Hate in our midst cannot be left to go unchallenged
2019-05-01 16:30:23 -

By Mohammed Samaana


As if the politics of green and orange is not more than enough to maintain a divided society in the North, allowing the racist independent unionist candidate Jolene Bunting to stand in this months’s local election will only give a platform to the politics of hate and bigotry.


Whether she wins her seat in the Court electoral area of Belfast, or whether voters show her the red card, Jolene has already sown the seeds for hatred and racism.


Her election posters are more about inciting hatred than to get her elected. One of them reads ‘Put Veterans before Immigrants’ — carefully targeted at voters who are well known for supporting the military in her working class constituency.


Those behind Jolene’s election campaign are lying to the voters especially those in the military and their families who may have nothing against immigrants by telling them that if they feel ignored by the government then this is simply because the government is putting immigrants and refugees before them.


In another poster (‘Local Homes for Local People’), she widens the message of hatred beyond her constituency and community by touching on housing, which is another issue that’s been problematic for a long time before immigrants started to arrive in Northern Ireland. The poison of hate is all over her message; it simply tells people to hate their neighbours or in fact anyone who came from a different part of the world.


In reality, many of us immigrants have to work hard to get a mortgage and buy a home. If anything, we’ve already faced discrimination before we got our homes, as banks and financial institutions refused to give mortgages to those who were not citizens from an EU country or did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK. This implied that someone like myself could not buy when houses were cheaper, and had to wait longer when houses became more expensive.


Jolene’s poster messages are typical of the far-right racist politicians who rely on fake news to inject the politics of hate into the society. They also reflect her lack of imagination, which brings into question why would anybody trust far-right politicians and parties in public office as the only policy they have is hatred of anyone or anything different to them.


Many people have ridiculed Jolene and her campaign on social media, referring to her as a stupid person who can’t put one sentence together. This might actually help in her portraying herself as a victim. However, the danger she poses to peaceful and harmonious community relations can’t be underestimated. She might not get elected, but for sure any election provides racists like her with an opportunity to demonise migrant communities and to incite hatred.


While Belfast is relatively new to this and the majority are dismayed to see these posters on their streets, there is a fear that some may see no challenge to this bigotry, and may start to believe it as they see it repeatedly. As always with racism, the myths need to be challenged with facts, fake news with reality and hate with hope.


Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.

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