It’s not really my policy to write about a meeting I didn’t attend, but for very good reasons I’ll make an exception for this post.
I was planning to go to the Beeston Rylands Hindu Temple meeting last week, a community meeting organised to introduce the new temple to residents and address any concerns that they might have. Unfortunately I had otr commitments at the time, and reasoning it would probably be fairly low-key and pass off without much event to report on, I’d give it a miss. It turned out to be anything but uneventful.
A bit of background first: the Hindu temple has been created out of an unused church hall on West Crescent. As the site already had planning permission to be used for religious purpose, and would have otherwise fell into dereliction, it seemed a sensible choice. There were concerns regarding parking (and, bizarrely, fireworks), so provision was made to assuage these fears. Provisional plans were drawn up for the larger (approx 70 people) events to be serviced by a minibus; for smaller gatherings, various sites were looked into that would greatly mitigate any impact on local parking.
Thus the meeting should have gone without a hitch, with residents worried about parking listened to and responded to, and served as an introduction to Rylands residents to their new neighbours. So far, so simple. A previous CAT meeting had passed off without a hitch when the issue was raised, and concluded with a round of applause when one of the Temple Elders expressed gratitude for being made so welcome.
Yet the meeting last thursday wasn’t graced with anything like this goodwill. A small but highly-vocal portion of the room tried, and succeeded to dominate proceedings by shouting down others, and, according to my source at the event, showing their true colours by shouting ‘Get back to your own country’, while the Labour councillors that serve Rylands told that ‘It’s your fault for letting these people come here’. Ah, the unmistakable whiff of fascism, as potent as sulphur and brimstone but less pleasant.
Yes, it looks like the scummy BNP managed to infiltrate and hijack the meeting. The bigoted views are not representative of Beeston, which is by far Broxtowes most multi-cultural centre, and one which has embraced and benefited from the influence of other cultures, notably East Asian. The BNP managed to lose their deposit at the last general election (cheers for the cash, knuckleheads!) and keep well away from local politics. The hilarious yet depressing case of Sadie Graham has been well documented here (she got elected to the borough council for the BNP several years ago, got kicked out for failing to attend meetings then launched an attack on Nick Griffin in that amusingly predictable paranoid way the far-right does so well; with her partner leaking the complete membership online).
I don’t doubt there are sympathisers here, but they are by far a tiny minority. So who were these people at the meeting?
Want to feel like you need to soak in Dettol for hours and have your computer fumigated? Then do what I did the other day, and have a trawl round some of the nastier, paranoid and outrightly rabid reaches of the internet where the far-right message boards wallow in their own filth. It’s a depressing thing to do, but do it I did, and it doesn’t take long to see that the Hindu temple has been an issue there, and a BNP-affiliated website has been keeping it on the agenda for some time. It seems like they organised to infiltrate the meeting and use it as a paranoid platform. It’s traditionally Islam the BNP focus on, but maybe they feel affronted that Hinduism has original dabs on the swastika as a peaceful sign, rather than there arm-band of choice. This style of infiltration is a common tactic of the far-right: they are too cowardly to admit there allegiance so attempt to pretend they are merely ‘concerned citizens’, despite not being local or at all representative of the community they attempt to cuckold.
Its depressing to think that this happens. Its even more depressing to hear that the stained glass windows of the temple were recently smashed in what could well have been a pointedly racist act of vandalism. Yet, there is hope, and there is a way to beat this, and show our new neighbours that they are welcome, that we are only intolerant of small-minded, gimlet-eyed right-wing idiots who demonstrate the irony of believing they are the Master Race while struggling to walk without significant damage to their knuckles.
Heres what to do- it’ll take five minutes. Send the Temple a ‘Welcome to Beeston’ card. Grab a card, tell them that you have no problem with them being here, and beat the nazis with simple goodwill. Go on, do it now. You’re bound to have a card knocking about somewhere that will be fine, pen a greeting, bang it in an envelope and address it to
The Sri Thurkkai Amman Temple
Drop it in a postbox and know that in a small but significant way that you have pushed a bit of hate out of the world. Then tell your friends to do the same via Twitter, Facebook, or, if you’re one of the local politicians who read this, via your newsletters. Beeston is a place of tolerance and freedom, lets prove it on a scale that shows the small-minded bigots they may be loud, but we are louder.