THE MURDER of an Asian taxi driver in Oldham led to an anti-racist demonstration last Saturday through the town centre. Israr Hussain was stabbed to death after picking up a fare two weeks ago. A white man is wanted for questioning. The police have finally logged it as a 'racist incident'.
Yet in the seven days after Israr Hussain's murder they tried to sabotage the anti-racist demonstration. The police even put pressure on march organisers, Oldham Trades Council, to stop Israr Hussain's name being chanted on the march or referred to by speakers at the rally.
This did not deter the 200 people who took to the streets, with local Asian taxi drivers and youth at the front of the march. Jhangir Akhtar, a cousin of Israr Hussain, also joined demonstrators. Oldham is an area where the Nazi British National Party (BNP) has increased its activity.
BNP leader Nick Griffin got 16.4 percent of the vote in the Oldham West constituency in the 2001 general election. Reported racist crimes in Oldham rose by 75.4 percent, to 1,133 incidents, in the year 2001-2.
Tariq Rafique from the Pakistani Youth Organisation told Socialist Worker, 'Since the riots in Oldham in May 2001 the focus has shifted away from the BNP. But they are causing the racism. This is not about Asians not 'integrating' or not speaking English. We have to stay focused on the BNP. Today's march was really important. It was the first time Asian people have felt they could take to the streets since the riot.'
Local taxi driver Dave Hodgin told Socialist Worker, 'I made an effort to come on this march. I've just worked all night. The guy who was killed had six kids, just like me. What happened to him was wrong. I work for a firm owned by Asian people. I know Asian drivers get bottles and stones chucked at their cabs. I have watched as youths get ready to throw stones and when they see I'm white they put their arms down. We are all just trying to earn a living, whether we're white, Asian or black drivers. The Asian drivers shouldn't be made to feel scared when they go out in their cabs.'
Student Adnan Aslam said, 'My father is a taxi driver in Oldham. He got called out for a fare and while he was driving the passenger put a knife to his throat. My father tried to struggle and he ended up with the tendons on his hands cut through. That was in October 2001. Now this man has been murdered. Who is going to be next? Since the British National Party stood for election in Oldham things have got worse. Whether you are West Indian, Asian or a refugee from Afghanistan or Iran, they regard all of us as 'Pakis'.'
The marchers gathered in Oldham's shopping precinct for a rally. Speakers urged the marchers to continue campaigning against racism and the Nazis. Martin Gleeson, secretary of Oldham Trades Council, said, 'With fascist activity going on in the background, this leads to racial harassment which in turn leads to racial violence. We all know what the consequences of that can be. Unless there is a united response led by the community there will be more attacks and more murders.'
Paul Greaves, secretary of the firefighters' FBU union in Oldham, was also on the march. He said, 'We called this march in protest at a killing of an innocent man, which we perceive to be a racist murder. We cannot stay quiet. Justice will prevail. What would have happened if the parents of Stephen Lawrence had not stood up and fought? We have to make our voice heard.'