Saturday, 8 September 2012


COMMUNITIES IN CONFLICT

UK: Bradford, West Yorkshire.
1950-1970: Immigrants from India and Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  
A colleague, Dr. Connie Marsh, remembers the arrival of large groups of men from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, [British Colonial citizens], among the predominantly white working class communities of Bradford in West Yorkshire during the 1950s and 1960s. ‘My own father was the beneficiary of the new influx of manual labour which enabled him to maintain the production of the textile mill he managed. It was a sharp learning curve for him, as it was for us all, with no knowledge of the culture, religion and language of these new workers. He struggled to deal with the different customs, yet was acutely aware of the necessity for their labour. This first influx of immigrants came alone. Men cast adrift in an alien environment without the support of the women on whom they had relied for most domestic tasks. Stories of their attempts to deal with the practicalities of their new life spread rapidly throughout the neighborhoods. Rumors that they ate cat food, used one bed in rotation as those working night shifts vacated it for the day shift, and that they would capture young girls to sell them into slavery, all fuelled mistrust and fear of the unknown among the different people. Any notions of integration were not on anyone’s agenda. It was recognised that the newcomers were there for their economic advantages ensuring the survival of their families at home. It was not recognised that they were part of the rescue of the Yorkshire textile industries. The traditional Yorkshire communities did not find tolerance and acceptance of difference an easy prospect. The lines between the different tribes were clearly drawn and were not to be crossed! As the years passed, both communities inevitably changed and began to accommodate each other to some extent. As the workers established themselves, they were able to bring their families to join them. The arrival of women and children made a large impact on the situation. Children from the different communities met each other in school; mothers met each other at the school gate, in the local clinics, hospitals and play groups. The threat of large groups of single men subsided as families presented different kinds of challenges. As the newcomers settled into their new environment they learned how to survive, buying businesses, working long hours, sharing resources and support within their communities. They also learned how to use the National Health Service and the Department of Social Security. Their expectation of equal treatment turned into the reality of racism, discrimination and disadvantage. The local white communities did not consider these South Asians as the saviours of the textile industry, more as a burden on their welfare system.’ The people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh came during the 1950s-1960s. Their period of greatest dislocation would have been during this time. For over 50 years, the English, and the Commonwealth communities have lived apart, in all senses. Their social relations tempered by racism.’
The time of riot and violence has not been until recently, between settled communities. The growth of the British National Party and the National Front and Combat 18 in Bradford, Oldham, and Burnley as well as the English Defence League, has epitomized the fascist and racist ideologies present in the local communities, underpinning the politics of conflict. The first signs of trouble emerged during 1995. But  it was not until 2001 that violence openly erupted on the streets of Bradford. These events indicate that, as in Northern Ireland, when different communities feel threatened, they will react accordingly. In Bradford, in the district of Manningham, there lived a large number of families whose origins were from Pakistan and Bangladesh and Northern India: including Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus. The white locals refer to it as Bradistan. This population consists of the original migrants, all British Colonial citizens, later designated  British Commonwealth citizens, and their families and grandchildren. The children and grandchildren are British by birth, British citizens, fluent English speakers, educated and trained in Bradford. Many of them are determined to fight discrimination, and this includes facing up to the National Front and the British National Party, and Combat 18, the English Defence League, and the local police forces, when they act as agents of racism!

THE BRADFORD 'RIOT' OF 2001:
A PRELIMINARYANALYSIS
Paul Bagguley and Yasmin Hussain,
University of Leeds, 2003
'It was all rumours': views of why the 'riots' happened.
The Bradford 'riot' over the weekend of 7th-8th July 2001 was reputedly the worst on mainland Britain for twenty years. On the night of 9th July, there was a riot involving 200 Whites in Bradford. An Indian takeaway, and a Pizza takeaway also owned by a South Asian family were attacked. These were widely seen as 'reprisals' for the weekends 'riot'.(YEP 10.7.01.)The original disturbances in Bradford started in the city centre in mid-afternoon after an anti-racist demonstration against a proposed NF rally, which the Home Secretary had already banned. Police cornered a group of anti-racist demonstrators at Centenary Square. Some recognized NF members appeared but did not attempt to march. Violence started after a group of  White youths, suspected NF members, made racially abusive comments, and attacked a 21-year-old Asian man (this was only reported in some newspapers) (DE 9.7.01, YP. 9.7.01).
There were other relevant background factors in the Bradford outbreak. The city’s annual multi-cultural festival was due to reach its culmination that Saturday, but the mere threat or suspicion that the NF might turn up despite the ban prompted festival organisers to cancel the closing day's festivities. In response, anti-fascist groups including Bradford trades union council and the Anti-Nazi League leafleted Friday night's Centenary Square concert inviting the multiracial crowd to a peaceful gathering in the same place next day. To underline the peaceful intent, participants were even encouraged to turn up in fancy dress or carnival costumes (and some did). The Saturday crowd in the square was about 40 to 50 per cent White, and  included a small proportion of African-Caribbeans, but mainly South Asians. The latter group included Sikhs and Hindus, community elders and young women, but most were men. This is important, as when the 'riot' developed, and the crowd was moved on, it changed composition into being almost entirely South Asian men. Police, including dog handlers and mounted officers, effectively sealed off one side of the square and began forcing the crowd out of the city centre uphill in the general direction of Manningham.


