Brexit will 'embolden bigotry' towards people of colour, warns former Green MEP Magid Magid
The New Arab Meets: Former MEP Magid Magid, who is demanding 'real action' in response to the anti-Muslim rhetoric he witnessed in the media and political landscapes during and post-Brexit. The UK's departure from the European Union has "emboldened bigotry" against people of colour, says outgoing Green MEP Magid Magid. But he said the "fight for a better democracy, a better Europe and a better UK, doesn't stop with an election or a referendum." His plan now is to raise certain issues, including the existence of anti-Muslim rhetoric, with some of the EU's highest echelons of power. He spoke to The New Arab in Brussels on the eve before the UK's exit from the European Union .
"We really have to change the system of democracy now, and we need to do much more to achieve this," he said.
The 30-year-old, who is also known as 'Magic Magid', arrived in Britain from Somalia as a child refugee in 1994. He grew up to become the youngest individual, the first ever person of colour, and the first Green Party Councillor, to serve as the Lord Mayor of Sheffield from May 2018 to May 2019.
Accompanied by his well-worn slogan, "Immigrants Make Britain Great," the Somali-British activist and politician went on to win his seat as a Member of the European Parliament [MEP] in 2019. But now, in the aftermath of the UK's departure from the EU, with British MEPs leaving their roles at 23:00 GMT on January 31, he said he will write to the College of Commissioners to raise some of the issues he witnessed during his seven months in office.
Read also: 'Anything is possible': Meet Sheffield's first Somali Lord Mayor Magid Magid
He told The New Arab he will demand "real action" in response to the anti-Muslim rhetoric he witnessed in the media and political landscapes. He said he will also highlight how the UK's departure from the EU will mean a deficit of MEPs who identify as Muslims.
Writing in the publication Politico , he said: "Only 30 of the new class of 751 MEPs are people of colour, and if you look different from your average MEP (as I do), it's not easy."
He added that his "right to be where I am" had been questioned throughout his political career and is "part and parcel of being black."
From Islamophobia-inducing rhetoric, to the plight of asylum seekers; Magid said he will also petition the Commission about the 50,000 migrants that the EU had pledged to resettle. And while the European Green Deal offered "hope and promise," he said it did not "go far enough" and will thus raise the issue of climate change and its "existential threat to civilisation itself."
He told The New Arab : "I'm a proud Europhile, but the EU is not a safe haven of progressive ideas. There are a lot of things that are wrong with it. And I love it enough to do what I can to make sure it's the best version of itself, which does mean challenging it."
From Islamophobia-inducing rhetoric, to the plight of asylum seekers; Magid said he will also petition the Commission about the 50,000 migrants that the EU had pledged to resettle
Magid, who was sent home after turning up on his first day as MEP in baseball cap, Doctor Marten boots and a t-shirt bearing the words "fuck fascism," has spoken openly about the structural racism that he felt during his time as MEP.
Tweeting about the incident at the time, he wrote: "I know I'm visibly different. I don't have the privilege to hide my identity. I'm BLACK & my name is Magid. I don't intend to try fit in. Get used to it!"
He told The New Arab : "We've got until December 31, 2020 to figure out the UK's relationship with the rest of Europe. I would love it if we had freedom of movement so that we are all able to work, live and fall in love with somebody of a different European country without issue. And there's probably a lot of young people who will be denied this now."
Magid Magid attends a session of the The Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs of the European Parliament on July 24, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium [Getty]
Now that the UK has left the EU, he said the situation will "embolden bigotry" towards people of colour in the UK and that "things will become a lot less diverse".
He added: "When I first arrived in Brussels, I experienced certain attitudes from people.
"But put it this way, structural racism is not something that's exclusive to the European Parliament. It's also everywhere in the UK.
"A lot of BME [Black and Minority Ethnic] people in the UK are dealing with many different issues as it is. Whether it's racial profiling or getting access to certain things.
"You see it in football clubs, at various institutions and in the Royal family: we really need to change that as a society."
Structural racism is not something that's exclusive to the European Parliament. It's also everywhere in the UK
During the twilight hours of 'Brexit Eve' in Place du Luxembourg, Magid, who was surrounded by a swelling crowd of supporters, recited a poem he had written underscoring some of the issues related to the UK's departure from the European Union: "Salvini, Le Pen, Orbán and Farage, are spreading hatred and anger and fear by the barrage.
"They say migrants like me are the roots of all ills, the reasons you struggle to pay all your bills.
"You're smarter than that, don't believe their illusions, check who profits from the system, and draw your conclusions."
He later told The New Arab : "It's a sad day. I can't pretend that I'm not disappointed, of course I am. But on the whole, it's been a complete mix of emotions, because as well as being sad, I'm also grateful for learning so much from the experience.
"In fact, at first, I was thinking about staying at home with a friend or two; but then I thought, why not try and have as many hugs as possible? People are feeling so depleted, so I think it was good for us all to be together at this time."
Speaking to a member of the EU Flag Mafia, a campaign group that had driven to Brussels ahead of 'Brexit Day', he said the UK's exit from the EU "does not mean the end of the fight for an EU that serves everyone". Instead, he said, it was "now time to redirect our energies." Anu Shukla is a freelance journalist based in London Follow her on Twitter: @AnuShuklaWrites Read more from The New Arab Meets special section below:
2020-02-07 | In-depth | English | Al-Araby