As someone who was born and bred in Birmingham, I am very passionate
about my city, despite the problems that do exist in places as in
every city of the world.
it's not just the buildings or the Bullring that make me proud and
it's not just the history, the famous faces or the 'firsts' we've
achieved that makes me boast about the city. Birmingham could still
be a grimy industrial smog-ridden haven for rats and I'd still be
proud - as long as we had the people that we have today.
chatting in Victoria Square
I love most about Birmingham is our heritage, a heritage that we
keep adding to, that we keep building upon. Like an amazing exotic
recipe, God keeps adding more and more varieties of people to the
city not just so that it can have the opportunity to better itself
but so that there can be difference. A difference that helps us
learn and understand and helps us to be tolerant and accepting.
After London, we are the most cosmopolitan, multicultural, multi-faith,
interracial and culturally interwoven society in Britain and if
that's not worth being proud of, then build another Bullring, I
always going to be exceptions but the majority of Brummies are a
peace loving non-prejudiced and tolerant people. With the awful
things that are currently happening in the world, it gives us more
reason to love each other and to stand up for each other when our
unity and solidarity are threatened.
Nazi symbol in chalk
with a number of peace organisations and have stood up for people
all over the world in the last few years. I, along with thousands
more, have stood up for their rights, their liberty, their freedom
of faith and for them to live in peace. It didn't occur to me that
I may have to do this for
myself and for my own city too but with recent events in the UK,
that is also becoming a frequent occurrence.
Birmingham against hate
On Sunday 25th April, I had to stand strong with my city in a manner
that has never taken place before. I had to defend Birmingham, fellow
Brummies and the multicultural city in which we live and I had to
do this with other Brummies and Midlanders against a force of hate
that was headed this way.
Anti Nazi League
force of hate was in fact French far-right politician Jean Marie
Le Pen, the man who claimed the World War II holocaust was "a
mere detail in history" which echoed the views of those who
invited him, the BNP. The British National Party not only deny the
holocaust completely and spread rampant anti-Semitism but they also
encourage Islamophobia amongst the British people.
was strange for the BNP to invite a foreigner to represent their
election bid, after all, the BNP are supposed to represent Britain,
not France, but they did so all the same. Their first stop was Manchester
for a dinner but as previously in Edinburgh, the venue cancelled
and refused to allow Le Pen to enter the building. On the streets
of Manchester, people threw rubbish, eggs and old fruit at Griffin,
Le Pen and their entourage's car.
BNP were expected to hold a meeting in Birmingham but after Brummies
planned to stage a demonstration, the BNP backed off and opted for
Shropshire but for Brummies, this was not far enough. Unite Against
Fascism was still going to go ahead with an anti-racism rally in
the city in a bid to ward off Le Pen's hate and racism altogether.
A BNP sympathiser even sent a murder threat to Unite Against Fascism
in the hope that they would cancel the rally.
on Sunday, hundreds gathered into Birmingham's Victoria Square in
the city centre shouting anti-Le Pen and anti-BNP slogans by a huge
stage set for speakers. There were press there, community leaders,
children running around, the sun was shining, it was a really beautiful
atmosphere. If anyone needed further affirmation of Birmingham's
mixed and united society, then here it was.
make their feelings known
were speakers and supporters from all over Birmingham and the West
Midlands, all holding up their home made and Unite Against Fascism
placards and banners. People bearing anti-BNP stickers and children
climbing all over the square's main fountain so that they could
wave their messages high for all to see. The fountain itself was
actually switched off, I'm guessing so that the kids didn't foam
it up again!
actually quite amazed by the turnout as I have been to numerous
peace demonstrations and rallies and become accustomed to regular
faces but here I couldn't recognise most of the
crowd. Here were people who had never been involved before, yet
they were taking to the streets because they felt strongly against
a possible but futile threat to the colourful image of a truly great
for Le Pen and the BNP, they weren't revealing where in Shropshire
or the West Midlands they were going to be. Those with tickets had
to wait until two hours before the event; they called a number and
were notified of the location. The peace protesters also found out
and a contingent headed out towards the border of Wales. They found
the spot and some were allowed close enough for peaceful protest.
the police didn't allow in the cars with black and Asian peace protesters,
which was rather unfortunate really. Maybe they thought this may
cause a problem with the BNP. That's
probably why the BNP got scared away from Birmingham too, because
the very colourful people of Birmingham working together would have
been too much for Le Pen and Griffin to stomach seeing as they do
not believe in
multiculturalism or multi-faith societies.
in Birmingham, trade union leaders spoke out against Jean Marie
Le Pen. Councillors told city folk that Le Pen was not welcome.
Community leaders, artists and musicians, political party members,
peace movements and the young all shared their feelings about the
BNP-supported racist visit of a man who has been indicted by French
courts numerous times for racial hatred and anti-Semitism.
stand against Le Pen
As far as faith communities were concerned, Le Pen was a representation
of all that is wrong with the world and against religious tolerance
and teaching. Dr. Mohammad Naseem of Birmingham Central Mosque condemned
his visit and asked everyone to "boycott" the French politician.
I spoke to a few members of the Sikh community at various Gurdwaras
on Saturday, a day before Sikh celebration Vaisakhi and they could
not attend the rally because of their festival but wholeheartedly
placard saying 'Nazis out'
spoke with Rabbi Margaret Jacobi of the Birmingham progressive Synagogue
just before the Sabbath began and she was more than eager to inform
her congregation of the rally against a notorious anti-Semite. I
believe that it is very important for both Muslims and Jews to stand
against Le Pen and his views.
of all faiths stood together on Sunday including representatives
of local churches and members of the Quaker Society of Friends.
Chris Martin of the Birmingham Quaker-Muslim Peace and Social Justice
Group was also at the rally and for me, Chris and the inter-faith
organisations of Birmingham represent the tolerance that we all
there on Sunday proudly as a Brummie and as a member of a very diverse
and mixed region that stands against all hate and against Jean Marie
Le Pen. He may be able to stir hatred in France but he is not welcome
to do so here, especially not in Birmingham where churches, mosques,
synagogues, gurdwaras, mandhirs and temples fill the skyline.
People of all nationalities, dress, colour, faith, background and
language walk our streets, run our schools, work in our institutions
and provide our fundamental services. We are all a people of peace
and we are all Brummies. Say no to racism, say no to the BNP.
and pictures by Adam Yosef, site user