The Death of Jo Cox MP – Racist Rhetoric has Consequences

| 18/06/2016 | 0 Comments More
Jo Cox maiden speech

Jo Cox maiden speech

The following was emailed to me and after reading I thought it was worth sharing…

“We must all unite to fight the hatred that killed her.”

“While we celebrate our diversity, what surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”.

– Jo Cox’s first speech as an MP
In the run up to the EU referendum I have never seen, read or heard so much unbridled prejudice, anti Muslim hatred, and xenophobia expressed by politicians and the media. Of course, the dehumanising of “them” has been going on for years. It has been drip fed 24/7 to us through online news from politicians. But the volume of the hatred and bile in the news and by politicians has multiplied hundreds of times in the run up to this EU referendum. There has been no restraint or sense of fear that their words could be a criminal offence or incited hatred, violence or even a murder.
The new “received wisdom” is that people – not “brown immigrant” types though – should be able to express their views freely, and that it’s not racist if people say something like “immigrants are scroungers”. Remember the Labour MP Pat Glass who last month apologised for calling one of her constituents “a horrible racist” (she shouldn’t have and he arguably was) when he referred to Polish immigrant neighbours as “spongers”. Talk about pandering to racism. The disgusting Breaking Point billboard – with refugees queuing up to enter Europe – unveiled by Nigel Farage yesterday marked a new low, even for him, and is nothing more than incitement to hatred of anyone who is not “white British”. These messages often make their most devastating impact on ignorant, prejudiced minds and those who have never even met a refugee, immigrant or Muslim. (We merge into one faceless, brown, foreign, non-white, “non-British” “other”, I guess).
In this charity, we see almost daily the consequences of politicians’ dehumanising rhetoric about the “other”. Racially aggravated crime is the most common of all hate crimes. In the most recent police statistics in Scotland, racist hate crime has increased (again). Anti Muslim hate crime has doubled. When you have the Prime Minister of this country talking about “swarms” of refugees and “a bunch of migrants” it is to be expected. The dog whistle politics filters down to the common man or woman. At street level, it shows up in increased racist abuse, xenophobia and anti Muslim hate crime. At local government level, it shows up in vocalised prejudice against refugee or immigrant lives when they try to access jobs, education, or housing.
Jo Cox MP was an ardent campaigner for Syria’s refugees, calling for Britain to do more for unaccompanied child refugees. She believed in diverse, multiracial communities and showed it. The man suspected of her murder is said to have repeatedly shouted “Britain First” (a far right group connected to the BNP). He also had a history of mental illness and was arguably susceptible to hate rhetoric. Rhetoric does have consequences.

As Alex Massie says in The Spectator:
“Politicians are responsible for the manner in which they have pressed their argument. When you encourage rage you cannot then feign surprise when people become enraged. If you spend days, weeks, months, years telling people they are under threat, that their country has been stolen from them, that they have been betrayed and sold down the river, that their birthright has been pilfered, that their problem is they’re too slow to realise any of this is happening, that their problem is they’re not sufficiently mad as hell, then at some point, in some place, something or someone is going to snap. And then something terrible is going to happen. ”
In the toxic hate filled atmosphere of the EU referendum campaign I don’t believe the murder of a pro refugee MP was a mere coincidence. I hope politicians and the media are held responsible for the words they speak. I hope there starts to be prosecutions of those politicians and newspapers who continue to incite hatred of us refugees, immigrants and Muslims.

Robina Qureshi

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