Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.More info ×
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.
Hsiao-Hung Pai meets people affected by the fire, and finds sadness and suffering mixed with a continuing wariness of the official investigations
Chris Williamson MP, winner of the election's tightest marginal, Derby North, and recently reappointed shadow minister for fire services, talks to Ashish Ghadiali about Jeremy Corbyn, the housing crisis and winning from the left
The Corbyn-supporting group is preparing for another election at any moment, writes Adam Peggs – and now has the potential to create powerful training initiatives, union links and party reform efforts
’We believe in you. We are with you. We will never forget.’ Grenfell solidarity sweeps East London in mass banner drops from housing estates
Michael Calderbank profiles Jeremy Corbyn's new supporters in parliament
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to witness devastating political violence, but the world refuses to act. Ishiaba Kasonga and Serge Egola Angbakodolo ask why?
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole
Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part
Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper
Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s
Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach
Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.
Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite
Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead
Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee
Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power
The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced
India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya
North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero
The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava
France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati
This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help
PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank
Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media
I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to
We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS
Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank
Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland
Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones
The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya
The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.
An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now
The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee
Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell
Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths
Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe