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March 10, 2005 23:00 ET

Human Rights Lawyer supremo Imran Khan defends David Beckham's 'Multicultural Human Rights'. By Farah Damji



MARCH 10, 2005 - 23:00 ET

Human Rights Lawyer supremo Imran Khan defends David
Beckham's 'Multicultural Human Rights'. By Farah Damji

LONDON, ENGLAND--(CCNMatthews - Mar. 11, 2005) - For seven years The
EMMA Awards have been a fixture on London's social calendar and one of
the few events in mine. Because they celebrated all great things about
being British: respect, diversity and achievement. It was never about
what colour you were or whose boot straps you were hanging onto. It was
about what you were putting back.

Last year there was much media furore, instigated mainly by the black
and Asian press when David Beckham, Tom Cruise and Greg Dyke picked up
awards. But these are multicultural awards for ethnics, they screamed
from their tabloid platforms. Why should Beckham win an award honouring
multiculturalism? He's white, Shock, horror. Bobby filed a complaint
with the CRE, stating that Beckham was the subject of a racist campaign.
Trevor 'Uncle Tom' Phillips fobbed him off to the Press Complaints
Commission. No action was taken against any of the alleged offences and
generally biased stuff appeared everywhere starting with Ethnic Media
Group's own Eastern Eye.

Chairman and Founder Bobby Syed is someone I admire. I have watched this
fracas unfold, I gave the story announcing NatWest's decision to dump
the EMMAs to the Independent's diary because I was appalled by Natwest's
behaviour, especially as:

* Three weeks ago, NatWest Bank announced group profits of GBP8.1 billion
* They enjoyed national and international EMMA generated press coverage
worth over GBP3 million, in 2004 according to Pedro Carvalho, MD of a
specialist ethnic PR agency
* They ignored several attempts made by EMMA's legal team to negotiate.
* Syed stayed loyal to Natwest in spite of being courted by other
corporates who saw how much political and cultural kudos were falling at
the main sponsor's feet.

Our mutual friend, human rights lawyer Imran Khan who was the convener
of the judges has been instructed to pursue legal action against
NatWest. Syed, sitting in his offices at the Saatchi and Saatchi
building in London (he's an ex Saatchi employee) says, "I personally
feel that this is a kick -in-the-teeth for great icons like Ray Charles
who have helped EMMA to become the only symbol for 'multiculturalism',
harmony and remembrance, which also encourages new role models for a
large disillusioned younger generation.

Natwest did not give EMMA enough notice to secure another sponsor. I
asked NatWest to set out their side of their story but was told "As this
matter is unfortunately subject to legal discussions it would be wholly
inappropriate to comment at this time.". Yet stated to the Independent's
Diary editor that their focus had shifted and that the EMMAs didn't fit
the bill any longer. You can't help but notice their branding all over
the Rugby and a lot of noise about teaming up with the Prince's Trust in
order to tackle exclusion through Rugby. How many black and Asian kids
have you seen rising through this elitist and white game?

NatWest wrote to the EMMA Awards on the 15th October 2004 regarding
their decision to walk away from the three year sponsorship contract
that covered the 16th May 2005 Multicultural Awards 2005. The official
reason given was the BBC's decision to schedule the 2004 TV show for 45
minutes instead of 50, which Natwest ironically accepted and discussed 9
months prior to transmission of the show in May 2004. A BBC official has
independently confirmed this; they never at any time indicated any
concern, until October 2004.

EMMA grew in stature for celebrating icons including Mohammed Ali,
Nelson Mandela, Lord Attenborough, Maya Angelou, Ray Charles, and
recently Sir Bill Morris by awarding them the distinguished EMMA
'Lifetime achievement' Honour. The EMMAs have also honoured the legacy
of Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King and Bruce Lee for their
contribution towards humanitarianism with each of their closest
relatives accepting this great honour on their behalf at the glitzy
Grosvenor House Hotel. The black activists in ethnic media took the
awards to task at every juncture: not enough black athletes were gaining
recognition, not enough members of the black media were being

This has to be viewed in its historical context: there is a lot of
infighting that goes on in ethnic media anyway and the EMMAS became
grist for the mill.

A former employee states that since NatWest was bought over by RBS, all
sponsorship decisions have had to be referred to Edinburgh. No offence
but how is some policy wonk ever going to understand the significance of
the London based EMMAs ?

