Many others have already written about the tragic and brutal murder of Lee Rigby last week, the aftermath that we have witnessed, and what this signifies. You can read some brilliantly on point blog posts as follows:
The above 4, between them, have probably already said a lot of what I feel. But here goes anyway.
There have been moments when I found myself shaking in reaction to events at the EDL/counter-demo this afternoon. And I’m not even in london. Reports from those attending the antifascist march are terrifying.
Not least because of the sudden swell in support for the far-right ideologies being spouted, following a week which saw a massive outpouring of hatred and violence against muslims and those ‘appearing’ to be.
Not least because there seems to be tacit support by the government, in their lack of condemnation of this; by the media, in their lack of reporting or whitewashing of events; and by the police, in their violence against anti-fascists, apparent encouragement of the Fascist demo and seeming inability of certain officers to quite see the problem with the EDL's policies.
From up here, it's easy to be relatively unaware of the level of fear that is inspired by what is going on right now. This may be especially so if you've never been the victim of racial abuse, racial profiling or any of the other forms of bigotry that range from outright violence to the way certain ideas are perpetuated as being ok to believe, and as such are becoming more and more mainstream.
It may be hard to understand why I should have spent the past few days contacting friends and family, checking they are staying safe. Why, when I first heard the news of the murder last week, whilst being horrified for the victim and his family, my heart immediately sank when I heard that it was being linked to 'Muslims' and the word 'terrorist' cropped up.
I have seen people tell others on twitter that they are 'giving the EDL what they want by showing them fear'. Um...I think the violence and abuse that has been happening is reason enough for fear. I think the fact that a journalist can use "of muslim appearance' on national tv should ring a few bells.
The following are a few examples of what life becomes like if you are muslim/non-white, some following events such as these and others with no direct link to any particular event at the time:
- hijabi'd me being followed through a shopping area by three guys calling me things like 'paki' and 'nigger' and telling me to go back where i came from;
- my (hijabi'd) aunt being asked on the bus 'are you embarrassed about the murder that happened in Woolwich last week?'
- non-Muslim, non-white friends and white muslim friends fearing leaving their homes alone for fear of physical attack
- attempts to fire-bomb our local mosque twice in the past few years
- a friend removing her hijab after 9/11 after hearing of attacks on other hijabis
- my anxiety being alone in Liverpool post 7/7, noting the hostility that seemed to appear overnight
- a bearded-muslim friend being pulled over by the police, and when he asked why, told ‘you look like a terrorist’
Despite my anxiety, my fear of the very real risk of attack posed by simply being what I am - black and muslim - I've still wanted to be down in London today. I don’t want to be down there due to safety in numbers - I feel safer up here. While this may simply be a false sense of security,
I did get a sense of hope from the action against Farage the other week (worth having a look at this Ceasefire article on that incident).
But my reasons for wanting to be down there aren't linked to short-term feelings of safety.
I want to be there to add my voice to the total rejection of fascism.
To show the fascists on the street the solidarity that exists among the communities they are attempting to divide.
To show the fascists in the government the solidarity that exists among the communities they are trying to divide
and this latter is an important one to note
In my opinion, the edl are simply the crude, clumsily overtly dangerous tip of the iceberg of racism and bigotry that exists in the UK right now. The mass of that, which somehow manages to be less apparent and appear less dangerous to many, is the spread of this far-right ideology to mainstream politics, and via the mainstream media (which could really be renamed the PPC - Politicians’ Propaganda Collective). As someone put it on Twitter:
And that's it, really - this is not just a problem of a minority of bigoted fools who want 'their' country back. Far-right is swiftly becoming the new mainstream. To the extent that significant numbers of people really do think that UKIP and the Tories have a point when it comes to their foreign policies.
The threat of the spread of fascism is a very real one, and not just happening at an openly violent, street level. There is a massive need for solidarity, and awareness - I know many many people, good, intelligent people, who just aren't aware of this as a problem. There is a very real reason for feeling the fear. And a very real need to reverse the right-wing trend that's growing.
ps - In my clumsiness and tiredness, I may have said something that isn’t accurate - if you spot any such thing, happy to have it pointed out, in a non-shouty manner.