Racial Equality commissioner warns of racial violence in Britain

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

The head of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, in an article in today's Sunday Times, warns that, unless people are prepared to talk honestly with each other about racial prejudices, there could be violence in the streets, much worse than the riots in the North of England five years ago.

This intervention follows two weeks of interviews and phone-ins, an "air war", involving politicians and Government Ministers, including Prime Minister Tony Blair triggered by leader of the House of Commons, Jack Straw's comments urging Muslim women to drop the full veil.

Phillips describes the situation, "On one side of the trenches we have those who want a fully fledged auto-da-fé against British Muslims, in which anything any Muslim does or says must be condemned as a signal of their willful alienation and separation; on the other hand the defensiveness of some in the Muslim communities has hardened into a sensitivity that turns the most neutral of comments into yet another act of persecution".

Phillips writes that although there are other contributory factors, the "real crisis is our failure to adjust to change in our society and our failure to find a civilised way of talking about our diversity."