One after-effect of the World Trade Centre attack has been an increase in racism and racist attacks. One Afghan taxi driver, who came to Britain to escape persecution in Afghanistan, was paralysed from the neck down after being kicked and beaten by three men in Twickenham, who taunted him about events in America.
A woman has been attacked with a baseball bat. One man, whose daughter died in the World Trade Centre, suffered serious verbal abuse because he’s a Muslim. There have been attacks on mosques in Southend, Tooting, Belfast and Manchester. Blair and Co. are clearly worried about the social instability that a major racist backlash could cause. Blair has made several statements appealing against attacks on Muslims. Even the normally xenophobic Sun ran an article declaring that: "Islam is not an evil religion." However, at the same time, Blair has been attempting to whip up support for Bush’s military plans. This has inevitably fuelled anti-Muslim prejudice.New Labour is also using the mood of fear created by the US attacks to push through repressive legislation. For example, New Labour was already using the asylum issue to build support for the introduction of ID cards. Previous attempts to bring in such cards were dropped under the weight of mass opposition to what was correctly seen as a serious attack on civil liberties. Now, with people’s entirely understandable fear of terrorism added to the issue of asylum, New Labour clearly believe that they can introduce ID cards even though they won’t prevent future terrorist attacks. In fact, it appears that many of the men that carried out the attack on the World Trade Centre made their plans in countries, such as Germany, that already have compulsory ID cards.However, New Labour’s ID campaign will increase racism and racist attacks. In the last few years this government has been prepared to blame asylum seekers for the lack of decent housing, shortages in the NHS and the virtual collapse of the transport system. In reality it is the government, who continued the Tories’ programme of privatising and cutting public services, who cause the horrendous shortages. In the coming months, New Labour will probably allow a further ratcheting up of anti-asylum seekers’ propaganda. Numerous articles in the tabloid press have already linked asylum-seekers to terrorists.In reality the overwhelming majority of Afghan asylum seekers fled Afghanistan in order to escape persecution by the Taliban regime. The government claim to be going to war on behalf of the civilised world, yet they’re quite happy to lock up and scapegoat Afghans whose only crime is to flee Afghanistan for their lives. The Socialist Party will fight to defend the right of asylum for all those fleeing persecution. All applicants should have the right to a full hearing, and the right to appeal if their case is rejected. The right to appeal should be to an elected tribunal that includes representatives of trade unions, community organisations, and welfare and legal rights organisations.
This article first appeared in The Socialist