Socialist Worker

Resist the rise in racism

An attack on a pregnant woman in Bletchley has focused attention on racism. People in the Milton Keynes town told Tomáš Tengely-Evans about their experiences, the impact of the EU vote—and how they are fighting back

Issue No. 2521

The protest last Thursday in Bletchley

The protest last Thursday in Bletchley (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The horrific attack on a pregnant woman in Bletchley, Milton Keynes, has sent anger and fear through Muslim people in the area.

The woman, who was beaten outside the Co-op shop on Water Eaton Road on 6 August, miscarried in hospital. Police are treating it as a possible racist attack and last week arrested a man who has since been released on police bail.

Priya, who runs the corner shop opposite the Co-op, told Socialist Worker, “My brother was in the shop and saw what happened. Everyone is saying that it’s not right—no one can replace the baby she lost.”

Across the roundabout from the Co-op is Bletchley mosque where taxi drivers wait to pick up fares.

Abdul, a taxi driver, told Socialist Worker that the assault has had an impact in the area.

“I don’t get that much abuse apart from the ones and twos,” he said. “But we are scared after this attack.

“For the men it’s still alright, but Muslim woman are very scared at the moment and older people are walking with younger ones now.

“My daughter comes to this mosque—she’s scared of going out now. I’m scared for her too and told her not to walk this way and walk with other people.”

News of the attack comes after a possible racist attack on a Polish man in Leeds last week. And Polish migrant Arkadiusz “Arek” Jozwik was killed in Harlow last month while three further migrants were attacked in the Essex town.

Sometimes when people come into the shop and we don’t have what we want they tell us togo back home.

Priya

Many migrants are reporting a rise in racism in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union (EU) on 23 June.

Figures released by the National Police Chiefs’ Council showed a 31 percent increase in “hate crimes” from 10,883 in 2015 to 15,863. The last week of July registered a 49 percent increase to 1,863 on the previous year and the following week saw an increase of 58 percent to 1,787.

Abuse

Priya explained that her family has also faced some racist abuse recently. “About three weeks ago, two men came through our shop’s backyard at 5 ‘o’clock in the morning,” she said.

“When my husband and I went out the men said that they were looking for someone. But as soon as they heard us speaking our own language, they told us to fuck off back to where we came from.”

“We contacted the police, but all we got was a reference number,” she added.

But Priya said that her family doesn’t face racism regularly. “It’s maybe five or six times a year,” she said. “Sometimes when people come into the shop and we don’t have what we want they tell us to go back home.”

When I met with the police today they said, ‘Are you accusing us of something’. I said, ‘Maybe I am, I have to represent people


Labour councillor Mohamed Khan

Funga Ali and Mohamed told Socialist Worker that they had experienced a lot of racism growing up in Bletchley. “I went to school here and finished around 2009,” said Mohamed. “We’d walk home through the Lakes Estate—it’s one of the most racist places in Milton Keynes.

“Every day as we walked home we’d get shit from others, including students, who are against Muslims and black people. We now drive nice cars. As soon as people see us they say we must be dealing drugs because there’s no way we could have a job.”

Funga added, “We had people saying ‘Paki go home’ and we’ve had people shouting ‘Donald Trump’ at us recently.

“People are so full of racism.”

Racism

But the picture is contradictory as most working class people in Britain are hostile to racism. Mohamed added, “The majority of working class people don’t have a problem with us just like we don’t have a problem with them.

“But there’s a lot of ignorance.”

Since the Leave vote the focus has largely been on EU migrants, particularly those from eastern Europe.

On the protest on Thursday of last week

On the protest on Thursday of last week (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Maciej is a Polish migrant worker in nearby Hertfordshire. He told Socialist Worker, “Some people have been asking me when I’m going back to Poland, but overall I don’t think things have changed since June.

“I think there are problems where there were Ukip supporters before, such as Harlow, not areas where people just voted Leave.”

He added, “It’s the politicians who are to blame for this—not just David Cameron and Nigel Farage but the Labour Party too. They were using immigration in the general election and stirring people up.”

The attack in Bletchley didn’t come out of nowhere. Bletchley mosque was built in 2011 in the building of the old Plough pub.

The fascist British National Party (BNP) organised protests against it being built in 2010. Afterwards the mosque was firebombed and a pig’s head left outside.

Priya said that racism in the town got a lot worse during that time. “When they were building the mosque someone spray-painted ‘Paki—leave this country’ on our shop,” she said.

