Tory prejudice won’t deter our proud multiculturalism

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This war on multiculturalism is an affront to our country

Sarah Owen is the Labour MP for Luton North

What does Lee Anderson mean when he says “I want my country back?” Who does he want it back from – and why is it only his version of our country that matters?

Because as far as I can see, there has been no take over. Most people in control of our country still look like Lee Anderson. They are his demographic and age, if perhaps not class. So who else could he possibly mean?

This comes with the backdrop of his demonstrably Islamophobic comments about Sadiq Khan (which he still refuses to apologise for) and his most recent former Party receiving political donations from a man who says that Diane Abbott makes you want to ‘hate all Black women’ and wishes she was shot. Only some Conservatives have admitted it was racist, but stopped short of apologising for racism and no Ministers have indicated that the money should be handed back. It is a shameful lack of leadership that Sunak is having to be dragged to admit what is clear for everyone else to see. 

The idea that any of this can be forgotten about, as the Prime Minister wants, is for the birds – not because it has dominated the media cycle for the last two weeks, but because this racism is the cold reality of too many people’s everyday lives in Tory Britain. Recorded incidents of both Islamophobia and Antisemitism have risen following the geo-political crises in the Middle East, and a 2022 study found that nearly two thirds of Black workers in the UK have encountered racism in their workplace.

This war on multiculturalism is an affront to our country. I am from a multicultural, mixed heritage family – my father is white British and my mother is from Malaysia. I have considered it to be a blessing in many ways but the political discourse lately ignores the fact that our country is so much richer for its diversity – not just in culture, but also economically. Luton came third in JustGiving’s 2023 list of the highest donating areas. Our community is as generous as it is welcoming, and it comes as no surprise to me that the bulk of our donations are given during Ramadan.

The town I live in, love and represent is Luton North. It is a town that knows the importance of community cohesion and that it doesn’t just come without trying, especially when those in power or particular media outlets seek division and distraction from government failure.

Continue ReadingTory prejudice won’t deter our proud multiculturalism

I will do everything in my power to help Gaza – and I am not alone

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SOLIDARITY: Charlotte Church (right) takes part in a pro-Palestine march in central London during a national demonstration for ceasefire in Gaza

My name was traduced and my safety threatened after irresponsible reporting by the Establishment media when I sang for charity to help Palestinians with socialist choir, Cor Cochion, writes CHARLOTTE CHURCH

I WISH I didn’t have to write this — I am an artist, not a politician, and would rather speak through creative action than explanatory text — but I find that for several reasons, I must respond to accusations and smears made against me these last couple of weeks.

At the weekend I participated in the 10th national march for Palestine in London, in solidarity with our siblings in Palestine, as well as those at home, and for doing so I was called all manner of ungodly things online, often violent, misogynistic and racist. Some of those people had phrases like “whites will not be replaced” on their profiles, and images of iron eagles as banners. And I’m the extremist?!

Since footage was shared online of a Sing For Palestine event I took part in to raise money for a new ambulance for the al-Awda hospital through the Middle East Childrens’ Alliance, I’ve been continuously dragged in the press and on social media as an anti-semite (which I am not) and need to respond to those accusations fully.

My attempts to protest the atrocities in Gaza and the West Bank, and the West’s complicity in them, have been ridiculed by powerful men in the media in conversations that I have not been asked to contribute to, including a discussion as to whether or not I should be arrested for my activism, and so I must respond.

My safety and the safety of my family has been threatened by some pretty scary people, emboldened by the rhetoric of front-line politicians, as well as cravenly irresponsible coverage by liberal legacy media outlets, including BBC News, and so I must respond. But perhaps most urgently I have to take the opportunity to speak out because since the start of the genocide very little of the campaign that calls for an end to Israeli aggression in Palestine has been covered by the press, except when it is being denounced as “hateful” or “Islamist” by some of the most notorious racists in the Western world.

