Below is a transcript of the Xenophobia session. It is loosely edited.
Khadija Ali: I’ll start by just welcoming you all to this morning’s session on xenophobia, we’ve got an excellent panel of distinguished experts and speakers in this area who are here to share their ideas with us and their thoughts on this very pertinent subject and it’s a subject that affects us all, whether we’re on the receiving end or just simply part of a system which may be endorsing xenophobia. Before I introduce the format of our panel this morning, someone sent me a very nice reminder regarding a verse of the Koran that they requested I share with you and it is the following: “Oh mankind, you have been created into nations and tribes so that you recognize one another and not to despise one another. The best of you are those who are best in righteous deeds.” To me this means understanding, respect and accepting the diversity in our humanity.
Tufyal Choudhury: Okay well, thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today and to speak about what is a really important issue around how the current debates both on counterterrorism and on community cohesion and integration have the potential danger of reinforcing or exacerbating xenophobia and racism. My particular focus is on the debates around integration and cohesion and the way that that’s been used in public policy and the impact that it may have in relation to xenophobia. The debate around social cohesion, community cohesion was something that started with, or was set off by the riots that took place in northern England in 2001. But I wanted to put some context to that debate and that part of the focus on community cohesion in the 2001 riot analysis relates back to an earlier period, the period prior to 2001. A few years prior to that, you’d had the McPherson report, which focused upon institutional racism and discrimination, so that was the first time there was a focus, not on communities, but on institutions and the responsibilities that they had for dealing with racism and discrimination. My reading of the community cohesion agenda is that part of that is a backlash against McPherson and the idea that you should focus on institutions and the way they operate. This was an attempt to say, well no you should focus back on communities and what they’re doing. Community cohesion can be a useful way of discussing the race issues between communities and how we build positive relationships. I think the danger is and what we’ve seen is that the focus has been less on the obstacles or barriers to integration and in fact what you’ve seen is to an extent some of the debate has pathologised communities, particularly Muslim communities in the way that they’re perceived, in the way that they’re understood, and so rather than focusing on the barriers and looking at social, looking at economic integration, political participation, much of the focus has been on issues of culture and cultural integration and values which I think is quite problematic. The way that debate has taken place has been to create a sense in which the Muslim communities are somehow different and authorise their being seen as the problem.
Last year for example, there was an interesting piece of work by Cardiff University which looked at the coverage of Muslim communities in the press and the media since 9/11. One of the things that they found out which I think was really telling is that 2008 was the first time in which the majority of stories in the press about Muslims was no longer about counterterrorism, but it was about cultural issues and identifying cultural differences as being a threat to British society, a threat to our shared values. I think that’s the danger with this discussion about culture. And within that I think there is a failure to understand amongst non-Muslims and in the public debate sometimes, the role and importance of religion to the identity of the Muslims and in the way that it works for a lot of Muslims. I’m a trustee of the organisation called the Muslim Youth Helpline which works with a lot of young Muslims. It’s one that was set up by young Muslims and what I’ve seen is that there’s a failure to understand exactly why religious identity is an important aspect of the lives of young Muslims. What’s often failed to be understood is that for example, British identity can be an important tool towards integration for a lot of people, because it’s an important way of arguing with or debating with their parents and arguing for greater participation and educational employment because they know that their parents will find those arguments much more persuasive. It is also seen as empowering and it’s a positive way in which you can use your identity to argue for greater participation in education and so there’s a lot of work done in the field of education, which looks at how religious identity is almost a form of social ethnic capital which positively supports educational advancement and educational participation.
And so within that debate I think the recent leaks in the Guardian talking about what could be the changing context of the antiterrorism strategy, in which the dividing line against good Muslim and bad Muslim, to put it crudely, is whether they support things like Sharia law. I think that’s very dangerous, because it fails to see that actually those are very contested notions, that the idea of Sharia law is very contested and that actually, and at the same time it’s something that’s valued greatly by Muslims and so if you would say that that dividing line is whether they support it or not, I think you go into dangerous ground, because for a lot of Muslims Sharia law is about how they, you know, what they eat, how they pray, all of the things that are very personal to them and it’s not about this sort of a wider construction of Sharia law as criminal punishment. That needs to be understood.
