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On the 15th of March, Dr Waqas Tufail, JUST’s Board Member and an academic from Leeds Beckett University was invited to address a partnership event on BREXIT AND ITS IMPACT ON DIVERSITY AND COMMUNITY RELATIONS IN NORTHERN TOWNS. In the article below we highlight some of the key issues he raised in his address.
Dr. Tufail started his address by setting out that his presentation would challenge the idea of UK being a ‘postracial’ society and would introduce terms such as racism to the debate as opposed to recent efforts to frame issues of racial injustice in the benign language of ‘diversity’ and ‘equality’.
He outlined the key areas of his academic research viz:
■ Addressing the topics of policing, racism and anti-racism in the context of the lived experiences of British Muslim minorities
■ Exploring the experiences of minority and marginalised groups
■ Using grassroots/’bottom-up’ approaches instead of the current tendency among academics to using top-down approaches.
Dr Tufail set out his academic trajectory since graduating. For his doctoral study, his thesis on ‘partnership policing’ and the community in 3 Northern towns, challenged the perceived benefits of police partnership working within marginalised communities.
In a collaborative project with Professor Scott Poynting, their research explored the ‘integration’ demands placed on British and Australian Muslims as a result of anti-Muslim racism.
His research on the ‘grooming’ scandal in Rotherham, South Yorkshire explored the impact of the CSE scandal on Rotherham’s ethnic minority community. Whilst it had engendered community divisions, leading to the murder of a Muslim man, it has also led to the town being relentlessly targeted by the Far-Right who have held over 18 marches in the last four years.
His most recent research addresses the impact of counter-terrorism policy and legislation on British Muslims. His research highlights the damaging impact of Prevent and the impact of criminal justice and social policy on minority communities and marginalized groups. He argues that the artificial framework of British values – particularly as no one has been able to really define what British values are – has created divisions and suspicions among communities.
The Work of JUST Yorkshire
Since being appointed a Board member of JUST recently, he has been surprised at the mutual synergy in their work. Although JUST is based in Yorkshire, it is a long-standing and well respected racial justice, human rights and civil liberties organization whose work has a national and European-wide impact. JUST’s current campaigning work and research addresses issues such as the growth of Islamophobia and the impact of discriminatory counter-terrorism legislation on minority communities and particularly Muslims. As an organization, JUST has been uncompromising in seeking to shine a light on racial inequalities and holding those in power to account.
What is clear is that despite JUST’s vast experience and expertise on ethnic minority issues, there has been an institutional resistance to work with the organization as a potential critical friend, despite the fact that the validity of the positions it takes on issues such as extremism, Prevent, counter-terrorism, policing and grooming intersect with the findings borne out of his academic research. JUST may present uncomfortable truths, but it’s analysis of issues from a community perspective has always been accurate.
The Racial Justice Picture
What has become clear is an emerging trend of racism, as year on year findings of the differential treatment of BME groups at every stage of the criminal justice process highlights . The evidence on studies into housing and employment discrimination has highlighted that Muslim women are one of the most affected groups. What has been incontrovertible over the decades is that BME groups continue to be over-represented in national indices of deprivation; BME groups consistently experience poorer health and quality of life outcomes and post-Brexit areas like North Yorkshire, Humberside and West Yorkshire have registered amongst the highest increases in ‘hate crimes’ across the country. Ironically areas like North Yorkshire and Humberside have minuscule ethnic minority populations and the increase in hate crimes has no bearing on the lived experience of the lives of the majority white populations who live there. These trends of racial injustice also overlap with adverse outcomes for ethnic minorities in the criminal justice sector.
The Brexit Moment
Brexit has proved to be momentous for Yorkshire as the murder of Jo Cox MP by a neo-Nazi white supremacist Thomas Mair was directly attributable to her support for the Remain campaign. Although it was a terrorist murder, there has been a reticence to label it as such, whilst the Prevent strategy does not shy away from implicating Muslims as suspected extremists and terrorists. Jo Cox MP’s murder was significant, as has been the surge in hate crimes across the country because it has shattered the myth of a post-racial society and a tolerant Britain at ease with its multi-cultural identity. The seminal report produced by the the Institute of Race Relations in December 2016 has provided proof of a clear link between political rhetoric and rise of violent xenoracism/xenophobia affecting EU migrants.
However a positive outcome of Brexit has been the emergence of the politics of resistance where many people have been motivated to participate in anti-racist actions, in solidarity with targeted groups including refugees, Muslims and EU migrants.
A key challenge following the referendum outcome that has been raised by JUST is what plans are in place for tackling hate crime/racist violence, once Article 50 is triggered, when racist attacks are likely to increase. Given the challenges currently faced by ethnic minority communities and the failure of public bodies to acknowledge the existence of racism, peaceful resistance and community activism are important tools for targeted communities to make their voices heard.
In his end comments during the question and answer session, Dr Tufail addressed the following issues:
■ He cautioned against organisations like West Yorkshire Police going back to the usual ‘community leaders’ for feedback and for refusing to listen to critical friends like JUST. There appeared to be general agreement that public institutions needed to better understand who represents the community.
■ In an animated exchange with Keighley Councillor, Samuel Fletcher, Dr Tufail challenged his assertion that there was no hate crime in Keighley as there was clear statistical data pointing to the contrary.
■ He also highlighted inaccuracies in his assertions that his white constituents had been ‘left behind’ as they constituted myths that both the Brexit and Trump campaigns had touted when the key issue was one of inequality.Waqas Tufail