The population of the UK is about 63 million, and fewer than 5% of the population are Muslim. (In Scotland, 1.4%.) Muslims are slightly more likely to express pride in being British than non-Muslims; are more likely to want to live in diverse, mixed neighbourhoods: and much more likely to identify themselves with Britain. (From a recent study carried out by the University of Essex.)
Muslims are not a majority religion in the UK, and mosques are more likely to be firebombed than churches. The most powerful and dangerous country in the world, whose religious extremism has caused more deaths than any other nation’s, has Christian conservatism at the heart of power, not Islam. The right-wing domestic terrorists of the EDL and SDL march against Islam: the BNP occasionally takes up pickets outside KFCs that provide halal chicken: we see a BBC Question Time panel debate veiled Muslim nurses for 20 minutes without ever asking themselves or the audience “has it ever happened that a nurse wanted to wear hijab on a ward”? Right-wing men go on rants claiming it’s a big feminist deal how Muslim women dress. (It is.) An anti-Islamic pressure group masquerading as a “student rights” organisation is funded by a neocon thinktank. And heavyweights like the Daily Mail and the Telegraph run media campaigns trying to convince people that it’s a very big deal if a shop assistant who prefers not to deal with wine or pork, has her religious preferences met with flexibility by her employer. Right-wingers who wouldn’t support LGBT rights or feminism against any Christian institution get all worked up over the hazards of “Islamic extremism” to women and to gay people.
When you have a right-wing political movement trying to blame all the ills of the country on “immigration”, and presenting a persecuted minority as if they were a huge danger, what does this look like to you?
Because I know what it looks like to me.
This is the speech I made at the rally against the SDL this time last year, when Edinburgh Council gave them permission for a short march from Abbyhill to the East End in May 2012.
“We’re still here – Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, of all faiths and none – we’re here, lesbian, gay, bisexual, straight, and transgender – young and old, Scots of all ethnicities and cultures, against the SDL. Some Tories have been telling David Cameron that the reason he’s slipped in the polls isn’t the cuts or unemployment, it’s the reform of the House of Lords and gay marriage. We’re here because we believe in working peacefully, democratically, respecting differences, to get equality and human rights.
“One of the Equality Network supporters of this march was telling me as we walked along about how years ago he and his boyfriend had gone to a BNP march in London, dressed in lumberjack shirts and mini-skirts, to dance in front of the BNPers and taunt them.
“We know what they’re like. They cannot bear difference. They cannot bear diversity. They want their rigid and cold ideas enforced on all of us.
Filed under Politics, Racism
This is what a “Scottish Defense League” rally outside the Scottish Parliament looks like.
You know how the police usually halve the numbers of any protest: with the SDL I think they double them:
Around 60 members of the Scottish Defence League gathered outside the Scottish Parliament and held a static protest for approximately 45 minutes.
At the same time, 250 members of the Unite Against Fascism group took part in a march from High Street, down St Mary’s Street and along Holyrood Road before holding their own demonstration at the south side of Parliament.
I saw two white minibuses in the car park just outside Holyrood. If those are what the SDL came in, they could have fitted sixty in – but I doubt it.
What I said:
Whether we vote Yes or No in 2014 is less important to me than whether we can stand up as Scottish together and say to these white nationalists with their notion of “defending Scotland” against diversity, that we are Scotland, and we are our nation’s own defence against them.
Today at 1pm the “Scottish Defence League” will be holding a static rally outside the Parliament.
Now, it is truly difficult for me to see how SDL could be prevented from doing this. The space outside the Scottish Parliament was meant for people to gather and express their views peaceably: I would oppose any law curtailing peaceful protest there or that lets the police presume in advance that a protest will not be peaceable. What we can do is make their rally visibly irrelevant by showing up to peaceably protest against it.
Today, the Yes Scotland campaign is having a march. The main reason for the march seems to be so that the march planned for 21st September 2013 is not the first march for independence.
Next Saturday, there will be another march: I expect it to be quite a bit smaller, but much more important. Alex Salmond won’t turn out for it, there won’t be any fancy rally in Princes Street gardens.
Filed under Politics, Racism
At the People’s Gathering, in passing, someone said that all official documents in Scotland should be in “all three languages” – English, Scots, and Gaelic.
A sprakh is a dialekt mit en army un flot. – Max Weinreich
These days, it might be said that a language is a dialect with TV programmes and schools. I don’t know how you’d say that in Yiddish. Back when Scotland had an army and a navy, the language spoken through most of Scotland was referred to by its speakers as Inglis – it acquired the name of Scots only when Scotland had ceased to have either. (R.L.G. discusses the Scandinavian languages, which are similiar-but-politically-distinct.)
Lallans exists as a written language: spoken Scots has four main geographic “families”: Insular Scots of Orkney and Shetland; Northern Scots of Caithness, Easter Ross, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Angus; Central Scots of Central Lowlands and South west Scotland; and Southern Scots of the Scottish Borders and Dumfriesshire. (Plus, Scots-Yiddish and Scottish BSL.)
We met in the Grassmarket at noon. It was already hot. There were a lot of us. The news services without exception (that I saw) described this as
A march by the far-right Scottish Defence League (SDL) was opposed by a group called United Against Fascism (UAF).
Both marches approached St Andrew’s House by different routes.
Hundreds of officers were placed between the two groups. The SDL marchers were driven away by bus.
Tomorrow, I’m going to an anti-fascist demo. But more of that later.
This morning, in response to the news about David Cameron’s decision to award the BSkyB decision-maker role to Jeremy Hunt (and Hunt then actively misleading Parliament) Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, tweeted:
I’m in agreement with Ben Bradshaw that this is a low point, but the last Minister who repeatedly misled the House of Commons and neither resigned nor was sacked was Tony Blair: he fed the Labour MPs the “dodgy dossier” that somewhat quelled the backbencher rebellion against the Iraq war. As multiple people (myself included) promptly pointed out to him.