‘From The River To The Sea…’

I am not, and have never been, and will never be an anti-semite. I hold the Jewish people in my life very dearly, and have always kept great reverence for Judaism and Jewish culture, since travelling around Israel and Palestine as a teenager. It makes my stomach turn to know that due to the double-speak and whataboutery of bad faith actors in the media, some Jews today think that I am anti-semitic. I hope that my words here can reassure them that I am not, and make it clear that I have deep compassion for what Jewish people all over the world are experiencing right now, due to the rise of genuine anti-semitism.

I do not believe that the phrase “From the river to the sea…” is in any way a call for the ethnic cleansing or genocide of Israelis, and certainly when I have used it or heard it used by other people, it has always been as a call for the liberation of Palestine (ie the most face-value interpretation). Often it is accompanied by the phrase “…we are all Palestinians.”

A call for one group’s liberation does not imply another’s destruction, and those suggesting that it does when it is in fact that first group who are currently being murdered in their thousands, are leveraging a grotesque irony. I will not have my rhetoric around resistance and solidarity redefined by those who most violently oppose my democratic engagement.

Palestinians living all over historic Palestine are living under an apartheid system. Those who live in Israel (one fifth of the population) are treated as second-class citizens and the Palestinians living in Palestine are under military occupation. “From the river to the sea” is a call for Palestinians to live with equal rights and to end the illegal apartheid system they have been living under. It is widely accepted all over there world that no group of people should have supremacy over another, so why is it called “genocidal” when this is demanded by and on the behalf of Palestinians?

What I hope will be inferred from the phrase is a demand for a conversation about the future of Israel and Palestine — one that includes Palestinian voices, and acknowledges and attempts to rectify the many crimes that have been inflicted upon Palestinians over the last 75 years. This is the only path to peace and has to begin with an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

At this point it becomes necessary for me to state that I do not support Hamas and condemn them for the attack on October 7. While it is difficult to know the full truth of what happened that day, and hopefully with the fullness of time we will have a better perspective on this, there were undoubtedly war crimes committed, appalling acts, including the massacre of innocent civilians and hostage-taking. My heart goes out to the victims of that attack, the hostages, and their families.

None of that justifies the horrors that have been inflicted upon the Palestinian people since that day.

‘She’s just a naive idiot’

Nigel Farage has spoken at length over many years about “Cultural Marxism,” “Soros-funded organisations,” “unelected globalists” and innumerable other anti-semitic dog-whistles. Often this has been in conversation with people like Alex Jones of InfoWars or Rick Wiles of TruNews — known and self-avowed anti-semites. He is also notorious for sowing division, particularly along racial lines. But apparently none of that disqualifies him from being interviewed by the BBC’s Nick Robinson about what should and shouldn’t be done about “extremists” in Britain today. When Robinson asked Farage whether I should be arrested (!) for singing “From the river to the sea…” Farage called me a “naive idiot” and said that I should be “given a severe warning” and “made to see the error of [my] ways.”

David Baddiel is a man whose checkered history with racism needs no commentary from me, but who has notably repositioned himself as an expert on racism in recent years. On his new podcast with Tory peer Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Baddiel laughed theatrically at my activism, before deigning to correct me for not understanding the meaning of my own words. (It’s worth noting that Warsi went on to say that for “a whole load of people” the phrase “from the river to the sea…” means “equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis in the lands from the river to the sea.”)

Perhaps the superiority of being a self-proclaimed “public intellectual” has gone to his head, but Baddiel, as with Farage, is an all-too-common example of a professional opinion-monger who resorts to tactics made to silence voices that dissent from his own. I am not the right sort of person to be discussing this in the eyes of Baddiel, Farage, Robinson, or any of the others, and the condescending manner in which my charitable work is being spoken of reeks of misogyny. I am incredibly familiar with the “shush, silly girl” strategy. It is used to discredit me and my message of solidarity without engaging me in debate. I truly am sick to the back teeth of men like these.

‘Charlotte Church denies anti-semitism’

This was the headline on the BBC News website. The Guardian ran the same one. There were many, many more news outlets that ran even more alarming headlines and stories, but I’ll focus on the BBC and Guardian stories. Making the story about my denial of anti-semitism is pure clickbait designed to accentuate the perceived scandal and obscure the reality of the situation — I sang a protest song in Bedwas Workmen’s Hall, and yet it sounds like I committed a hate crime.

