Reggae music, violence and homophobia

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The Independent Online

The murder of David Morley, a survivor of the 1999 Soho pub bombing, in a suspected homophobic attack has brought to wider attention what the gay community has known for some time: that the number of such attacks in Britain is rising. Figures released by the Metropolitan Police earlier this year demonstrate a 10 per cent rise in the number of homophobic assaults in London since 2002.

The murder of David Morley, a survivor of the 1999 Soho pub bombing, in a suspected homophobic attack has brought to wider attention what the gay community has known for some time: that the number of such attacks in Britain is rising. Figures released by the Metropolitan Police earlier this year demonstrate a 10 per cent rise in the number of homophobic assaults in London since 2002.

This is partly due to the fact that the police have been more assiduous in recording such incidents since homophobic crimes were classified with race attacks in last year's Criminal Justice Act. But thatis not enough to explain the rise. Some in the gay community argue that the increase in so-called "gay bashing" is due to the growing popularity in this country of homophobic reggae acts.

The police are taking this link seriously. Yesterday it was announced that Scotland Yard will investigate some artists to determine whether their lyrics constitute an incitement to violence. The casual bigotry of some of these singers is unacceptable, and the police are right to respond to the concerns raised by launching this investigation. Perhaps they should consider whether record labels and promoters are culpable, alongside the singers themselves.

All too often the police have treated assaults on gay people as unimportant. The fact that they are taking their responsibilities seriously is to be welcomed. This investigation also represents another victory for Peter Tatchell, the human rights activist who has never been afraid to swim against the tide; he has campaigned bravely to highlight the dangers of the propagation of violent homophobic propaganda through reggae. He has also drawn attention to the sickening persecution of homosexuals in Jamaica, where the leading gay rights activist was murdered earlier this year.

Some have argued that since this music reflects a particular slice of Jamaican culture it is wrong to get too upset by the bigotry. They are wrong. Any incitement to violence against a minority group is unacceptable, and it would be a betrayal of the memory of people like David Morley, people murdered simply because of their sexuality, to turn a blind eye.

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