Britain: London bombings – Socialists fight for workers’ unity

The London bombings had a profound impact in West Yorkshire once it emerged that the alleged bombers came from Leeds and Huddersfield.

Since the London bombings on 7 and 21 July, Socialist Party branches have been fighting for class unity, against the war and terrorism and against racism, sometimes in situations where a racist backlash could have developed.

Socialist Party members in West Yorkshire where some of the alleged bombers came from explain how they responded to these events.

London bombings – Socialists fight for workers’ unity

The Al-Qa’ida video showing a bomber from Dewsbury threatening to wreak revenge on Britain’s population brought further shock waves.

Some Muslim women from Savile Town in Dewsbury approached a local Unison steward in Kirklees, Sabera, as they felt threatened by the inevitable backlash. UNISON organised a local meeting attended by around 70 women.

Almost all of them had suffered abuse and threats, especially those wearing traditional Muslim dress. The Peace and Unity Group set up an organising committee to plan local activities, including a public rally and peace walk through Dewsbury.

Kirklees UNISON members faced some backlash in their own workplaces. The Dewsbury bomber’s mother in law, a well-known community worker in her local school, was forced to leave her home and remains in hiding for fear of reprisals. The Huddersfield bomber attended another local school.

Workers at both schools feared tension between pupils and even parents. Union meetings were held to talk through all the implications and make sure the union had a unified response.

Scandalously, the national and local press besieged the schools for salacious gossip, photos, or titbits, offering big money for any story, fictitious or otherwise and made stories out of nothing just to grab headlines. Many people now refuse to talk to the press unless they can guarantee everything they say is printed.

Our group gets the same media treatment. Under the headline ’Stirrers’, a local Tory councillor accused the Socialist Party of manipulating the group and the women in particular. Then a series of press articles suggested that there is no problem in the community and that the women have been deceived. Even the BNP tried jumping on the bandwagon!

Despite this, the local public rally was a great success and gave further impetus to the campaign. Unfortunately, the local mosques leant heavily on the women to call off the walk and many of them had privately decided not to attend because of pressure from their husbands. The walk was reluctantly postponed. However the Group’s work will continue and is desperately needed.

At a local BNP public meeting, their leader Nick Griffin pledged to make Kirklees their ’jewel in the crown’. He has made disgraceful, inflammatory attacks on the Islamic faith and local Asian population.

An anonymous letter from parents publicly called for the removal of a Muslim teacher in a Huddersfield school. In another school, a Support Staff member was told she will be suspended if she does not remove the veil.

These underlying sentiments have to be directly challenged, which will be the Peace and Unity Group’s brief. Local politicians look the other way, claiming the community has weathered the storm and that talking about the bombings only makes matters worse.

Local Labour MP, Shahid Malik, demanded that Muslim mothers challenge extreme ideas expressed by their children by boxing their ears! Only the Peace and Unity Group publicly links Blair’s support for the Afghan and Iraqi invasions to the recent emergence of suicide bombers.

The Socialist Party will continue to give this fledgling Group the support it needs to make its imprint on events and challenge any dangerous drift to racism and division.

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, cwi in England and Wales

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September 2005