I would like to propose Labour MP Tulip Siddiq as the winner of the pious political hypocrite of the week badge for her response to President Trump’s temporary immigration halt. From today’s Guardian we learn that Ms Siddiq is one of a number of Labour MPs who have warned that the UK Prime Minister’s allegedly ‘feeble’ response to President Trump’s recent immigration order risks making UK Muslim communities feel ‘disenfranchised and disillusioned.’ Apparently the consequences of this failure could be ‘played out on our streets’ and ‘turning a blind eye to the reality of this ban we run the risk of losing the trust of an entire generation of young British Muslims.’
Now of course one might ask what it is about any group of people that makes them so available for street disturbances. I cannot think of any other group in society of whom this would be said. Does not the very suggestion that young Muslims might rise up on the streets of Britain over such a far-away political issue actually suggest a certain validity to the argument some people make that Muslims are unusually bad at integrating and continuing to import them in very large numbers is a mistake in the long term? Does it not, in other words, go some way to justifying what rationale appears to exist behind Trump’s Presidential order?
I park the thought in order to award the prize. The reason why Tulip Siddiq’s comments stand out are because of something rather closer to home than US border politics. For as well as being MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Ms Siddiq is also the niece of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina – a woman to whom I understand she is very close. Such are the happy connections of an inter-connected world.
So were I Ms Siddiq, and genuinely concerned about global injustice, I would not spend much time condemning the UK PM for not sufficiently condemning the US President: this is a long and convoluted process, unlikely to yield results. Instead I would pick up the phone and call my aunt. For of course Bangladesh has for many decades run a genuinely bigoted and borderline racist border-control of its own which, among other things, refuses entry to Israeli passport holders. If you were a Jew living in your ancestral homeland and sought to go on holiday to Bangladesh – never mind if you decided to live there – you couldn’t. Now if I were such a believer as Ms Siddiq appears to be in the right of people to roam wherever they like such a blanket ban going back many years would bother me far more than a temporary ban which looks likely to be clarified in the coming weeks.
The other thing that is so interesting about this relationship is that it brings to mind a number of conversations I have had in recent years in the migrant camps of southern Europe. For on a fairly regular basis I have come across groups of Bangladeshi men in those camps who have come to Europe because they have had to flee their native land. As ever it is hard to verify the reasons they give, but most Bangladeshis I have spoken to in the Greek camps have explained that they had to leave their native Bangladesh because they were involved in the political opposition and that their lives were under threat from government forces. The plight of these people is genuinely terrible. Unable to return home, and unable to go beyond Greece to get into Europe.
So as I say, if Tulip Siddiq really wants to alleviate global social injustice, instead of using the alleged volatility of young British Muslims to try to sway US government policy she should just speed-dial her aunt. Direct lines don’t come much more direct than that.