Race Row as MP Warns of ‘Asian Ghettos Rife With Drug Dealing’

Race Row as MP Warns of ‘Asian Ghettos Rife With Drug Dealing’

By Pat Hurst and Alistair Keely

Press Association, 6 July 2002

A race row broke out today after a Labour MP accused young Asians of drug dealing and terrorising communities.

Ann Cryer, MP for Keighley in West Yorkshire, said Asian “ghettos” were rife with drug dealing and it was destroying both the Asian community and race relations with whites. But her comments were “dangerous and irresponsible”, according to one Asian leader, who said she should consider resigning over the remarks because they were “damaging to race relations”.

Mrs Cryer’s constituency is a few miles from Bradford, which was ravaged by the worst race riots for a decade last summer. She cited drug links between Pakistan and Asians living in Britain as one of factors feeding crime. She said: “In a period of six months there have been four killings of young Asian men, by young Asian men. It is all drug and gang related, all about who is selling drugs in which territory.”

The MP said young Asians did not have “professionals” to look up to because of “Asian flight” – once they become successful they leave the neighbourhood. Instead, youngsters in the Asian community saw drug dealers in big cars and smart suits as role models.

She claimed honest Asians were too frightened and intimidated to ask the police for help.

Answering the MP’s comments, Shahid Malik, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee and a former member of the Commission for Racial Equality, said Mrs Cryer should consider resigning.

Mr Malik, from Burnley, described Mrs Cryer as a “constant menace” and her latest outburst “irresponsible and profoundly counter-productive”.

He said: “Her comments are extremely dangerous stereotyping of race and are the hallmark of Ann Cryer. Her comments are profoundly counter-productive. It is a disgrace that in Keighley, which has a population with a 18% ethnic minority, there is not one ethnic minority councillor.

“She has failed the ethnic minority community in Keighley in terms of getting some kind of political leadership. Her comments are damaging race relations and I think she should consider her position. Her comments are offensive and damaging to race relations and I think it is not good enough for the MP for Keighley.”

He added: “Her agenda is an agenda for damaging race relations and I don’t think she should be the MP in Keighley under the Labour Party.

“Her comments reinforce negative racial stereotypes and doesn’t move us forward and are completely irresponsible. It can’t go on any longer. I feel sorry for the constituents. It is about time people stood up against Ann Cryer. It is sad she hasn’t got anything positive to say. It would have been nice for her to get publicity for saying something positive.”

Ahmed Versi, editor of The Muslim News, said Mrs Cryer had got it wrong.

He said: “The primary people to blame for all this is present and past governments which have neglected entire communities. It is a question of a lack of resources and facilities for young people. The highest rate of unemployment is among Pakistani and Bangladeshis. There is also a lot of discrimination in terms of jobs and education.

“You can’t blame the Asian community for ghettos. Asians came to this country and were put in these neighbourhoods by the local authority. The best way to tackle these problems is to tackle them within the religion and culture of these communities themselves. Give them the resources.”

Mrs Cryer was supported by Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, head of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. He said poverty and a lack of education in the Asian community was the core problem, but Mrs Cryer was right to speak out because local Muslim leaders were out of touch.

“These issues have been known for a long time. Drug culture and gang warfare are seeping through the entire community in Britain,” he said. “But the local leadership in many of these Asian communities is very old and from the rural areas of Pakistan, first generation immigrants. Their minds are frozen in time, their attitude is to push things under the carpet. They always say, ‘Drugs and crime? Not in my town.’ Ann Cryer is the local MP and she knows her own community, so it is right and proper for her to comment on what she sees as a major problem.”

The MP has been criticised in the past over her comments about the Asian community – most recently when she said immigrants should learn English properly before they could enter the country.

Today she said: “I am determined to do all in my power, even if I risk the wrath of Asian leaders who will say, ‘Here she goes again. Why is she talking about the Asians again?’ There is no criticism of the police or the community generally, but the community must power itself, not to take the law into its own hands, but to co-operate with the police because now many people are intimidated and fear for their safety. But if we don’t defeat them their children will become part of the problem. We must break this cycle.”

West Yorkshire Police Chief Superintendent Phil Reid said crime by Asians had increased in Keighley but officers had stepped up their efforts to combat this.

He said: “I can understand Ann Cryer’s concerns and those of the Asian community. In relation to a number of serious offences, 30 people have been arrested on charges including murder, attempts to pervert the course of justice and drug related offences. The key to helping the community lies in the community. There is legislation to protect witnesses, and witness protection schemes. We have doubled our efforts to tackle criminality.”

He said officers had arrested 240 drug dealers since last September with 19 arrests for possession of Class A drugs in Bradford alone in the recent weeks.