Labour tells Asians to be like whites

Click to follow
The Independent Online
ONE OF Britain's largest Asian communities has been warned by its Labour-controlled council that if it wants to improve its "quality of life" its members must dress and behave like white people.

The warning, described as "racist and insulting" by the National Union of Teachers, is contained in an official history of Oldham, near Manchester. It is to be used in local schools.

Brian Law, the author, who is a former managing director of the confectionery company Mars, was commissioned to write the 353-page volume by Oldham council for the former mill town's 150th anniversary.

In a five-page section devoted to the Asian community, Mr Law wrote: "To improve their quality of life and widen their op-portunities, the Asians them- selves will have to move away from some of their separate- ness, even intransigence, in dress, in language, in attitudes to particular occupations, adopting increasingly local customs and practices."

The NUT and Asian leaders are demanding the book be withdrawn but last night the council was unapologetic.

"The author has editorial licence and the council does not want to censor any material," said Colin Smith, Oldham's chief executive.

Mr Law, who lives in affluent Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, is unrepentant and says he is not alone in his views. "I am expressing a point of view. It is widely held. I don't think it is racist."

Oldham's Asian population is continuing to grow at "a very fast rate", he says. Allegations of discrimination in allocating council houses "have lacked substance". "Distinctive communities more resistant to integration than other previous immigrant groups are `here to stay,' as the saying goes," he adds.

Extreme right-wing groups, including the British National Party and Combat 18 are both active in the town and last year a primary school had to be closed for a day after it was daubed with racist graffiti.

Bryan Beckingham, the local NUT secretary and equal opportunities officer, said the comments could provoke racial violence. "We already have a problem with racism and these views do not help," he added.

"You treat racism in children with education but the council should know better, especially as its members are in a position of power. We are not saying the author should be censored but that the council should disassociate itself from his views."

Riaz Ahmad, an Oldham councillor, said Asians were angry and upset. "No community can be expected to drop its culture," he said. The Southall Monitoring Group, an anti-racist organisation in west London, said it was outraged.