Muslim Community Lobby Ireland is an independent organization established 1st May 2007. Its motto is TO USE THE VOTE RIGHTLY AND TO RAISE THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY AWARNESS WITH THEIR RIGHTS AND TO PROMOTE TOLERANCE AND UNDERSTANDING OF OTHER EXISTING GROUPS. لترشيد استعمال الصوت الانتخابي ولتوعية وتعريف المسلمين بحقوقهم في ايرلندا وان يعيشوا بتفهم للواقع وللجماعات الاخرى الموجودة على الساحة
Monday, November 10, 2008
Does Ruairi Quinn 'Know Racism?
We would hope so considering he was photographed alongside other political parties in 2002, having proudly signed his name to the 'Know Racism Protocol for Political Parties'
(1). That was then, and perhaps it was 'politically expedient' for Mr Quinn to sign said protocols in 2002, but in 2007 he was singing a very different tune. To help readers map this transition and perhaps to refresh Quinn's very selective memory, let us outline the respective protocols that Quinn has obviously chosen to overlook:
1. To condemn any campaign materials or statements susceptible to incite hatred or express prejudice on the grounds of 'race', colour, nationality or ethnic or national origin, religious belief and membership of the Traveller Community.
2. To guarantee that when engaging in on-going debate in relation to groups which are the potential targets of racism, such as asylum seekers and refugees and Travellers, that such debate is conducted in a responsible way and with respect to the dignity and rights of minority ethnic groups.
3. To use appropriate and inclusive language and words when referring to people of different ethnic backgrounds, in order to avoid creating prejudice or confusion.Whenever there is a discussion on race, the usual bigots pip in and sarcastically ask, "What race are Muslims?" The
UNESCO Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice helps clarify this, Article 1.1 reads, "All human beings belong to a single species and are descended from a common stock. They are born equal in dignity and rights and all form an integral part of humanity." The old construct of race was a 'scientific' theory developed in the 18th century to justify colonisation and superiority based on the colour of one's skin.
Racism of course is not solely about colour, 'but prejudices concerning hierarchy, inferiority, and superiority drawn along racial or ethnic lines'. (2 )Ethnicity, and this is the crux of the matter, is defined as, 'a cultural community, often defined by a common history, language and traditions.' Indeed the 1976 Race Relations Act3 has identified 'a long shared history of which the group is conscious as distinguishing it from other groups, and the memory of which it keeps alive' and 'a cultural tradition of its own' as essential features of an ethnic group.
(4) It is for this reason that we would argue that both Muslims and Jews form distinct ethnic groups and under which they are entitled to protection afforded them in race relation acts. Which brings us back to Mr Ruairi Quinn.
On June 2nd 2008, Quinn treated Ireland to a tirade of anti-Muslim racism when he threw in his lot with a plethora of politicians who see the current anti-Muslim sentiment as a quick boost for what would otherwise be considered a mediocre political career. The object of his disdain was young Muslim schoolgirls, a relatively easy target for an unscrupulous, unprincipled politician.
Let us examine Quinn's statements reported in the Irish Independent against the protocols that he signed in 2002. "If people want to come into a western society that is Christian and secular, they need to conform to the rules and regulations of that country," says Quinn. Overlooking his duplicitous attempts to project himself as a defender of Irish Christian values (sic!) against the Muslim hordes, he further states, "Nobody is formally asking them to come here. In the interests of integration and assimilation, they should embrace our culture," and finally, "Irish girls don't wear headscarves". There you have it, while the media predilection for lazy caricatures of Muslims as dark-skinned invaders may sell newspapers, one must ask why a politician would risk his political career with such an overtly racist statement.
Quinn has presented a belief that ALL Muslims are foreign, we are referred to as 'they', and the culture of Ireland, whatever that is, apparently does not include Muslims as Quinn is at pains to point out. Moreover, as if to reinforce his exclusionist stance, he insultingly adds, "Irish girls don't wear headscarves".Let us go back and look at the protocols that Quinn signed as the former Labour leader. In the first article its states, 'statements susceptible to incite hatred or express prejudice on the grounds of ... religious belief' should be condemned. Quinn has never apologised for his statements, in fact, in subsequent radio interviews he has pulled every racist trope from the book; misleadingly linking Islam with honour killings and forced marriages as well as painting Muslims as the instigators of societal unrest wherever it may be. The protocols clearly condemn such statements, but not only has Quinn not been condemned, no other party (and all parties signed the protocol) has issued ANY denunciation. Why? In the wake of Quinn's remarks, the Irish Independent comments section (since removed) was inundated with a level of racism and hate not seen since the rhetoric that gave birth to the Nazi final solution. A testimony to the fascist praise for Quinn's stance was his favourable mention on the notorious supremacist 'Stormfront' website. The second protocol references debates in relation to minority groups and cautions that such debates are 'conducted in a responsible way and with respect to the dignity and rights of minority ethnic groups.' Quinn neither acted responsibly, respectfully nor equitably in this debate. He used the media to disseminate a message of hate and distrust for Muslims. Again, there was silence on the part of his own political party and those in opposition. Why? Finally, the protocols encourage politicians to 'use appropriate and inclusive language and words when referring to people of different ethnic backgrounds, in order to avoid creating prejudice or confusion.' Quinn's language then and now has been inappropriate and exclusive ('them' and 'us') and if anything has sought to further marginalise and demonise a vulnerable community.We call on all political parties to publicly denounce this blatant and unashamed anti-Muslim racism, we implore the parties to publicly demonstrate their continued commitment to the protocols of 2002 and we request the Labour party to take strict measures to rein in its loose cannon. To our fellow Muslims, we remind you of the local council elections coming up in June 09, and we ask you to use your vote, especially those in the Dublin South constituency, to indicate your disapproval of Quinn's outbursts. You can make a difference, and when the next national election comes around; perhaps sooner than later, you can send a strong, effective message to those who seek to denigrate you. It is your right, it is your duty!
2 Breaking Down Barriers: Tackling Racism in Ireland at the level of the State and its institutions. AmnestyInternational (Irish Section) & The Irish Centre for Human Rights
3 United Kingdom Race Relations Act 19764 Ibid (emphasis mine)