Facebook is a new tea-point where political issues are discussed with extreme sentiments without any euphemism. Just a few days back a year-old video was shared on a Facebook page (cannot specify to avoid online extremism) which reported how white brits would be outnumbered in Birmingham by 2050.
It was a huge debate a year ago when Birmingham City Council (BCC) stated that British white people would become a minority soon in their own country. The reports and journalistic pieces clearly mention population disparity of ethnicity as it suspects that around 60% of the population would be non-white British.
Birmingham has a mixed population, popularly known as a multicultural city comprising different ethnic groups like white brits, white Irish, Asian British, White and Black Caribbean and so on. However, if we watch the above-mentioned video, it talks about the same report but focuses on just one ‘religion’ as a threat- Islam. If we look up the data, Christians are undoubtedly a majority and Muslim’s population has undeniably risen over a period of time.
The video though presents the report of disparity of ethnicity in a whole new xenophobic light stating that the British government is not doing much in the fear of being tagged as a xenophobic country.
A security advisor (who doesn’t want to be named) was asked by the Japanese government once about the major security issue of the country and he replied: “sex is a major issue if you want to talk of security”. The statement made the audiences laugh instantly, though it is an issue of contemplation for any ethnicity, religion or nation.
The issue of white brits becoming a minority is not as threatening as it has been presented according to a senior security expert, Rocco Weglarz of Geneva Centre for Security Policy, whom I asked for the insights to clarify this sensitive issue.
In Birmingham though, the Christians population in 2001 was 59% which got reduced to 46% in 2011 and that of Islam was 14% in 2001 which increased to 21% in 2011. As per the news reports, crime has increased including rapes and attacks and ISIS attacks are another major threat in the city.
No doubt, the crime in the city has increased many fold due to its multicultural nature, however the UK government data suggests that most of the convicted people are ‘whites’ and most of the victims are ‘blacks’, ‘mixed’ and ‘Chinese (& others)’ respectively. Thus, it is difficult to blame Islam as a whole for the increasing crime rates, which the news presenter did in that video fueling sentiments of religious hatred.
The new conservative government ‘Tories’ has won the elections on people’s sentiments which is strongly against the unchecked immigration. Though Boris Johnson tried a very liberal way to defend his ‘burqa’ comments, it is not a surprise that the party is accused of Islamophobia.
Boris, however, affirms the fact that London’s economy has thrived on its multicultural population as diversity strengthens the trade links boosting the economy. It is undebatable to say that most Muslims in the UK do not vote for the conservative party who have made anti-Islam sentiments socially acceptable and the Labour Party is very concerned about anti-Semitism which makes Muslims alienated from the political process.
The rising anti -Islam feeling has defied statistics of Muslims outnumbering the white brits and committing the crime in Birmingham. This situation manufactures security issues and threat and thus conflict is fueled in the dilemma of religious hatred.
Culture of fear, the concept was first discussed by an American sociologist Barry Glassner, where he stated that fear is created to achieve political or workplace goals through emotional bias.
A famed journalist, Adam Curtis, in a BBC television series ‘The Power of Nightmares’ even argued that politicians have used our fears to increase their power and control over society. He focused at the depiction of the threat first from the Soviet Union and then from radical Islamists.
He further extends to state that there has been a largely illusory fear of terrorism in the west since the 9/11 attacks. The politicians since then had pitched on a new force to restore their power and authority, using the fear of an organised “web of evil” from which they could protect their people.
Analysing the scenario at home – India, the situation is no different. The long-awaited aim of the supporters of Hindutva ideology of bringing Ram-Raj in the country turning it into a Hindu-nation or Hindu-Rashtra is thriving on people’s emotion.
For some orthodox Hindus, evil is right there – Muslims and creating this fear of their increasing population is not that difficult in the era of ‘fake news’ and manufactured data.
The Muslim population in India though is around 14% and that of Hindu is 79%, there is no drastic increase in the numbers. When I asked Mr Rocco Weglarz about some reports that say Muslims would outnumber Hindus in a few years, he replies that it’s a hoax and the numbers clearly say so. The ruling party seems to have made the efforts of dividing people on their religion and has also made this hatred socially acceptable.
Just after the Ram Mandir verdict, the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) burgeons on the concept of the culture of fear. The chaotic country shows the anger in people of both the sides, those who favour and those who do not. Whether it is right or wrong is a topic of separate debate, however, CAA is more dangerous than it is assumed. The Act selectively offers citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It could have used the term ‘persecuted minorities’ instead of specifying religions if this was BJP’s intention, however, it discriminates each section of the society on multiple levels.
For Assam, the story shifts from religious discrimination to burden on the state’s economy. The country is already struggling with its economy and the highest rate of unemployment in 45 years, in such a situation, an influx of migrants would burden the resources and north-east would be worst affected.
Furthermore, this bill, speedily changing its track to become an Act, rips the very fabric of Indian secularism. As London affirms to the fact that being multicultural has added greatly to their economy, it is important for the people to understand the importance of diversity and economy rather than the government because it is people’s emotional bias which is being exploited to quench the long-lasting thirst of Ram-Rajya. India’s GDP is at its six-year low, and at this juncture, the government’s effort to distract people from the real issues is succeeding.
The video, discussed in the beginning was shared on a page which has followers from multiple nations. The agenda of the extremist groups can be clearly understood with the timing of a year-old video.
Extremism is a recent global trend which is thriving on our sentiments fabricating illusionary security issues defying the real statistics of the countries. The citizens have to be very cautious of what they are being served online and how they are becoming easy prey to manufactured political fear.
(This post first appeared here in The Tilak Chronicle.)
Sugandh Priya Ojha
Sugandh Priya Ojha is the co-founder of a political consultancy startup. She is also an IR professional and a polyglot with interest and experience in Political Analysis, Culture, International Security and Climate Governance.
The views and opinions expressed in the above article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official opinion, policy or position of Lokmaanya.