Poll: Blow For The Government Labour’s support among Britain’s ethnic minority voters has fallen, according to a new survey. It now stands at 58 per cent, down from 75 per cent in 2001. The Guardian/ICM poll published on Monday confirms earlier polls showing that Muslim voters in particular have defected from Labour in the wake of the Iraq war. Labour’s support has halved among Muslims, declining from 75 per cent to 38 per cent since 2001. The poll finds some ethnic groups have stayed loyal to Labour with 74 per cent of black people and 61 per cent of those of Indian-origin saying they will vote for the party. Support for Labour is lowest among people of mixed race, at 42 per cent it is more in line with the wider electorate. The Liberal Democrats, on 23 per cent, firmly push the Conservatives into third place as far as support from Britain’s ethnic minority groups is concerned. The Tories only register backing from 14 per cent of ethnic minority voters. Wider Findings The poll found that only 39 per cent of ethnic minority voters see themselves as “fully British”, regardless of how long they have lived here, and more than half say they have been a victim of name-calling or verbal abuse. One in five ethnic minority voters say they have considered leaving Britain because of racial intolerance. Nearly half say that when they hear people talking about immigrants they think they mean them, regardless of how long they have been in Britain. On a more positive note, the survey found higher than expected levels of trust in the police, health and education authorities to treat them fairly. The poll was undertaken to highlight the needs and experiences of Britain’s ethnic minority voters, and their relevance to the coming election campaign as Labour seeks a third term.
The president of the Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Organizations, Mansur Escudero, gave his endorsement yesterday to the policy to allow gay marriage. However, he protested to the executive who also regulates polygamy as a marriage option, which is allowed in countries where the Islam is the majority religion. Escudero says that the question already was broached in 1992, when the agreement of cooperation between Islam and the Spanish government was negotiated. One of the warnings contained in the report approved yesterday by the CGPJ is therefore coming true, that it is now possible that other minority groups also want to see legalized in Spain their particular forms of coexistence.
The establishment of a political party to represent Muslims in the Netherlands is as welcome as it is overdue. But it also entails very real risks. The announcement by columnist Mohammed Jabri that moves are afoot to launch a political party for Dutch Muslims by the beginning of summer should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed events in the Netherlands in recent years. The Muslim Democratic Party (MDP) could be a real force for good if it plays a positive role. It should forthrightly defend aspects of Muslim life that are worth defending; help spread understanding and acceptance of Muslims among the native Dutch and vice versa; and perhaps most importantly, expose as a lie the convenient myth that Muslims are the root of all that is wrong or bad in the Netherlands today. On the other hand, if the MDP fails to get off the ground, embroils itself in extremist rhetoric or suffers the internal disputes that have set the anti-immigration LPF on the way to an agonisingly slow self-destruction, the consequences would be terrible. Politics would be seen by many in the Muslim community as a dead-end, leaving imams and radical thugs to represent the community. Already there are daily reports of young Muslim men – a minority, but an active one – in the major cities who look on the native Dutch as the enemy and fair game for crimes of theft. It is common for unveiled women, both Muslim and native Dutch, in parts of Amsterdam to be branded “whores” and “sluts” by self-righteous Muslims. But giving Muslims a real voice on the political stage – and who knows, perhaps a seat at the Cabinet table – would go a long way to helping Muslims to look on Dutch society as their society also. A Muslim party would have real potential: there are an estimated one million Muslims in the Netherlands and the number is growing. Muslims and Islam are the topics of the hour as a decidedly one-sided debate rages about how far Muslims should be willing – and according to some critics, forced – to integrate into Dutch society. Islam’s chief Dutch critics in Parliament, Geert Wilders and Hilbrand Nawijn, are vying with each other for the title of “Champion of Liberal Democracy” who will lead a modern day reconquista to compel Muslims here to become Dutch or get out. There is no coherent voice on the Muslim side to represent the other side of the case. We hear daily from Muslim clerics who have rightly avoided getting into politics proper. And occasionally the Arab European League (AEL) issues a statement, but it seems to be more concerned about the situation in Iraq and the Palestinian issue than about what is going on in the Netherlands. Echoing the wider-scale tragedies in those parts of the world, the brutal murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh last November has brought home to people in the Netherlands the damage that even one wannabe martyr can inflict. The State security service AIVD has estimated that there are 100 to 200 extremists in the Netherlands prepared to use violence to defend Islam. But for all their apparent