You are viewing blog items for December 2012.
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 29 December 2012, 05:51
It is great to see Britain's most successful Paralympian receive an award in the New Year's Honours. Sarah Storey, who now has eleven paralympic gold medals to her name, has been made a Dame.
The January issue of the HOPE not hate magazine carries an interview with Sarah on her success, the impact the Paralympics had on how society view people with disabilities and the importance of sport in beinging communities together.
Posted: 29 Dec 2012 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Wednesday, 12 December 2012, 13:32
England and Wales are changing and they are changing fast. As yesterday's release of information from the 2011 census showed, the population of England and Wales is rising; there are three million more foreign-born people living here than in 2001 and there has been a large jump in the number of people who do not identify with a religion.
Predictably those opposed to immigration are saying 'I told you so'. In fact, the numbers of new arrivals into England and Wales have even exceeded their own estimates.
We live in a changing world and there is little sign that this is going to change in the near future. It is also becoming almost impossible to predict trends. I've spent the last couple of days with our Polish correspondent, Rafal Pankowski, a great guy and someone I first met when he was a teenager studying for his A levels in the early 1990s. Coming from a country where the immigrant population is at just 2% - and this includes white immigrants from neighbouring countries such as Russia and the Ukraine - he was as interested as me in the new census data. We spoke about the levels of Polish immigrants who have come to the UK since 2004 but he thought this was now on the decline. "They are heading to Norway now," he told me with a smile. It's the Lithuanians who are coming here now.
It is also clear that we also quickly get used to immigrants. A new study out by British Future, 'The Melting Pot Generation', looks at how Britain became more relaxed about race examines how these changes might affect the way that we think about race and identity.
"Jessica Ennis was not just the face of the Olympics this summer; she could stake a fair claim to be “the face of the census” too," Sunder Katwala, the group's Director said.
The census shows that there are over one million people who describe themselves as 'mixed-race'.
I genuinely believe that Britain is the most diverse and racially integrated society in Europe and this is something to applaud and celebrate. But I am always aware that not everyone buys into this and while we need to celebrate our diversity we also need to reassure those people who view what is occurring with concern that they too have a social and economic future in this changing Britain. Our Fear and HOPE report, produced by us last year, concluded that there is a clear correlation between economic pessimism and negative attitudes towards immigration. The more pessimistic people are about their own economic situation and their prospects for the future the more hostile their attitudes are to new and old immigrants.
The census shows that our country is changing very fast but against a backdrop of economic pessimism there will be some people who view this change with concern. Rather than dismissing them as racists or disregard their concerns, we need to work hard to breakdown divisions and show we can build a modern Britain where we can all have a place and, probably more importantly, that offers them a better economic tomorrow then what they are experiencing now.
Posted: 12 Dec 2012 | There are 3 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Sunday, 9 December 2012, 10:32
The Jewish Chronicle this week reported that "a seminar meant to highlight problems in dealing with antisemitism ran into trouble when audience members walked out — alleging Islamophobia on the part of some speakers."
The walk-out was led by David Hirsh, of Engage, who objected to speeches by Bat Ye’or and Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld at a conference on antisemitism sponsored by the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism.
Bat Ye’or told the audience: “The source of antisemitism is the organisation of the Islamic corporation", while Gerstenfield described Muslim culture as inferior.
Leading the walkout, Hirsh said: "I was appalled by Gerstenfeld’s characterisation of Muslim culture as inferior. Nearly all the speakers on the day, including me, stressed that antisemitism must be understood and opposed within an anti-racist framework.
“I am as appalled by the Islamophobia which creeps into some opposition to antisemitism as I am by the way antisemitism also creeps into ostensibly anti-racist spaces.”
His objections to their comments were backed by by the Community Security Trust (CST).
Mark Gardner, director of communications for CST, said after the seminar: “A minority of speakers said things about Britain, Europe and Muslims that we found to be incorrect, unacceptable and self-defeating. We made our concerns clear with a number of interventions and were correct to do so.”
David Feldman, director of the Pears Institute, and Philip Spencer, director of research in politics at Kingston University, also walked out in protest.
Mr Feldman said: “Unfortunately, the unfounded arguments of some speakers and expressions of religious prejudice from others did a disservice to Jews and others seeking to combat antisemitism.”
Now, I think given the well-known views of both Bat Ye’or and Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld it is a surprise that they were allowed to speak at such a high profile event. Bat Ye'or, in particular, has been credited with developing the 'Eurabia' conspiracy theory and plays a central role in the international anti-Muslim network - which we have defined as the 'counter-Jihad' movement.
That said, the people who walked out and objected to their views should be applauded. Intolerant and unacceptable views were voiced and people objected. This is both good and should be encouraged across all communities and faiths.
Groups like HOPE not hate can speak out and campaign against extremism but the most effective messengers are those within community and faith organisations. They come from a position of trust and respect and their denunciation of extremists within their own community carries far more weight. This is as true as it is for the Muslim and Christian communities as it is for the Jewish community.