An article from the BBC News last Sunday (March 3), entitled “Nuance is being lost” seemingly without irony, said: “Charlotte Church sang the controversial pro-Palestinian chant ‘From the river to the sea’ at a concert. (She denied she was anti-semitic).”

No more context was given — not the fact that this was a charity event, specifically to raise money for an ambulance in Gaza — not even the fact that it was an event in solidarity with Palestine, calling for a ceasefire. Not that it was an interfaith, intergenerational choir singing freedom songs from all over the world, No mention of the actual history of the usage of the phrase. Just incredibly irresponsible “journalism.”

At a time when democratic norms in the House of Commons are being overturned, supposedly due to fears for MPs safety, I have to ask the BBC and The Guardian, among others: what about my safety?

I have been called many things in my time, but not until this week have I received so much imaginative and violent hate. I’ve never before been called “traitor.” The threats to my safety have resulted in the police coming round to check in on us. And the BBC continues to publish articles, with extremely inflammatory language that does not accurately represent the reality of the situation. I’m pretty sure it has broken its own guidelines about being “accurate and fair.”

And then Nick Robinson’s question to Nigel Farage: “Do you think Charlotte Church should be arrested?” I mean, are you real? To think that this was not only broadcast across multiple BBC platforms in a pre-recorded interview, but also that someone made an editorial decision to clip that bit up and toss it into the maelstrom of social media to promote the show, at a time of such febrile debate… how is that contributing to social cohesion, let alone considering my safety?!

Almost as irresponsible is MP Andrew Percy who said that I should “hang my head in shame,” before doing the news round talking of MPs safety and how pro-Palestine activists are “dictating the terms of the debate.” Considering this was in the same news cycle that three prominent Conservatives (Lee Anderson, Suella Braverman and Liz Truss) were all banging the drum for Islamophobia, the PM following with his deranged speech about extremism on Friday evening, I have personally never felt less safe. I feel caught up in a political parlour game played by lunatics, with incredibly high stakes, that I do not consent to being a part of.

Singing for freedom

In the late 1980s, the Estonian people brought about a liberating revolution from the failing USSR, not with weapons, but with voices. The civil rights struggle in America has a glorious history of singing woven through it. Music was a major part of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in South Africa, not least with the Specials hit, Free Nelson Mandela. Jamaica, Estonia, Iceland, Zimbabwe, the feminist movement, the LGBTQ movement, I could go on and on. There has never been a liberation movement that hasn’t had music and song at its heart. Heart being the most powerful word here, because singing together brings us into a place of feeling, of emotions, and unity and love. Disconnection and separation cannot survive in this environment. In my opinion it is the most powerful tool of togetherness that we have.

This is why I was so delighted to work with Cor Cochion, the socialist choir first formed in Cardiff during the miners’ strikes in the 1980s, who have used singing to tirelessly protest against apartheid, the BNP, the invasion of Iraq, and many other injustices. Their director, Wendy Lewis (incidentally one of many Jewish people who is opposed to the Israeli occupation), is a wonderful genius of community action. Her rewrite of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in Cymraeg about Palestinian liberation is just about the most beautiful thing I’ve heard in years.

My heart breaks every day witnessing the atrocities that are being enacted — the hell on Earth that is being wreaked by Israel and its allies — but more than anything, what breaks my heart as open as the sky is the love I’m witnessing between the Palestinian people. Those orphaned children who hold each other close after having to endure painful surgeries, have limbs amputated or maybe their faces or chests stitched back together after being purposefully targeted by an IDF sniper. Those desperate, bereaved grandparents who’ve just seen the last of their grandchildren killed; those beautiful teenage boys, that remind me so much of my own son, full body hugging the shrouds of their beloved mothers. And the pain and love and tenderness of the mothers and fathers … I will do everything in my power to help. I despair for anyone who would tell me I am wrong for doing so.

