There’s a bit of a divide going on in my hometown at the moment regarding the opposing opinions on 10 Syrian refugee families coming to live in our town to avoid the conflicted and wartorn scenario back home. The vast majority of us are happy for them to come and would like to make their stay here as comfortable and as accommodating as possible because they’ve been through enough as it is! There is unfortunately a portion of people who express such hatred and fear towards the notion of “foreigners” coming to stay in our town and “jumping ahead of the queue” where housing is concerned. The rumour mill has been very busy indeed as propaganda and fearmongering Facebook posts creep in and cloud the actual issues at hand. Facebook has provided an opportune warzone between us “leftie scum” and the EDL affiliated opposition, it’s gotten quite nasty actually. It’s all been on my mind quite a bit and I felt the need to blow off some steam here (lucky readers eh!).
I wanted to provide a distinction between a normal and healthy questioning of our council’s decision and the hateful racist fascist drivel I’ve seen online lately. If you aren’t completely FOR the refugees coming to live in our town, that’s okay, it’s fine to be scared and unsure of what changes this could bring us. It’s completely natural to feel a little concerned about how this might impact our current housing crisis and how it could potentially encroach on the territory of those already in need. What isn’t okay however is if your concern and fear comes from a place of prejudice and fear of another race, of another religion because that’s the sort of fear that quickly turns into hate. The issue at hand was supposed to be the fact that our council can house 10 refugee families but can’t house veterans, which is certainly a fair point. However this rather valid point has become shrouded by islamophobic, xenophobic hate speech being thrown around and it has become abundantly clear that this is the real reason for a lot of the “NO REFUGEES” lot not wanting them here. There are a couple of things wrong with this aside from the fact that it’s hateful and we simply do not need it: first of all, it is utterly disrespectful to speak for all of us in our town as though we uphold the same views as you. Second, it is shameful to use the very real plight of homeless veterans to back your very silly phobia of islam and “the brown man”. Did you ask the veterans first whether they would mind being used as a pawn in your silly racist agenda? I imagine not, once again you are speaking FOR everyone when very few share your views.
One of the biggest factors in the other side’s argument being completely shambolic is that a vast amount of key speakers on this group are in fact members of the EDL. For those who aren’t aware, the EDL stands for English Defence League, they are a group of extreme nationalists who needlessly pit themselves against muslims everywhere while claiming not to be racist. The EDL is notoriously violent and have been known to incite hatred and riot-like marches in the name of preserving England and “keeping Britain british”. All the while they chow down on their takeaway curries and their imported beer while making wild assumptions that any person of colour is a muslim and therefore should be berated. The majority whom I have spoken to DO NOT want these thugs coming to our small market town, I’ve spoken to the police about the fact that I’ve had derogatory comments made towards me from said EDL folk (because of my foreign sounding name) and they’ve assured us that they will be there and will not allow anything bad to happen. This has put my mind at ease somewhat but I will still turn up to our counter protest expecting the worst.
In an argument supposedly based on a deep concern for our homeless, nobody seems to actually care about the homeless until it’s time to use their pain to your advantage. If you care so much about the homeless, why can’t you extend that towards the families fleeing their homes in fear of a grenade blowing a hole in their living rooms – is the colour of their skin and the way that they pray so much of a barrier that you’d rather let them suffer? Where you show so much concern for the homeless veterans, where were you during the protests against budget cuts. A little too convenient how all of a sudden these homeless are such a big deal to you that you want to give them a home rather than those fleeing war. It’s almost as though you’re grasping at straws hmm? Our counter protest is probably the antidote that this town needs to the poisonous fearful chanting of the opposing protest, we will be full of sweetness and light and all things nice to show our refugee friends that we are good people and that we want them here. I can only hope that the “NO REFUGEES” party will meet these families and not have the guts to be hateful idiots to their faces. It’s easy to blame a group of people that you can’t see, that aren’t in front of you, who’s hurt and scared reactions to your vile words you don’t have to deal with. Maybe having them here, in front of them will bring out the humanity and compassion in them instead of hate. I can but hope.
I could waffle on about this for an age but this post is already getting a little too long as it is so I’ll end with this. In all the words exchanged and all the arguments I’ve taken part in over the past few weeks the most poignant and succinct were:
SAY NO supporter: You don’t know that they won’t rape our women and kill our children in the name of islam.
Me: Neither do you
Stop assuming the worst, step up and do the right thing so you can say that you did all you could. I’d rather treat people well and enjoy life – with all its variety of cultures and beliefs – and die as a good person in some hypothetical muslim uprising than live a life of fear, hate and intolerance, bitter and alone.
Keep reading for updates on the protest and how the refugees are settling in. I’ll do my best to find out all I can and I do hope to meet them personally at some point. What do you guys think about the refugee crisis? How would you feel about this happening in your hometown?