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BIRMINGHAM UNITED, ANYONE?

18-08-2009

The prospect of another protest against Muslim “extremism” in Birmingham – and the likelihood of an anti-fascist demo to oppose it - looks like bad news for the city. But Stirrer editor Adrian Goldberg wonders whether a negative can be turned into a positive.

Some time in the next few weeks, the English and Welsh Defence League and their assorted hangers-on look set to visit Birmingham again in the name of combating what they regard as Islamic “extremism”.

Their first suggested date of August 30 appears to be a no go, as scheduled track repairs that weekend will seriously hamper the rail network, reducing the possible number of recruits from around the country.

As it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, some of those who might otherwise be attracted will be spending time with their families anyway, while the significant football mob element of the EDL’s support will be, er, watching football.

That leaves the following Saturday, September 5 as the likely protest date – an afternoon when there are no Premier League or Championship matches because England have a World Cup qualifier.

What could be better than a gathering of the knuckle-dragging clans to watch the game on the box in Brum, and hurl obscenties at anyone with a dark skin.

When you throw an afternoon of booze and footy-fuelled patriotism into an already volatile mix, not to mention the likelihood of another counter demo by Unite Against Fascism, it’s surely not being alarmist to imagine a repeat of the mini riot of August 8 which shamed the city.

The irony, of course, is that many of those involved in the recent ruckus didn’t come from Birmingham. Both the UAF and EDL may well have supporters in the West Midlands, but to a large extent, this trouble was “bussed” into the city by outsiders with a wider political agenda.

Fair enough, you might think. This is a country that cherishes free speech, and the right to protest is enshrined in law.

My hunch, though, is that most people in the greater Birmingham area don’t feel represented by either group.

Most of us have grown up in a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan city and revel in the diversity it brings. Others have moved here and stayed precisely because it’s a place where bigotry doesn’t prevail.

Whether it’s baltis, UB40 or the great Irish boozers of Digbeth, Birmingham is living proof that people from all kinds of background can get along just fine.

That’s not to pretend that there are never tensions and disagreements – some of them based along racial and religious lines. But, being Brummies, we like to settle our disputes through words and wit – not boots and fists.

To reflect this, I wonder if there’s scope for a positive campaign to counter the negative images that another demonstration is likely to bring.

Maybe those of us who believe in tolerance can come together on the day in question in another part of the city centre, well away from the demonstrators, to show another, more accurate face of Birmingham?

It would give people of different colours and varying faiths a chance to show to the outside world the true face(s) of this great city.

For those who can’t attend, a Facebook group could be set up, allowing them to at least register their support.

Granted, it’s not as “sexy” as photos of a good punch-up or youtube footage of youths being rounded up by hard-pressed coppers, but it would at least give those of us who actually care about where we live – and who have to pick up the pieces when the outsiders have gone home – the chance to say we did out bit.

Birmingham United, anyone?

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