Let’s hope that this action is replicated by others everywhere.
For the full Jewish Chronicle story:
Posted: 9 Dec 2012 | There are 3 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Saturday, 8 December 2012, 10:37
A couple of days ago I was interviewed by Huffington Post. Here's the article:
Here's the text of the article:
Labour Must Stand Up Against Immigration Hate Speech says HOPE not hate's Nick Lowles
With the rise of UKIP, and immigration reform back on the agenda, The Huffington Post UK meets Nick Lowles, director of anti-fascist campaigners Hope Not Hate, on one of the UK's most toxic political issues.
For a man who campaigns against extreme hate speech, Nick Lowles inspires a lot of it.
Online, he's called a communist, a censor of free speech, a Zionist, a Muslim apologist, and an Islamophobe, and his attackers range from BNP supporters to Islamists.
It's what can happen when you head an organisation such as Hope Not Hate, which targets extremism and hate speech.
Lowles is clear that his organisation cannot just speak out against the far right, but against any movement or individual who incites hatred, be they hate-preaching bishops or imans, or even mainstream politicians.
And he's had to learn to deal with the hate that comes back in his direction, from those he targets, including the British National Party, the English Defence League, Muslim extremists, and the far-left too.
"I've been doing it 20 years, I've grown myself a thick skin. No-one likes the criticism, from Nazis or from people on the left. But you get used to it.
"And, at the end of the day, you can't ignore it. You have to look at whether the criticisms are valid, but also have faith in your ideas."
Lowles, a former editor of Searchlight (he cut official ties with that anti-fascist organisation last year), founded Hope Not Hate in 2004, to organise communities against the rise in popularity of the BNP.
The group has grown fast, and won ardent celebrity backers like Lord Alan Sugar, Amir Khan, Dermot O'Leary and comedian Eddie Izzard.
But the fight against extremism in 2012, Lowles says, is now changing focus. The BNP is close to total defeat, underlined by their performance in the Rotherham by-election a week ago.
"In Rotherham they got 8% of vote," Lowles said. "It should have been a strong area for them, they had councillors there in the past, Denis MacShane [the Labour MP for Rotherham] departed after a scandal.
"And of course they have been exploiting the grooming issue, the case which was so horrific in Rotherham.
"But there was so much media attention on UKIP. I think the BNP could have got 15% of the vote, but it's clear some voters switched to UKIP, they're seen as more likely alternative."
Lowles believes the BNP are in their "weakest position they've been in for many years, which is surprising given the economy and the continued distrust of mainstream parties. He says the BNP have not really recovered from 2010, when they raised the expectations of their supporters, and completely failed to deliver.
"Many of their newer supporters just dropped out.
"And then at the same time, you have the rise of the EDL, much more attractive to a lot of young people. Handing out leaflets, doing respectable election campaigning doesn't really appeal to them."
But the BNP cannot be ignored, and Hope Not Hate is gearing up to attempt to dislodge leader Nick Griffin in the 2014 MEP elections.
Lowles is worried that even though the BNP has lost support, the party's ideas and concerns still permeate many communities.
"The conditions that gave rise to them, are still there and getting worse.
"And we have to understand why people voted for the BNP, it was not just about racism or immigration. It was the anti-party politics movement.
"The longer we leave that vacuum, some is going to come back to fill it."
The concern is that younger anti-immigration activists flock to the militant EDL, while mainstream parties, like UKIP and even the Conservatives, look to take on the anti-immigration mantle which attracted older, traditional voters of the BNP.
Lowles' answer is to lobby mainstream parties on the way they address immigration - and encourage progressive voices to take a stand.
"People see the "extremist" parties as value parties. My dad was a Labour party man, loyal, very active, an local organiser. And he said to me a few years ago "what does the Labour party stand for?"
"He had to go looking for the mission statement on the website. And for my dad to say that, it really hits you."
The rhetoric of the Conservative party, particularly in the wake of the challenge from UKIP, and the appointment of controversial right-wing, anti-immigration campaign advisor Lynton Crosby, has worried Hope Not Hate.
"Even in the last few days we have seen all sorts of really right-wing views on immigration coming out. And that poses a challenge for Labour.
"On the one hand they can move into the middle, move right-wing, and show voters they can also get tough on immigration.
"But I think demographics of voters in Britain are changing. That's what happened in the US, with Latino voters.
"A progressive alliance forced Obama to change his views on certain issues. He went in on a pretty conservative platform, he ended up announcing immigration reform, the DREAM act, a product of years of campaigning.
"That needs to happen to our politicians in Britain. We need to call them out on things like immigration, child detention, scare them a bit. They can't ignore these issues.
"But it feels like a daunting task to go on the offensive about immigration, against the negativity, to talk about the positives."
Hope Not Hate has come under attack from both left and right in the aftermath of the grooming scandals in the north of England, in Keighley, Rochdale and Rotherham.
It has been accused both of ignoring the issue, and, particularly by the Institute of Race Relations's executive director Liz Fekete, of not taking a hard enough line against the racial narrative in the press.
The group produced leaflets to combat the far-right's anti-Islam campaigning in the aftermath, which "clearly state that a minority of British Muslims are involved in grooming but it will stress that this is a tiny minority of Muslims and it is wrong to blame a whole community.
It is an issue the organisation has struggled with, but it shouldn't be so difficult, Lowles said.
"It's undeniable that a lot of those perpetrators come from the British Pakistani community, when it comes to street grooming by gangs. Does that tell us something about Islam or Pakistanis? No it does not.
"I strongly believe this is not about race.
"But the problem is, left unchallenged, these become real racial issues. There are eight or nine big trials concerning this pattern next year, each time there are going to be issues to be taken on."
He encounters charges of hypocrisy regularly on doorsteps, which has made the organisation more determined to campaign on other areas of extreme hate.
"People say to us on doorstops, you campaign agains the English Defence League, but you don't say anything on Muslims. And we have to. In Tower Hamlets we have campaigned against Hizt-bu-Tahrir [widely perceived an an extreme Islamic movement].
"We have campaigned against Anjem Choudry [Islam4UK and Muslims Against Crusades], and imams are grateful to us that we do. We will be working with mosques in Luton on anti-extremism tactics.
"It seems complex but it shouldn't be. If someone preaches hate, we will stand up against it."
Posted: 8 Dec 2012 | There are 3 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Sunday, 2 December 2012, 17:54
Over the last few weeks the HOPE not hate campaign has been actively opposing the far right in several parts of the country. We have produced a round-up of what we have achieved this autumn.
You can read it here:
Posted: 2 Dec 2012 | There are 0 comments | make a comment/view comments
posted by: Nick Lowles | on: Sunday, 2 December 2012, 14:39
The British National Party declared it a “great result!” and announced to its supporters that they were again on the road to winning major breakthroughs.”
You would have thought that the BNP had just pulled off an historic victory but instead it was celebrating its third place in the Rotherham by-election. But, given the recent problems of the BNP, it was perhaps something to cheer.
“Not only did we beat both the government parties, achieving a total number of votes which surpassed theirs put together, but we beat the widely-predicted winner Respect in a heavily Islamised constituency,” the BNP crowed on its website and in a fundraising email to supporters.
So, is the BNP back? No, and I will explain why.
The BNP certainly did perform well in the Rotherham by-election and if UKIP hadn’t grabbed the headlines over the removal of children from a foster family because of their membership of the party then it is likely that the BNP would have done better. They might even have been battling for second place and their vote would have certainly have been well above 10%. As it was they came third with 8.5% of the vote.
But let’s not read too much into this. After Barking & Dagenham, Rotherham gave the BNP its highest vote in the 2010 General Election. It has had two councillors in the constituency in recent years and the council has been beset by an awful cover-up which allowed a grooming gang to operate for ten years without hindrance. The by-election was caused by a resignation of an MP for fiddling his expenses and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were always going to struggle. It was a perfect opportunity for the BNP but their vote, respectable as it was, was the consequence of other factors rather than anything the BNP did.
There were two other parliamentary by-elections last Thursday but only one was contested by the BNP. Perhaps they should not have bothered. The party polled just 1.9% of the vote, well down on the 5.8% the BNP received in the 2010 General Election.
Two weeks earlier the BNP contested two other parliamentary by-elections. The party received 3.0% in Manchester Central, down from 4.1% in 2010, and just 1.7% in Corby, well down on the 4.7% it polled in the last General Election.
The BNP have, if anything, done even worse in other elections held over the last month. Of the dozens of council by-elections held over the last few weeks the BNP contested just two. In Ardwick ward, Manchester, the BNP polled 1.7%, while in Branksome East ward, Poole, the BNP's William Kimmet was last with a laughable 28 votes.
The BNP did not even bother to contest the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections. They claimed it was a moral stance against the politicisation of the police service but of course it was because the party did not have the money to stand.
Seen in the wider context the BNP result in Rotherham was an anomaly rather than a sign of an upward trend. If anything, the BNP is in a weaker position now than it was two months ago. The English Democrats did surprisingly well in the PCC elections, saving its deposit in five contests and coming second in South Yorkshire. UKIP, on the other hand, end the month with 13% in the latest national opinion poll and, for the moment at least, it is basking in the limelight of being a respectable right wing alternative.
Also, it should be pointed out that while 8.5% was OK for the BNP it was nowhere near their best parliamentary result. In fact, a quick look back at the records shows the BNP candidates have gained a higher share of the vote than that received in Rotherham on 17 occasions since 2001. Even in 2010 the BNP gained a bigger share of the vote in eight constituencies so let's put Rotherham into perspective.
So while Nick Griffin crows about the Rotherham result the reality, as always, is quite different. The BNP has been on a downward spiral since its European Election triumph in 2009 and nothing in the last few weeks demonstrate that this is going to change in the very near future.
Posted: 2 Dec 2012 | There are 4 comments | make a comment/view comments