Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is London Burning?..

Yes. London is burning. What started as a protest against the killing of a black youth by police at Tottenham has grown so much in intensity that it has become the worst riots in the city in decades. Furthermore, rioting has spread to several cities including Bristol, Birmingham and Liverpool.

Racially inspired violence has been a not so rare event in Europe during the last two decades. Immigrant communities have grievances of discrimination by law enforcement authorities and on the contrary, local right-wing extremists thrive on their anti-immigrant agendas. When unemployment rises these anti-immigration sentiments rise as the locals have to compete with the immigrant communities for job opportunities. As such, these riots are a portrayal of the underlying competition between locals and immigrants.

It's easier to blame the police or the immigrants for the riots. However, there are many opportunists who grab the chance to simply indulge in looting for the sake of their advantage. These people do not have any political motivation but makes it more difficult to re-establish law and order.

Nevertheless, the underlying political issue must not be neglected. Just 3 years have elapsed since the Londoners elected a candidate from the far-right British National Party (BNP) to the London City Council. The BNP vote share was 5.3%. In the recent general election in 2010, the BNP received nearly 2% of the national vote.

All of Europe is observing a resurgence of far right extremism. The gruesome massacre in Norway was a harsh reminder of the truth. In France, Sarkozy came to power on an anti-immigration platform. Ironically, today he is challenged by the far-right and not the far-left. Italy and some other European nations are also going through the resurgence of the right-wing. Hence, the riots in Britain should also be considered as a reminder of the larger European phenomenon, just as the massacre in Norway was.

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