‘This march is personal’ - The young activist who felt the effects of racism since Brexit

PUBLISHED: 13:02 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 16:18 16 October 2018

Police officers man a cordon in Finsbury Park, north London, after a van struck pedestrians outside a mosque. Photograph: Victoria Jones.

Police officers man a cordon in Finsbury Park, north London, after a van struck pedestrians outside a mosque. Photograph: Victoria Jones.

PA Wire/PA Images

When a van drove into crowds outside a mosque in Finsbury Park BASHIR IBRAHIM’s brother was one of those injured. Here Bashir explains why the fight against Brexit is also a fight against racism.

What are you doing this Saturday? I will be joining the People’s Vote March for the Future, with thousands of students and young people.

There are lots of reasons why people will be marching on Parliament this weekend. The gap between the promises of two years ago, and what’s being delivered on people’s doorsteps. The impact that Brexit will have on working class communities across the UK.

But for my family and I, this is personal. We have seen first-hand the rise in racism caused by Brexit. The march is timely, as Brexit (potentially) draws to its sorry conclusion. But more poignantly, it coincides with National Hate Crime Awareness Week.

MORE: All you need to know about the People’s Vote March

Politicians, faith leaders and community leaders at the steps of Islington Town Hall to mark a year since the Finsbury Park terror attack. Picture: Polly HancockPoliticians, faith leaders and community leaders at the steps of Islington Town Hall to mark a year since the Finsbury Park terror attack. Picture: Polly Hancock

Last year, during the holy month of Ramadan, Darren Osborne deliberately drove his van into Muslim worshippers in Finsbury Park, killing one person and injuring at least nine others. Unfortunately, my brother was one of those hit by Osborne’s van. He is a survivor of that far-right terrorist incident. This isn’t an isolated incident.

The police watchdog have warned of the “real possibility” of a rise in hate crime around March next year when we are due to leave the EU. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services has told police forces across England and Wales to improve their response to hate crime and to begin preparations.

Enough is enough. Far too much hatred has been unleashed during and since the Brexit referendum. Minorities are not going to stand by and be scapegoated, harassed and attacked for simply living in the UK.

MORE: Why I’m marching for the future as a trade unionist

I was born and raised in London. I am proud to be British as well as my Black, Muslim and working-class identities. That is why I am marching this Saturday on the People’s Vote March for the Future, because my future is at stake and Brexit will cause the greatest harm to those different communities. That is why we should demand a People’s Vote on any Brexit deal.

This government are not a friend of minorities. From their despicable treatment of the Windrush generation to sending “Go Home” vans in predominantly ethnic minority communities, designed to bully and intimidate. They deliberately set out to create a ‘hostile environment’. Well, they succeeded.

When we look at those who champion Brexit – Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson to name but two, we see a history of intolerance and racism.

Johnson caused outrage and offence when he likened Muslim females who wear a face veil to bank robbers and letterboxes. Regrettably this isn’t an isolated incident. He has previously suggested the Queen would be greeted by “cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies” when she visits Commonwealth countries. He also said those in the Congo have “watermelon smiles”. Both comments are well-known racial slurs against black people.

MORE: Young people have the most to lose from Brexit - so why aren’t more protesting it?

Rees-Mogg, the characteristically well-mannered Tory MP, was once a Guest of Honour and spoke at a Traditional Britain Group dinner, a group that has called for voluntary repatriation of black immigrants and they have singled out Baroness Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence. The group told the Daily Telegraph, “I feel this woman has done the British nation no favours whatsoever. If these people don’t like us and want to keep attacking us they should go back to their natural homelands.”

These are the thoughts and associations already held by leading Brexiteers. If they get their own way – a hard Brexit which is looking increasingly likely, as they keep demanding concessions from the prime minister in regard to Brexit - then what the hell will that mean for those of us who have been demeaned and othered by them and their ilk?

That is why I urge everyone, from young to old, from Dover to Dundee, from all races and religions. Let us unite against this horrid Brexit. it is ordinary people who will pay the price for the disaster that leaving the EU is becoming.

MORE: Why my hometown needs a People’s Vote more than most

Come and march this Saturday with hundreds of thousands of others on the People’s Vote March for the Future. Let us all shout with one voice. In the words of the late Jo Cox, “that which unites us is far stronger than that which divides us.” So, let us put our differences aside because we all have a common enemy – a Brexit that has and will continue to see, attacks on our people.

Bashir Ibrahim is a member of Islington Stand Up to Racism and is a supporter of For our Future’s Sake

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