Britain is facing a sustained attempt to whip up full-blooded racism. Each day government ministers are clamouring to appear on camera denouncing Muslims and demanding their neighbours and teachers spy on them.
Across the country communities are living in fear. From bitter experience they know that racist speeches by politicians quickly translate into murderous racist violence on the streets.
Listen to what befell Hina’naz Ahmed, a student at Wolverhampton University, last week:
“As I was walking past a bus stop I was surrounded by about five youths, one of them a girl. They stood and waited for me then followed me down the street shouting abuse, telling me to take off my veil.
“They then repeatedly said that Straw has made it illegal so I had to take it off. They shouted ‘Jack Straw’ repeatedly. I think Straw has made racists think it’s OK to abuse people like me.”
This is a weak, divided government, under attack even from Britain’s highest ranking general. It has decisively lost the argument over Iraq and is in the process of losing it over the health service. Its response is to play the race card.
As ministers queue to deliver a speech demonising Muslims, forces even further to the right are rushing to exploit their statements.
The British National Party (BNP) said, “New Labour ministers are scrambling over one another to become number one hate figure amongst the Muslim community, leaving BNP spokesmen trailing.”
This torrent of abuse is being hurled at some of the poorest and most deprived communities in Britain. It is New Labour’s answer to the deep and growing unpopularity over its war on Iraq.
But this demonisation of Islam has been integral to George Bush and Tony Blair’s war drive at every turn over the last five years. New Labour is desperate to divert bitterness over the war onto the most convenient scapegoat.
All of us who oppose Blair’s slavish allegiance to Bush should ensure we stand together - united against war and racism.