So, in terms of the community cohesion debate, the things that I would point out is that it’s sort of several things which I think are false; firstly that Muslims live parallel lives to other people, I think that the interesting thing is that all the research evidence in terms of social science research and even the government’s home office citizenship surveys shows the evidence just isn’t there to support that. What you have in somewhere like Bradford, you don’t have evidence of greater ethnic concentration of communities. You have evidence of areas, they’ve got ethnic concentration growing in areas, but that’s mainly due to changes, population growing because people, because of the demographics of the community and you have, but you have at the same time evidence of people going out into leafier suburbs of Bradford. But even outside Bradford there isn’t the evidence of people wanting to live in segregated communities. There isn’t any evidence around issues of loyalty and belongings and some of the debate has been, well, because they’re different they don’t have a sense of loyalty and belonging to the UK, whereas all of the evidence suggests that actually there isn’t that conflict and there isn’t that tension of being British and being Muslim. The vast majority of Muslim people have a sense of belonging to Britain and have a sense of loyalty, and often the difficulty is the way that the questions are posed as if the two, being British and being Muslim are actually in competition to each other.
So, just to bring it back to the issues of civil liberty, I think one of the things that I would say is that a lot of the ways in which the counterterrorism debate has linked antiterrorism to community cohesion, to say that part of the radicalisation relates to the failure of integration. I think there are two things that are challenges; whether you can argue that the link is there at all, but also, if you focus on integration because of your concerns about radicalisation and counterterrorism, then the signal you send out to communities is that that’s the only reason you’re concerned about their economic, social and political participation. Actually you’re not concerned about it otherwise. I think that’s a dangerous signal to send, whereas there should be a concern for communities about their economic and social integration irrespective of questions of counterterrorism and radicalisation.
Dr. Edie Friedman: Right, thank you very much; can you hear me in the back? Right, good morning everyone, what I’d like to do is to talk very briefly, about three areas. The first is some concerns within the Jewish community, the second is to look at some similarities between Muslim and Jewish experience and then to look at how minority communities together could be more effective in combating xenophobia and at the same time building a better civil society for all of us. I think it’s important to say that I’ll be giving just a Jewish perspective rather than the Jewish perspective, as much as I’d like to think I represent the Jewish community, alas it doesn’t quite work that way. And I think it’s also important to say that when I use the word Jewish I refer to people who subscribe to the Jewish religion, so that’s Judaism, but also people who see their Jewishness in terms of identity, ethnicity and culture. Many Jews subscribe to both, but secularism is a very strong trend within the Jewish world.
So, if I could just say a few things about some concerns within the Jewish community. Particularly since January there has been a big increase in anti-Semitic attacks and they’ve been around seven a day, which is quite large. I have to point out the Jewish community is relatively small. Jews debate everything and they debate how many there are of us and one of the things we debate is, you know, whether there’s 25300 or 350,000. So seven attacks a day is quite a large number. What represents a worrying trend within this is that a number of the attacks are perpetuated by children on other children and there was a rather nasty episode in Birmingham when a Jewish child aged 13 was set upon by a group of young teenagers and they were shouting, death to the Jews and obviously this coincides with activities what went on in Gaza, but nevertheless it does represent a very worrying trend. Unofficially many Jews are reporting that there’s an unease, they hear more comments, they see more slogans and there’s a sort of general sense of outcast which for some represents a great deal of unease and for some people it actually represents a real menace, so it’s quite strong. So, the Jewish community and when I sort of, I say the Jewish community as a shorthand way, as in any community there are many communities, so it isn’t just one community, so just bear with me for referring to it as just the Jewish community. So the reaction to anti-Semitism can take various forms as the reaction to any form of racism can take various forms. Some people want to pull up the drawbridge even further and they want to hide and isolate themselves. For some people it means having more hostility towards other minority communities. For many people, they’re rather indifferent to other communities or completely unaware of other communities and for others it means a real willingness to re-engage with other communities and I’m very pleased that the President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews said recently about the importance particularly of engaging and developing Muslim-Jewish relations. Of course in the Jewish community, we all have our contradictions so at the same time we can feel empowered and disempowered, we can feel insiders at the same time as feeling outsiders, we’re part of the big British majority because most of us are white, yet we are a minority within that. And I think what this suggests is that communities, even those who appear to be well-established, still need some protection and at the same time members of all communities need to acknowledge inconsistencies in our application of human rights. So for example, some people are very good at defending the rights of asylum seekers, and they’re not very good on Islamophobia, some are concerned about domestic issues, but not necessarily third world issues and others can be concerned about racism generally, but not very good about anti-Semitism, and of course vice versa.