In the Pandora article in the Independent dated 22 February 2005 a
NatWest flunky was quoted as saying 'The EMMA Awards no longer satisfy
our sponsorship objectives'. Oh well, that's it then, right? SILENCE,
until Wednesday March 9th another article in Pandora, announced Imran
Khan's involvement.

Whilst the bank is actively trying to court ethnic and especially Asian
business through vehicles such as the Asian Entrepreneurs Unit based in
posh Mayfair offices, to get their hands on the so-called Brown pound,
another larger policy is at work in the background. That is the policy
which states multiculturalism doesn't work for us, we don't like the
controversy around the EMMAs so we'll stick to safe white sports like
There's so much noise from large corporations who have been caught with
their boxers down and their dicks in the honey pot. When it comes to
working in and for the communities they claim to serve, they fail.

The EMMAs are a landmark event and I have watched them grow from a
hopeful idea into something that this year, at last would have finally
broken even and maybe even have made some money for Syed. But banks
don't like making money for other people do they?

I spoke to friends and colleagues in the industry and the outpouring of
support for Bobby and the EMMAs is massive. Ex-Cre commissioner Patrick
Paisley said: "I feel that if we are talking about diversity in wider
sense, Beckham is a member of the human race, Emma is supposed to be
about celebrating different cultures. Beckham is a cultural icon and
these are not apartheid-based awards. There is so much talk about
Britishness and what is a definition of Britishness, Beckham
encapsulates the face of modern Britain. Black, white and Asian youths
all look up to him and Thierry Henry.
If foreigners can contribute to culture, why should colour be an issue?
Had the black press made a fuss when Halle Berry won an Oscar, the same
papers that jumped on the outraged bandwagon because David Beckham won
an award would have been accused of racism. What is outrageous is for
the black press and media to jump on the bandwagon when it comes to
talking about white people they can be as racist as they want, this has
turned into reverse racism, of course there is space for white culture
in a multicultural award."

TV Diva Meera Syal added "There are so few ethnic awards around, in
spite of the controversy, it's important to see the EMMAs continue. He
has my full support in moving it forward."

The EMMA Awards continue with plans to organise a New York Ceremony for
September 2005 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for future TV broadcast and
Syed is in discussions with Geneva based WorldCom. The EMMAs are going
to do brilliantly in New York; after meetings in September organised by
the US Embassy in London, New York will become the global centre stage
for the EMMAs with the U.N as the backdrop, who through Kofi Annan have
acknowledged EMMAs contributions to society alongside Nelson Mandela.

Syed says, "People may know me well but 'EMMA' only celebrates one's
character and not one's race, creed or colour from a truly
'multicultural' perspective.

One should begin to question whether we want to be associated with
racist corporations. David Beckham has done well by the ethnic
community, Gurinder Chadha's landmark film Bend it like Beckham put him
on the cultural map, he said recently that a day didn't go by when he
wasn't reminded of the film or told to bend it. He was given the award
last year thanks to his stand in Eastern Europe when racist fans were
taunting his fellow team players with racist slogans. He stood up for
them and said that he found it offensive and unacceptable. The EMMAs
support role models and that was inspirational behaviour from someone
who is usually portrayed as being self-involved and pleasure seeking.
The word from his PR team at present is that he doesn't want to get
involved in a race row. Well it's a bit late for that, love. Bend it and
the EMMAs are the only things that I can recall that have given Beckham
any credibility,. Step up to the plate David.

Veteran journalist Jon Snow summed it up when I spoke to him yesterday,
it was two minutes to six and he was on a massive deadline but he still
took the time out to say categorically: " Of course EMMA is important,
just look at the people who have been honoured. It's a wonderful show
and a loss to the fabric of London's multicultural society."

For Further information contact: Farah Damji, Publisher, Another
Generation Media Ltd, 303 Kings Road, London, Tel: 0207 349 7557 Mobile:
07706 727 559 Email: contacts@anothergeneration-mag.com
www.anothergeneration-mag.com (Author) or EMMA Awards lawyer: Imran Khan
(Human Rights Lawyer) Tel: 0207 404 3004 or email: imrank@ikandp.co.uk
and also checkout EMMA website on: www.emma.tv


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