Britain ‘resurrects culture of racism’

Britain ‘resurrects culture of racism’

Morning Star, 18 September 2006

Race relations campaigners warned at the weekend that the British and US governments have “resurrected a culture of primitive racism” after the terror attacks in both countries.

The way the terrorist threat has been dealt with has produced overarching racism in which ethnic minorities are perceived as terrorists or illegal immigrants, said Institute of Race Relations (IRR) director Dr A. Sivanandan. He told Saturday’s conference at Conway Hall in central London that the multicultural Britain created after the second world war had been “destroyed”.

“The war on asylum and the war on terror – one the unarmed invasion, the other the armed enemy within – has produced the idea of a nation under siege, and, on the ground, a racism that cannot tell a settler from an immigrant, an immigrant from an asylum-seeker, an asylum-seeker from a Muslim, a Muslim from a terrorist”, said Dr Sivanandan.

But he insisted that the damage done to the whole fabric of society and democracy was more insidious, with constraints on the freedom of speech, plus the undermining of laws and the independence of the judiciary.

He went on: “It is that adamantine resolve to deny the connection between cause and effect that has also prevented the government from seeing that in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and the systematic dismemberment of Palestine, it is they and their American bosses who have declared jihad on Muslims the world over and given sustenance to terrorism.

“And having refused to acknowledge it, they have no choice but to stir up more and more fear in order to pass more and more draconian legislation that further erodes our liberties.”

Human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce also spoke at the conference, which the IRR said was an opportunity for people to speak out about the erosion of democracy and the “new racism” created by the anti-terror laws.

Ms Peirce cited similarities between the Northern Ireland conflict and the contemporary Muslim community. She said that there were “extraordinarily exact parallels” and urged Britain to learn from the lessons of history.

“The parallels are the same misconceptions, the same failure to recognise that the violence was a reaction”, insisted the lawyer. She said that, if Britain allied itself with regimes that continued to persecute and torture, “we are laying the seeds for a very, very long war”.