Harmony or Hatred – What's Really Going on in Multicultural Britain?

Harmony or Hatred – What's Really Going on in Multicultural Britain?

by Vicola England

Once again the issue of Islam in Britain has raised its head, this time courtesy of the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester in case you were wondering. The Bishop has announced that Islamic extremists have turned parts of Britain into ‘no-go areas’ for those who don’t follow Mohammad, stating that ‘those of a different faith or race may find it difficult to live and work there’. And do you know what? He’s absolutely right, although perhaps not for the reasons he thinks. The Bishop believes it’s because non-Muslims will find hostility from the Muslim community. And it’s true that the more radicalised may be hostile–but simply saying that antagonism from the community is the reason only scratches the surface of a far more complex problem in Britain today.

Venture into some of the more ‘financially inconvenienced’ former mill towns in the North or Brixton and the less affluent bits of London and the Midlands, and you’re going to find division staring you in the face. Oldham, in the North West, is a town whose main claim to fame is being the home of the ‘Oldham Riots’ of 2001 which saw 500 Asian youths, a similar number of white youths and 100 armed police engage in a full-scale riot complete with petrol bombs, overturned cars and smashed windows aplenty. Oldham has secondary schools that are so segregated you can find 99% white or 99% Asian pupils. It definitely has areas where non-Muslims will feel hostility, but this works both ways; there are no-go areas for Muslims too. Bradford and Rochdale are similar. What do these towns have in common? Little money, high levels of unemployment, massive reliance on state benefits, poor educational performance and traditional ‘working class’ ethics. If you believe the papers you’d think it was the end of days, but it’s not even new. Less affluent areas have always attracted immigrant populations that gathered together in common areas to keep their identity and community going, from the Irish potato famine that saw refugees sailing from the Emerald Isle to set up enclaves in poor areas of New York, Liverpool and London, enclaves that would brawl with the locals, to the Jamaicans who headed for London in the 60s and were greeted by such friendly gestures as signs in boarding house windows saying ‘No Blacks, No Irish’.

There are a few major difference between the immigrants of old and the recent wave of Muslim immigrants, the biggest of which are the intensity of resentment and fear. People were afraid of the Jamaicans when they arrived, mainly because a lot of them had never seen a coloured person before and it’s human nature to fear the unknown. But the fear today is different and, more importantly, is being fed in a completely new way, thanks to the press.

A quick look at recent headlines from one of the UK’s favourite tabloids, the Daily Mail (nick-named ‘The Daily Wail’ and ‘The Daily Heil’, which gives you some idea of which way it leans) shows that the press are not exactly on the side of our Muslim brethren: 13th May – ‘Catholic schoolgirl who refused headscarf for mosque trip labelled a truant’, 9th Feb – ‘Christian teacher “forced out” after complaining Muslim pupils praised 9/11 hijackers as heroes’, 30th April – ‘Muslim daubs war memorial with “Islam will dominate the world” but walks free after CPS says he was NOT racially motivated’, 12th April – ‘Muslim nurses CAN cover up but Christian colleagues can’t wear crucifixes’ (covering up is a contravention of the hospital’s policy on infection control which requires arms to be bare so skin can be cleaned and the risk of cross-contamination reduced).

The Daily Mail has a circulation of over 2m papers and 2 million visitors to its website daily. That’s a lot of people getting their information about the Muslim community from this less than neutral source. And it’s not alone; the tabloids have long ago figured out that there’s money to be made from feeding anti-Muslim feelings. These headlines foster the belief that there’s one rule for Muslims and another for the general populace, a belief that one tiny glance through history can tell us is very bad news indeed.

It’s not solely the fault of the papers, though. There are prominent Muslims fanning the flames too. Take the ever-delightful Anjem Choudary, a lawyer by training so not a man who needs to be out of work; however, Mr Choudary has announced that it is every Muslim’s duty to bleed as much money out of the British benefits system as possible. To give him his due, he is a man who practices what he preaches. Choudary brings in a tax free £25,740 a year; if he were paying tax it would be the equivalent of a £32,500 salary. The national average salary (before tax) is £25,800 and the after-tax cash a private fighting in Afghanistan will see is £13,430, half of what Mr Choudary receives for sitting on his backside preaching hate against the West. Given that it’s the Choudarys who hit the headlines rather than the mild mannered Muslim shopkeeper, factory worker or taxi driver who works long hours for minimum wage, it’s no wonder resentment is simmering away in poorer areas where people haven’t a hope of earning £32k a year. Though of course it isn’t just Muslims making their living from the benefits system: look at the mother of ‘kidnapped’ Shannon Matthews, Karen, who reputedly had 7 children from 5 different men because each time you have another, the amount you receive in benefits rises accordingly. And she’s far from unique.

Fear of Muslims among the non-Muslim community is easy to understand – they gather in groups, they dress differently, they often speak a different language so we’ve no idea whether they are talking about jihad or last night’s Coronation Street. The tabloids are telling us that they want us ALL to become Muslim and if we don’t then we’re going to be blown up in a holy war, plus the last government did its best to convince us that Muslim fanatics were so dangerous that we needed to relinquish civil liberties and rights to privacy which had survived a civil war, Hitler and the IRA. A glance through the anti-terrorism legislation brought in since 9/11 could lead the more cynical reader to conclude that Muslims have been a very useful tool indeed in allowing the government to gain more control than is healthy over its populace and their rights to protest.

Certainly in some respects the wider Muslim community does need to do more. It needs to be educating and controlling its youths. The fact is that a section of Britain does have a negative image of the Muslim community, and so trying to arrange marches through Wootten Bassett, the town where the bodies of dead British soldiers are repatriated, to chant about how soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are murderers is not going to convince anyone that you aren’t trouble. Somali elders in the UK have a particularly tough time ahead if they’re going to convince the world that they come in peace, for the simple reason that a number of their youths don’t. Somali gangs are probably the most feared gangs in London because of their violence and ruthlessness, social workers are reluctant to work with them, and the turf wars they engage in are utterly brutal. However, why anyone expects any kid who’s grown up in Mogadishu living in a tribal system to arrive in London and magically become a hedge fund manager in a 3 bedroom semi-detached is a mystery. Logically, if violence and living on your wits is all you’ve ever known then it’s what you’re going to continue doing. Which is not to say that the problem doesn’t need addressing—it does—but it’s fair to say it’s not going to be solved by locking up the perpetrators while letting in more and more young Somali men.

So how do we heal Britain’s fractured communities and bring racial peace to the streets? Who knows? Find the answer to that one and you’ll make your fortune. What can be deduced, however, is that no one group can fix this; it’s going to take cooperation from the authorities, the police, the Muslim community, the indigenous community and the press. Most of all it’s going to take time. And the Bishop of Rochester needn’t be too afraid that ‘the influence of Christianity is in decline’ just yet; the current British population contains 42.6 million Christians and 2.4 million Muslims. It’s unlikely that anyone is going to be fitting Canterbury Cathedral for a dome and loudspeakers to call the faithful to prayer anytime soon.

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