We need to help each other to see the links between these issues for the sake, not only of our own communities, but for the sake of British society as a whole as we become hopefully more actively and creatively engaged with each other, in spite of all the messiness and contradictions, relations between communities is a messy business and I think we have to acknowledge that we’re full of contradictions. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try our hardest to engage. If I could just very briefly look at some connections between Jewish and Muslim communities. Maleiha Malik who’s a lecturer in law at King’s College, London, has written about a number of similarities between Muslim and Jewish experiences, the way both of us have been demonised because our religious and cultural practises, we’ve been called culturally dysfunctional and being incapable of being incorporated into liberal society. In fact there was a 20th century writer, J. H. Hayes who said that Jews were and I quote: “politically unfit to be suddenly transplanted into those democratic institutions”. But we have adapted ourselves and of course how many times have we heard the same sort of things said about Muslims. Maleiha also points out that commentators claim that the involvement of a few Jewish activists in the late 19th century as well as leaders in the Bolshevik movement, was evidence of the fact that Jews were more inclined towards terrorism and violence: again sentiments expressed by Muslims today. And the Jewish columnist who writes for the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland said in response to comparisons between Muslims and Jews, that I try to imagine what it must be like to be a Muslim in Britain today, that sense of unease and dread when I switch on the radio or the television. What would they be saying about us today? And of course Jonathan pointed out a number of things which we in the Jewish community understand about how you always have to prove that you can pass the cricket test.
So what can we do? Look at ourselves to make sure that our institutions, whether they’re faith schools, religious teaching, and University societies, indeed our own personal lives that we don’t demonise and stereotype others. Look very carefully at interfaith groups because this is the place where a lot of multiculturalism actually takes place and make sure that they don’t get stuck just looking at who they are and comparing religious purposes – that they actually actively engage within the wider community. Third, avoid the perpetual victimhood, we have to in a sense be less territorial about being victims and to know that in addition to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, all of us have to try together to combat racism generally, not our own particular form of racism that affects us. We have to move away from the sort of George Bush school of diplomacy that the world isn’t just about good guys and bad guys, but that there’s a lot of diversity within all of our communities. And finally, I think there’s a real opportunity that if minority groups can come together under a human rights agenda that we can set an important example for the rest of the wider community of how people can actually work together for the sake not only of our own communities but for Britain as a whole. Thank you.
Ifath Nawaz: Thank you, good morning everyone. I have been asked to talk to you about the impact on the community of xenophobia, Islamophobia in particular and the impact on Muslim women. Following the attacks in London 7/7, the government set up this task force to look into preventing extremism together and they summoned up about 104 Muslims to come and meet and to discuss the issues and the Muslims took part in that and put the report together. So from the Muslim community perspective, we’ve always responded in a constructive and responsive way to the demands that had been made of us. Some would argue that these are unreasonable demands because a whole community is being held responsible for the acts of a few. Now, the Muslim community has responded in many ways and whether that’s through the establishment of the mosques and Imams, national advisory body or through mosques and Imams evaluating themselves what they’re doing and reviewing their own practices through to engaging with the preventing violent extremism strategy that the government are pushing through.
