Socialist Worker

Multiculturalism meeting: Unity can beat the racists and racism

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2243

The campaign to defend multiculturalism and oppose Islamophobia stepped up a gear last week as hundreds of people came together in London to discuss the way forward.

The meeting followed the launch of a petition in response to David Cameron’s disgraceful attack on multiculturalism. More than 5,500 people have signed the petition.

Cameron—faced with growing anger at Tory cuts and pressure from the right inside his own party—is sinking into the gutter politics of racist scapegoating.

In his speech Cameron spoke out against those who do not share his so-called “British values”.

The meeting unanimously rejected Cameron’s statements as people from all backgrounds came together to defend multiculturalism (see right).

Weyman Bennett, joint chair of Unite Against Fascism said that as the Tory cuts hit home and their drive for scapegoats increases, it is vital that those under attack stand up to racism.

A book will be launched with writers discussing Britain’s anti-racist multicultural tradition.

Activists speak out in defence of multiculturalism...


Edie Friedman, Jewish Council for Racial Equality

[Read out an extract from a letter to David Cameron:]

“Why didn’t you talk about the persistent racism across Europe, about poverty and inequality? Why didn’t you talk about how we can bring our communities closer together and what we have in common? Can you tell me what did you mean by British values—are they the same values that once supported colonialism and slavery?”


Dilowar Khan, executive director, East London Muslim Centre

“The way we dealt with the EDL in Tower Hamlets last year is an example of multiculturalism in action. When the EDL came to Whitechapel we had a march of 5,000 that united our community—we showed that multiculturalism works.”


Ismail Patel, British Muslim Initiative

“Cameron claimed he is a champion of democracy. A week later he travelled to the Gulf states and sold millions of pounds in arms to autocratic leaders so that they can suppress democracy. How dare he tell us he believes in democracy and freedom?”


Billy Hayes, CWU union general secretary

“In Royal Mail sorting offices the CWU had to organise campaigns for the provision of prayer rooms. We’ve had to argue for the rights of workers to attend festivals such as Eid and Diwali.

This does not divide the workers, but unites them behind an understanding that everyone is entitled to respect and equal rights whatever their culture and nationality.”


Zita Holbourne, TUC race relations committee and BARAC

[Extracts from a poem:]

Multiculturalism cannot fail to succeed
It's not in the gift of a politician to proceed
With it's termination
It's not your creation
It's in our blood and in our bones
You can't create multicultural free zones
It's on our airwaves and in our streets
In our attire and rhythm and beats
It's in street food and haute cuisine
It's even in her majesty the queen
It's in the theatre and in literature
In places of worship and holy scripture
It's celebration
It's jubilation
It's pomp and glory
And it's our story

You can't erase what makes us who we are
It's not something you can permit or bar
And you can't take away what brings us together
Recognise mister prime minister
Multiculturalism's here forever.


Martin Smith, Love Music Hate Racism

“Cameron isn’t alone in attacking multiculturalism—mainstream politicians across Europe are joining in too.

He says we live in ghettos. But it is Cameron that lives in a ghetto of white, rich toffs. We have to unite and not give the racists an inch.”


Shafiur Rahman, executive director, Islamic Forum of Europe

“Muslims are working with gay and lesbian groups in the London Muslim Centre to combat the hatred that has been displayed towards the gay community in recent weeks. We welcome difference and tolerance.”


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News
Tue 15 Mar 2011, 18:46 GMT
Issue No. 2243
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