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After the London bombings...
Dewsbury: Uniting and organising against racism
EVENTS HAVE moved very rapidly in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, since the attempted bombings in London on 21 July. The press continues to try and find terrorist links with Batley or Dewsbury although they are becoming more tenuous.
Mike Forster, UNISON (personal capacity)
Through the public-sector union UNISON, we decided to hold an impromptu public meeting for Muslim women in Dewsbury in the last week of the school term. Several union members had reported that they were getting verbal harassment at work from pupils or even parents.
I faxed a leaflet over to Sabera, the local union steward. Only a few were handed out but they struck a chord. The title of the leaflet was: 'no to terrorism, no to racism.'
Over 60 people attended. After a brief introduction, the meeting was handed over to the women. Almost everyone reported that they had received abuse since the bombings. Taxi drivers had taken their cars off the roads after 8pm afraid they might be attacked especially after several death threats. Women wearing the hijab felt especially vulnerable and there were reports of people having them tugged from behind. Mothers were afraid to let their kids play out over the holidays because of threats in the parks or playground.
Despite there having been several meetings in the area, everyone felt anxious. However, there was also a feeling that most white people were still friendly but a small minority were very vocal.
A number of positive ideas then began to come through: "We need a leaflet to go to all areas pointing out we all condemn the bombings but we shouldn't be condemned for what some fanatics did supposedly in the name of Islam"... "We need emergency helpline numbers for those under threat to get in touch"... "We need a peace walk or demonstration to show we are for peace and against terrorism."
The meeting elected an action committee to take these ideas forward which met the following week. The committee has decided to call itself 'Peace and Unity in the Community'.
A public meeting has been called appealing to all sections of Dewsbury on 24 August at the town hall. A peace march is to take place on Saturday 3 September.
There was a discussion about the role of local Labour MP, Shahid Malik, who is telling Muslim mothers they are responsible for rooting out extremism in their children and families. This has upset and angered many women who feel insulted by this patronising attitude.
Some of the committee members are veterans of the anti-war movement three years ago and can see the very clear link between the Iraq and Afghan conflicts and the bombings. They fear Malik could split the Muslim community when it is vital there is unity and a clear understanding of the roots of terrorism. This will be the theme of the rally, although Malik has been invited to speak.
Despite the summer break, the committee is moving into gear. The rally has to be a big success. It will send out a clear message that the community can unite against racism and give all Muslims the confidence to go about their daily business without threats or intimidation.
The Socialist Party will continue to act as an important catalyst, stepping into the vacuum, to ensure that the racists and especially the BNP are kept at bay.
Political climate engenders race hate attacks
WHILE THOUSANDS of police guarded London's Underground and main railway stations, supposedly to deter would-be suicide bombers, the capital's streets have seen a 600% increase in faith/race-hate crimes, including assaults.
One in six people abused or attacked were not Muslim but were simply of Asian appearance. This alarming rise in race-hate crimes in London is repeated in other areas such as West Yorkshire, West Midlands and Merseyside.
After the 7 July London bombings, Tony Blair rejected the idea that terrorism is inherent in the Muslim faith but then went on to insist that the Muslim community "root out its extremists". Moreover, the government has done nothing to counter the 'demonising' of Muslims which is daily propagated in the media, especially in the tabloid press. Now, leading Tory politician Gerald Howarth is adding fuel to the flames by telling Muslims who disagree with the British government's Middle East policies to leave Britain.
Government ministers such as Hazel Blears call for 'a debate' within the Muslim community on terrorism, yet they refuse to discuss terrorism with what is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Palestine - the issues that have enabled terrorist groups to recruit alienated young Muslim men. This anger will be compounded by the stop-and-search tactics of the police who are now racially profiling young Asian men.
Police racially target in stop and search
SOCIALIST PARTY member and CWU union official Pav Alam recently attended a meeting of CWU Eastern region where he raised the key role that trade unions have to play both against terrorism and racism. He added that the unions are the only organisations capable of building unity amongst workers, which gained a lot of support at the meeting.
On the way to the meeting, Pav was stopped and searched by police at King's Cross. Pav said: "I had a rucksack and it was noted I had 'articles on terrorism' in my bag. Apart from union papers for the above meeting I had a copy of Socialism Today and the Independent. No doubt this now becomes part of their 'intelligence'."
Echoes of the Stephen Lawrence murder
THE RACIST murder of Anthony Walker, a young black man murdered in Huyton, Merseyside two weeks ago, shocked many through its explicitly racist nature and brutality.
Raph Parkinson, a Socialist Party member and national executive committee member of the public-sector union UNISON spoke to the socialist about the tragic events, in a personal capacity.
"It takes my mind back to the events around Stephen Lawrence who was murdered by racists in London some years ago.
"UNISON, the public-sector trade union, gave support during those times to the Lawrence family and UNISON still has a strong anti-racist position.
"Now, politicians at national and local level need to understand that their policies may contribute towards the social conditions which create an environment for racism and terrorism to exist.
"We must not allow recent events to divide our communities, and the trade union movement must play a leading role in uniting local communities to have the confidence to stand up against these evils within our society."
In The Socialist 11 August 2005: