LONDON — One Direction star Niall Horan, singer Lily Allen and pop band The 1975 were among hundreds of household names from the U.K.’s music scene to unite against “all forms of racism” after a rapper’s anti-Semitic tirade.
Rita Ora, Lewis Capaldi and Little Mix were joined by major U.K. labels like Universal Music, Warner Music and Sony Music and a number of other big-name industry figures to endorse an open letter titled “#NoSilenceInMusic” on Saturday.
“All forms of racism have the same roots — ignorance, lack of education and scapegoating,” the letter said.
“Whether it be systemic racism and racial inequality highlighted by continued police brutality in America or anti-Jewish racism promulgated through online attacks, the result is the same: suspicion, hatred and division,” it added.
The letter was published after prominent British grime rapper Wiley was banned from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram after he posted a series of anti-Semitic and racist diatribes last week.
Wiley, whose real name Richard Cowie, compared Jews to the Ku Klux Klan and asserted that Jews systematically exploited Black artists in the music industry.
The posts prompted celebrities, politicians and other high-profile Brits to to join a 48-hour “walkout” from Twitter to protest what they said was an inadequate response to anti-Semitic tweets from a rapper.
They also reignited debate in the country about racism, which was brought into sharp focus following a series of protests after death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minnesota police officer. One, in June, saw the toppling of a slave trader statue.
The posts also prompted questions on social media platforms’ ability to combat hate speech.
After initially removing some of his posts, Wiley, 41, was permanently banned from Twitter five days after he uploaded his comments, last Wednesday, a day after he was removed by Facebook and Instagram.
Twitter later apologized for the time it took to respond, but only after it had been criticized by a spokesperson for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said: “Social media companies need to go much further and faster in removing hateful content such as this.”
The U.K.’s Home Secretary Priti Patel also questioned why the rapper’s posts had stayed up for so long.
Wiley, dubbed “the godfather of grime,” later insisted that he was “not racist” in an interview with British broadcaster Sky News.
He said his disagreement was with his Jewish manager and that he would hand back the U.K. government honor given to him for his contribution to music in 2018.
“My comments should not have been directed to all Jews or Jewish people. I want to apologize for generalizing, and I want to apologize for comments that were looked at as anti-Semitic,” he said.
However, he subsequently appeared to backtrack, telling the interviewer: “It’s systemic racism from their side” and “the system and… a community of Jewish lawyers” have made him feel angry.
Wiley was also dropped by his management company and faces a police investigation over the tweets.
His former manager John Woolf, who is Jewish, confirmed in a statement that his company had “cut all ties” with the artist, adding, “There is no place in society for antisemitism.”