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Last Updated: Friday, 16 July 2004, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
Nick Griffin
Leader of the BNP Nick Griffin
The British National Party leader Nick Griffin has apologised to British Muslims for threats and actions by BNP members.

But in an extended interview for Newsnight - Mr Griffin said he would welcome any prosecution aimed at himself for incitement to racial hatred, and he repeated claims which Muslims will find profoundly offensive - suggesting the Islamic faith has in part expanded because of rape.

All this comes after a BBC1 documentary The Secret Agent exposed BNP members who boasted about attacking Asians and fantasising about a race war.

Gavin Esler interviewed the leader of the British National Party, Nick Griffin.

GAVIN ESLER:
This documentary has the BNP banged to rights hasn't it?

GRIFFIN:
(British National Party Leader)

No it hasn't at all. It's got a tiny part of the BNP - which is being run by one of our opponents - it's got them banged to rights.

ESLER:
So they're not representative of the entire party?

GRIFFIN:
They're certainly not representative. For instance, we're talking about two council candidates who've said the most disgusting things and we've expelled them both. But the opposition plant who was running this operation, admits on the programme that we had ten other candidates that were good decent people who he put off.

ESLER:
Michael Howard says that you are a bunch of thugs dressed up as a political party. Anyone watching this documentary would think that he is right.

GRIFFIN:
Obviously that is the intention from the BBC, but it's an extraordinarily dishonest documentary. It's made with huge amounts of typical BBC spin and outright provocation. And really the people we should be looking at are the BBC producers who've made this outrageous programme.

ESLER:
You're not saying that these people didn't say the things they said? You're not saying for example, that one of those people campaigning for your party admits on tape that he put excrement through the doors of an Asian business? He did do that didn't he?

GRIFFIN:
These people did this, he's already been expelled. But we have very little doubt, sensible activists in Bradford have been saying for months now that this man is a liability, that there's something wrong with him and we should sack him. The only reason he was still involved in the party was that the Bradford organiser, who was working for a far left organisation as a mole, kept him on. He wasn't representative of us, he's representative of the kind of people that they want us to be and we sacked him.

ESLER:
Another member that you expelled, Steve Barkham, admits that he beat up an Asian.

GRIFFIN:
And we've expelled him. Again, it's outrageous. Steven Barkham is not in the least bit representative. And the real issue with the Steve Barkham case is here is a very angry young man who was ethnically cleansed from Heaton, where he used to live, by elements of the young Muslim community. He's very angry, he gets involved. And the BBC and the BBC journalist and the person who's operating as a mole within the BNP, take him under their wing, pour vast amounts of lager down his throat and go about provoking him time and time again.

ESLER:
Even if what you say is true, and I know that the BBC journalist responsible would dispute this; there's no amount of lager poured down anyone's throat that would make them admit that they beat up an Asian person just because they're Asian.

GRIFFIN:
No, I think it's absolutely disgraceful. This is why we've expelled him. But again, they've spent six months with him - this is two far cleverer people than him. We've this afternoon lodged an official complaint with Bradford Police over the fact that the BBC journalist, at one stage, took this angry young man to one side, gave him a few drinks and was actually saying to him; what do you think about making a bomb and putting in a rubbish bin outside the mosque in Carlisle Street on Friday afternoon just as they're all coming out of prayers? For a BBC journalist to say that to an angry young man is the most disgraceful piece of provocation. What if he'd gone ahead and done that? How many people would have been killed? The BBC would have been to blame.

ESLER:

We have no evidence that what you are saying is correct, and obviously the police will investigate it, but the clear point here is about the conduct of your members. Why have you not expelled Stuart Williams who said: "Shoot Pakis, that's all I want to do is shoot Pakis. I'm waiting for war." Why haven't you thrown him out?

GRIFFIN:
We've expelled three people already, he's likely to be thrown out, but the others were actually involved in clear admissions of illegality. What he said he described as a dream. It's a revolting dream, but it's not direct illegality and he's entitled to a tribunal first. I expect then he'll be expelled.

ESLER:
So when he says he wants to sit outside mosques with a rocket launcher: "My dream is to have a transit van with a machine gun in the back, with about a million bullets to fire on people coming out of the mosque on Friday." What do you think when you hear those words?