I am not alone. What is being allowed to happen in Palestine by Western governments is waking people up to the violent reality of what the West is built upon: inequality, exploitation, colonisation. A line has been crossed and the majority of the people of the world are rising up against this most grotesque show of power and domination. We will never forget what has been allowed to happen.

I think we need to bring to the forefront of this conversation weapons. As one human race, we must understand that if we had to murder thousands of children with our bare hands we would massively lose the taste for war. Our fetishisation of increasingly efficient impersonal killing machines makes slaughter very easy.

My dream is that we can with love, care, grief, deep mutual understanding, dismantle every weapon on Earth.

And if my voice can bring us any closer to that, then no matter what you call me, I will keep singing.

This Mother’s Day I call to all mothers, all grandmothers, in fact all those who have mothers, to hold in our hearts all those who had mothers in Gaza and now do not, all those mothers whose children have been murdered, and the families whose every member has been brutalised and wiped out. Let us listen to our bones, our great-great-grandmothers’ instincts that live within us, and reject the fallacy of Western patriarchal moral authority. Feel and trust your feelings. Let us consciously bring about the coming of the deep maternal healing that must come.

This article first appeared at–-and-i-am-not-alone

This is the Brigyn version of Haleliwlia. I don’t know if it’s the translation by Wendy Lewis mentioned in the article above.
Continue ReadingI will do everything in my power to help Gaza – and I am not alone

Quick, blame the deep state! The tactics at play when Tories spout conspiracy theories

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Image of Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng
Image of Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng


Adam Koper, Cardiff University

Conservative MPs seem increasingly willing to use the rhetoric of conspiracy. Recently, Liz Truss claimed that her brief tenure as prime minister had been ended by the deep state – shadowy forces within the British establishment and the media.

A few days later, Lee Anderson, the Conservative party’s former deputy chairman, asserted that London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, is being controlled by Islamists. He was adding his own twist on a similar conspiracy theory put forward by former home secretary Suella Braverman, who claimed in a Telegraph article that Islamists are in charge of the whole country.

Why do politicians make conspiracy claims like these? It seems strange for MPs whose party has been in government for almost 14 years to imply that they aren’t really in control and that power is wielded by hidden actors.

Maybe Truss and Anderson mean what they say, and say what they mean. But even if they do believe that Britain is governed by a deep state or Islamist plotters, knowing a bit about rhetoric can help us to see that there is more going on when politicians use the language of conspiracy.

Context matters

A good politician will adapt what they say to fit the moment and their audience. For example, Truss’s deep state comments were made at CPAC, a conference for American conservatives. She was speaking in part to promote her new book, Ten Years to Save the West, and so had little reason to do anything other than give her audience what it likes. Conspiracy theories have become prominent in American conservatism (think QAnon and the claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen), so echoing the rhetoric is an obvious way for a CPAC speaker to ingratiate themselves with an audience.

Anderson, though, was speaking in the UK, where conspiracist language is more unusual. His comments were seen by many as deliberately divisive and Islamophobic, and quickly landed him a suspension from his party. That said, government ministers were evasive when asked why his comments were wrong and whether they were Islamophobic.

Part of the brand

Courting controversy carries risks, as Anderson’s suspension shows. But it can also thrust a politician into the limelight, giving them a chance to speak to a broader audience and potentially gain new supporters. Much of the time, politicians make their own character – or ethos, as it is known in classical rhetoric – part of their pitch.

In her comments alleging a deep state conspiracy, Truss took on a populist tone. She portrayed herself as an anti-establishment figure fighting for the British people against the elites. She didn’t mention her party’s long period in government in charge of the civil service that allegedly made her tenure so impossible. Nor did she refer to the economic problems brought about during her fleeting administration.

Speaking to an audience which is likely to be less familiar with her political career, Truss was able to present herself as the protagonist in a David and Goliath narrative – albeit one in which David is defeated.