Well, you have to look at the impact of certain measures that the government is pursuing, looking at anti-terror raids on communities; this is having a huge, huge impact on the community. It’s generally accepted by civil liberties groups and British Muslims that the sensational manner in which these raids and arrests are carried out with extensive media reporting all have a huge impact on those individuals involved, their families and the Muslim community in that locality and much more widely. And there is an equally devastating impact on the wider community, once an individual is arrested in such a situation. In most cases the individuals will have been released without charge after a period of detention. The information from the Muslim Safety Forum is that 32% of all arrested are released within 12 hours, 46% within 24 hours and 93% released within 10 days and only 6% are held for more than 10 days. This is not as widely reported as the arrests when they first take place. However the impact the arrest has on the lives of the individuals involved is devastating. They find themselves, together with their families, ostracised by the wider Muslim community, who are afraid to be seen, to be connected with those involved, for fear of being labelled as sympathisers or terrorists themselves.
As a result of the arrests and the wide media coverage it will have received, the individual’s history is reported in the media with usually very little foundation apart from recollection of peers without substantial verification of the truth, of what is being reported, as the journalists land in the area and tag for anyone who knew the individual, no matter how little the information is. The family involved will have their bank accounts frozen, their houses seized by the police for search purposes together with their vehicles and they’re essentially left in a position with no home, no money, no friends, or family support. It is understandable that people feel concerned when such an event has taken place in their midst and even after an individual has been released without charge, there is no effort made to reintegrate that individual or their family back into society. The impact on the wider community and community relationships is severely impacted upon and we experienced this in Widcombe, when the anti-terror raids took place there and because of the fear of taking part and engaging in wider society, Muslims were afraid to go out and engage with the wider community and public meetings because of the fear of backlash and being held responsible. The whole approach has got to be reviewed.
The role of the media in this is of great significance, the sensationalist reporting, the digging for information, as to which mosque did the individual attend, what is the Imam there like, is extremist ideology preached there, was the individual religious at all, what did he read, what did he see, every last bit of detail is dissected at microscopic level, which creates an illusion within the community that if you are religious, you must have extremist tendencies, if you pray five times a day, you must have extremist tendencies, if you read certain literature, you must have extremist tendencies and everyone is spying on everyone, and no one is trusting anyone any more. Essentially what happens is that the individual is tried and convicted by the media and with them the net of suspicion is cast over the whole Muslim community. Local mosques and Imams are being closely scrutinised to see if they are breeding grounds and encouraging extremist or radical ideology, and the Muslim community then finds itself in a constant cycle of explaining itself, like Dr Friedman just said, satisfying the Britishness test, in an effort to prove their loyalty, their local connections, what goes on in the mosque, what is being taught by the Imams. There is no denying that our mosques require a lot of work and many, I would argue, are far from fulfilling that expected role that they should be, and that is where the work of the mosque and Imams and national advisory body will become critical, but that in no way justifies the criminalisation of a whole community.
We can look at the detention of foreign nationals and the control orders that have been introduced to confine terrorist suspects who have not been found guilty of a crime by conventional court of law. The orders include measures such as house arrest, electronic tagging, restriction of movement, association and use of phones and Internet. All of those detained under these orders are Muslims.
The impact on Muslim women, the outcome of that stereotyping was that at the height of the bombings, Muslim women were regarded as being oppressed, uneducated and invisible. It’s been seen as an open season attack on Muslim women: the way we dress, the way we mingle in society, everything has been dissected and comments from people like Jack Straw on the veil have not helped this debate. There have been recorded reports of women saying that they were harassed as a direct result of these misrepresentations. They either had remarks rudely thrown at them in the workplace or just walking down the street, walking into department stores. Muslim women would certainly find the security officials stopping them and asking them to search their bags. Muslim women have been afraid to venture out of their home for fear of persecution and due to the lack of Muslim women’s voice in places where these matters are discussed such as councils, community groups, police advisory bodies, interfaith groups, residents associations, the presence of the Muslim women in these areas and the issues they face is virtually non-existent. As a result we find Muslim women finding themselves confined to the home which is severely affecting their ability to interact with wider society. Due to the Islamophobia Muslim women have withdrawn from society, afraid to engage, because they feel that they are not able to contribute due to lack of knowledge, skills and confidence. Now, since that time the Muslim community have been running lots of projects to try and empower the Muslim women and the youth and the mosques and the Imams, but we’re doing our bit.