GRIFFIN:
I think it's absolutely appalling. I've no doubt that he's been pushed by the BBC agent provocateur: "What's your dream? What's your dream? What's your dream?" I think it's disgraceful and appalling and certainly he's facing a disciplinary tribunal and he'll never again stand for us as a candidate. But again, we didn't pick him as a candidate. He was picked by Andrew Sykes, who's been working for the far left, and in effect the Labour Party, for the last two years. He wasn't our choice for a BNP candidate, he was our opponent's choice.

ESLER:
You seem to be extraordinarily unlucky in the people who join your party if they are putting excrement through doors, beating up Asian people and talking about their dream of a race war?

GRIFFIN:
No, on the contrary we've got about ten thousand members of the party. The BBC went to our most dedicated opponent - Searchlight, who said we've got a man in one branch, he's got hundreds of members in his branch, and he's been able to pick two or three bad apples that we don't know about. I can't control who's in the party.

ESLER:
How many bad apples are there in the party?

GRIFFIN:
Now we've got three fewer than we had earlier on, which at least is a start.

ESLER:
But how many are there?

GRIFFIN:
I don't think there are many others. There's bound to be some because Searchlight has an almost limitless budget. It's in many ways financed by the British state, by the National Lottery Commission and so on in various ways. And they can pay various crooks and criminals and racist bigot down and outs to join us to give us a bad name.

ESLER:
Do you therefore, unreservedly, apologise for the offence caused by what they have said and what they have done on behalf of the party?

GRIFFIN:
Absolutely. Yes.

ESLER:
You have no hesitation?

GRIFFIN:
No hesitation. That's why we've expelled them.

ESLER:
And you're happy to apologise to the Muslim community in particular, who take grave offence at this?

GRIFFIN:
Yes indeed. There's no defence at all for what those people said.

ESLER:
Now, in the film you make a speech in which you twice admit breaking the law. Would you like to apologise for your own conduct?

GRIFFIN:
No, because the law is an ass. A law which says that when you see a building with smoke pouring out of it, you can't shout fire, you can't give a warning, is a bad law. And this is what these various restrictions on free speech, that's precisely what they are. We're faced with the progressive Islamification of the West. The total transformation, destruction of our civilization within the next few decades. And we're warning about it and the government is trying to throw us in jail. I don't apologise for speaking out.

ESLER:
So just to be clear on this; you accept that you've broken the law, but you think it's a stupid law so it doesn't matter.

GRIFFIN:
Well actually I thought I was breaking the law, because at that time we'd had someone heavily fined for breaking the incitement to religious hatred law. Which it now turn out a few weeks ago, isn't yet a law, the government's still pressing for it. So since I'm talking about Muslims, no I haven't yet broken any law. If I was to repeat that after that new law goes through, then I would be breaking the law and I intend to break that bad law.

ESLER:
My understanding is that you may have broken that law - section 18 of the Public Order Act - the existing law covers what you've said. That's my understanding.

GRIFFIN:
My understanding is that that's not the case because that refers to races, so it would for instance, refer to a religion which was exclusive to one race. Since Islam is not a race based religion there is no offence in criticising Islam. And there shouldn't be an offence. If someone's lying and trying to cause trouble then there's common law provisions to deal with that. But the idea that someone can be jailed for telling the truth is a scandal.

ESLER:
Let's go to the heart of the truth as you would see it: You said in that speech in Keighley, that the Koran tells Muslims -of the rapes in Keighley, that that's acceptable. Then you say: "Now that sentence could get me seven years in prison." You repeatedly boast about breaking the law and you effectively say, that this "Wicked, vicious faith" has expanded by rape. Are you serious?

GRIFFIN:
You asked about six questions in that point. I did not boast about breaking the law, I illustrated the fact that we no longer have free speech in this country. I'm saying how outrageous it is that if I say this outside I could be prosecuted. I did not say that there's a direct connection between these rapes and abductions of young teenage white girls and the Koran, but have said there are elements within the teachings of the Koran - verse after verse after verse - which can be taken by people, especially young Muslims who've got a sort of punk understanding of their religion, which can be taken to justify this.

