest, let alone concern, but when Farage supposedly loses his, Fleet Street has an attack of the vapours. 

Columnists like Richard Littlejohn, Dominic Lawson and Rod Liddle rally to his defence and politicians jump to attention.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt responded almost at once, promising prompt action. Culture Secretary Liz Frazer and Security Minister Tom Tugendhat followed suit.

According to the Daily Mail, a Treasury source stated yesterday that "it is absolutely a concern. No one should have their account denied on the grounds of freedom of expression. We expect to take action on this issue within weeks."

Canary in the mine

I can’t help comparing the alacrity with which the government has gone into battle on behalf of Farage to its total indifference to the fate of British Muslims and others over many years.

This shows two things: first and foremost, the structural Islamophobia which has long poisoned British media and politics. When Muslims have their bank accounts closed, nobody cares. When the same thing allegedly happens to Nigel Farage it’s close to a national scandal.

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But there’s a deeper point. Ever since Tony Blair joined George Bush’s so-called “war on terror”, British Muslims have been the testing ground for sinister authoritarianism. 

As I demonstrated in my book, The Fate of Abraham, politically engaged Muslims were the first to suffer from cancel culture, having been systematically excluded from British life for many years.

Nobody protested.

They were the first to suffer from financial attack in the shape of bank account closures. Nobody protested. Muslims are, in short, the canary in the coal mine.

Now, it may be happening to Farage, the ultimate symbol of white English middle-class smug complacency. 

Let’s not forget that when British Muslims first lost their bank accounts a decade ago, neither Farage nor any other British mainstream politician lifted a finger in their defence.

Today, when the same thing threatens them, it's suddenly a national scandal, a threat to free speech, an act of political persecution and Britain is compared to communist China.

Welcome to the world of British Muslims.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Peter Oborne won best commentary/blogging in both 2022 and 2017, and was also named freelancer of the year in 2016 at the Drum Online Media Awards for articles he wrote for Middle East Eye. He was also named as British Press Awards Columnist of the Year in 2013. He resigned as chief political columnist of the Daily Telegraph in 2015. His latest book is The Fate of Abraham: Why the West is Wrong about Islam, published in May by Simon & Schuster. His previous books include The Triumph of the Political Class, The Rise of Political Lying, Why the West is Wrong about Nuclear Iran and The Assault on Truth: Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and the Emergence of a New Moral Barbarism.
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