The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dr Robert Lambert Headshot

One Society Many Cultures

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

This coming Saturday One Society Many Cultures is staging a timely and important national convention in London.

Disturbingly, a severe economic recession in Europe and the US is providing a fertile recruiting ground for dangerous and violent racists like the English Defence League and for anti-Muslim politicians like Gert Wilders in Holland. It is therefore just the right time for a broad political alliance to show a united front against hatred and bigotry and celebrate the diversity of our multicultural communities as they begin come under a sustained attack.

Any readers still inclined to believe the EDL's own propaganda that it is neither racist nor violent should spend a few minutes searching reports on the EDL at Islamophobia Watch or reading this new research report from Dr. Matthew Feldman and colleagues at Northampton University.

Similarly, any readers still inclined to be believe that Anders Breivik, the Oslo terrorist, was not also a product of a poisonous and well orchestrated anti-Muslim narrative that comes from the furious pens of influential writers in the US, UK and across Europe should take the time to read Breivik's own coherent analysis.

Despite the weight of this evidence I suspect there will be some who will still insist the EDL reserves its vitriol for dangerous Muslim extremists http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-robert-lambert/londoners-united-against-_b_913874.html and that Anders Breivik is a madman http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-robert-lambert/terrorists-are-sane_b_910165.html who speaks for no one except himself. These are popular and complacent misconceptions that should not be left unchallenged.

In my own contribution to the convention I will build on arguments made in my new book to expose the myth that mainstream Muslim organisations are extremists and 'sheep in wolves clothing' as the EDL, Breivik and the writers who inspire them claim.

Regrettably, in doing so, I will be required to highlight the negative role being played by the Coalition Government in it's counter-terrorism and community cohesion or 'integration' strategies. Taking a leaf out of Michael Gove's influential neo-conservative polemic Celsius 7/7 http://www.amazon.co.uk/Celsius-7-Michael-Gove/dp/0297851462/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1318390804&sr=1-1 the government has launched a McCarthyite counter subversion strategy in all but name against Muslim organisations that do not adhere to Gove's view of British values.

As a recent Spinwatch report The Cold War on British Muslims http://www.spinwatch.org/-articles-by-category-mainmenu-8/317-islamophobia/5446-how-policy-exchange-and-the-centre-for-social-cohesion-encourage-the-cold-war-on-british-muslims makes plain Gove is a key player in a well orchestrated campaign by neo conservative think tanks including Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion that guides government policies towards its own Muslim citizens.

I saw evidence of this counter-subversion strategy in action yesterday when a Muslim 'counter-radicalisation' project approved by the coalition government lectured police officers and community workers about the dangers of 'non violent extremism' it wrongly assessed to be causally linked to violence and a threat to community cohesion and 'integration'.

In consequence many Muslim organisations at the forefront of confronting the EDL and confronting hate crimes and violence of all kinds are being demonised as extremist and a threat to community cohesion. This is well illustrated in Tower Hamlets http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-robert-lambert/edl-descend-on-tower-haml_b_947993.html where the reality on the ground contradicts the analysis offered by Gove and his colleagues in nearby Westminster.

My former police colleagues will need to be brave http://www.the-platform.org.uk/2011/09/15/tough-policing-advice-for-the-new-met-police-commissioner/ when standing shoulder to shoulder with Muslim partners now judged uncongenial by government. Fair and effective policing will need to be as tough on far right terrorism, political violence and intimidation as it has been on terrorism and political violence associated with al-Qaeda and fringe Muslim extremists. Police chiefs will need to ensure that counter-terrorism policing takes full account of the threat posed by extremists who share the same ambitions as Anders Breivik if not - to date at least - the Oslo terrorist's chilling skill.

And if police accept the Home Secretary's view that young Muslims should be 'prevented' from becoming radicalised into 'extremism' then they should ensure that the same measures are applied to young people joining the English Defence League. Or better still, challenge the government's notion of 'prevent' altogether. Either way, even handedness is essential.

If police go about this task fairly then the small number of terrorists and violent extremists who feed off the unattended political grievances in all our communities will be better isolated, identified and tackled.

A focus on anti-Muslim racism is not to ignore racism more generally or to plead for special treatment for Muslims. To the contrary One Society Many Cultures benefits from the role model set by Ken Livingstone who has always insisted that Muslims should simply be treated fairly and equally along with their fellow citizens. Contrary to popular myth, this is all Muslims themselves ever ask for.

It is therefore high time decent politicians from all three major parties, trade unionists, anti-racist activists and all of us who want to defend multi-faith, multi-ethnic, multicultural communities applied equal standards and tackled anti-Muslim racism with the same enthusiasm earlier manifestations of racism against minority ethnic communities have been opposed.

My police background dictates my research focus and my contribution to the convention. But this is a wide ranging event with speakers from a variety of backgrounds, many with positive and successful accounts of multicultural grass roots experience.