I am a passionate advocate of free speech and I do believe that we can sometimes be somewhat oversensitive when it comes to clamping down on those who say things that make us uncomfortable, but are within the bounds of the law. In particular, because of Brexit, there is a tendency amongst those who voted Remain to very quickly dismiss as to the right of the spectrum the views of those who voted Leave. This is unhelpful and unfair and comes about as a failure to listen to the concerns of those who voted Leave, many of which are legitimate.
Further, there are double standards at play in public life and with one breath those representing parties condemn what they deem to be far right views, but then allow extremism to foster in their midst. It is unacceptable for those who are meant to uphold the highest standards in the public sphere to be so unbalanced, using inflammatory language as they do. In failing to take seriously and do something about this hatred, they normalise it, allowing others to follow suit and spread the toxicity – and this applies in all contexts, not just in relation to anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia.
We need to come together and celebrate, not hate, the differences between us, but, at the same time, remember what unites us – something we routinely fail to do.
BRINGING COMMUNITIES TOGETHER
As a Briton of Pakistani origin, I feel privileged and proud to have two different cultures which I can identify with and celebrate with all my friends and family, whatever their background. However, despite this, wherever I look, I see deep divisions in this country which affect us all. The tribalism that Brexit has engendered has pitted people against each other - whether it is the so-called right against the so-called left or ‘Remainers’ versus ‘Leavers’ - and led friends and family to fall out with each other.
In addition, many people who come from a minority background – whatever their colour, religious beliefs and cultural affiliations – feel alienated for a number of reasons, including a lack of integration (sometimes through no fault of their own). This has only been made worse by the very public failure of the Labour and Tory parties to tackle anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in their midst – or, to put it another way – their very public tolerance of anti-Semitic and Islamophobic behaviour within their ranks.