Racism in Leicester and Why Many People Are “Baffled by Baffled”

On Monday morning, during an interview on BBC Radio 4 Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said he was “baffled” by the violence in our city, before going on to incorrectly assert that the violence “seems to have started because of an India Pakistan cricket match”. But later in the day when being interviewed by the Guardian, his apolitical argument about bafflement developed, a tiny bit anyway, when he allowed himself to say:

I have talked to many people across the communities since this trouble began, and they are utterly baffled by this. It does not represent anything that is simmering in Leicester, and does seem to have more to do with subcontinental politics.”[1]

The same article later highlighted the incompetence of the police response to the events that unfolded on Saturday afternoon when “hundreds of men wearing masks and balaclavas chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’… a Hindu greeting or chant that has increasingly been appropriated by perpetrators of anti-Muslim violence in India.” The article noted:

“Yasmin Surti, who has worked with the Leicester community for 30 years, said questions needed to be asked about why the police allowed the group to march through the city, as it made many local Muslims feel unsafe.”

Similar points were made on Sunday in a statement released by the Leicester-based Federation of Muslim Organisations – a statement also co-signed by eight local Labour councillors — which began by explaining:

We have seen a number of failures by the Police and statutory bodies to adequately challenge and tackle a rise in a racist and extreme ideology culminating in an informal march that took place this weekend. The march is on a backdrop of months and indeed years of inaction, lack of condemnation, lack of intricate understanding, and appropriate follow-up on incitement and deliberately provocative behaviour against various communities, Masjids and places of worship…”[2]

This was a clear step forward from the previous extremely wooly public statements that had been released by the Federation of Muslim Organisations, but now, under pressure from the public, they have moved further still and have come out with another useful statement wherein they made a number of demands. One of these demands was to “Request our respective faith leaders to make an urgent joint unity statement between Muslims and Hindus of Leicester as one Leicester, one community standing against division and hate.” A demand that led to the release of a joint statement earlier today (which has been published by the Leicester Mercury). But another, arguably more political demand, observed that they:

“Implore the authorities to acknowledge and systematically address the multifactorial issues as the root cause of these troubles; the heart of which is the rise of the RSS narrative in our City.”[3]

Moreover, one Labour councillor in the city, Sharmen Rahman – who was one of councillors to sign the Sunday statement put out by the Federation of Muslim Organisations — has now spoken to the national press about her concerns. And although she didn’t mention the City Major by name – a man who pretty much runs our city — she castigated the Labour-run Council’s misleadership in relation to dealing with the communal tensions underlying recent events. As the Guardian reported:

Rahman said the lack of political leadership over the issue had been “a catastrophic failure for the city”. “We haven’t gone unwarned, this has been increasing in recent years, but it hasn’t been tackled, and that’s an issue,” she said. “If there had been a more active stance from the leadership of the city, this could have been nipped in the bud. But there wasn’t, there was a complete lull and absence, until everything completely went out of control over this weekend.” (September 20)

These accurate comments follow on from some comments she made on social media just yesterday that seems to be directed at Soulsby’s interview on BBC Radio 4 when she said she was “Baffled by ‘Baffled’” while explaining that:

To say ‘because of a cricket match’ shows one or all of the below: 1) Wilful ignorance of the rise in extremism on our doorsteps 2) Categoric disregard for the underserved & ignored youth in this city or worse, 3) a ploy to shirk responsibility. No-one does this over a cricket match.”


[1] Interestingly in the same article we hear some apparently even-handed commentary from a well-known local businessman called Dharmesh Lakhani, who recently served as one of Keith Vaz’s parliamentary agents for Belgrave in Leicester East. Lakhani being a longstanding close friend of Vaz — the current chair of the Labour Party in Leicester East’s who is famous for being a vocal supporter of the far-right Indian government led by Narendra Modi.

[2] The Labour councillors who co-signed this statement included: Cllr Kirk Master, Cllr Mohammed Dawood, Cllr Hanif Aqbany, Cllr Sharmen Rahman, Cllr Aminur Thalukdar, Cllr Misbah Batool, Cllr Shahid Khan, and Cllr Rumi Ali. The statement says it was also signed by “others,” but these names were not listed.

[3] In many ways this point echoed the points made in another statement that was made on September 19 by the Muslim Council of Britain, see “MCB calls for action against far right Hindutva extremism in Leicester.”

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4 comments

  1. Why do people not say it how it is, these people be they, Hindu or Muslim are trying to change the demographics of our Great Britain, if they don’t like or cannot integrate or worse still continue to bring their religious argument to our shores then they must be deported, the country is bad enough with other BAME trying to change our values, we have had enough, I see a complete breakdown of Law &Order that may we’ll involve innocent people, deport them now.

      • MBarker 2012, Where do you live, in the mountains or in some quiet cul-de-sac, the country is divided and say it like it is, stop mollycoddling these people, for centuries they have been fighting each other & they will continue to do so, this has nothing to do with Tory deportation policy, it is common sense, if they cannot live together then remove them back to their own original countries & let us British Law abiding citizen live in peace.

  2. Thank you for all this information. I am sending you some of my thoughts.It is amazing that the City Mayor is pretending it is so unexpected.

    At least Claudia Webbe is saying that the tensions have been there before, but then what she says is still about her.

    The problem is about power and fear of loss of power I think. Modi in India is fearful of losing his power to a large Muslim minority in India (+ other groups). Vaz, who reputedly has now grabbed the Chair of CLP again (told through a friend of a friend’s contact with Claudia Webbe) won’t stop trying to get power in Leicester East and he celebrates Modi’s victory in India. Bajaj (our councillor in Evington) has moved to the Conservative party and it is likely that Vaz expects Evington to go Conservative in the next election, so needs some influence there as well. The places however where the violence is the worst in Leicester East is in Belgrave and North Evington, where all the councillors are Vaz’s Hindu supporters (chosen by him) and have no interest in serving their local community. Is it not therefore surprising that these extreme Hindu right wing feelings are being vent on the streets in these areas. I doubt an Indian v Pakistan cricket match would have been the cause without all these underlining issues. The City Mayor is just lying when he expresses surprise.

    Alongside all this is also the problems of election rigging that go with grabbing power and the feelings of powerlessness when the whole system is so unfair.

    I have seen this power problem between two old ladies in Evington who both want to be the person who influences others so they decide what their small communal area should look like. Jealousy is very intense and the two people continue to do things that aggravate the other and any advice to either of them to walk away and give up wanting to be the decision maker doesn’t work. In Leicester most people don’t realise the power struggle between Vaz and Soulsby, with both of them working together if any threats come from elsewhere. In the end they are both motivated by wanting power and decision making and will fight tooth and nail not to lose their positions. With people like this, who also lie, it is really difficult to set up the fair structures that can allow a better more consultative system to work. People around it either become apathetic and apolitical deliberately (especially if they are OK financially) or they start to build up anger and without any outlet that anger grows and grows and then will erupt.

    I appreciate that all we can do is to use social media outlets that we have to listen to ordinary people and give them a voice. However, Harkesh and I are having to re-jig articles at the last minute in order to write in a way that doesn’t ignore the problem, but also makes people aware. We have to be really clear, so we aren’t accepting articles from Claudia Webbe or other extreme protesters who want to use the Echo for their own political ends. Vaz already has his own media outlet and has already promoted our Evington Jubilee event as his own.

    Not sure if all this does make any sense to you.

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