Where previously the media and the politicians used terms like ‘extremists’, ‘Islamic terrorists and ‘fundamentalists,’ now it is ‘Islamists.’ Anyone with a Muslim background or who, like Jean Charles de Menezes, ‘looks’ like a Muslim is fair game for the new police death squads. Over recent weeks, surveys have shown that two thirds of British Muslims have considered moving out of the country.
Welcome to this civilised country where those suspected of terrorism without any evidence are shot dead in the back, eight times. The police and politicians state that this is only the beginning, and that there will be more shootings. The officer responsible for pumping bullets into the back of an innocent man has been rewarded with a free family holiday. Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair said that over the past few weeks there were 250 cases which could have ended up like that of the hapless Brazilian electrician. There were seven occasions when the police almost opened fire. British minorities, especially Muslims and in particular young men, are now faced with police death squads, who shoot first and ask questions later.
The racist hysteria has resulted in 86 per cent of the population supporting the shoot to kill policy. Fascist organisations like the British National Party and marauding gangs of racists buoyed on by Tony Blair’s speeches, whose anti Muslim venom is only just hidden in words carefully crafted by his army of spin doctors, unleashed a wave of violence that has already resulted in at least one recorded death, that of Kamal Raza Butt, who came as a visitor this country only to end up battered to death in Nottingham. Around 1000 racially motivated incidents have been recorded since 7 July. There has been a 500 per cent increase in these attacks. Gurdwaras as well as mosques have been set alight. Muslim women wearing Hijab have been refused entry onto buses. An Arab woman, whose brother treated many of the London bomb victims, was attacked for singing in Arabic whilst pushing her baby in a pram. Underground carriages have emptied when Asian’s or ‘Muslim looking’ men have got on.
There is much in the racist backlash to the London bombs that has echoes to what happened decades ago in the country. During the 1970s and 1980s Britain was faced with a wave of racist violence. This included racist ‘Paki’ bashing gangs, often of drunken white youth, for whom ‘Paki’ meant any Asian. Many people were murdered, including taxi drivers, students and restaurant workers. Mosques, Gurdwaras and temples were attacked. Fascist organisations like the National Front, often protected by thousands of police officers, tried to march through Asian areas. Asian youth of that period began to organise, and fought back against the racists. In this process they came into conflict with the police.
I was among the many hundreds of youth who organised. I learnt that the reason I was in England was because of a colonial history. That the reason we were poor was not due to religion. That the poverty of my family was born out of the fact that we had been robbed over hundreds of years by British colonialism. That we were here, in the UK, because they were there, in the countries of our origin. We had to learn many lessons not least that we were Asians only in the West. There were no Asian’s in Asia, only people belonging to different nations and countries.
The media then, following the lines thrown down by the politicians, blamed angry young men for fermenting trouble in the community and blamed Asian generally for not ‘integrating’ into the British way of life. During the 1970s and 1980s a whole host of self appointed community leaders, many of whom gave unintelligible statements on behalf of the ‘community’, condemned the extremists particularly amongst the youth. The issue in the 1970s and 1980s was not of integration and it is not one today.
Notwithstanding the garbled apologies of the ‘community leaders’, youth of the 1970s and 1980s pointed out that the issue was racism. We pointed out that ‘integration’ implied there was something inherently wrong with us. But the problem is with the deep rooted racism of British society.
We all lost life
Tony Blair has created an ‘Us and Them’ situation in this country – ‘Us’ being white people and ‘Them’ being ‘Us’ from the rest of the world. But he is doing this through a clear targeting of Islam. Any questioning of his foreign policy he condemns outright. He told a Labour Party meeting on 16 July, ‘It plays on our tolerance and good nature; it exploits the tendency to guilt of the developed world …It is founded on a belief, one whose fanaticism is such that it can’t be moderated. It can’t be remedied. It has to be stood up to.’
The British media has been ramming home the linkage between Islam and terrorism. This has been justified by a whole host of self appointed ‘Muslim leaders’ who have been popping up on the television screens and in newspapers apologising on behalf of Muslims for the carnage of London. Luton mosque organised an ‘Islam against terrorism’ conference, other Muslim groups are planning marches and resolutions along the lines of ‘Muslims against terrorism’ or ‘Not in Our Name.’ All of these are implicitly accepting the linkage of Islam as well as Muslims with terrorism, that there are ‘good true’ Muslims and ‘bad Muslims, who are not real Muslims.’ This is feeding directly into the racism of British society and the political agenda of the Labour government.
The apologies of these Muslim ‘leaders’ for what happened in London is like bowing in front of a devil because of the actions of a demon. Barbarism has bread barbarism. Muslims should not apologise as Muslims for what has happened on the streets of London. Religion does not determine any community’s humanity. Any apology implies an acceptance of Blair’s dictum – ‘them and us’. It means, ‘we’ are sorry for the loss of ‘your’ life – when we all lost life.
Lest we forget, if we put all those who died at the hands of those who have been called terrorists by the Anglo-American governments over the last hundred years, they could not match the three million deaths caused by the Americans in Vietnam alone.
Whilst the current wave of racist hysteria and paranoia is set against the background of invasion and occupation of Iraq, the British police have been killing people with impunity in custody since 1969. Since then over 1000 people have been killed in police custody. Some of these have been found by juries to have been unlawfully killed, but no police officer has ever been convicted for any death in custody. This was before the official sanctioning of the shoot to kill policy.
In 1981 I was arrested, along with 11 others, and charged as a terrorist on conspiracy to cause explosions and endanger life. We said we were not terrorists but victims of terror. Many people said the only conspiracy was police conspiracy. At that time people came out in their thousands to defend us. We were all acquitted. Now if people talk in support of those the police declare as terrorists, they can be arrested, and locked up indefinitely without trial and without even the knowledge of the evidence against them – in this very civilised of societies.
Even before the bombs of 7 July, basic human rights in this country were under severe attack. Apart from curtailing human rights in this country, the ‘war on terror’ and in particular the London bombs are being used to delegitimise the just struggles for national liberation across the world. Already over 20 organisations, including Palestinians and Tamils, have been banned. The ‘war on terror’ is being used as a smokescreen to deny people living in this country the right to support struggles for justice. The government is now planning to make it a crime even to support the struggle of Palestinians by making any form of support direct or implied for ‘suicide bombers’ unlawful. But as Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London pointed out, ‘if a young Jewish boy in this country goes and joins the Israeli army, and ends up killing many Palestinians in operations and can come back, that is wholly legitimate, but for a young Muslim boy in this country, who might think: I want to defend my Palestinian brothers and sisters and gets involved, he is branded as a terrorist. And I think it is this that has infected the attitude about how we deal with these problems.’
We now need to stand up to the racist Labour Party and the war mongers. Those who voted for the Labour Party at the last general election, even its anti-war MPs, should re-examine their position. A vote for Labour or Tory, or any party that did not actively oppose the invasion of Iraq, is support for the destruction of Iraq a death of tens and thousands of Iraqis. Iraqi life is no less important that the life of westerners. All people in the UK, irrespective of their religion or background, should demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
Why talk of integrating into the British way of life when it is becoming increasingly unsafe even to walk on the streets? We must not live here in fear. As in the past, people who are attacked have the right to defend themselves. But we cannot do so on our own. Muslims need to organise themselves but also work with others. The lessons of the past are that only by organising together, irrespective of race, colour or religion can we hope to build a better world. This is true today more than ever before.
Yasmin Gunaratnam reflects on John Berger’s gut solidarity with the stranger
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry