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Integration this, integration that

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One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings” – Franklin Thomas


Am I the only person who is rather bored, and somewhat irritated, of hearing politicians go on, and on (and on) about integration. This week, Conservative Eric Pickles was the latest to jump on the integration bandwagon (only English speakers aboard!), concentrating on, surprise, surprise, the Muslim community.

He said: “We have always been of the view that if the Muslim community of Britain, British Muslims, are seen as the enemy within, then the forces of extremism win”.

I am often suspicious of people continually bleating on about integration, because most of the time, in fact almost always, it is in reference to the south Asian community (read: Muslim).

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair had the audacity to write an article in the Wall Street Journal about the ‘problem of integration’:

We have to nail down the definition of the problem. There is no general failure to integrate. In the U.K., for example, we are not talking about Chinese or Indians. We are not talking about blacks and Asians. This is a particular problem. It is about the failure of one part of the Muslim community to resolve and create an identity that is both British and Muslim.

What gives the Blair the tenacity to write on ‘knowing’ exactly how Muslim people identify themselves? Studies have shown that, in fact, more Muslims identify themselves as British than the rest of the population (shame they had to couple it with the standard Veiled-Muslim-Woman photo but that’s another issue).

If anything, however, Blair’s foreign policy alienated some Muslims and even radicalised them. TheJuly 7 bombers mentioned the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as the main reasons for why they were so angry and hence committe their atrocities.

But why the Muslim community? Are all these politicians seriously trying to tell us that only Muslims segregate themselves and cannot speak English? As well as being a gross exaggeration and a backward stereotype, this type of behaviour is not limited to Muslims.

Orthodox Jews, Chinese, and Black people will form their own communities and live in clusters. Many people of other ethnic groups do not speak English fluently, or at all, yet no one finds that an issue. That is largely down to the fact that Muslims have come under more scrutiny post September 2001 than any other group.

For some non-Muslims, being (South) Asian is synonymous with being Muslim and vice-versa, and that is primarily because most Muslims in the UK are from the Indian subcontinent, hence when something from the Asian culture is reported on (e.g. cousin marriages) the immediate reaction is that it is a ‘Muslim issue’.


What do they mean when they say integration anyway?




Many a time we have heard it being said, either by politicians or ordinary people, that immigrants and foreigners are welcome so long as they “live as we live; do things the way we do”.

Often people retort, “They should just learn English”. Next time someone says that, ask them how many languages they speak. About 62% of Britons cannot speak a foreign language. But who cares eh, because “everyone speaks English anyway”.  

Personally, I believe that people should interact and mix – how else will we learn from one another?

In my town, for example, the Pakistani community originate from one part, or one province rather, of Pakistan, and consequently all know one another. Sometimes you will even find many families of the same village living together – a home away from home!

Consequently, many immigrants still live as though they are in their country of origin, and are reluctant to let go of the traditions of their forefathers (which can be both good and bad). Asian women and their clothing is always a disputed issue – heaven forbid if she is wearing anything but traditional Pakistani clothes, she has become, gasp, ‘modern’. [I could go on with my list but this blog would be never-ending]

At the same time, is it so bad for people to live in clusters where the entire street or neighbourhood might be of the same ethnic group? What if they are law abiding citizens and are just getting on with their lives like the rest of us, then what? If it is not harming anyone then is there really an issue?

After all, it is quite normal for people to live like this. Just because white families live in one part of the town, and Asian and blacks in their own areas, does that necessarily indicate there are racial tensions between the different ethnic groups? [NB readers: do comment below with your own thoughts and experiences]

There is a genuine need to have adiscussion on this topic but for groups such as the EDL or other far-right groups, it is racism and/or prejudice under the guise of freedom of speech and liberalism.

Politicians can go on about integration and segregation as much as they like but do those people that talk about these issues actually want to mix with people of a different background? How many close friends of David Cameron are Muslim, Arab, or Asian?

The debate about integration, segregation and whatever other ‘tion’ is not going to go away. As I wrote in a previous article, Europe is in the midst of an identity crisis, as is the Muslim community to an extent (one for another article, perhaps?.

What does it mean to be British,or French, or European? It means not being ‘the other’. And who is the other? This is what worries me; each time people think of a new attribute to add to the selective list of what it means to be British, and each time it seems to exclude anyone different – sometimes that includes non-whites and often Muslims.

I wonder who will be the next person to have their two pence say…  

Written by Iram Ramzan

March 16, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Posted in politics, UK

Tagged with , , , ,

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