We need a better race and faith debate, says New Generation Network
Today's call by the progressive New Generation Network for a better debate on race and faith issues, in the wake of the 30th anniversary of the Race Relations Act, has been backed by Simon Barrow of the UK Christian think tank Ekklesia, among others.
The freshly-formed Network, comprising individuals from a range of backgrounds, is particularly asking the government to drop its ëcolonialí approach in order to listen to a wider range of voices beyond self-appointed ìcommunity leadersî.
It says that the current public conversation on race and faith issues is often simplistic and has been manipulated by recent governments to demonise minority groups, by inter-communal politics, and by faith and community leaders whose claim to speak on behalf of others needs to be challenged.
New Generation Network has been set up by journalist and commentator Sunny Hundal, founder of Asians in Media and the acclaimed Pickled Politics weblog ñ which focuses on politics, media and society from a broad, mainly South Asian perspective.
Its founding statement is backed by Sunder Katwala (general secretary of the Fabian Society, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (writer and journalist), Gurpreet Bhatti (author of the banned Sikh play Behzti), Robert Beckford (TV presenter and black theologian), Simon Barrow (co-director of Ekklesia), Rohan Jayasekera (associate editor, Index on Censorship magazine), Catherine Fieschi (acting director, Demos), and writers Ziauddin Sardar, Hari Kunzru and Dave Hill along with others.
The New Generation Network manifesto says that a focus on equality involves accepting peopleís multiple identities (rather than privileging some over others) in the public arena. It also means rejecting prejudice from majority and minority ethnic organizations, protecting freedom of speech for all, and including disaffected white working class families in the racial justice agenda.
The demonisation of Muslims is singled out as a concern in the document, as is the tendency of the media to elevate extreme voices and hype fear in order to make ìa good storyî.
Says Ekklesiaís Simon Barrow: ìI have signed this manifesto as one voice among many. Ekklesia has long called on the churches to stop defending their privileges, and to recover a radical tradition of justice, equality and peace-building alongside others. We need to renew the transformative voice within all traditions, both religious and non-religious, and to develop a broad concept of civil society beyond ëthe great and the goodí which dominates government thinking.î
He added: ìThis is New Generation Networkís initiative, not ours. But we are happy to back it. Like New Generation Network, Ekklesia doesnít try to speak on behalf of others, but to encourage better conversation and debate through new approaches to tired issues.î
Simon Barrow's related Guardian comment-is-free article: Difference based on friendship.
The other signatories so far are: Tommy Nagra (television producer), Farmida Bi (Progressive British Muslims), Ravi Mattu (journalist, writer) Maha Sardar (barrister, writer), Rahul Verma (journalist, commentator), Arif Naqvi (grassroots charity worker), Sara Wajid (writer), Sadaf Meehan (journalist), Sonia Afroz (grassroots charity worker), Rishi Saha (social action campaigner), Pedro Carvalho (director, FNIK PR), Moiz Vaz (director, Brasian Ltd), Avie Luthra (writer and filmmaker), Nic Careem (founder, The Blue Sky Club), Sandi Chaitram (editor, FilmExposed.com), Elaine Sihera (author and founder of British Diversity Awards), Myria Georgiou (Institute of Communications Studies, Leeds University), Sangeeta Datta (writer, filmmaker, lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London), Dhiren Katwa (consulting editor, Asian Voice newspaper). The continuing list is here.