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Are you one of us…? Multiculturalism’s a two-way process, you know

Are you one of us…? Multiculturalism’s a two-way process, you know

🕔14.Nov 2012
English: Baroness Warsi, minister without port...

Baroness Warsi, in a speech over the weekend on multiculturalism, said: “Being brought up – before the politically correct brigade got going – on harvest festivals, maypoles, Nativity plays, Christmas carols and the Lord’s Prayer, made me much more sure about my own identity.”

I was talking to a group of young Muslims in their twenties when this topic came up. I would describe this group as being bright, educated, born in Britain and from professional backgrounds. It was interested to hear them vehemently disagreeing with Warsi’s notion that accepting ‘mainstream culture’ strengthens one’s own identify. In fact they feel quite the opposite that their culture and religious views are coming under attack and slowly being diminished, especially by what one described as ‘apologists from our own community’.

Let’s develop this argument. A lot of people think Muslims are portrayed in the media and in wider society as the ‘enemy within’. A cursory look at media headlines since 9/11 will back this up, with Muslims always identified with terrorism, whilst other groups are not identified by their religion. To be fair to Warsi, she did raise this issue, when she stated that Islamaphobia has become socially acceptable and has ‘passed the dinner-table test’. In every walk of life Muslims are underrepresented, with subtle forms of discrimination at play, Muslims are more likely to be unemployed, have low educational achievement, be economically inactive, suffer from poor health and housing. Thus many people feel that they don’t have a stake in society.

A recent study by the Institute for Social and Economic Research found Muslims are more likely to identify themselves with being British then white people. When asked ‘how important on a scale of 10 being British was to them’, people from Pakistani background scored the highest average score of 7.76, with Bangladeshi and Indian coming second and third respectively. The white population scored the lowest with an average score of 6.58.

So despite identifying as being British, Muslims suffer from ‘enforced’ exclusion from economic benefits of the UK. Therefore the institutions of the UK, be they public, private or voluntary sector should be doing more to engage with and support Muslims to ensure they have equal opportunities to be able to achieve the best they can. Unfortunately the present evidence shows we have a long way to go on this.

One should not forget that immigrants – be they Muslims, Afro Caribbean, Chinese – have brought a rich variety of culture to the UK, from dazzling Bollywood movies, delicious Balti, electric mix of Black music and great festivals to name a few. Should not Warsi encourage the white community to participate in celebrating Eid or Diwali, as well as calling on ethnic minorities to participate in harvest festivals?

Breaking down barriers and creating a cohesive society works both ways, the indigenous population need to embrace and accept the ethnic minorities, whilst ethnic minorities should participate in the wider culture of the country they live in.

I’m off to the pub for lunch after which I’ll be practicing my Morris dancing steps………

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