We still don’t know what ‘british’ means

The number of racially motivated attacks have increased hugely,
especially in the inner city areas, while the media is working hard
to instigate a backlash against multiculturalism.

In this climate, it’s not difficult to imagine a scenario in which
social workers addressing the needs of a newly arrived family of
asylum seekers will be expected to provide a crash course in what
it means to be British – if, that is, someone can come up with a
lucid definition of what has always been a constantly evolving and
dynamic identity.

The hysterical examination of who we are; to whom we owe allegiance
and what we value as a nation, has thrown up ironies. Joan Collins,
for instance, rather alarmingly, has appointed herself as a modern
Boadicea. She rails in the Daily Mail about how the
country is going to the dogs – politeness and good manners have
been wiped out by a country “destroying itself from within”, losing
its pride in “Englishness”.

Yet, it is in many Muslim families that one finds the values that
Collins believes have been lost – respect for elders and authority,
courtesy, hospitality, a strong sense of family.

Collins argues that Britain “has done more for humanity than any
other country in the world”. It’s precisely this need for
superiority, irrespective of the facts, that in extreme cases feeds
into the violent behaviour that leads to a young black man dying
with an axe in his head.

Government needs to widen the debate and include many more of those
in the field of social care in considering how we create a cohesive
society, embracing common notions of citizenship and human

That goal will be more speedily achieved if the scale of
deprivation in the Muslim community is tackled. Seven out of 10
children from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds live in poverty
in the UK; in the inner cities nearly a fifth of young people from
those communities are jobless; a third of British Muslims leave
school with no qualifications and Muslims make up 9 per cent of the
prison population.

Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, suggests three ways, “to make
us all safer”. He lists, supporting the police; pulling out of Iraq
and treating Muslims with respect.

Those Muslims who are struggling against the odds, like every
underprivileged group in this society, need reasons to hope for a
better life in this world, not just in the next.

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