Sanum Ghafoor reports on the anti-Islamophobia conference organised by the Enough Coalition, and explains why the initiative is so important.
Video playlist of speeches from the conference - use the arrows to navigate through the list
On 5th February, David Cameron made a speech from Munich explaining how multiculturalism was failing in the UK. He made his speech, coincidentally, on the same day as the English Defence League were marching through Luton, a town heavily populated with ethnic minorities, on one of their biggest anti-terrorism demonstrations (better known as an anti-Islam thug riot).
Maybe if Cameron had come to the ‘Confronting Anti-Muslim Hatred in Britain and Europe’ conference last weekend at the East London Mosque, he’d have retracted those comments.
Last Saturday, over 400 people from different walks of life came to the East London Mosque. The vast array of differing ethnicities was somewhat intriguing to me. Everyone there was united under one roof for one reason and one reason alone - to tackle hatred against Muslims.
The main attraction of the event was Kenza Drider, a French Muslim woman who was arrested twice for defying the veil ban. As a matter of principle, she has refused to pay the fines they have imposed on her.
She said she would continue to refuse even if they send her to prison. (By the way Sarkozy, the EDL called. They want their swagger back.)
Kenza, a truly inspirational woman, went to Paris to demonstrate outside Notre Dame Cathedral the day the ban was imposed. She knew that she was probably going to be arrested, but that was the point - she bravely and defiantly wore her niqab. Although facing hardships in the community she lives in on account of wearing the niqab, at the conference, Kenza was greeted by applause and admiration from the audience.
When she heard about the Freedom Ride, travelling from London to Paris, where veil-wearers and their supporters will openly defy the ban, Kenza said that she and her sisters would be there to welcome them.
Personal highlights were from Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, who compared the discrimination against the Irish to that faced by Muslims today. She said, “what happened to the Irish is happening to the Muslims, labelled terrorists - exactly the same thing happened to the Irish" and then went on to say we should “fight for complete equality and a better society for our children."
Another favourite speech was from that of Alex Kenny, secretary of National Union of Teachers who made a bold statement that “racists and fascists will not divide us" and that they would be “standing side by side with our Muslim brothers and sisters to combat this very serious threat we face."
Other speakers included Salma Yaqoob, leader of the Respect Party, Muhammad Habibur-Rahman from the London Muslim Centre, Tony Benn, veteran anti-war campaigner, and John Rees, author of Imperialism and Resistance, to name but a few.
A Sikh member of the public contributed to the closing session by saying, “If EDL try to come to Tower Hamlets again, the Sikhs and Hindu's will unite with the Muslims against them."
The phenomenal sense of unity and solidarity from people of all ages, communities, religions and backgrounds was for me a beautiful experience. The fact that these people were united against the oppression faced by one facet of the community was remarkable.
Hey David Cameron, you say multiculturalism has failed? I say, YOU have failed.
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