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Jo Cox: The Latest Victim of Europe's Far Right

  • Tributes for Labour Party MP Jo Cox, who was shot dead in the street in northern England, are displayed on Parliament Square in London, Britain, June 16, 2016.

    Tributes for Labour Party MP Jo Cox, who was shot dead in the street in northern England, are displayed on Parliament Square in London, Britain, June 16, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 16 June 2016

Jo Cox, murdered by an apparent fascist, was a leading advocate for the rights of refugees.

When the murder of Labor MP Jo Cox was revealed in the media Thursday, various non-profit organizations that used to work closely with her and the refugees for whom she advocated, immediately expressed their sorrow and praised her commitment to human dignity in Britain and abroad.

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Cox, 41, worked for many years with Oxfam, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Freedom Fund and others on humanitarian issues, including those related to the conflicts in Darfur and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But she was especially known and praised for defending the peaceful and cheerful cohabitation of the various communities that formed her constituency in Batley and Spen and in the U.K.

“Our communities have been deeply enhanced by immigration, be it Irish Catholics across the constituency or Muslims from Indian Gujarat or Pakistan, principally from Kashmir,” she said during her maiden speech in parliament last year. “And whilst we celebrate our diversity, the things that surprise me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is that we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us.”

As a vocal anti-racism and pro-refugee activist, Cox also received a tribute from SOAS Palestine Society, which issued a statement saying: "Jo Cox campaigned tirelessly for bringing humanity back to a broken system. Whether it was with advocating for the rights of refugees in Europe or for the displaced and besieged in both Palestine and Syria, she never gave up."

As chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Friends of Syria, she was a vocal critic of the Syrian government but also refused to support airstrikes in Syria.

In contrast to Cox's long record of advocacy, her suspected murder, Thomas Mair, is allegedly linked to the neo-Nazi group National Alliance.

At least one eyewitness claims that Cox's assailant also shouted "put Britain First," referring to an anti-Islamic far-right group.

Although Britain First denied any involvement in the murder, the alleged assailant's background speaks to the growing threat posed by anti-refugee and racist groups in Europe. Cox was a prominent advocate of Britain remaining in the European Union, a question British voters will weigh in on next week.

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According to a 2013 research conducted by the Institute of Race Relations, IRR, over 37,000 racially or religiously aggravated crimes have been officially reported between 2011 and 2012—equalling over 100 per day in England and Wales.

More worryingly, the researchers pointed to an aggravation in recent years, as violent racism seemed to extend from major urban centers to smaller cities across the country as has never before been seen.

They blamed political leaders, as well as the national and local media, for giving a platform to messages of fear and hate against migrants and refugees.

“The notion that multiculturalism undermines national identity has been politically mainstreamed—especially in the context of the 'war on terror'—and the Prime Minister (David Cameron) is one of many senior figures to have publicly declared as much. Reinforcing this, much national and local media coverage has portrayed the U.K. as on the cusp of being swamped or overwhelmed” by asylum seekers or migrant workers, said the report.

Some in Britain's leading political parties have embraced the narrative of far-right movements relating to race, immigration and asylum, in a bid to attract their electorate, which turned out to be a counter-productive strategy as proved by the electoral successes of the British National Party since the mid 2000s or other anti-Islam movements that emerged in recent years.

Given this context, there's plenty of blame to spread around for Cox's murder.

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