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     Volume 8 Issue 89 | October 9, 2009 |

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Straight Talk

Legitimising Racism

Nadia Kabir Barb

When I walk out of my front door, I do not think about the colour of my skin nor do I dwell on my religious affiliation. At most, I might worry about whether or not I should take an umbrella with me in case the heavens open up or whether the bus will arrive on time. But if I were to take a look at the mission statement of the British National Party (BNP), 'a far-right, whites-only political party in the United Kingdom', I would be less comfortable with my lack of concern and far less complacent at being a Bangladeshi Muslim living in London. In fact if they could the BNP would send me and my children and very likely my husband packing along with millions of others to our countries of origin. Dhaka is where I was born, where my roots are and always will be but I spent much of my childhood in the UK, studied here, got married here and my children were born here. So having lived in England for most of my life, I think of it as my home. The BNP would not agree with me.

According to the BNP, as stated on their website, “the British National Party exists to secure a future for the indigenous peoples of these islands in the North Atlantic which have been our homeland for millennia. We use the term indigenous to describe the people whose ancestors were the earliest settlers here after the last great Ice Age and which have been complemented by the historic migrations from mainland Europe. The migrations of the Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Norse and closely related kindred peoples have been, over the past few thousand years, instrumental in defining the character of our family of nations.” It makes me wonder whether people would have to produce a family tree or submit a document stating their genealogy to prove they were worthy of being a resident in the UK. For centuries people have been migrating from village to village, city to city and country to country. We only have to look across the Atlantic Ocean to see a prime example. If we were to take each country across the world one by one and identify the “indigenous” population, I fear we would have our work cut out for us. Not only would the BNP send all the foreigners back to their respective countries, they would restrict foreign imports, withdraw from the European Community, withhold financial assistance to developing countries...in other words creating a whites only country.

If you were to suggest that the BNP were racist, they would deny it claiming that there was nothing wrong in wanting to look after the interests and rights of the “the indigenous British folk and country”. They have responded to such claims by pointing out that there are countless other organisations such as the Metropolitan Black Police Association, Asians In Media (AIM), Jewish.Co.UK, etc. that could be accused of being racist in nature. However, what they do not seem to grasp is that these organisations may aim to help a certain section of society but not to the detriment of any other group or community.

Source: www.theage.com.au

What is worrying is that the British National Party secured two seats in the European Parliament in the elections held in June 2009. The thought of giving legitimacy to a political party that advocates discrimination and prejudice does not sit comfortably with me. It was quite a controversial decision for the BBC to take when they stated their intention of featuring representatives of the BNP on 'Question Time' after the BNP won the seats in the European Parliament, alongside the Labour Party, The Conservative Party and The Liberal Democratic Party. “Question Time” is a show that allows the British public to be in the audience and join in a debate with a panel consisting of politicians, industrialist or at times well known people from the media or entertainment sector. I think I was not the only one disappointed with the BBC's announcement to include the BNP on the panel. Cabinet Minister Peter Hain made it clear that he thought this was a disgrace and refused to share a platform with the far right party. “I don't buy this stuff that under electoral law the BNP's two European seats allows them to be treated in the same way as the mainstream parties...It's an absolute scandal the BBC are treating an avowedly racist and fascist [party] on equal terms, in a way that will legitimise their standing in the public's eyes.” The only good think to come out of such a public debate is to show the BNP for what it is --- a regressive and racist party with ill conceived policies and short term goals.

In the past we have been under the misconception that the British National Party or the National Front (another far right party) consisted of skinheads and yobs. However, a list of names of the members of the BNP leaked on the Internet last year, which shocked us and took us out of our comfort zone. The twelve thousand long list of names list included the occupations of an NHS doctor, teacher, journalist, vicar, company director, scientist, and engineer. Others are listed as public speakers. The list also included several former police officers and an army officer. I am not sure how many people would feel comfortable with their child being taught by someone who held racist or fascist views or being under the care of a doctor who had prejudices against non white patients.

Bigotry of any kind is abhorrent to most people but the fact that the far right British National Party exists shows us that we have long journey ahead of us before the colour of our skin or our religious background ceases to be an issue in today's Britain.

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