Monday, November 20, 2006

Against Islamophobia

Ken Livingstone, Jon Cruddas and Shami Chakrabarti will all be speaking, along with representatives from the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party, at a joint event sponsored by the British Muslim Initiative and Liberty, tonight. The event, at the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, is the first step in a major coalition - which has the support of trade unions, faith groups and many in the peace movement - dedicated to fighting Islamophobia and intolerance of religious freedom.

A couple of quotes from the speakers follow.

Shami Chakrabarti: "Freedom of conscience and religion, like freedom of speech, is essential to any democratic society. We must keep our heads and unite around democratic values, applying them to others, as we want them applied to ourselves. We must all be able to think, wear and say what we like, subject only to personal ethics and restrictions truly necessary for the protection of others. This may not always make us comfortable but it will keep us free."

Ken Livingstone: "Over recent weeks we have seen a demonisation of Muslims only comparable to the demonisation of Jews from the end of the nineteenth century. As at that time, the attack on Muslims in reality threatens freedoms for all of us, which took hundreds of years to win - freedom of conscience and freedom of cultural expression. Every person who values their right to follow the religion of their choice or none should stand with the Muslim communities today."

Encouragingly, today's Guardian reports the finding of a reassuring MORI poll into the attitudes of Londoners towards ethnic minorities and the right to religious expression:

Polling conducted to coincide with the launch shows that 75% of Londoners support "the right of all persons to dress in accordance with their religious beliefs", with 18% against.

Plus, 82% said "everybody in London should be free to live their lives how they like as long as they don't stop other people doing the same"; 76% balked at the idea of the government dictating how people should live their lives; and 94% expressed similar sentiments about media.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents said it was important that "there are regular events and festivals to celebrate London's different ethnic and religious communities".
The rally will take place between 6 and 9.30pm at the Central Hall, Westminster. Here's hoping it goes off peacefully and isn't crashed by divisive factions.


Bloggers4Labour said...

With Ken on board (chucking Jew references around with his usual abandon), plus 'Respect', far-left groups, and self-styled community leaders, I think I know how this is going to go. Too many fringe politicians (I include the Tories and Lib Dems in that) have something to gain, and too many religious people have special favours and concessions to win for me to trust this event. It'll be Blair-this, BNP-that, and the business of actually opposing racism and intolerance as individuals will be pushed aside.

I did actually write the above before Harry's Place's coverage, which is a bit different anyway. Anyway, I'm sure there is a small core of sensible opinion out there, and maybe this is part of it?

jonathan said...

Not sure how related the New Generation Network stuff is to the BMI/Liberty thing - perhaps not at all, although both speak of establishing coalitions of progressives, so both interest me and seem to compliment each other.

The event last night was clearly skewed towards the Livingstone/Corbyn/Benn angle (although, incidentally, I have a lot of respect and affection for the first name on that list) but I don't think that's necessarily reason enough to withhold support - any coalition needs to be broad to have an affect and there are other people on that list (from Jon Cruddas and Chakrabati to a Harry's Place bogeyman like Tariq Ramadan) who I admire.

By the time I left work last night I hadn't read the NGN thing in full so didn't want to comment 'til I had, but read it last night and added my name. To be honest, I'm not sure that there's anything that Zia Sardar could write that I wouldn't happily sign up to.