Exploiting terror and death for bigotry and hate
By Ken Livingstone
Morning Star, 30 July 2005
The central pressing issue facing us in the wake of the bombings and attempted bombings in London over the past weeks is of course to apprehend those involved.
This is the issue that every Londoner, from tube driver to city banker will expect to be addressed.
But one issue that remains vital – and not at all unconnected to the task of stopping terrorism – is to stop the bombings from being used to promote bigotry and racism in our society.
In particular there is now a sustained campaign to use the bombings to attack the advances we have made against racism in our society by blaming multiculturalism, “diversity”, immigration, and even the “political correctness” of the police.
To a large degree this campaign was constrained by the response of the public in the wake of the bombs.
The public, notably in London where we were directly attacked, responded by refusing to be divided, by recognising that everyone regardless of race, religion or class was attacked equally, and by defending the diversity of the city.
Londoners showed that they would not let anyone who wants to divide the city succeed – whether they are bombers or the fascists of the BNP.
London’s great strength is that, as long as you do not harm anyone else, you can be who you want to be.
This was one of our strongest arguments in the bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games and it is one of the main reasons for London’s recent renaissance.
This model is rejected by many both within British society and around Europe.
Writing in the Evening Standard yesterday, Agnes Poirier, of the London Bureau of the French newspaper Libération said that she has often wondered “when British multi-culturalism would finally show its inherent weakness.”
“The message to Muslims,” she later argued, “has been, in effect, that it is all right for them to be a separate country-within-a-country.”
Just as it was inevitable that the supporters of the grotesque new French law, which has seen Sikh boys expelled from school for the crime of wearing a turban, would raise their voices against London’s multiculturalism, so it was likely that the right in British society would also blame immigration, political correctness and diversity for the bombings.
Melanie Phillips, one of the Daily Mail’s leading hard right columnists, weighed in the day after the 7/7 bombings with an article under the headline “The failure to secure our borders defies belief” which argued that a major cause of the bombings was that “the government simply lost control of our borders.”
She argued: “it is not possible to make a country safe if its borders are so permeable and administrative chaos permits people simply to vanish below the official radar.”
“This has been allowed to occur because,” she added “at a time of unprecedented danger, this country’s ruling elite has self-indulgently postured on human rights and the ‘diversity’ agenda with reckless disregard for the paramount priority of defending and preserving public safety.”
The Daily Express front page of 27 July screamed “Bombers are all spongeing asylum seekers”.
The themes of blaming multiculturalism, immigration and “political correctness” have emerged time and again from political forces who want to deflect the public response away from the unity we have seen over the last few weeks.
Melanie Phillips took this to its logical conclusion by saying that multiculturalism and the drive to stamp out Islamophobic prejudice was in fact hampering the fight against terrorism.
Criticising the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, she argued: “even more alarmingly [than Ken Livingstone embracing Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi], the country’s principal police force involved in counter-terrorism is now under the control of an officer whose obsession with the ‘diversity’ agenda is thought to be undermining the fight against terror.”
She added: “Sir Ian’s obsession with attacking ‘Islamophobia’ is now raising serious concerns among certain police officers and security sources.”
This is nonsense of course.
The Daily Mail was the biggest cheerleader for a policing strategy in the 1980s and 1990s that comprehensively failed Londoners.
We saw what the absence of what Phillips calls the “diversity” agenda in London led to – a cycle of head-on collisions between the police and many of London’s communities that in the end had to be broken.
It is an elementary fact that if we want a society with less crime and better community relations, and if we want real intelligence about terrorists, then the police have to have the best possible relations with the people they are there to protect.
Simon Heffer, writing in the Daily Mail (16 July), echoed Melanie Phillips by arguing that “multiculturalism has simply encouraged the bombers to indulge in their intolerance and hatred of Britain.”
Invoking the memory of the most discredited racist of his generation, Heffer argued: “In 1968, Enoch Powell was vilified for predicting what the press misquoted as ‘rivers of blood’ if we did not protect and advance the culture and traditions of our country.”
“He has been proved right,” claimed Heffer.
“It is now up to our political leaders to make multi-culturalism a dirty word, and overturn the victory of the ‘enemy within’.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Mark Steyn agreed, writing (19 July) that “the real suicide bomb is ‘multiculturalism’.”
Steyn’s response took in all the usual Daily Telegraph hate figures – the Guardian, Cherie Blair, Muslim extremists and so on – but his fire was concentrated primarily on the “multiculti mainstream ushering the extremists from the dark fringe to the centre of western life.”
It is no surprise that the far right has also taken up this theme.
The fascist British National Party claims to have distributed 300,000 leaflets gruesomely carrying a picture of the bombed bus in Tavistock Square, seeking to use the bombing to sow the seeds of racism and division.
“How right was Enoch Powell?” asks the BNP’s leaflet.
It too attacks multiculturalism and anti-racism, blaming “politically correct reluctance to do anything when ‘minorities’ break the law that has allowed hardline Imams to infect so many British born Muslims with vicious anti-Western and anti-white hatred.”
The horrors that unfolded on 7 July mean that there are many who will try to divide our society and scapegoat entire communities.
A diverse city like London cannot afford to allow such an agenda to take hold.
It would be economically disastrous and lead to appalling social consequences.
London is one city.
Our greatest strength in the current circumstances is precisely our ability to remain united against anyone who wants to divide us.