Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pursuing equality

The race agenda progresses slowly under Tory patronage. Labour when coming into power in 1997 sought immediately to advance the race agenda through highlighting the Stephen Lawrence case and the consequent MacPherson report which focused on institutional racism within the police. There was published almost immediately thereafter a Parekh report which was put together by a strong panel of academics, policywonks and media commentators. It was rubbished on publication by the likes of the Daily Mail because it contained one or two points that perhaps pushed the envelope. Both of these reports however were in pursuit of advancing the race agenda. Then came the Ouseley report. This was commissioned by Bradford Council after some financial irregularities were highlighted in the local Racial Equality Council – though there is much more to this story. Ouseley was brought in as a former Commission for Racial Equality head and he put together at the head of a comparatively weaker committee a report which was ready by April 2001, but which was then published immediately after the riots. Its conclusion as popularly remembered is that the fault lies with certain overly religious communities that do not wish to integrate.

The report had some impact at the time and Cantle proceeded on behalf of the government to develop an analysis that focused around ‘community cohesion’ (see the Cantle report). The race agenda was turned on its head, the problem was not institutional racism but certain obstinate communities. A unit on ‘community cohesion’ was set up in the Home Office only to be disbanded a short while later. A new ‘faith and cohesion’ unit has now been set up which combines the ‘community cohesion’ (religion as bad) and ‘faith communities’ (religion as good) units. Only recently, the Home Office has reverted to its previous institutional racism perspective as it seeks to document and monitor the various developments across the public services.

This shift in policy was made against a comparison with France. The opponents of multiculturalism would point across the channel to a model which they suggested was more succesful in integrating its minorities. This was through a fom of secularism that solely recognised the atomised, indivisible citizen. The inadequacies of a system which claims to ignore race and religion because it can only recognise the merits of the individual have now been exposed. Now, neither multiculturalism nor hard-line secularism seem to work.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Marsha voted for 90 days

One of the questions that I get repeatedly asked is: 'Why do you think these young men chose radicalisation?'

The reason why young men turn away from the political process is because people like Marsha Singh who are supposed to represent a sizeable Muslim community vote for the 90 days detention period. A political concern remains unrepresented because our MP doesn't have the gravitas to say 'Mais non' to the whip. It is the politics of the 'Yes men'. If the political system does not represent the political consiousness of its constituencies, then that consiousness will simply go elsewhere.

Also, one notes that more than ten ex-ministers voted against the 90 days period whereas many of the future candidates for senior ministerial positions voted for the 90 days such as David Lammy, Yvette Cooper, David Milliband, Ed Milliband, Jim Murphy, Ed Balls etc. How can we be expected to take the democratic process seriously in light of the strength of the party machinery? On a matter as important as the 90 days limit, it makes a mockery of our system which celebrates the freedom of conscience.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Marsha on 'internment-lite'

Our MP, Marsha Singh, is about to vote tomorrow on the government suggestion that they require up to 90 days to hold terrorist suspects. Hopefuly, he will not abstain. His supporters suggest that he accepts and champions Muslim concerns in parliament.

Since this 'war on terror' began, only a small fraction of those arrested have been charged. Nearly everyone I speak to has either been directly affected or knows someone who has been directly affected: stop and search, being held for questioning at airports etc. This suggested increase in detention time means that if 650 innocent people are detained over the next four years, then there is the possibility that they could be detained for three months each. Since certain crimes carry punishments of two months in jail, it could soon be possible that an innocent Muslim could be held in detention for longer than a guilty criminal. The fig leaf that we have been offered is that a judge will monitor the process on a weekly basis. This is 'internment-lite'.