Similarly, Anderson used the controversy around his comments to present himself as a man of the people. Rather than giving any evidence to back up his claims about Islamists controlling Khan, Anderson instead justified his views by citing the positive reaction he had received from his constituents. When told in an interview with Channel 4 News that people were puzzled by his refusal to back down, Anderson replied: “If you go and speak to people in Ashfield [Anderson’s constituency] and ask them if they’re puzzled about it, no they’re not.”

In the aftermath of the controversy, Anderson told GB News: “When I went into pubs in Ashfield at the weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I got a round of applause when I went in. And these are normal working-class people.”

Such comments can be seen as part of a broader trend. Politicians have learned to cite the opinions of ordinary people in order to justify spurious claims. Rather than explaining anything about how he came to view Islamists being in charge of London, Anderson’s response to questions has been to use them as an opportunity to present himself as an outsider to the political establishment – a man in tune with what voters really think.

Pitting ‘us’ against ‘them’

This focus on presenting a certain persona and using it to justify baseless comments tells us something important – that identity is a key ingredient in conspiracist rhetoric.

It enables a politician to construct a conflict between an in-group and an out-group – a struggle between “us” and “them” – and asks the audience to pick a side. Rather than focusing on policies or ways of improving life for the British population, this rhetoric wants the audience to identify with the speaker’s character and join them in opposing a threatening enemy.

In this way, conspiracist rhetoric is much like the Conservatives’ attacks on “woke ideology” – it deflects attention away from their record in government, and rallies their supporters against an enemy at a time when the party is down on its luck.

Counteracting this is no easy task. Rhetoric is an art, not an exact science. One strategy could be to focus more on what politicians are trying to achieve when they use conspiracist rhetoric. While it is important to determine whether or not they really believe in a deep state or Islamist conspiracy, we also need to challenge the personas that politicians craft for themselves, as well the us-against-them divisions they construct.The Conversation

Adam Koper, WISERD Civil Society Post-Doctoral Fellow, Cardiff University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingQuick, blame the deep state! The tactics at play when Tories spout conspiracy theories

Lee Anderson’s Islamophobia 101: how the Conservatives dodge responsibility for the prejudice that is rife in their ranks

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Chris Allen, University of Leicester

Despite the furore, the recent attack on London mayor Sadiq Khan by the now-suspended Conservative MP Lee Anderson should come as no surprise. In much the same way, neither should we be surprised at prime minister Rishi Sunak’s failure to call out what Anderson said as being anything other than blatant Islamophobia. When it comes to the Conservative party, we have been here before. For them, this is Islamophobia 101.

The recent controversy began when Anderson – who was until very recently the party’s deputy chairman – told GB News that Sadiq Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”. As he went on, “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan, and they’ve got control of London”.

Since then, Anderson has doubled down, adding: “when you think you are right, you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness”.

Anderson has lost the whip, but beyond that the message coming out of the Conservative party has been tempered. Sunak has failed to even acknowledge Anderson’s comments as Islamophobic, let alone condemn them as such, saying instead: “I think the most important thing is that the words were wrong, they were ill-judged, they were unacceptable.”

The Conservatives’ problem with Islamophobia

In recent years, the Conservative party has struggled to disentangle itself from various allegations that it is Islamophobic. In 2018, the Muslim Council of Britain presented the party with a dossier detailing near-weekly incidents involving various party members.

For those such as the former party chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the dossier was merely the tip of the iceberg. Noting how experiences of hate and discrimination are notoriously under-reported she claimed at the time that Islamophobia is “widespread [in the party]…from the grassroots, all the way up to the top”.

In the same year, former prime minister Boris Johnson referred to Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veil as “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” in an article for the Telegraph. He dismissed the comments as little more than a gaffe but the allegations prompted the then home secretary Sajid Javid to ask his rivals during a BBC Conservative leadership debate to commit to an external investigation into Islamophobia, whoever the next leader might be. All, including Johnson, agreed.

Once Johnson had secured the party leadership however, the investigation was shifted away from Islamophobia onto discrimination more widely. Doing so enabled the party to distance itself from the very reason why such an investigation was deemed necessary in the first place: claims of widespread Islamophobia.

