Spectre of Renewed Racism?

// 19 July 2005

After the London Bombings on 7th July Muslim Women’s groups are concerned about the possible impact on the women they represent. The BNP capitalised on the bombings within days of them happening, using the image of the Tavistock Square bus on a flyer for a local council election in Becontree (see here and here). Nick Griffin of the BNP justified it by claiming it wasn’t about racial hatred but that New Labour had caused the bombings to happen through their foreign policy. Whatever our feelings on involvement in Iraq I doubt anyone can fail to see through Griffin and the BNPs opportunistic rhetoric. Now Muslim women’s groups are saying they are wary of other consequences of the bombings.

Network group Women Living Under Muslim Laws issued a statement, furthering their statement immediately after the bombing which condemned them, stating they are concerned about women bearing the brunt of a backlash in which Muslims are all branded as potential terrorists thus making Muslim women vulnerable to both branding “as part of extremist groups; at the same time, they will remain the target of fundamentalist forces within their own communities”. WLUML go on to say that the potential impact on women’s rights within Muslim communities, especially migrant communities in the UK was already visible. Warnings by community representatives that women wearing headscarves should avoid unnecessary journeys reinforces a paternalistic attitude which will curtail women’s rights within the community. So the souble threat of non-Muslim perception and traditionalist Muslim community attitudes will place the most vulnerable women in an even more tenuous situation. (You can read more the the WLUML statement here)

So surely the questions becomes how can we, as feminists, support other women at risk of a public backlast and a community backlash? A friend of mine told me how they had almost intervened when an American visitor began to berate a muslim they saw on the street for being a terrorist. “I almost went down and told them that the muslim was a doctor whilst he was just an idiot” reported said friend. I think we have to stop almost doing things and start doing them. It is inevitable we will see more racist incidents targetting Muslim and asian populations (particularly with an ex-Metropolitan Police Chief calling for more random stop-and-searches of the asian community) – after all as I remember we had appalling violence against German tourists following the England football defeat in 1996 including one Swiss tourist beaten to death “by mistake”. So lets start standing up to the bullies and the racists and showing we disapprove of their actions as much as we condemn the bombings.

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