Racism Growing in Europe

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Feb 032004
 
Authors: Meg Burd

“Many of us agree that Britain is a modern multi-racial society

and welcomed that. Yet, at the same time we think racism is on the

increase,” said Gurbux Singh, Chaiman of the Commission for Racial

Equality, in a recent BBC report. Referring to a recent survey

(conducted by the BBC News Online) on the growing problem of racism

in Britain, Signh bases his statement on the fact that 51 percent

of those responding to the survey felt that Britain was a racist

society.

While many of the survey respondents indicated they felt Britain

was becoming more racially tolerant than it was 10 years ago,

others in other parts of Europe indicate the problem of racism is

increasing, as Singh suggested.

France, for instance, has been dealing with the troubling issue

of racism for several years, and tensions are apparent.

“France attracted tens of thousands of North African immigrants

during the economic boom that followed World War II,” said Craig S.

Smith in a New York Times article. While immigration dropped off

almost completely in the 1980s, Smith said that “the country has

since been troubled by the social strains of absorbing those

immigrants and their French-born children, many of whom are

Muslim.”

Thursday these tensions seemed to come to surface very visibly

again when Aissa Dermouche, who is the first foreign-born and

Muslim person to be appointed as a prefect in France, was the

subject of a bombing campaign. With three bombings directed at him,

these attacks “have raised fears that long-simmering resentment

among the right-wing nationalists could lead to violence,” Smith

said.

The problem of racist attacks is also one seen growing in North

Ireland as well. “Belfast, once the engine of violence between

Catholics and Protestants, is being seized by a new kind of

hostility — racism,” said Lizette Alvarez in a recent article in

the Belfast Journal. For North Ireland, the racism is directed

towards recently arrived immigrant groups from Asia, India,

Pakistan and North Africa.

During “the violent 30-year conflict between Catholics and

Protestants here, few immigrants, no matter how desperate, chose to

settle in North Ireland. That slowly began to change with the 1998

Good Friday Agreement, which ushered in a period of relative peace

and prosperity,” Alvarez said.

With this movement of immigrants into an area that was formerly

99 percent white, the number of racially motivated hate crimes has

increased sharply. According to Alvarez, 212 racist incidents were

reported just last year in Northern Ireland, and incidents seem to

be disturbingly on the rise. “The violence has worsened lately,”

said Alvarez, citing incidents of a violent attack on a Chinese

family, a plank thrown through the window of a Pakastani home and

two pipe bombs directed at houses owned by ethnic minorities as

examples.

Besides these horrible violent crimes against minorities in

Northern Ireland, there is also an increase in verbal harassment as

well. “Forty-four percent of minorities have experienced verbal

abuse,” a report by the BBC states. Perhaps most troubling is the

increase in attacks on children, which has doubled in recent

years.

Many of the immigrants themselves and human rights groups call

for increased attention to this apparently growing problem of

racism in these European countries. Jamal Iweida, a North Ireland

resident who moved to the country from Palestine, suggested in a

BBC report that politicians and church leaders must speak out on

this issue and help start programs early on to educate everyone

about respect for other cultures. “We cannot ignore these issues,”

Mayor Martin Morgan of Belfast rightly said.

As Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations

suggested, a new attitude in which attention is paid to the

wonderful contributions migrants and ethnic minorities have made in

all nations around the globe instead of the negative feelings

towards immigrants that seem to be present in so many communities

today may be key to ending many of these attacks and racist

actions.

Heeding these words, and with education, programs and a new

attitude on immigration, perhaps Europe (and indeed our own

country) will not “be dragged down by bigotry, hatred and

intolerance,” as Mayor Morgan said.

Meg is a graduate student at CSU studying anthropology. Her

column runs every Wednesday.

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