I have been a trade unionist all of my working life and would tell everyone reading this article, if you are working and not in a trade union, I urge you to join a union today.
Currently, our community faces a bigger threat from the far-right than we have ever seen before and I am writing to both make you aware of a huge anti-racism march planned for this weekend, on Saturday 17th March 2018m and to ask you to join me to send a strong message to racists here in Britain and across the world.
The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan revealed in the media this week that he gets Islamophobic abuse and death threats EVERY DAY. The motive for these unforgiveable acts seemingly is his religion. One such tweet he read out in a recorded clip was: “@Emmanuel_Maris tweeted: “Muslims have no dignity. I wish Sadiq Khan would blow himself up like they all do. He might get his 12 virgins.” This was also reported in the Independent.
Just this week the leaders of the repugnant Britain First group, Jayda Fransen and Paul Golding, were jailed after being found guilty of religiously aggravated harassment. Following their guilty verdicts and sentencing, Facebook finally decided to close the hate-filled Britain First page, which had two million followers (yes 2 million!!).
I seek not to over sensationalise this issue. I don’t need to. The Muslim community is under threat like it has never been before here in the UK. Many of you will have seen the ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters, sent out to many British Muslims, urging people ‘to attack Muslims on the 3rd April’. It is quite frankly sickening.
Many Turkish people probably feel they have nothing to fear as they have assimilated so well into British society. You may well be reading this and thinking “not my problem really is it.” I would draw people’s attention to a poem written by Pastor Martin Niemoller, who was put in a concentration camp in 1937 by the Nazis:
First they came for the Communists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
As someone who campaigns against racism and fascism I can tell you that Muslims are being attacked and even murdered by racists. A very good friend of mine, Maz Saleem, lost her 82 year old father, Mohammed Saleem, who was murdered in Birmingham almost five years ago, as he made his way home from evening prayers. 81-year-old Muhsin Ahmed was brutally murdered by racists in Rotherham in 2015. Father of six Makram Ali was killed outside the Finsbury Park mosque last summer by a man radicalised by the far-right. Mosques are being attacked on a weekly basis.
In October 2015, a Turkish grandfather suffered a torrent of abuse while travelling on a bus in Tottenham, north London. The abuse, captured on video, shows a man hurling xenophobic and Islamophobic insults at the elderly man, including “go back to Turkey” and “I’ll shove a pig’s c*** in your mouth, what’s f****** Allah going to say about that? Put you on a page with Big Dave.” The abuser then grabbed the pensioner’s walking frame and chucked it off the bus.
The situation is quite frankly beyond alarming. The authorities are falling spectacularly short of making it clear that any hate crimes will not be tolerated. The situation has worsened since the Brexit vote, as far-right supporters seem to think the country’s decision to exit the EU gives them an excuse to tell foreigners, and specifically Muslims, to “F*ck off back to your country.”
So, I plead with you to join me this Saturday, 17 March, so our community can be seen to be standing tall and as one against Racism and Islamaphobia. This will be the 6th annual UN Anti-Racism march and we are hoping to build on the 50,000+ that marched last year. The march will begin at midday at the home of the BBC, Portland Place. I will be holding CWU and GMB flags so it should be easy to spot me! UN Anti-Racism Day is a global day of protest, as we will be joined by many cities across the world, protesting simultaneously, in various states in America and across the EU.
Racism has no place in our society. Come and stand with the anti-racists on the 17th March. You will be glad you came.
The assembly point for the Stand up to Racism march is by the BBC, Portland Place, London W1A 1AA. We will march south towards Whitehall from 1pm. You can read more about the march here.
Main photo above © Ertanch Hidayetin of Stand Up To Racism London demonstration, 21 March 2015