March 30, 2012 § 2 Comments
Earlier this week I published an extract from my book From Fatwa to Jihad, that told the story of how the Asian Youth Movements were created in Britain in the 1970s. This second extract explains how the British state and religious conservatives joined forces to marginalise secular radicals in the name of multiculturalism. This is the story of how Bradford came to be painted green. The same story could be told about towns all over Britain.
In the summer of 1981 Bradford’s Asian communities were flush with rumours of an impending attack by neo-fascists. A group of young Asians, including Tariq Mehmood, made and stashed away petrol bombs to be used in the event of any such attacks. They were all members of the United Black Youth League, a group that had broken away from the Asian Youth Movement which they felt was not sufficiently radical. Police discovered the petrol bombs on some waste ground and twelve members of the UBYL were arrested and charged with conspiracy to cause an explosion and endanger lives. The trial of the ‘Bradford 12’ the following year created a national sensation. The defendants put up an audacious defence. They openly admitted making the petrol bombs – but argued that they were acting legitimately to protect their communities. Astonishingly, the jury agreed and acquitted all twelve.
The sheer bravado of the Bradford 12 and their bold, confident self-assertion won them respect and support from communities across the country that similarly felt under siege from racists. It also unnerved both local politicians and Muslim religious leaders. ‘Our children were growing up hating our culture’, observed Sher Azam of the Bradford Council for Mosques. ‘They were being drawn to Western values and Western lifestyles. We knew such values and ways of doing things could only harm them. Without Islam they no foundations, no home. They were angry, withdrawn, we could not reach them.’ « Read the rest of this entry »
March 28, 2012 Comments Off
BBC Radio 4 broadcast a documentary this week by Zaiba Malik on the history of the Asian Youth Movements. For many of us who grew up in 1970s and 1980s, the AYMs were a central feature of our lives. Radical and secular, the movements challenged both the vicious racism that defined Britain in that era and many traditional values too, helping to establish an alternative leadership in Asian communities that confronted the conservatives on issues such as the role of women and the dominance of the mosque.Today, in an age in which communities are defined in terms almost solely of faith and culture, when identity politics has ripped apart any sense of radical unity, and when the idea of a ‘secular Muslim’ seems to most people an oxymoron, a movement and a tradition that thirty years ago was highly influential is barely remembered. Zaiba Malik’s documentary was enjoyable, good on the struggle against racism, less sure about the struggle within the communities.
I have written of the AYMs in my book From Fatwa to Jihad. Here is an extract that delves into the roots of the AYMs and how they came to be formed. I will publish a second extract later this week which will look at how the British state and religious conservatives within Asian communities joined forces to marginalise secular radicals. For more details about the AYM, the Tandana archive set up by Anandi Ramamurthy is a good place to start.
On 17 April 1976 the far-right National Front organised a march through the centre of Manningham, the main Asian area in Bradford. It was to end with a rally at a local school. The National Front was in the late 1970s a minor force in British politics, but more than a bit unpleasant. In 1974 it took 44 per cent of the vote in a parliamentary by-election in Deptford in South London; three years later more than 120,000 voters supported it in London-wide elections. It was on the streets, however, rather that at the ballot box, that the NF preferred to strut its stuff. It had a cadre of thugs often involved in racial assaults and was fond of organising provocative marches through predominantly black and Asian areas. And it was on the streets that a new generation of blacks and Asians decided to take on the NF. This brought them into conflict not just with the fascists but often with their own community leaders, too. « Read the rest of this entry »