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UK charges pro-Palestinian protester behind divisive coconut placards | race issues news

UK charges pro-Palestinian protester behind divisive coconut placards |  race issues news


This article contains references to racist language that some readers may find distressing.

On November 11, Marieha Hussain, a 37-year-old teacher, joined thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters in London calling for an end to Israel's war in the Gaza Strip.

During the rally, she held up a placard with the faces of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and former home secretary Suela Braverman alongside a coconut under a beach tree.

Her message was clear. This is especially true for British people who grew up in minority communities where this word is sometimes used.

Coconut is a divisive term that means brown on the outside and white on the inside, implying that black or brown individuals are similar to traitors who have betrayed their heritage by indulging white opinions.

Some people find it racist and offensive, while others believe it can be used in the spirit of free speech as a valid, albeit derogatory, criticism.

Braverman, a prominent right-wing figure at the time, described the pro-Palestinian protests in Britain as hate marches. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the march was disrespectful. Both politicians have Indian ancestry.

A few days later, the Metropolitan Police posted a photo of Hussain and her placard at X on their official account, announcing that she was being searched in connection with a hate crime. The post went viral.

Hussein has suddenly become embroiled in a thorny debate surrounding the use of the term in the context of hate crime laws, which are often brought up in support of minority communities.

She has now been charged with racially aggravated public order offenses and is due to appear in court next month, Al Jazeera can exclusively reveal.

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson confirmed the allegations to Al Jazeera and said Hussein had been notified by post. Hussein said he had not received any written correspondence.

I had no idea that the word coconut would be hijacked by a demographic that doesn't use the word and used to criminalize me. Hussein told Al Jazeera in an interview before he was indicted.

As a woman of color and a Muslim, my deep criticism of our government's support and encouragement of genocide against the Palestinian people, combined with my deep criticism of it, makes me the perfect scapegoat for far-right ideology.

I believed, and still do, that I had full ownership of those words. This is because each culture has its own language used to describe people of ethnic origin who use their positions of power to push white supremacist ideals, narratives, and policies. .

Abused, harassed and forced to leave their homes and lose their jobs.

Marieha Hussein was chased, harassed and given an aggressive interview by Met police after attending a Palestinian pro-demonstration holding a Sunak & Braverman sign.

Please join us in demanding that the lawsuit against Marieha be dropped.

CAGE International (@CAGEintl) May 14, 2024

According to the Metropolitan Police, hate can be considered a crime if it stems from hostility or prejudice based on race, sexual orientation, disability or transgender people.

This definition emphasizes that someone does not have to be personally aware of an incident for it to be seen as hate-related.

Until the recent fallout, many people seemed unaware that coconut use was considered a hate crime. Not everyone who uses this word in public has been prosecuted.

Asim Qureshi, director of research at CAGE, a UK-based campaign group, said terms such as coconut have a history of being used as a means of politically criticizing those who internalize narratives of white supremacy while undermining the communities they traditionally belong to. said.

South African satirist Lesego Tlhabi created the character of Coconut Kelz as a white woman trapped inside the body of a black woman, specifically to criticize certain standardized institutionalized racism.

However, others believe the term amounts to a racial slur.

There is no way to have a political debate

Sunder Katwala, head of the UK Future think tank, said in November that the comments were deplorable and could not make a political argument.

What can and has been prosecuted is unlawful racist abuse.

There are a million ways to criticize Sunak or Braverman for their language or behavior without using racial slurs or relying on protected characteristics. He posted on X, drawing hundreds of furious replies.

Writer and magazine editor Idrees Ahmed said coconuts are part of the humor within POC.

There is no power dynamic that can create racism. In reality, Ahmed posted, it was meant to throw a punch by mocking those who align themselves with the dominant power dynamic.

Hussein's case, while famous, is not the first of its kind.

In 2010, a black councilor in Bristol was found guilty of racial harassment after calling an Asian political opponent a coconut during a debate.

These intra-community terms are not designed to be polite, but to protect the community, hold them accountable and demand better behavior, said Nels Abbey, broadcaster and author of Think Like A White Man A Satirical Guide to Conquering the World; While black.

The purpose of this language is often to warn or highlight actions or attitudes that reflect the threat posed to the group by past oppressors.

The case against Hussein comes as Britain grapples with racial tensions sometimes linked to politicians.

Earlier this year, a black man was acquitted of hate crime charges after he posted a raccoon emoji on an The raccoon emoji has been associated with some very offensive racist words, but some argue that it is another intra-community insult between black and Asian people to describe people who pander to a white supremacist agenda.

In March, the Guardian newspaper reported that the ruling right-wing Conservative Party's biggest donor told colleagues in 2019 that veteran politician Diane Abbott had made her hate all black women.

And as fighting in the Gaza Strip has intensified in recent months, conflict in the community has escalated with increased reports of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

It is interesting that when it comes to protests against the Gaza war, every placard and word is highlighted and scrutinized, said Zarif Khan, a British criminal lawyer who worked on Hussein's case for more than 20 years. He must ask questions. Is this really an offensive word?




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