Illustration: UKIP’s scaremongering pro-Brexit post
A world leader has made a major statement suggesting that immigrants from a specific religious minority pose a threat to his country’s democratic institutions. He described the religion as “Asian… despotism” characterized by “religious subservience”. He went on to suggest that the religion wanted to destroy the rule of law and replace it with “arbitrary tyranny”. He even suggested that it was not compatible with democracy because of its “crimes against liberty”.
Part of the problem is that the religion in question claims its dogma is infallibly true and therefore not open to debate. Moreover, recent immigrants from the religious minority have been accused of dressing differently and of not wishing to integrate in mainstream society. Popular culture in the nation in question freely associates the religion with ignorance, repression, corrupt regimes, superstition and subversion. What’s more, many citizens there link the wider religious minority with an extreme minority that have perpetrated a series of terrorist attacks in the country in recent years.
The situation just described would be credible news in most Western countries today. However, the scenario in fact describes Britain in 1874, the world leader being William Gladstone. The British Liberal Prime Minister was attacking Catholicism, and the scaremongering referred to recently arrived Catholic immigrants from Ireland; a tiny minority of these Catholic immigrants had formed Fenian terrorist cells and were planting bombs in English cities.
Of course, Catholicism didn’t destroy British democracy or undermine national unity. It gave Britain Tony Blair and dozens of other elected political leaders; sports personalities like Wayne Rooney, actors such as Catherine Zeta Jones and Liam Neeson, film directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Danny Boyle, performers like Robbie Williams and Morrissey, and Britain’s greatest modern poets from Gerard Manley Hopkins to T.S. Eliot. So, the next time you see Muslim immigrants portrayed as a threat, ask yourself what they might offer, too.
 statement – declaration
 to pose a threat to – be dangerous for
 he went on to suggest – he continued by suggesting
 crimes – illegal acts
 to claim – declare that, say that
 therefore – for this reason
 to wish to – want to
 mainstream – majority, conventional
 to link – associate
 the wider religious minority – the religious minority in general
 scenario – (false friend) situation
 scaremongering – alarmist rumours
 tiny – very small
 Fenian – (historical) Irish Republican nationalist
 to undermine – weaken, erode, subvert
 to portray – represent
 threat – menace, danger