Stuart Wilks-Heeg: Many thanks, and many thanks for the invitation to speak here today. I should add that I’ll be taking over shortly as Director of Democratic Audit in just a few weeks time. Now, as I came off the train today from Liverpool, arriving at Eastern Station and walked through Bloomsbury and usually I get a lovely warm feeling going through Bloomsbury, because I was a student here and it reminds me of my time as a student, but today I felt a bit of a chill to be honest, not because it’s cold, but partly because I knew what I was going to say. But then I also thought about, you know, the cynics out there, the sceptics, perhaps even the complacent who will probably mock us being here, who will probably talk about the chattering classes meeting in Bloomsbury, this historically liberal, bohemian part of London and we’ll all be sitting there discussing this stuff about rights and liberty and everybody else will be ignoring us. Well, presumably they’re not. I don’t know if I’m a member of the chattering classes or not, I never thought I was, I don’t know if you are, but I think this debate is going to be on the chattering classes. What I want to try to do this afternoon is actually take you away from Bloomsbury, far away, for some of you, and I want to take us slightly away from the issue of liberty and human rights. I’m going to talk about that, but I want to bring in some other issues as well, because I think if we don’t do that, we can’t understand the nature of xenophobia in Britain today. I think to understand that, we need to all also understand what’s been happening in relation to inequality in Britain in the last decade.
So, I’m going to talk actually partly about economics, I’m going to talk about social divisions, I’m going to talk about the demise of political parties and I’m going to talk a bit about local government, if there’s time, I’ll do my best.
And as we said in the beginning, I am also going to explain why we need to take the BNP seriously in all of this, and I’m sure you don’t need persuading, but you might be surprised at some of the reasons I’m going to offer. I’m going to say we need to take the BNP especially seriously when they start talking about speed bumps and things like that, the rubbish collections, who gets weekly rubbish collections, who doesn’t, housing allocations, local government issues. This is when we really need to take notice of what the BNP are up to.
So, my journey elsewhere, it will start with the issue of liberty and it’s going to take us to something that happened two weeks ago actually, on the M65, near Preston. I’m sure you all heard the news about this, we’ve heard about some of the media reporting of these events. So the news bulletins came in, the 14th of February, two vans stopped emblazoned with Palestinian flags and with slogans like, from Blackburn to Gaza, and so on. The drivers and the passengers told the police that stopped them that they were joining the convoy to Gaza and police obviously thought otherwise, or thought something else might be going on. They detained six men from Blackburn I believe in the back of a police van for seven hours and three men from Burnley were arrested and taken to a secure detention centre in Manchester for questioning under anti-terror legislation. The media reports told us this was an intelligence-led operation by Lancashire police and the North West counterterrorism unit resulting from a couple of months of surveillance of the individuals concerned. We also learnt subsequently that five properties in Burnley had been raided and searched. Forensic teams went in, computers were taken out, and this was of course in the predominately Muslim area of Daneshouse and Stoneyholme in Burnley.
Now as we’ve just heard, in cases like this and there are many cases like this, there was rather less coverage when these people were released without charge, six days later. In fact, I don’t know if any of you noted the coverage of that and as my former colleague at the University and Respect Party councillor now in Preston, Michael Lavalette pointed out, there are some serious questions here that need to be raised. I don’t know the answer to them, I don’t know the ins and outs of this, but we need to know things like why these arrests were made, on what basis, what evidence, and if the evidence and the intelligence was flawed, why was it flawed? Perhaps most importantly, as Michael has asked, where are the Labour ministers on television or in the press defending the arrests and explaining the actions that were taken? Well, we could go on with stories like this, we could come up with many like this I’m sure. People on the panel could come up with more than I could. But there’s an editorial in the Guardian today which suggests that the people that highlight the erosion of liberties need some time to say a bit more about the context. So I will in my last two or three minutes explain why context is important and why it’s particularly important in a place like Burnley.
