guest post by Talal Rajab from the Quilliam Foundation
Amidst all the welcome euphoria that has followed the release of Paul and Rachel Chandler, an important fact should be highlighted and thrust in the faces of those people, such as Rod Liddle, who had previously stigmatised Somalis.
British-Somalis played a part in not only highlighting the plight of the hostages to people within their communities home and abroad, but also in securing their actual release through the work of intermediaries such as the London cab driver, Dahir Abdullahi Kadiye.
When news first broke of the Chandlers ordeal, campaign groups were set up in Somali communities in order to highlight their plight and call for their release. Earlier this year, a giant banner in support of the couple was unfurled outside a Somali-led Mosque in Bristol, whilst in Camden, North London, hundreds of British-Somalis attended a rally in support of the couple.
Although these initiatives received scant media attention, they did have an effect on Somalis themselves, both at home and abroad, with some in the UK even attempting to raise the funds for their release themselves. According to one of the organisers of these campaigns it was important for Somali communities in the UK to call for the release of Chandlers since:
…Britain welcomes Somalis. Many of us came as refugees, as asylum seekers, and now we live freely… Because we are British now, we see our fellow citizens have been taken hostage.
For many ill-informed individuals, Somali communities in the UK are backward, khat-chewing, uneducated, unpatriotic individuals who are sympathetic to extremism. The reality, however, is much more complex.
There is little doubt that Somali communities today are experiencing issues that affected Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities in the 60s and 70s. Such problems, however, should not prevent people from seeing Somalis as an important part of the fabric of this country.
It would be wise for the likes of Liddle to refer to this example whenever the value of Somali communities in the UK is called into question. It should also serve as a reminder that stigmatizing minority communities doesn’t benefit anyone, especially since this example proves once again the once maxim that ‘diversity enriches our society’.
|Post to del.icio.us|
Filed in: Current affairs,Middle East