commenced with opening speeches by Dr Abdul Bari of the MCB and the TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber. The programme included presentations on demographics and employment statistics, Muslim representation in the media, the challenge from the Far Right and good practice examples from the workplace.
Jamil Sherif provided an overview of the community and its main institutions and networks; Adam Lent, the TUC's Head of Economic and Social Affairs presented statistics on exclusion and poverty, including recent research findings; Inayat Bunglawala, secretary of the MCB's Media Committee and Tim Lezard (NUJ)examined media portrayals of the Muslim community; Wilf Sullivan, TUC's Race Equality Officer, dealt with the threat from the Far Right; Paul Nowak, TUC's National Organiser and Judith Swift of the TUC's Unionlean project spoke on 'Good practice and examples from the workplace'.
Participants included representatives from Amicus, CWU, NASUWT, Prospect and Unison. In a contribution from the floor, Partrick O'Keefe (TGWU) called on trade unionists to respond to Muslims in a similar way to support provided to the Irish community in the 1970s in the face of hostilities of that period. Roger MacKenzie (Midlands TUC) noted the importance of local and regional media in shaping public opinion and the need for trade unionists to respond to racist and Islamophobic items. Pav Akthar (UNISON) offered a spirited defence of multiculturalism `not defending it means capitulation to the far right'.
In his presentation Adam Lent made reference to the latest research and reports on employment. The Department of Works & Pensions's report `Persistent Employment Disadvantage' (by Richard Berthoud and Morten Blekesaune) suggested that Muslims faced a double penalty in the employment market on account of ethnicity and also their faith. He also cited the report from the Equal Opportunities Commission, 'Moving on Up: Ethnic Minority Women at Work', noting, ' Pakistani and especially Bangladeshi women find that workplaces don't just have a glass ceiling its tinted green, keeping Muslims out'. Wilf Sullivan's talk placed the rise of the far right in Britain in context of developments in Europe. He noted that this was now a sophisticated political organisation able to deploy a range of messages depending on the target audience. He stated that BNP membership was incompatible with TUC membership and an effective strategy was now needed to deal with the lies put about by the far right. The responses needed were further activism and unity amongst those committed to anti-racism and anti-fascism. The Conference discussed the forthcoming Council elections and the importance of promoting voter registration before the deadline.
A number of proposals for further work were identified, now to be pursued by both the MCB and TUC.
Links: Opening speeches, 12th April 2007
Dr Bari, MCB Secretary General
Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary