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At Birmingham Branch Committee in January, a motion was agreed to send delegates to the Stand Up to Racism trade union conference held in London on Saturday 23rd February. This followed on from the national mobilising meeting held at SOAS in London in January of this year where regional groups talked about planned action to push forward in the continued fight against the rise of what Birmingham Stand Up to Racism and Midlands TUC are describing as the new far right with groups joining together to finance more sophisticated and coordinated action. All spoke of working toward building for the national demonstration on Saturday 16th March. We spoke of the Love Music, Hate Racism event at the Irish Centre on Thursday 28th February. Billed as an evening of culture, music and politics, the event would draw the attention of the young across the region.

 This year’s Conference opened with workshops followed by plenary sessions. The workshop that I attended the workshop on challenging Islamophobia and the Prevent Agenda. Speakers included Rania Hafez UCU, Shoaib MEND. Rob Fergusson, Stand Up To Racism stood in as Chair of the workshop. Shoaib talked about what Islamophobia entailed and its links to Prevent. He talked about the MEND definition of Islamophobia as a “prejudice, aversion, hostility or hatred towards Muslims, and encompasses any distinctions, exclusions, restrictions, discriminations or preference against muslims that has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition enjoyment or exercise on an equal footing or human rights and fundamental freedom in a political or economic social cultural, nullifying or impairing.” He spoke of the development of institutional Islamophobia and challenging the institutional aspect of Islamophobia. He spoke of it as an industry or counter jihad movement which used the media and think-tank’s that promote negativity about Muslims. He spoke of the myth of Islamic invasion in the western world designed to change the debate and voting patterns thus presenting political discourse. This he suggested is from where we should lead the challenge. He described the infiltration into all aspects of society, Prevent being the infiltration into education and schools, the criminalisation of Islam in prisons; he spoke of the attacks on minority rights. He spoke of the lack of evidence to back up the Prevent agenda and explained that this has been heavily criticised by more than 100 academics. The discussion looked into the creeping normality of islamophobia and how this had been used against Shamia Begum, stripped of her British passport for what was described as “grooming” by the Police is now an offence. He spoke of how Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s ruling could embolden the far right to point to any Muslim and now say that they don’t belong here.  Rob Fergusson described this as state sponsored islamophobia. Evidence of this was when a safeguarding officer in a school in Newham suggested there was a problem with young girls wearing the headscarf.

Rose Brown

At Birmingham Branch Committee meeting a motion was passed to agree to send delegates to the Stand Up to Racism Trade Union conference. This followed on from a meeting in London  where local Stand Up to Racism groups to update on their efforts in challenging racism in all its forms.

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