“Identity Politics” – when ideologies collide

Culture Observations

Over the last few weeks, Anderton Park Primary School in Balsall Heath, Birmingham, has been the centre of controversy, with a number of protests taking place against the teaching of LGBT awareness to primary school age children.

The school is based in an area of the city with a predominantly large Pakistani Muslim population, so naturally the majority of children attending the school come from Muslim families.

Muslim parents are protesting because they feel the subject matter is not suitable for children of that age, as well going against what their faith teaches.

Counter-protesters are fully in support of these children being taught about LGBT awareness, and some also claim that the protesters are ‘from the stone ages’ and need to be ‘more tolerant’ and less bigoted.

That’s about as much detail as I want to go into regarding this story, and there is much more information that can be found about this on local news websites.

Because I’m more interested in analysing the wider issues at stake here, namely the issue of “identity politics” which is the pigeon-holing of people into ‘minority interest groups’, to be protected from being ‘victimised’ by an alleged ‘oppressive majority’.

This is of course why we nowadays have “diversity” instead of “equality”.

It is no longer enough for ‘minority interest groups’ to be treated equally, they are expected to be treated more favourably, with their interests to be put ahead of others, all in the name of ‘diversity’.

However, what we are seeing here in Birmingham is something slightly different, and I’m curious as to where this is essentially going to lead.

What we have here are two ‘minority interest groups’, or “communities” squaring off against each other. We have the ‘Muslim community’ and their ideology, versus the ‘LGBT community’ and their ideology.

Identity Politics is a tool used to ‘divide and rule’ us all, and we can see this evidently in action here, but in a slightly different way now. People are being expected to ‘take sides’ and if you happen to be on the ‘wrong side’ then you can expect to face strong and stinging criticism.

It was quite amusing to watch Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips (Labour) arguing with the lead protester. She has been quite vociferous in her championing of the ‘Muslim community’ – no doubt in an effort to secure the ‘Muslim vote’ in her own constituency – and is also very much in favour of LGBT teaching to become more widespread.

Quite why she has chosen to get involved here is a mystery, the school is not in her constituency, though I understand that she may herself live nearby, probably in nice leafy Moseley.

On the other hand, I read today that the Labour MP who actually does represent the area where the school is, Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Hall Green), has spoken out in support of the protesters.

Following the publication of this video, a petition has been started to have the Labour party deselect him as an MP.

“His failure to support the staff of Anderton Park Primary in the school’s duty to educate pupils in same sex relationships is another episode of several in which he panders to regressive, religious bigotry.”

Comment left on petition

Readers unfamiliar with Birmingham will be interested to learn that Mr Godsiff represents the Hall Green constituency, which includes the mainly Muslim areas of Sparkbrook and Sparkhill (“the capital of British Pakistan” – BBC’s Citizen Khan) as well as this part of Balsall Heath. So one could argue that Mr Godsiff IS representing a majority of his constituents, by taking the ‘side’ of the Muslim protesters. After all, it is their votes that keep him as their MP.

Others have waded into the debate, notably the West Midlands metro Mayor Andy Street (who it turns out is gay himself) with the predictable calls for ‘more tolerance’.

Ironically, when valid criticisms have been levelled towards Islam in the past, the same people have called for ‘more tolerance’ of Islam and Muslims in general.

Traditionally, people call for ‘more tolerance’ towards these minority interest groups aimed at the ‘oppressive majority’ who are perceived as ‘victimising’ or ‘blaming’ the minority for ills in society.

But in what direction are we heading where now the ‘minority interest groups’ are battling amongst each other, each demanding that ‘tolerance’ is shown?

We often hear buzzwords and soundbites such as “social cohesion” and “community cohesion” bandied about, but does anyone actually understand what they mean?

It is clear to me that ‘identity politics’ and the pigeon-holing of people into minority interest groups is actually the problem, and by forcing people to feel they need to take sides is what is causing the ‘divide and rule’, or the friction within society. So much for ‘cohesion’.

We need to get back to ‘equality’ and the idea of an ‘equal society’ where everyone is treated the same, regardless of their race, creed, religion, gender, sexual persuasion, political affiliation, or whatever.

Instead of focusing on our ‘differences’, why not instead share and enjoy everything that we have in common with each other?

You are not a tightly-defined label, you are a human being.

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