Creating new perspectives since 2009

UK: 84 BAME communities unite against attempts to suppress free speech

August 17, 2018 at 9:41 pm

We are deeply worried about current attempts to silence a public discussion of what happened in Palestine and to the Palestinians in 1948, when the majority of its people were forcibly expelled.

Eighty-four Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups have issued a joint statement expressing concerns with growing attempts to suppress their fundamental right to freedom of expression of political issues. The statement was published in the Independent newspaper on Friday. The following is the full text:

As migrant and BAME groups in Britain, we reaffirm our fundamental right to the freedom of expression, and publicly to express our anxieties about the suppression of information on the history and lived experience of our communities.

Many of us arrived in the UK as migrants and as refugees, seeking safety from war and repression, and the effects of racism, persecution and colonialism both past and present. As a result, we know their oppressive impact on our communities, and can identify where many of the current experiences of injustices we face in Britain today are also based on racism and colonialism.

These problems are having a destructive impact on public discussions about race and immigration. It is therefore our responsibility – and also our right-  to relay our direct experiences of human rights abuses suffered here and abroad, as well as their structural and historical causes, to address them. This democratic obligation is recognised in Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, to “receive and impart information”, and provides the basis for a democracy to function. As the Institute for Race Relations recently confirmed, our communities: “have a right to be heard, to make…information public, while others have the right to hear them, and the arguments based on these facts”.

We are deeply worried about current attempts to silence a public discussion of what happened in Palestine and to the Palestinians in 1948, when the majority of its people were forcibly expelled. These facts are well established and accessible, are part of the British historical record, as well as the direct experience of the Palestinian people themselves. The Palestinian community in the UK has raised the disturbing absence of key information about these past and current injustices, and highlighted the racism it exposes then and now.

Public discussion of these facts, and a description of these injustices, would be prohibited under the IHRA’s guidelines, and therefore withholds vital knowledge from the public. This silencing has already begun. Today we can freely describe the racist policies experienced in the era of British and European colonialism in our countries of origin (indeed it is taught in British schools), but the colonial history of the Palestinians is continually erased. This is a dangerous breach of our own rights, and of the wider British public: we must all hear the full story of the Palestinians in order to make sense of the current discussions about racism and Israel.

We also know of the efforts by organisations – including UK-based fundamentalist groups aligned with the far-right in the US – to deny Palestinians’ basic humanity by suppressing their entire history and current plight. At the same time, hard-line conservative groups in the US, such as the Middle East Forum, are providing funding and support to anti-Muslim extremist Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson), deliberately increasing hatred, fear, and confusion. These coordinated efforts by right-wing extremists are being actively encouraged by President Trump’s racism and fear-mongering, which is now aimed at dismantling UNRWA, the UN agency that protects Palestinian refugees.

Over this past year, several terrible events have demonstrated the dangers of silencing migrant and BAME communities. The fatal fire at Grenfell Tower and the shameful Windrush scandal have shown the active legacies of British colonialism, where racism forms an integral part of British policies, and renders our communities invisible. This denies our dignity and humanity, and our right to fair treatment under the rule of law: the bedrock of British society.

We urgently remind politicians and public bodies of their responsibilities to uphold the principles of the Human Rights Act for every British citizen and resident in the UK equally, especially the direct victims of colonialism, racism, and discrimination. As migrant and BAME communities we stand as one, united against all attempts to suppress our voices and our calls for justice, freedom and equality.

List of Signatories

1.    African Rainbow Family

2.    The Arab Labour Group

3.    The Arab Refugee Support Group (ARSG)

4.    The Association of the Palestinian Community in the UK

5.    Baraka Youth Association (Somali)

6.    Black Activists Rising Against the Cuts (BARAC)

7.    Black Lives Matter UK

8.    Black Women’s Forum UK

9.    The British Arab Association

10.    British Muslim Initiative (BMI)

11.    The British Palestinian Communications Centre

12.    The British Palestinian Policy Council

13.    The Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CACC)

14.    Communities Inc, Nottingham

15.    Community Integration Project, London

16.    Congo Great Lakes Initiative

17.    The Cordoba Foundation

18.    Daikon East Asian Women’s Collective

19.    Dar Assalam – Iraqi Association in Britain

20.    Decolonising Our Minds

21.    Deport, Deprive and Extradite Project

22.    Eritrean Elders Welfare Association in UK (EEWA-UK)

23.    Eritrean Parents and Children’s Association

24.    Europal Forum

25.    Facilitate Global

26.    The General Union of Palestinian Students (GUPS)

27.    Grenfell Speaks

28.    Ikram United Kingdom and Eire

29.    Indian Matters UK

30.    Indian Workers Association

31.    International Workers of Great Britain – United Private Hire Drivers Branch

32.    International Workers of Great Britain – University of London Branch

33.    Iraqi Transnational Collective

34.    Iraqi Women’s Organisation: Tadhamun

35.    Jawaab

36.    Justice for Grenfell

37.    Kashmiris for Labour

38.    Kurdish Student’s Union

39.    Kurdish Assembly in the UK

40.    Lebanese Association of Britain

41.    Leeds Unity Centre

42.    Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants

43.    London Latinx

44.    London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium

45.    Media Diversified

46.    Meridian Women’s Association

47.    The Meena Centre, Birmingham

48.    Migrant Media

49.    Migrant Rights Network (MRN)

50.    Migrant Solidarity Manchester

51.    Migrants Organise

52.    Min Quan – Chinatown People Rights Group

53.    Minaret Community Centre

54.    Momentum Black Caucus

55.    The Monitoring Group (TMG)

56.    Movement for Justice

57.    Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland

58.    Muslimahs Resist

59.    Muslim Association of Britain (MAB)

60.    Muslim Worker’s Association

61.    Network of Eritrean Women

62.    Nijjor Manush (Bengali and Bangladeshi Campaigning Group)

63.    North West Peoples’ Voice

64.    Olive – Palestinian Youth Group

65.    Oxford Syria Solidarity Campaign

66.    Pakistani Community Centre Oldham

67.    The Palestine Return Centre (PRC)

68.    The Palestinian Forum in the UK

69.    Pal Med UK

70.    PCS Union National Black Members Committee

71.    Peace in Kurdistan Campaign

72.    Racial Justice Network

73.    Rethink Rebuild Society (Syrian)

74.    Right 2 Work UK

75.    Roj Kurdish Women’s Assembly

76.    Sante Refugee Project

77.    The Society of Black Lawyers

78.    South People’s Project (SOPPRO)

79.    Tunisian Association in Britain

80.    United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC)

81.    Voices for Creative Non Violence UK

82.    West London Moroccan Association – Widadia

83.    Women’s Alliance for Kurdistan, Iraq and Syria

84.    Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation (ZHRO)