Living together, but seperately.

I have read about and heard it in debates on the radio that there are cities in this country where there are segregated areas for the white and the Asian people.

It was laid out for all to see on the ” Panorama” programme a month or so ago.

I must say it was quite shocking to see it happening.

The programme was billed as “Visit to Blackburn in Lancashire to investigate how increased separation and segregation among Muslim Asians and Whites is dividing communities”.

I have often thought that some of this must be just the rhetoric of politicians and chiefs of racial equality commissions. Who are exaggerating the issues to make their own points? How can people living in the same country, being governed by the same leaders, using the same NHS and the education live separately I thought..

I was to be proven very wrong.

The programme opened with the scenes of a religious march by Muslims. They were chanting in Urdu, carrying green banners, which had Arabic and Urdu writings. And shots of a scattering of White people who looked baffled and somehow a bit worried.

A policeman shook his head in dismay, saying that they have repeatedly asked the organisers of the march to have some banners in English so the onlookers could understand that this was a religious march. I couldn’t understand why the marchers couldn’t comply with this request. Could it be that it gave them a sense of superiority to keep their motives to themselves and let others keep guessing and worrying.

The residents share the same facilities but they don’t do it together. Though there is no geographical segregation, but when one White and one Asian taxi drivers were fitted with the trackers, their journeys were completely opposite. The White driver was not hired to travel to the Asian areas and vice versa.

There were school visits where children were taken on educational visits, not to another country but to a school in another racially segregated area, to learn about one and another! So this divide spreads into social, cultural and almost every aseptic of their lives. Or as Jack Straw, the MP of that area put it; “The risk is of separate communities, and of people breathing the same air but walking past each other”

Professor Richard Webber, from the University College of London, and who has developed the MOSIAC system for classifying neighbourhoods and population said that he found it “interesting” about Blackburn, is that there are a large number of immigrants, but that they, almost all are Muslims. And unlike London and other cities around the UK, they are much more tightly concentrated in a limited number of streets.
So does it matter that all the Muslims, or the Asians live in a segregated area and want to lead their own lives. Most of the British people when they go abroad form their own colonies and don’t learn the language it is argued.

First of all I feel that as this separation promotes the belief that it is the Muslims who cant integrate and there is already so much scrutiny of them, this fuels the prejudices.

Then there are the racist elements, there are racist on both sides that will exploit this issue and fan the flames of hatred. The riots in places like Toxteth and Brixton were no doubt the result of such activities.

Then as Professor Webber points out, the abilities, talents and entrepreneurial skills, are lost and the Asian communities are frustrated that they are not achieving their potential. As the belief is reinforced that they cant fit into mainstream society.

Then these issues affect people’s sense of feeling content with life and living in peace and harmony. As long as neighbours and people living in the same country are suspicious of each other, how will they progress and shed their prejudices?

I will go back to the point I keep making that most of these problems arise from not being able to communicate. Not learning the language. I would say that this the primary reason that they live in segregated areas. The first settlers have never really understood the culture and the country they came to live in. They have spent their lives as an outsider though they have been the citizens of this country.

The first five years are the most formative of a child’s life. A parent, who feels alien and threatened by the society they live in, cannot give a child a confident start in life. So they can grow up being at ease and with confident about their parents adopted country.

May be there is more truth in what the Chief of the CRE warned us about, we do need to look at these problems rationally and without being defensive and feeling victimised, or else we will be sleep walking into disaster.

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