LONDON – In yet another disturbing incident, an effigy of Grenfell Tower – the building which caught fire and led to the death of dozens of residents in a low-income, immigrant area – was set alight in South Norwood, a suburb of London, at the time of year where Brits celebrate Guy Fawkes Day.
Guy Fawkes was a Catholic terrorist – one of a group – who tried to assassinate King James I at the State Opening of Parliament on November 5th, 1605 with gunpowder bomb. His failure to do so is celebrated on the 5th of November every year in a tradition of large bonfires.
Most harrowing, the effigy, rectangular in the shape of a tall building, had silhouettes of people in the windows. While the video itself shows people laughing shamelessly calling out ‘jump out the window’ while others say ‘stay in your flats’ – advice initially given to families by the emergency services.
A total of 72 people were killed in the devastating blaze at the west London tower block in June 2017.
Six men aged from 19 to 55, have been arrested and are released pending an investigation by the Metropolitan Police.
Sir Martin Moore-Bick who opened another day at the Grenfell inquiry described the incident as “offensive,” adding, “It must be shocking and distressing to all those involved…whatever form their involvement took, whether as bereaved, survivors or indeed members of the wider community.”
British Muslim, our Home Secretary, Sajid Javid shared on Twitter: “This is disgusting, shameful, behavior. These people are a disgrace.”
He added in another tweet, “The survivors of Grenfell tragedy have acted with unbelievable dignity and deserve the utmost respect.” Though as The Standard reported just a few days ago, 16 months after the incident there are still 151 families stuck in emergency temporary housing, which is also a disgrace.
This is disgusting, shameful, behaviour. These people are a disgrace https://t.co/vQ9jRHDT0D
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) November 5, 2018
The survivors of the Grenfell tragedy have acted with unbelievable dignity and deserve the utmost respect.
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) November 5, 2018
British Muslim Nazir Afzal, the former crown prosecutor for northwest England is quoted in The Times points out, “As abhorrent and disgusting as it is, it is probably not criminal… I can’t for the life of me see how (a crime) is made out on what I’ve seen so far.”
The incident has been met by anger, frustration and outrage by the vast majority of commentators reflecting what is extremely poor taste, and shameless mockery of a real tragedy affecting our fellow human beings.
But as journalist Dan Walker shared on Twitter, a comment on the radio, “The only people who’ve been arrested over Grenfell are those who impersonated residents and the ones who burnt a model of the tower,” – an observation on how no one else has so far been held accountable for the incident.
Increasingly a ‘toxic environment’ is being created, not just against ethnic minorities from Asia and Africa, but also immigrant communities from within the EU.
Member of Parliament and Brexiteer Peter Bone asked in Parliament on November 5th, while speaking about the UK leaving the EU in March 2019 “what will happen if an EU citizen presents ‘itself’ at our borders” – this level of shameless, casual, racism is increasingly becoming normalized by some of our own politicians.
There is a battle for the soul of our nation. It is being played out in divisive politics, Brexit, separating us from our allies, and it is being fueled by a handful of xenophobic and shamelessly racist politicians. For years these politicians occupied our parliament but remained silent.
Brexit is becoming a vehicle through which they are expressing their unsavory attitudes targeting not just non-white ethnic minorities, but white minorities and foreign nations from the EU.
Anyone and everyone is becoming a target of their discrimination and hate. To the point that not only have residents of South Norwood – itself an area with a high immigrant community – think it was ‘ok’ to set alight an effigy of a tower burning in which people died, but they filmed it and circulated it on social media knowing that it would cause harm. Still, they did not care.
Elsewhere, Jeff Potts, a councilor in Sollihul who shared anti-Muslim sentiment such as “Deport and repatriate all Muslims from the UK or watch terrorists kill innocent people for generations to come,” has been re-admitted to the Conservative party.
While British Muslim MP, Khalid Mahmood said, “The Tories have let Jeff Potts off the hook, showing just how little they care about Islamophobia. We should never allow hatred to rear its ugly head, let alone allow elected officials to promote them.”
Thankfully the vast majority of Brits do not hold these negative anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic views.
But it is the responsibility of the common decent person to speak out when such foolishness takes place. We must not allow the normalization of hate to be accepted.
It is sad that our celebration of a failed terrorist plot by Guy Fawkes has been hijacked by a handful of racist xenophobes.
But it is increasingly refreshing and reassuring how many find such actions and attitudes to be unpleasant and unwanted. Decency is still the preserve of many in our society, and that should give all of us hope for the future.