zeal, they remain an unrepresentative minority within the Dutch Muslim communities. And in turn these communities – Turkish, Moroccans, Iraqis, Afghans, Somalis and others – are seriously under represented in the Lower House of Parliament. The Muslims that have made the step into politics have done so under the banner of one or other of the main Dutch parties. Since their parties have been falling over themselves since 2002 to prove they can dish out tough love to Muslims, Muslims have not surprisingly lost interest. The need to balance the political scales was reinforced at the start of January when MP Nawijn – the first minister for Immigration and Integration from 2002 to 2003 – said that Muslim schools should be banned. None of the established political parties uttered any semblance of protest. Our erstwhile champions of liberal freedoms didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with Nawijn’s assertion that the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion should only apply to Christian and Jewish schools – because Dutch society, he said, was a Judeo-Christian one. He forgot to mention that until Indonesia got its independence from the Netherlands in the 1940s, Islam was the biggest religious group in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And Nawijn also went so far as to say integration was a waste of time, Muslims had to be made to assimilate. Again his colleagues in parliament didn’t bat an eye lid. He simply ignored the rights and views of the Muslims living here now. Instead, Nawijn – who is trying to ensure a political life for himself after the inevitable demise of the LPF – is flirting with the Vlaams Belang, the successor to the Flemish party that was banned in Belgium for being racist. Jabri and the others setting up the MDP have a right to be scathing about this sort of thoughtless anti-Muslim bias which seems to dominate present political debate in the Netherlands. But let’s hope the MDP chooses the high road and decides to play a positive role. To take the Nawijn-Vlaams Belang road might prove popular in the short-term, but ultimately it would be a dead end and everyone would lose out.
By Colin Randall in Paris France is to intensify efforts to integrate its large Muslim minority by trying to create a generation of French-speaking, socially aware imams equipped with some knowledge of law and diplomas from Parisian universities including the Sorbonne. Dismayed by calculations that a third of the imams practising in France do not speak the language of their adopted country, the interior minister, Dominique de Villepin, wants to launch a foundation early next year. A two-year course at the Sorbonne and Assas universities, starting next autumn, would take the initiative further, giving aspiring Muslim preachers instruction in French law and society.
Up to a thousand people demanding zero tolerance of anti-Semitism in Belgium gathered in Antwerp on Monday to protest about last week’s stabbing of a young Jewish boy by a gang of Muslim youths in the city. Members of Belgium’s Jewish community want the government to do more to deal with what they see as a rising tide of anti-Semitic attacks by a minority of Muslims living in the country. “We want the authorities to adopt a zero tolerance policy,” a spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp, who asked not to be named, told Expatica. “We should not bring the war between Israel and the Palestinians here to Belgium. If they want to fight, they should go over there,” he added. According to the spokesman at least 1000 people turned up to Monday’s demonstration, which was held in front of Antwerp’s Portuguese synagogue. Police put the number of protestors at between 800 and 900. The young boy at the centre of the furore was stabbed shortly after he and three friends left a Jewish school in the Antwerp suburb of Wilrijk on Thursday night. The four boys were chased by a gang of 10 to 15 North African youths armed with knives and other blunt instruments. Three escaped but the fourth was trapped by the gang and stabbed in the back. He was taken to hospital in a critical condition but is now out of danger. According to the Jewish community spokesman, the boy, who has not been named, is lucky to be alive. “They were clearly trying to kill him. His lung was damaged by the knife. We are lucky today’s demonstration was not a funeral,” he said. The Antwerp protest followed a similar show of anger in Brussels on Sunday, which was attended by some of Belgium’s leading politicians. Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinkx told demonstrators on Sunday that the government would do everything it could to catch the youths responsible for the Antwerp stabbing. Jewish community leaders recognised on Monday that the Muslim community as a whole in Belgium was not anti-Semitic. “The Muslim community is not attacking the Jewish community. Relations between us are actually very good. But it is a minority of young Muslims who are attacking Jews,” the spokesman for the Jewish Community of Antwerp told Expatica.
The word “ethnic” is misused in the article below. We talk about metropolitan districts with large “ethnic communities”. The Guardian style guide says: “Neversay ethnic when you mean ethnic minority. It leads to such nonsense as the constituency has a small ethnic population.” Tony Blair’s hopes of patching up relations with the Muslim community have been dealt a fresh blow by a leading Islamic organisation which is urging its members not to vote Labour at next week’s European elections.