Burnley, I don’t know how many of you have been there, probably very few. It’s definitely one of Britain’s forgotten places. It’s one of the places that has not shared in the boom of the last 10 years. We almost forget that boom there, don’t we, that debt driven, consumer driven boom, apparently there was one. And it’s in places like this that xenophobia breeds and Burnley is not the only one. There are others like it and it’s where the anti-terror legislation, the implementation of that on a daily basis, coincides of course with the activities of the British National Party to produce really, as we know, a very explosive, a very damaging mix. Now, we used to get the figures all the time, jobs created under new Labour, 4 million nationally since 1997, half a million of those jobs in the north-west, how many of those jobs are in Burnley? – zero. In fact, no new jobs in Burnley: 2000 less than in 1997. I can’t find many places that have had a declining employment over the last decade. I found two more. I searched a lot. One was Stoke: another one was Barking and Dagenham, yeah. Now, you might already be thinking what I’m thinking. These are the three main sectors of BNP activism in the country. These are the places where the BNP has managed to get party groups of eight or more since 2002. Burnley, the percentage of the working age population on benefits, on state benefits has not changed since 1997, it’s absolutely rigid at 21%. So all those claims about how poverty is being tackled in some of these places: well it’s not true in Burnley. Dramatic decline in manufacturing employment in particular in Burnley and in Stoke and in Barking and Dagenham, where it’s gone from about a third of the local economy down to a fifth.
Now all this matters, it’s all connected. In my last 2 minutes, I’ll try and bring it all together. Now the BNP membership list that was leaked, we might want to discuss the civil liberties issues around leaking membership lists, but it was leaked and it’s told us where the members are and it did reveal that some of them were police officers and some of them were ballerinas and some of them were retired army officers and so on, but we do know most BNP supporters are semiskilled and skilled working-class voters, predominately in these types of areas where we’re seeing that scale of job loss. Of course what we sometimes forget is that those BNP voters have lost their jobs. Those jobs were also lost by others in the same communities and in Burnley, Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants brought to do those jobs in the same mills and in the same factories. It’s classic, those people have been thrown into conflict and we know that’s the formula, and that’s what’s breeding xenophobia. All the BNP has done is they have found a way of localising this even more: they’ve gotten into a kind of micro-politics of this. They have started to highlight, wow there’s a regeneration scheme here and you’ve drawn a line on a map, and you’ve got some spending on that side and not on that side. They’ve racialised the issues. They’ve even done it around, as I said at the beginning, issues of rubbish collection. You would not believe it, but they have. Why has a weekly collection of food waste been started in this area first, before this area over here, and you can guess which areas I’m pointing my fingers at.
Robin Knowles: Thank you very much and it really is a great pleasure to be here. I just wanted, with your permission, to share a few thoughts and truly unscripted remarks in the spirit of what I hope will be good debate to follow. I started with the title of this session, xenophobia, and the first thing I did was to take the dictionary and just remind myself precisely how it is defined; fear or hatred of things foreign, is the answer. Quite a simple and short formulation, shorter than I’d expected, fear or hatred of things foreign and the more I thought about the few words that make up that definition, the more I realised that some of the clues to how to approach that subject might be more easily found. Fear or hatred, already this definition is suggesting a confusion, fear or hatred, there’s an uncertainty there, fear or hatred of things foreign, apparently things foreign, generally, all of them. Utterly indiscriminate or potentially indiscriminate is the message that comes through there. The fear or hatred of things foreign speaks, it speaks more of ignorance doesn’t it, rather than information or knowledge and, fear and hatred of things foreign suggests the irrational, why, why fear or hatred of all things foreign?
