Xenophobia – a fear of people from other countries – is a natural part of human nature right across the world. Often it tips over into racism – prejudice, discrimination and dislike of other races based on the principle that ‘our’ race is superior – which is even worse.
While both of these attributes are common, even natural, they are not to be considered desirable.
In previous times different races and cultures were kept apart by natural barriers – oceans, mountains, huge rivers and deserts. Only the more adventurous would get to travel and interact. Nowadays we live in multicultural societies and mix with people from other cultures and races on a daily basis. That creates tensions.
Over time we have, in Britain, been exposed to waves of immigration. As a great sea-faring nation who set up a huge trading culture that developed into an Empire and then Commonwealth we were exposed to many cultures – African, Asian, Chinese and Russians all came as sailors or traders and set up home here where they were absorbed and integrated. We provided home for many persecuted races and immigrants – Huguenots, Jews, Jamaicans, Sikhs, Pakistanis, Turks, Greeks, Arabs, Indians, Gurkhas, Kurds and many more have all come and settled. London in particular is a cosmopolitan city. Just walking down the streets one can see the array of clothes, colours and foods that have come with the different cultures. Most gradually integrate through the generations and become more British than the British. A minority keep apart and maintain their traditions.
Just recently we have had large numbers of Muslims coming to this country as refugees from the wars in the Middle East and as economic migrants. They see Britain as a place of sanctuary and a place where they can have opportunities and a better standard of living.
Because these immigrants have arrived in large numbers and have costumes and ways that make them stand out they have drawn attention to themselves and evoked both xenophobic and racist responses.
Back in the sixties these responses were aimed at the Black and Pakistani immigrants. We can look back to Enoch Powell’s speech of ‘Rivers of Blood’. We can look back at the skinheads and ‘Paki Bashing’. The white community was fearful that they were being taken over by a flood of coloured immigrants from our crumbling Empire. They were taking our jobs and marrying our girls. It was outrageous. Our culture would be lost, our values overturned and we would be swamped. There would be civil war.
Well fortunately little of the paranoia of those times came to fruition. There have been the odd race riot and numerous racist incidents but largely we have all come to terms with each other and black and brown faces are now received with little consternation. The paranoia has subsided and people integrated. We live harmoniously. Racism has declined and black and brown faces are largely welcome in all strata of society.
However, the present paranoia associated with Muslims has caused a resurgence of xenophobia and racism. So let us talk openly and see what this is all about.
What are the issues? Here are some of the things that have come up on my blog:
Muslims wear Burqas and Hijabs – these are misogynistic and unBritish.
Women are subjugated and separated – this is misogynistic and undemocratic.
The build mosques and have a call to prayer – this is displacing Christianity.
They indoctrinate their children in madrassas – this is against the children’s rights and is not right.
They are associated with terrorism – ISIS and Al Qaeda are infiltrating the country to carry out atrocities.
They are congregating in large numbers and displacing the endemic population – soon we will be overrun and our culture displaced.
They want to replace British law with sharia law – they do not accept democracy or common law. They want to set up a theocracy.
They are involved with crime – they use knives and have gangs.
They are raping our girls – the courts are full of Muslim gangs that have targeted young girls – abusing and raping them.
They are breeding like rabbits – they are going to take over by outbreeding us.
It seems to me that all these things are fuelling the fears and paranoia that exists and are seized upon by right-wing fascist groups, such as Tommy Robinson and the English Defence League, and exaggerated in order to stir up more fear and hatred. It isn’t helped by the more extreme Muslim fundamentalists who do call for sharia law and vow to take over the country or the minority who are, or support, terrorists who commit atrocities.
In America the right-wingers talk about Europe being swamped and lost under a tide of Islam. It reminds me of Enoch all over again. Many in Britain feel the same.
But does it have foundation?
Well I have a great distaste for all religion and see the Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Jews and Muslims all as bad as each other. Fundamentalism of all hues is equally distasteful and destructive. I’d junk the lot of them. Especially the ones who turn to violence to achieve their aims. I take the view that if you’ve got to have a religion at least make it a personal experience and don’t foist it on others.
I don’t like the way women are treated as second-class people and I can’t stand the indoctrination of children.
All immigrant populations display a higher level of fertility than the endemic population. That will soon settle.
So is there any basis to all this Islamophobia?
I think not. It is paranoia created by having too much immigration too quickly. It will take time for them to adjust to our customs but most of the Muslims are law-abiding and want to integrate into society and make a go of things. They accept British values even if they keep up their traditions.
I don’t think Islam is about to take over the country. I don’t think the 95.4% of the non-Muslims need to be unduly worried by the 4.6% of Muslims just yet. The hysteria is created by their high-profile customs, the terrorism and the way they have congregated in high numbers in various areas.
Let the police and courts deal with the minority that are rapists, terrorists and criminals. They all need locking up.
The authorities need to get on the ball to sort out the schools and mosques so that we integrate better into British values, adhere to British law and do not have indoctrination and radicalisation.
I think that all this extreme religiosity is a passing phase. Back in the sixties my Muslim friends were all very Westernised. They did not go around in medieval costume. They liked the same thing as everyone else and weren’t on their knees praying or down the mosque. It was the same in Pakistan. I saw a documentary of Islamabad University in the early seventies and it was all jeans and t-shirts without a hijab in sight. It is the wars and unrest in the Muslim world that has created this extremism. They feel under threat and have responded by becoming more extreme in their culture. It will pass.
I predict that in forty years time most of the Muslims will have integrated. If the mess in the Middle East is sorted there will not be the extremism and we will see the mosques emptying and barely a burqa in sight.
British culture is a hybrid culture. We have the blood of Celts, Britons, Norman French, Norse from Scandinavia, German Angles and Saxons, Italian Romans, Africans, Chinese, Asians, Arabs, Turks and Uncle Tom Cobley and all, and we are all the stronger for it.
What is needed is love, understanding and integration. That requires systems, dialogue and good will on all sides. The onus is on the Muslim community as much as the endemic population. They have to speak out more and reach out more.
So I say, put aside your fears and paranoia, on both sides. We are all people. Embrace the differences, tolerate each other and grow together.
We will all be stronger together.