Quibbling over definitions

Another way the Conservatives – and indeed others – have chosen to deny allegations of being Islamophobic is to claim that they do not have a definition for Islamophobia and therefore cannot assess whether comments such as Anderson’s are Islamophobic. Such a premise is of course a farcical, straw man argument.

Like all other discriminatory phenomena – from racism to homophobia – plenty of definitions have been put forward that could be adopted by the Conservatives. They could simply look to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims, which in 2018 made history by putting forward the first working definition of Islamophobia in the UK. In its report Islamophobia Defined, it posited that “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.

Despite this definition being adopted by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and various local governments across the country, the Conservative party announced it was not intending to adopt the definition on the basis that further consideration was necessary.

Continuing to deny the existence of an appropriate definition is, at this point, a convenient way to avoid being accused of being Islamophobic. As I put it in my 2020 book Reconfiguring Islamophobia, all the debate around definitions achieves is to afford detractors permission to do nothing about the problem itself.

Attacks on Sadiq Khan

Opposition parties were immediately critical of Anderson’s comments. But while the Labour party Chair Anneliese Dodds described them as “unambiguously racist and Islamophobic” and the Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate Rob Blackie castigated the MP for “spreading dangerous conspiracy theories”, it is interesting that no one has highlighted how attacking Khan specifically is becoming an alarmingly common political tactic.

This was nowhere more evident than during Zac Goldsmith’s 2016 London mayoral campaign. Branded “disgusting” at the time, Goldsmith published a piece in the Mail on Sunday with the headline: “Are we really going to hand the world’s greatest city to a Labour Party that thinks terrorists are its friends?”. Goldsmith went on to paint rival Khan as a security risk, claiming he had past links with extremists and that he supported Islamic State. Sound familiar?

So too does the Conservative party have a history of laying claim to Islamist extremists infiltrating other parts of British society. Michael Gove, during his time as education secretary, launched an investigation into claims “Muslim hardliners” were taking over state schools in Birmingham, despite the letter that made the allegations being immediately dismissed as a hoax by the police. In 2015, Theresa May, while home secretary, took it even further, launching a campaign against “entryist” infiltration across vast swathes of the public and third sectors by Islamist extremists.

While there should be no hierarchy when it comes to hate or discrimination, the reality is that when it comes to Islamophobia, the scrutiny directed at other forms of prejudice is undeniably absent. What can be said and alleged about Muslims in political (and public) spaces cannot be said about other religious groups and communities.

It should be shocking that the prime minister cannot even acknowledge Anderson’s comments as Islamophobic – but it isn’t. It’s just another example of the sheer disregard and utter contempt that is shown by political leaders towards this problem.

Far-right parties and politicians are mounting election campaigns all over the world in 2024. Join us in London at 6pm on March 6 for a salon style discussion with experts on how seriously we should take the threat, what these parties mean for our democracies – and what action we can take. Register for your place at this free public session here. There will be food, drinks and, best of all, the opportunity to connect with interesting people.The Conversation

Chris Allen, Associate Professor, School of Criminology, University of Leicester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingLee Anderson’s Islamophobia 101: how the Conservatives dodge responsibility for the prejudice that is rife in their ranks

Green Party on Lee Anderson’s Islamaphobic remarks

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Green Party Co-leader Adrian Ramsay October 2023.
Green Party Co-leader Adrian Ramsay October 2023.

As Lee Anderson doubles down on his controversial comments made over the weekend, when he claimed “Islamists” had got “control” over London and that the mayor, Sadiq Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”, Green Party co-leader Adrian Ramsay, said:  

“Sunak needs to recall his pledge to act with integrity and challenge the divisive and dangerous rhetoric being used by some of his MPs.”

“We need our leaders to work for unity rather than creating division. For some time, senior Conservative Muslims have been raising concerns about the extent of Islamophobia in their party and criticizing the failure of the leadership to tackle it. Sunak needs to make clear that there is no place for such views in his party, and to instigate an immediate review of Islamophobia.” 

Continue ReadingGreen Party on Lee Anderson’s Islamaphobic remarks