Socialist Worker

Racism lurks behind election

Issue No. 1905

Hardly a week passes without racist scare stories in the press directed against refugees and asylum seekers. The racism is not just directed against asylum seekers. Two new reports give damning evidence of the rise in racism against Muslims since 11 September 2001.

A report by the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia highlights a rise in 'verbal and physical attacks on Muslims in public places', 'attacks on mosques and desecration of Muslim cemeteries', 'discrimination in recruitment and employment practices' and 'laws curtailing civil liberties'. The report also shows how attacks on Muslims in the press can dovetail with attacks on asylum seekers.

It quotes one newspaper article that recycled 'the myth that asylum-seekers are typically given luxury space by the government in five-star accommodation'. The newspaper rants on that 'on one occasion recently they were supplied also with 'library, gym and even free prayer-mats''.

A second report-commissioned by the government and codenamed 'Contest'-was recently leaked to the press. It shows how racism, poverty and attacks on civil liberties are feeding political disaffection and anger among many British Muslims.

It revealed that Muslims-like many other groups of Asian people-suffer from an unemployment rate three times higher than the average. And they are more than three times more likely to live in Britain's ten most deprived areas.

The police used anti-terror laws to stop and search 32,100 people in 2002-3, mainly British Muslims. The government's own figures show how this has shot up since 11 September 2001, with a seventeenfold increase for the number of searches. Only 380 of those searched were actually arrested and an even smaller number were charged-mainly with immigration offences. None were convicted of any crimes connected to terrorism.

In the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks seven Arab Muslims were detained and held in Belmarsh high-security prison, which has become known as Britain's own Guantanamo Bay.

They are locked up for 22 hours a day and never see daylight. One of the detainees has described how 'the guards shouted at us, called us 'Bin Ladens' and threatened us if we didn't strip naked'. These are the policies of home secretary David Blunkett.

He has opened the door to sinister forces on the right of British politics-UKIP and the Nazi BNP-even though many Labour supporters want to slam that door shut. Respect: The Unity Coalition is the only party standing in these elections that stands up clearly and consistently to racism and Islamophobia.

But Respect supporters will be out with Labour supporters, and anyone else, who wants to campaign against the threat of the far right in the elections.


The parties exploiting the media lies

The BNP's leader, Griffin, is pictured on one election leaflet with his kids under the slogan 'Our dad is not a racist'. But the core of the BNP is made up of racists who have been members of the National Front and the British Movement before they joined the BNP. Many have convictions for racism and violence.

The UK Independence Party (UKIP) has suddenly been catapulted into the media spotlight by the former TV talk show host Kilroy-Silk. This is the man who hates Europe so much he has a £2 million, 100-acre estate on Spain's Costa Del Sol. Jonathan Aitken, the Tory cabinet minister who went to jail for perjury, has also come out for UKIP.

The media presents UKIP as an eccentric party led by minor celebrities. But at the core of their policies are right wing ideas, the nastiest of which is their racism. Their manifesto talks of Britain being 'full up' and that the party 'will put an end to mass immigration'.

They hope to gain from disillusion with politicians, and from a climate where racism towards asylum seekers is regarded as acceptable. One former Tory voter in Southend told UKIP why she would consider voting for them: 'I didn't used to be a racialist but I am one now.'


Push up votes against the BNP

BILLY HAYES is the general secretary of the CWU postal and telecom workers' union. He is also treasurer of Unite Against Fascism. He sent this message to Socialist Worker readers to urge activists to carry on campaigning against the BNP up to the last possible minute:

'IT IS crucial for anti-fascists to get the biggest possible vote out on 10 June. There will be disagreements amongst us about who to positively vote for. But a rising tide of voters lifts all the left's boats. A low turnout is a winner for the BNP. Every last minute effort is a contribution to making Britain safer for the black community.

Every additional vote is a further step for the fascists to climb. The CWU has made considerable efforts to build Unite Against Fascism. And we are making considerable efforts to get the vote out. In the last week before polling we have sent additional anti-BNP leaflets to our branches.

The BNP has been targeting CWU officials and our members in the workplaces. We refuse to be intimidated by racist thugs. The CWU is pushing up the vote against the BNP. Make sure you are too.'

Contact Unite Against Fascism for more leaflets or for details of anti-Nazi activities in your area. Phone 020 7833 4916 or go to the website www.uaf.org.uk


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Article information

Features
Thu 10 Jun 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1905
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