Today James O’Brien quite rightly highlights the double standards of the Sun newspaper during and after the Brexit campaign and how they fanned the flames of xenophobia and racist attacks.
This is the newspaper which published “Muslims are not like you and I.” Similarly the Sun once went after the BBC by implying “the BBC isn’t friendly to white faces, because they have internships for minorities,” while the newspaper which blindly ignored the growing increase of attacks on minorities, yet today it had the audacity as O’Brien pointed out to condemn the growing xenophobia a day after a story which gloated that Britain got its country back.
Last Friday morning 52% of the electorate voted to take Britain out of the EU, from the 17 odd million who voted leave a small minority it seems took the words “we now got our country back” as literal. This has resulted in attacks on members of the Polish community, Muslims have been verbally and in some cases physically assaulted.
Examples of the attacks included the posting of laminated cards reading “Leave the EU – no more Polish vermin” to members of the Polish community in Huntingdon on Saturday. There were also reports of racist graffiti scrawled on a Polish community centre in Hammersmith, west London. The Muslim Council of Britain said it had compiled a dossier of over 100 hate crimes over the weekend alone since the vote. I myself know of three attacks where Muslim women were racially abused while walking in the streets of the UK, and today police are treating a firebomb incident inside a Halal butchers shop in my home town as a possible hate crime. In Birmingham, members of the far-right English Defence League gathered outside a mosque in Birmingham waving a flag that read: “Rapefugees Not Welcome”, as they shouted “f*****g p**dos” and “Allah, Allah, who the f*** is Allah?”. Police later made two arrests.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council said it had detected a 57 per cent rise in reports to a police online hate crime reporting site between Thursday and Sunday compared to the corresponding days four weeks ago.
On Twitter there have been calls by bigots to send immigrants home:
Now, call me a cynic, but I do believe that certain elements of the media has allowed this so-called concern to grow into an inferno of fire known as racism. Yes, we expect the right-wing elements and their surrogate far-right friends to spew their filth, after all I don’t expect a condemnation or an apology from Nigel Farage, but the likes of the Sun should not patronise us with their hypocrisy at the same time.
I myself have experienced racism in the UK. Whether it was being called a p*** and being chased by BNP members in the streets of Perry Barr to facing some covert forms of racism in various work places. I do feel it is acceptable to be a racist, a xenophobe and an Islamophobe because it is now the norm. People can have these views as it is readily acceptable on social media and mentioned quite freely and unashamed. Why? well because our politicians and media has allowed this form of rhetoric to take place. During the Brexit debate the peddled lies of 80 Million Turks turning up at the UK borders, fear tactics that these hordes of brown Muslim refugees from Syria will destroy our very existence and put British women at risk of being raped were thrown around. So why then should we blame the pensioner who appeared on Channel 4 News a day after the vote in Barnsley saying he had voted to keep the Muslims out.
So what is the solution? Well, firstly the political class need to move their backsides from Westminster and engage with the British public but also condemn what is taking place and ensure bigotry and racism has no place in society. Words are not what is needed but action. Not all the 17 million people who voted Brexit are racists, but sadly many had made their minds up based on the propaganda but also because over the past forty years successive governments have let them down. The UK is not the leafy suburb of Hamstead but it is the grit of Hull and the liberals amongst us need to understand the United Kingdom is not a hub of multicultural free spirit. If their concerns are not met or engaged with the Labour strongholds across the north and Wales which voted to leave will end up in the hands of Farage and his gang for a generation. The white working class have grievances and are the likliest to suffer in a post Brexit Britain. Unless the Labour party holds honest and pragmatic discussions on immigration and provide the white working class an identity of respect and understanding, it is an electorate that will be lost to a far-right politics of fear.
Similarly there needs to be positive action and engagement outside the echo chambers of social media, interfaith groups and liberal intelligensia forums. We need to understand that change will not come about by groups of like-minded people holding like minded conversations with like minded viewpoints to find like minded solutions. The concept of debate and winning the battle of ideas is not with your friend who agrees with you but with the neighbour who may disagree with you after all isn’t that what is politics about? Those who believe in a free and fair society of tolerance and respect also need to get out a bit more and engage with people who may not agree with their views.
One genuinely feels that those who influence the filth of hate should be challenged and exposed. More effort is needed to hold these people to account, while organisations like tell MAMA should be supported.
Yahya Birt, the British academic wrote in his piece After Brexit, where do British Muslims go from here? wrote:”46% of British Muslims live in the bottom 10% most deprived wards in England and so are squarely among the have-nots too,” the battle for the soul of the United Kingdom should not be about race but of opportunity, hence, why politicians need to take the lead to stand up for the betterment of all. Birt went on to write: “This requires a radical rethink because neither of the two main parties have done enough to prevent our society becoming more unequal despite Britain’s great wealth, thus creating neighbourhoods, towns and even cities of the forgotten and the left behind. And although it is clearly a delicate and controversial subject, the impact of migration on jobs, goods and services must be diagnosed and debated in a responsible way that does not play into race politics. For this change in tone and approach to have any chance of succeeding, BAME and faith communities must now play a prominent role in this debate too.”
If we don’t take this crisis and turn it into an opportunity, we are sure as hell going to get more people saying “‘I’m not racist but……..”