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Saturday, August 1, 2009

We must not forget Srebrenica

On the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, we must commit to tackle racial and religious hate crimes fuelled by the far right

Muhammed, Saturday 11 July 2009 13.00 BST

In early July 1995, during several days of carnage, Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Ratko Mladić summarily executed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys who had sought sanctuary in the town of Srebrenica. Nearly 25,000 women, children and elderly people were forcibly deported, and rapes and beatings were common, making this event the biggest war crime to take place in Europe since the end of the second world war.
In January this year the European parliament voted to designate 11 July as Srebrenica remembrance day to ensure that the memory of this terrible crime lives on. It is a warning and a reminder that more than 60 years after the Holocaust caused an entire generation to say "never again", the dangers of sectarianism and division are as real as ever.
In this country and across Europe race hate attacks are again on the rise. A recent spate of attacks on mosques, fuelled by far-right anti-immigrant extremism, shows that even now, there are those who would exploit fear and use violence to divide us. The election of two BNP MEPs and police warnings of a threat of terrorism from the far right highlight the need to take on this extremism, no matter where it finds root.
That urgency is underlined by the shocking murder of Marwa al-Sherbini, a Muslim woman who was killed at a Dresden courtroom by someone who hated her decision to adopt the headscarf. The muted response to her murder is equally shocking, with officials describing the tragedy as an "incident", and German media focusing on courtroom security rather than asking what motivated the assailant's deep hatred for Muslims.
Surely this is a wake-up call for all of us to reflect and resolve to be ever vigilant. The muted response from our politicians and media is astounding. In fact, many are anxious that we are creating the atmosphere for such attacks to take place. As Nicolas Sarkozy's recent remarks on women who choose to wear the burka show, too many of our leaders seek to accommodate the far right instead of tackling them head-on. We must mark the 14th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre with a renewed vigour to take on divisive ideologies and the peddlers of racial and religious hatred.

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