ESLER:
I take it you're not a Koranic scholar, I'm not a Koranic scholar, but I have got the words that you said in front of me. You say: "If they get a non-Muslim girl and they get her pregnant, then her community doesn't want her and the child generally grows up a Muslim. And that's the way that this wicked, vicious faith has expanded."

GRIFFIN:
But that's nothing to do with the Koran, that's a matter of historical fact.

ESLER:
So Islam has expanded because of rape?

GRIFFIN:
It's one of the ways it's expanded. It's also expanded, as the Koran tells its followers to do so, it's expanded at the point of the sword.

ESLER:
You have no qualms about saying that?

GRIFFIN:
No. And if the BBC thinks I'm saying this secretly, I'm not saying it secretly. I've said it in a private meeting because we're not allowed to say it on camera. You give me twenty minutes or an hour, a special programme to dissect the Koran, and I will show you that we have a monster in our midst.

ESLER:
I just want to be absolutely clear that you are saying that a religion which attracts more than a billion people worldwide, is one of the fastest growing religions in western Europe, has expanded because of rape?

GRIFFIN:
It's one of the ways in which it has expanded. If you look at the history of India in 1948, you had mass rape going on there throughout what is now Bangladesh, directed against Hindus and Sikhs. It seems to be part of what Ann Cryer, the Labour MP, has said is a cultural problem. It's not cultural, it's underlying, it's a religious problem.

ESLER:
As chairman of the British National Party, do you not understand, not only that that is offensive, but that the leader of any other political party in this country would have to resign for making the comments that you've just made?

GRIFFIN:
Then that really shows that they are not actually there talking about reality, because I'm afraid it is reality. It's not just me. If you go to Derby they have been serious racial disturbances between young Muslims and young Sikhs who complain of precisely the same thing, and elements within the Muslim community preying on their girls for a mixture of sex and religious reasons.

ESLER:
So when Michael Howard says the British National Party is entirely based on bigotry and hatred, he's right?

GRIFFIN:
No, Michael Howard also said we were a stain on democracy. The fact is that I was elected in a free, democratic and secret ballot by about seventy percent of my membership. Whereas he crawled to power over his previous leader's back when he stabbed him in the back. He's never been elected - he's a stain on democracy.

ESLER:
When you say in that speech, after making those comments about rape and the Koran, that you want people in this country to stand up and do something for the British National Party because otherwise they - Muslims, "Will do for someone in your family. That is the truth." That's breaking the law too isn't it?

GRIFFIN:
No it certainly doesn't break the law.

ESLER:
Inciting people to violence?

GRIFFIN:
No it's not inciting people to violence at all because the rest of the speech, and it's grotesquely unfair to take a few lines out of context ...

ESLER:
I've got the whole speech in front of me and the context is quite clear.

GRIFFIN:
... then the rest of the speech is saying that violence isn't the way to do it. That you can't blame these people for coming here to get a better life for their children, the problems are the politicians who created this multiracial society. And the answer is political, peaceful work through the constitution to change the politicians.

ESLER:
Would you actually welcome being prosecuted?

GRIFFIN:
If I'm prosecuted under the Race Act or under a new Incitement to Religious Hatred, for telling the truth about a religion which is in this country and is going to utterly transform our society and destroy our culture as we know it, then if I'm prosecuted for that and it becomes a platform, then I'll be delighted yes.

ESLER:
Isn't the simple fact that anybody listening to you tonight and watching that documentary, will conclude that the British National Party is a racist enterprise from the bottom to you at the top?

GRIFFIN:
No, you've only got to look at people like Peter Hitchens writing for the Daily Mail, Littlejohn writing in the Sun, even people like Polly Toynbee writing in the Observer; there is an element of British society - that are intellectuals and so on, there's an understanding that there's a fundamental clash coming between Islam and the West. And on account of mass immigration, it's here in this country and it's an issue that must be gotten out in the open and debated.


This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.



BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Nick Griffin
The BNP leader responds to party members caught on film boasting about racist attacks


Secret filming
BBC undercover team catch some BNP members bragging about racist attacks on camera



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