Friday, 9 November 2012

Coalition of the willing

I spent almost a decade in the Middle East, most of it working for an Arab airline based in a Gulf country.  I lived and worked and travelled with Muslims, visiting almost all of the countries of the region and beyond.  It was a time full of adventure and challenge that I will never forget, with a political education thrown in for free.

Time has passed, and sixteen days ago I saw the representatives of two Jewish groups in Norwich sitting together in the same hall as the representative of a Norwich mosque and a representative of the Norwich Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

It was extraordinarily moving for me to hear a Jewish speaker alternate with a Muslim speaker at the We Are Norwich public meeting.  It would be almost unthinkable in much of the Middle East to have such speakers together in the same room.  How wonderful then that something has brought together this astonishing event in our small city of Norwich. 

The messages from each speaker were similar - beware of those who scapegoat and blame a segment of society for all the ills of that society.  Beware the bullyboys who speak and act in violent ways towards others.  Remember history, and how small acts of cruelty and hatred and division can become a vicious evil.  Beware the fascists.   

The Jewish and the Muslim representatives were brought together by a common cause, that is, in a resolute opposition to the policies of hatred of the far right, and in response to the threats of the English Defence League (EDL) to march on Norwich 10 November - tomorrow.

Representatives of all the main Christian churches of Norwich have already registered their objections to the EDL.  

Representatives from the Norfolk Humanist Group have also expressed support for We Are Norwich.

Opposition to the far right bigotry of the EDL has brought together the citizens of Norwich in all our glorious diversity.  Not only the religious, but the political, with messages of support from all the major political parties.  Representatives of huge political parties, and representatives from small local community groups.  

We are young and not so young; gay, straight, bi, and passed bothering; athletes and disabled; religious and irreligious;  political and apolitical;  students, trade unionists, housewives, professionals, priests, soldiers, artists, pensioners and labourers; people of every hue united in this rainbow coalition.

Our main leaders teethed their organisational skills on the annual Norwich Pride events, and we are united in admiration for what Nick O'Brien, Julie Bremner and the Norwich LGBT group have achieved.

Speaking on behalf of We Are Norwich, secretary Nick O’Brien said:
The EDL has held countless demonstrations across the country where they have rampaged through towns – attacking mosques, businesses and individuals. More recently it has begun to attack peaceful demonstrations, multicultural events and trade union demonstrations. Its leader Tommy Robinson, who has a string of convictions and was formerly a member of the British National Party appeared of a Channel 4 programme praising Anders Breivik, the fascist terrorist, responsible for killing 76 people in Norway. 
(Tommy Robinson is now in prison awaiting trial for allegedly travelling on a false passport).

No rampaging for the EDL in Norwich tomorrow.  I trust the Police, their superb planning and fencing, and I trust We Are Norwich to keep the peace.

I am proud to be a part of this coalition and look forward to the celebrations tomorrow.  

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