A psychologist or a psychiatrist, I’m never quite sure which area or discipline is involved, would describe much of this as old brain stuff. Fear or hatred comes from the old part of our brain and we’ve got so many other parts of that brain they would tell us, which can counterbalance what the old brain is saying as a matter of first instinct, and that too tells us that actually solutions must be available to us in engaging with and resolving the problems of xenophobia. Of course there are a number of ways of tackling or engaging with those problems. We can and we should, and we’ll hear much of this today, emphasise with as much eloquence and force and powers we can, what is wrong with it. Of course we can try and articulate that message so that it is heard and heard again.
We can also, we can also press for rights and support that will stand against xenophobia and the adverse effects that come from it, but in addition we can look at it rather from the other end of the telescope. We can ask ourselves how to address the fear or hatred or where that’s come from, or what might underlie it. We can ask ourselves, how do we allay the fear, how do we stop the fear converting into hatred because that must be a potential behind the phrase fear or hatred: fear becoming hatred, if not earlier addressed. Of course, the moment one starts thinking in this way, is the moment that one realises that a fundamental in our endeavour to tackle xenophobia is the promotion of understanding.
If we remember that this is fear or hatred of things foreign, can we take more people to the place when the instinctive attitude to things foreign, to use just what the dictionary offers us, is to begin to be interested in it, even to cherish it and even to want to share. And the more one thinks in this way, which you may say is simplistic and I’d welcome the challenge, the more one realises that every one of us can do something and not just, not just by talking and supporting and advocating, but everybody can do something and often this will be something small, indeed, sometimes small is good, because if we can find small things to do, the greater the chance that we can encourage many others to do those small things, and the greater the chance that the combination of all the small things is greater than the sum of the individual parts. And the small thing is the thing that, even in its own right, can be equal to more and for me an example of a small thing is an attempt to enjoy a meal together. Something that simple, it may not be a good example, but it’s an example. If we had more single meals together in this country, in which there was a countless effort to make sure those sharing that meal came from different backgrounds, from foreign as well as non-foreign, I use only those words, I use only those words, because the dictionary offers them and not because I think they’re particularly suitable, but I know in this environment you’ll get the thrust of exactly what I’m saying. Enjoying a meal together, encouraging somebody to come to that meal, can I suggest sometimes do as much as joining a march. That march is really important, but the meal is important as well. It’s funny how some of these small things, you all have better examples than the tiny one I’ve given, can lead to others.
What I’d like to do in the remaining minute or two, I know not what I’m going to be allowed, by our severe chairman, is just to give an illustration of how one thing can lead to another, can lead to another, and its two minutes. Pro Bono in the LMC was a little enterprise set up within the London Muslim centre to offer initial signposting for those who might need help, to help get them to a place where legal help could be obtained and the important thing about it was that it was based in the London Muslim Centre, but open to Muslims and non-Muslims and the next thing that happened was the local authorities said, could you have another branch, just across the road, outside the London Muslim Centre, in the library, and the answer was yes, open to Muslims and non-Muslims. And of course not everyone, Muslim or non-Muslim needs the signposting help, but if it encourages people to know they’re welcome in the centre just as any one in the centre is welcome outside, so much the better. And it led to a few seminars about financial problems that Muslim and non-Muslim share, about housing problems that Muslim and non-Muslim share, and it led beyond that, it led in fact to the first ever speech by a Lord Chief Justice in such a venue addressing an audience, Muslim and non-Muslim on equality, equality, the key really to understanding, just as understanding is the key really to xenophobia and I could give more examples including some of the impressive work done on the back of this project with women, Muslim and non-Muslim and change can happen. I’ll give one illustration in one sentence, I’m a commercial lawyer in terms of my day job where I earn my living from, five, 10 years ago the approach to Islamic banking, to a murabaha transaction was so often, that’s a very strange thing, we don’t recognize that here, is it indeed a genuine financing transaction? Today, it is valued and respected and encouraged in the city and indeed the commentary as such that it may even be one of the preferred forms of financing transactions in the years to come. You can do it, and what did it was simply a process of understanding, a few lawyers sharing a meal together, sometimes literally and making sure that they didn’t just talk with the people it was easiest to bring together, that they sat down with some of those who knew about Islamic banking and they learned and the fear of something foreign receded. Thank you.