It is not in the national interest, nor in the interest of minority groups to encourage victimisation in the manner Baroness Warsi did last week. Young Muslims particularly, though not exclusively, of Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent have it difficult enough to integrate and assimilate without Warsi making them feel like victims, for political gain. To encourage victimisation comes at the cost of precluding important self-fault finding, in this instance, for both individuals and the state. Without this it is not possible to deal with the plight of isolation that exists amongst some Muslim youths and a chunk of Britain’s Muslim’s community.
Some of us have been fortunate enough to go to a school where we have had to go to chapel everyday, including formally for an elongated service on Sundays. This may not ,necessarily, have given one concrete faith, but it may grant an intuitive insight into the history and culture of England. That religion has shaped national life for centuries is a historical understatement. Even a simple appreciation of ecclesiastical history can facilitate one to understand that it was a unique occurrence both in England, and the West, that political liberty came about on the back of religious liberty. Unfortunately, some young Muslims, confined to areas where they can only meet other isolated members of the same faith there are few opportunities for insight into the world beyond their uni-cultural communes. (The huge irony of multiculturalism is that it creates large areas where only one foreign culture persists. It is also an amazingly coincidental and useful structure for Labour Party campaigning!). For many young Muslims the opportunity to grasp and learn more about the terrific history of this Isles is left to an improbable outcome, particularly now that schools no longer teach British history and culture. This will no doubt persist ethnic minority isolation for the foreseeable future. With the disparity in knowledge of history and culture some young Muslims are ill-equipped to face the world, having being put at a disadvantage to those from other social backgrounds. With this lack of knowledge go so many related opportunities in employment and social life. It is no wonder that so many have no sense of belonging or affiliation, when marginalisation has occurred through the simple omission of knowledge.
There is no irony in the fact that Enoch Powell noted this possibility in the 1960s. After all, he had a profound understanding of subcontinent culture and languages. It is not difficult to be moved by the passage in Simon Heffer’s biography that describes Powell’s Indian attendees in tears when he is leaving the sub-continent. Few had gone so to such lengths to understand so deeply its variances and similarities with Britain (Warren Hastings is the only name that springs immediately to mind- but there are others). It is a sign of the mediocrity of human judgment that Powell has become so demonised (often out of political necessity, than pure malice). This, worryingly persistent, misjudgement demonstrates how far British politic has yet to mature on dealing with truths that for unreasoned and meagre minds seem subconsciously so unpalatable. The lack of leadership away from emotional sentimentalism only further clouds judgment. Our capacity to misjudge Powell, is almost equalled to our misjudgement of the isolationist tendencies that multiculturalism can foster. The plight of many migrants today that Powell was so palpably concerned with is a direct result of failures to actively assimilate and the consistent indifference to the relationship between numbers and the rate of integration. Without a clear method to integrate, rather than isolate, the problems continue to exacerbate as their numbers grow in many parts of the country. Alas, so few people actually know that Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ was about discrimination to immigrants, as opposed to sectarian strife.
The provenance of that speech lies in the story of difficulties of immigration; how hard it was for one foreigner, at the heart of the quoted story, arriving in Ancient Rome, to fit in. Powell was, perhaps, a little selfish- he could have elaborated more rather than leaving the point to be unravelled by only the most cerebral. Though his message was clear, it was also pessimistic (unsurprisingly so as Powell was Nietzchean in outlook), and realistic as to what could and could not be achieved through a Christian spirit of warmth and welcome; even if this could be summoned on mass. The fact that our Isles have not quite been able to do this, mitigates only very partially the failed policies of consecutive Labour and Conservative governments to ensure restriction of numbers and even distribution of new-comers to ensure assimilation. Going back on this front now is almost improbable. However the remedy for isolation of young Muslims still exists: this is to encourage integration. But who, barring perhaps UKIP, would dare say this in the current political climate? The approach at present is to waive the problem; to use that ultimate laissez-faire abdication of responsibility word: ‘multiculturalism’. The word is not just a disincentive to assimilate- it makes it a right to isolate oneself in another land without even attempting to learn its history and culture. How can one then get on with and even be as one with its people? Of all people, Powell understood the daftness of this as he sat in India, sweating, in the midday sun some eighty years ago, mastering his Urdu and rendering local theology comprehensible to himself.
Copyright Abhijit P.G. Pandya 2011.
Copyright Birkenhead Society 2011.