As I stepped off the plane from Delhi and into London’s fetid tube what hit me first, as usual, was the crackling tension in the air. Despite a historical Black presence dating centuries now, England, and even a metropolitan London, doesn’t like Black in the Union Jack.
This was hours before the ghastly beheading of a soldier at Woolwich in South London by two self-professed Muslims and in the days that followed various reprisal attacks of a milder nature and one strong protest by EDL (English Defence League, a far-right, fascist group). A strong counter-protest by Leftist and anti-racist forces is planned for Saturday.
The responses in Britain across the board really have been somewhat appalling. Ranging from the racist and the offensive (from the EDL to David Cameron) to the mild-mannered and ineffectual (from Leftists and anti-racists), neither wants to address the two elephants in the room. The first is the fact that Britain is a racist hellhole. The second is that religious revivals of the most demented variety (are there any other?) are on the rise in Britain, all across Europe and across the world.
Alarmist calls about the EDL protest taking over are a bit over the top, really. They managed barely a thousand people in the London protest and as a party they are a bit confused. They recruit Sikhs, for example. They should make up their mind about whom they want out of Britain and whom they call Black c**ts who should go home.
The hidden story, I think, is that they are just anti-Muslim, which is a bit silly of them. Blacks of all stripes and all religions can be a nuisance and they should know that. The real problem is David Cameron and his government who are blatantly and structurally racist and this is clear in how much like an EDL tosser Cameron sounded like in his comments from France after the grisly episode, all about Us and Them and how we stand for democracy and they stand for barbarity. Colonialism and Stupidity 101. Course Instructor: David Cameron.
The Left, on the other hand, needs to stop pussyfooting around the religious revival question, the most demented variant of which is Islamic. Religions of all kind have an obnoxious fundamentalist variant and the international Islamophobia puts just too much pressure on young, disenfranchised Muslims and gets them to do this sort of crazy shit.
It is a failure of the British Left that it has not managed to turn these deluded dunderheads to more productive ends. Just like they let Jimmy Porter and his generation down in post-WWII Britain, the Left is letting down British Muslims. If Jimmy only railed at the world somewhat emptily in John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and knocked women over, these guys are chopping people up.
The killers in their deranged ramblings post-murder critiqued the Cameron government, critiqued politicians, critiqued war, critiqued the state of the British nation and then some nonsense about people in “our lands” (not to mention some pretty twisted feminism about only women handling the body). All of this madness might have been channelized better.
But the most serious question we have to ask ourselves is about our own double standards about violence. We (and this includes Indians endorsing every second stupid war against Pakistan and being silent about every Salwa Judum killing our own people) have no problem killing people in brutal internal and external genocides but we are horrified about it only if it happens outside our door. The British people are okay about sending troops to kill people all over the world, people who are killed in the most brutal manner, but don’t like it on the streets of South London.
As a student in England, I faced a lot of racism in Britain. The great thing about the British, unlike the North Americans, is that they don’t pretend to like you. Their laws also don’t ask them to behave themselves with Black people unlike in North America. But the racism I faced was also from Black people and that’s another thing we don’t want to talk about. Blacks are all about killing each other too. So Sikhs join the EDL.
If this episode teaches us anything, it is that we need to learn to see how we are complicit with murders both near and far. The murderers in Woolwich were psycho loonies alright but we are not far behind.
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Ashley Tellis a is a freelance editor, journalist and academic-at-large based in New Delhi