The stone throwing towards the police broke out in the Sunbridge road area and from late afternoon 'rioting' was well under way. However, most people we have interviewed, including eye-witnesses felt there was more substance to the rumours, and they located the immediate cause of the riot around certain events in the city centre. In particular some pointed out the need for the community to defend itself in the light of the recent events in Oldham: it was to do with the National Front march and I think they were allowed permission to march through Bradford and I think the Anti-Nazi Group, they objected to it and held a demonstration down in Centenary Square and I think it was both sided really. There was word that there was some National Front members, because the march was cancelled or shouldn’t have been allowed or wouldn’t have been allowed, some of them were already in Bradford in pubs etc. (Zahida Ali, 31) Right, well it was all to do with the march that, err, the Nazi movement wanted to do and I think was most people they were scared of what happened in Oldham because they were all in suburban areas and they attacked people in their homes and so I think everyone was scared and they wanted to defend themselves. But what they did they didn’t go the right way about it but I think the intentions at the beginning weren’t bad. They were just trying to defend themselves of what happened in Oldham so it shouldn’t have really happened, but I think that is why it happened. The march of the NF group. (Kamran Ahmad (age 19) and Omar Akhbar (age 20))I think that week there were rumours that the National Front were coming to Bradford and I think all that week youth workers were talking of holding this kind of meeting, in the centre of town in Centenary Square. (Alisah Khaleeq, 38) Well there talk of the National Front coming down and so all the Asians got to together to fight them off basically and not let them take over. (Ibrar Khan, 18) In substance the 'riots' were more ethnically homogenous. In Bradford on 7th of July 2001 what started as a multi-ethnic event became almost entirely an event involving Pakistani men.
What the riots are expressing are new modes of 'racialisation' (Miles, 1989) on the one hand and new ethnic identities on the other. The old racialisation of Britain's ethnic minorities, crudely put, saw African-Caribbeans as 'having problems', whilst South Asian's 'have culture'. The new racialisation is rapidly pathologising the South Asian communities of northern England. Discourses of gang-culture, forced marriages, drug abuse, inter-generational conflict, resistance to integrating and speaking English and being Muslim are all routinely mobilised to explain away racism and justify dubious policies. Post September 11th they have increasingly been constructed as the new 'Enemy Within'. In contrast to how others see them, second and third generation South Asians, as we have seen from our interviews, are constructing new identities, differentiating themselves from their parents, yet continuing to be Muslim/Pakistani/Kashmiri and British. Lord Hattersley - who was also a Labour shadow home secretary - told BBC Radio 4's World at One Programme that the causes of crime, in this case, were alienation and deprivation. These young Muslim men ... believe they are being neglected, they believe they are being ignored, he said. They believe their legitimate claims are not being heard, they believe that the economic opportunities that the rest of society enjoys are not being provided for them.’
The  race report [2005] commissioned to investigate the unrest, on the other hand, says: the current Bradford scenario is one in which many white people feel that their needs are neglected because they regard the minority ethnic communities as being prioritised for more favourable public assistance; some people assert that the Muslims, in particular the Pakistanis, get everything at their expense. The report also goes on to speak of racism and Islamaphobia... resulting in harassment, discrimination and exclusion.
The Ouseley Report: Race Review Bradford District. 2001/2005. All communities, in and around Manningham, feel that they are at a disadvantage and blame the Muslims for that situation. The polarization and segregation of communities heightens the tribal responses which lead to conflict. Over time as long as tribal divisions are the norm, misunderstanding and conflict will follow. In Bradford ironically the various communities had as much in common, as differences. For example, they were all working class, labouring in the woollen and steel industries on poor wages. They were all living in sub standard houses. They could have cooperated to resolve their differences and to further the economic development of the area rather than attack each other. The recent disturbances between local communities in the area are not about the original immigration but about social injustices as perceived by these communities and stirred up by local political parties of the right and the left. In August 2010, these communities worked together to disperse a demonstration by the English Defence League. The migrants were needed by the UK economy to maintain production, they needed to come to the UK because of the economic disparities between the first and third world. They were working in jobs which British workers were refusing to take. The establishment of social justice calls for inclusion of all these elements in any judgment of fairness. Similarly the white British working class communities have long been exploited by employers. Educational and social opportunities are not fairly distributed. All communities suffer in different ways from such inequities and it is these inequities which need to be changed. Today, these communities are having to face unemployment, and increasing inequality together. Ouseley reported that gangs of muslim’ and ‘white’ youths compete with each other for drugs, and fight for territory.
Even after 60 years, Bradford is still considered to be a deeply segregated society. There are anti-nazi groups such as ‘Hope not Hate’; ‘Islam Watch’, and recently ‘Jihad Watch.org’. Is this separatism a bad thing? Is it just an expression of the cultural and religious differences between communities in a multi-cultural city? It is worth noting that there are as many differences between the Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians.  
The riots were the result of actions by white right wing political groups, deliberately placing these local ‘commonwealth’ communities in the ‘grip of fear’. This time round, members of these communities aggressively opposed the fascist attacks.

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