Fighting Racism | A Picture of Hope and Solidarity
In the wake of Brexit, life as a minority; Be it Black, Muslim, Jewish or an immigrant of Eastern European extraction has taken a turn for the worst!
With incidents of hate crimes rising dramatically and with anti-refugee sentiment reaching a crescendo, 1,500 people turned out for a conference in London to Stand up to Racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Few would deny that the United Kingdom post the decision to leave the European Union has not been the same country. The toxic nature of the debates prior to the UK voting to leave on 23 June raised the bar like never before, outrageous anti-immigrant rhetoric helped fuel a climate of fear.
Observers within minority communities and activists did not appear to have anticipated how the strong xenophobic narratives of politicians served to poison minds and turn communities against each other. There was confusion amongst many about the real issues, but the message that Britain needed to 'take back control' served to convince people genuinely concerned at the crises in housing, education and the National Health Service resonated, and the blame for the enormous pressure on public services was placed firmly on the shoulders of foreigners flooding through the 'porous' borders. Brexit appeared to be the only way to stop the influx of migrants and solve Britain’s social problems.
Speaker after speaker at the crowded ergonomic Friends Meeting House in Euston Road stress the need for unity. Black, White, Muslim, Jew, Christian, artist, musician, union leaders, union members and anti-racism activists mingled in common purpose. Muslims speakers expressed joy at the solidarity and the hand of friendship shown. Speaker after speaker bellowed, ‘Racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism affects us all, it is an attack on us all.’
There was no doubting the sense of community that consumed the building's morning and afternoon workshops dissected the problems of racism in Europe and the threat of the Far Right, the UK Extremism Bill, Solidarity with refugees in Calais and linking Black Lives across continents.
Muslims could have been excused for thinking every man, woman, young person or old inside the building were personal friends. All seem to appreciate the horror and the trauma Islamophobic hatred had caused, particular to vulnerable Muslim women who chose to wear the veil. The horror on the French beach of police forcing a Muslim woman to undress at gunpoint seem to linger in the minds of everyone present. This was a warm friendly inviting atmosphere of people who cared, who genuinely cared!
Exchanges of personal stories, reminders of injustice, condemnation of Conservative and UKIP policies became the thread of engagement. There were voices of Jews, LGBT and disable campaigners sharing in the collective empathy, each understanding the other's pain, each understanding the other's fear.
But there was a sense that something would get done, a sense that the euphoria inside the meeting would spill onto the streets and filter into communities. There were people used to agitating, used to coming up with ideas and following through programme to bring about change. There was a feeling and firm belief that things would happen and that the movement to stand firm against racism and Islamophobia would succeed.
The first Muslim leader of the student union, Malia Bouattia stood up and down to great applause, bringing the Thomas Jefferson rhetoric to the gathered crowds, she spouted, ‘When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty!’
The first British-born leader of the Muslim Council of Britain, Harun Rashid Khan, also addressed the crowd and proclaimed not to be a 'son of a bus driver' (a reference to London Mayor's Sidiq Khan's acceptance speech) but the son of immigrants who watched his own father stand up to racism and bigotry in the form of the National Front in the 1970s.
Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott and the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn were also there!