“It’s been better since then, but this attack is making me think it might be getting worse again.”

Attack

Politicians and the right wing media have built up racism—and Muslims in particular have been under attack.

Samarah told Socialist Worker, “The media has played a big hand in racism, with the idea that all Muslims are terrorists.

“In my 15 years living here I’ve only experienced racism twice, but lots of my friends have. You find yourself looking over your shoulder.

Dobia said, “There’s growing Islamophobia in Europe and France and the issue of the burkini ban has highlighted that.

“I think that’s seeping through to here.”

As an anti-racist vigil was taking place outside the Coop last Thursday one racist shopper shouted “rapefugees” at crowd.

The shop where the attack took place

The shop where the attack took place (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Dobia added, “All that you hear on the TV is about Muslims and what they’re doing to Europe. The media has definitely played a role.”

In Bletchley it’s not only fascists such as the BNP who’ve had a hand in whipping up racism.

Ukip also pushed hard in the area. Mohamed said, “We’ve had the BNP and English Defence League, but during the election you couldn’t drive around the roundabout without Ukip posters being on it. Why did they pick Milton Keynes?”

But Ukip kept only one seat in the 2014 council elections.

Vigil

Anti-racists are organising in the town again in the wake of the attack. Around 50 people joined the vigil last Thursday that was organised by Milton Keynes Stand Up to Racism.

Kate Hunter from the group told Socialist Worker, “There’s a minority of racists in Milton Keynes, but we’re an anti-racist town.

“Racists objected to the mosque being built before and obviously they feel emboldened now.”

Some people are also angry at the amount of time that it took the police to release the details of the attack. Labour councillor Mohamed Khan told Socialist Worker, “This attack took place on 6 August but they’ve only said something now.

“When I met with the police today they said, ‘Are you accusing us of something’. I said, ‘Maybe I am, I have to represent people’.

“It’s probably because she’s a Muslim woman.”

Maciej argued that the attack didn’t fit the mainstream narrative after the Brexit vote. He said, “You have the Polish ambassador going around where attacks on Polish migrants took place. But Muslims and Asians are being attacked in Poland and the government isn’t saying anything about it.

“I think they’re focusing on it now because of the Brexit negotiations”.

Kate said, “We’ve now been invited to the mosque and we’re planning a march through Bletchley in a couple of weeks’ time.

“We’ll make our presence felt, show that we’re united and make the racists lose their confidence”.


Hatred on the rise in Europe

There has been a serious rise in attacks on migrants in Britain. Racists have felt emboldened by “Brexit” as both the official Remain and Leave campaigns whipped up racism during the referendum.

But the rise in racism and attacks against Muslims and refugees is not specific to Britain—it’s on the rise across Europe.

In Poland racist attacks have risen by one third within a year.

In 2015 some 962 hate crimes were investigated in Poland, a 38 percent increase on 2014. While official statistics for 2016 haven’t been released, the Never Again Association expects they will be substantially higher.

The Never Again Association is recording between five and ten racist incidents daily while previously it recorded the same number weekly.

Meanwhile, in Germany refugees face near daily attacks.

In the east German city of Bautzen police said there was a “clash” between 80 people and refugees last Wednesday.

In Poland a sharp rise in Islamophobia is causing the attacks. Only 20,000 Muslims live there, some 0.5 percent of the population, but politicians are painting them as a danger to Poland’s “Catholicism values”.

Neighbouring Slovakia’s Labour-type prime minister Robert Fico said “Islam has no place in Slovakia”.

Across Europe the ruling class is facing crisis and a deep-seated anger from ordinary people.

Their main scapegoat differs, whether that’s Muslims in Poland or Polish migrants in Britain, but they’re all trying to divide us.

In eastern Europe politicians are trying to channel the anger provoked by EU-imposed neoliberalism against refugees.

In Britain politicians and the media have been whipping up racism against eastern European migrants to keep workers divided.

That’s why we have to build a mass movement against racism and in solidarity with refugees, rooted in workplaces, colleges and neighbourhoods.

That starts with the Stand Up to Racism conference on Saturday 8 October.

We should build Stand Up to Racism groups in our cities, towns and workplaces to make the anti-racist arguments about immigration. Wherever there’s an attack on a Muslim or a migrant, we have to organise solidarity.

Such a mass movement can sap away the racists’ confidence and unite working class people against those at the top of society who push racism.

For more information go to standuptoracism.org.uk

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