Down With Communalism

Well, this is where communalism and communal thinking and identity politics and endless repetition of words like ‘community’ get you.

A fourteen year old girl was alleged to have been raped ‘in an Asian hair shop, Birmingham, Perry Barr.’ Therefore –

The shop thought to be part of a chain called ‘Beauty Queens’ was one of many which were closed down in anticipation of the peaceful mass protest. The campaign was designed to raise awareness of the issue and expose the tendency of national media institutions to marginalise or ignore crimes perpetrated against the African British community. At one point many advocated boycotting all Asian businesses to place pressure on the community into breaking the wall of silence it had erected when asked for any information to confirm or denounce the allegations.

Boycotting all Asian businesses, because a rape was alleged to have happened in one Asian business. So – if a rape were alleged to have occurred in an African British business, would a boycott of all African British businesses be a good, or fair, or rational, or just, or useful, or sane idea? If the advocacy of a boycott of all Asian businesses were coming from the BNP, would Ligali think it was a good, or fair, or rational, or just, or useful, or sane idea? Would it have misgivings? Would it stop to wonder why an African British business in, say, Peckham was being boycotted because of an alleged rape in an African British business in, say, Inverness? Would it take a moment to ponder whether that might be a little unfair or not? Would it pause to think that idea smacked a little of lumping all people in ‘the African British community’ into one homogenous mass and then pretending that an action by one atom of the mass is an action by every atom of the mass? Would it hesitate long enough to notice that actually that kind of thinking sounds quite a lot more like Hitler and Streicher foaming about the Jews than it does like a progressive multicultural helpful way to proceed?

Calls for the boycott have now been limited to Asian hair shops where the alleged incident took place.

Ah – the alleged incident took place in several ‘Asian hair shops’ then? It’s one incident, but it took place in several – or perhaps all? – ‘Asian hair shops’? No, probably that’s not what’s being suggested. Probably what is meant is: because the alleged incident is alleged to have taken place in one ‘Asian hair shop,’ therefore there are now calls for a boycott of Asian hair shops in general, of Asian hair shops qua Asian hair shops. And these are ‘limited’ calls. Yes indeed, moderation itself. Again – if a rape were alleged to have occurred in one ‘African British’ hair shop, would calls to boycott all African British hair shops seem like a sensible idea?

Organisers in both Birmingham and London have repeatedly stressed that this is not about stoking the fires of a ‘race war’ between African and Asian communities. The principle focus of the Campaign is to acertain the truth behind the allegations and seek justice. However there is an additional focus on cultivating enough national support regardless of ethnicity, gender and social status…

Well organizers can repeatedly stress whatever they like, but calling for a boycott of all Asian businesses because of an alleged rape in one – repeat, one – Asian business is a pretty odd way of damping down any fires. And then the smug resort to the right-on phrase ‘regardless of ethnicity, gender and social status’ – is a bad joke.

That’s where communalism gets you.

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