Last week I was invited to an event in the Royal Commonwealth Society, this was to celebrate the launch of a pictorial book by Peter Sanders on the diverse Muslim life in the UK,
The event included an exhibition of these photographs and a debate on Muslim integration in this country. The panellists were, the Imam of Eaton College, a lady from the institute of community cohesion and the director of the project known as the “new deal of the mind” who is also the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle. And this was chaired by Mishal Hussaien of the BBC World. The Justice Secretary Jack Straw was due to join us slightly later.
The debate was on the subject of being British and Muslim.
I took the bogger Shermeen as my guest,as I thought that she was rather shy and could benefit by being involved in political debate. Shermeen proved me wrong. Early in the proceedings,she asked for the microphone and said that she felt that it was upto Muslims to prove that they are loyal to the country they live in. I was impressed.
The discussion started with integration or the lack of it being a two way process. And moved on rather quickly to the part played by the media in portraying negative image of Muslims. But then again, the question remains that a lot of young Muslim men are hostile towards this, their country of birth. And it was agreed that loyalty and pride for the country was paramount. The Imam talked about the work he is doing with the youth, but said that there were many problems as the young people do not feel that they belong to this country any longer ,and that the terrorism act has victimised them.
I wondered how much of it is the result of some of them not having a sense of belonging in the first place.
Mr Straw arrived, surrounded by a mini crowd. A rather slight man, walking briskly and with a fixed smile.
His speech was the sort we hear every day. He was a son of an immigrant, he loved his constituency, which had majority of Muslims. How he has fallen in love with the sub continent, when he spent his honeymoon there. And enjoyed the hospitality of a local businessman, known as Mr Patel. Who is now Lord Patel! And concluded by saying that we all are happy and proud to be living in this multi cultural society, and oh isn’t it wonderful! Or words to that effect.
I had to ask him though!
What about the concerns of the people, on un checked immigration, annoying legislations and politically correct policies? What about the thousands of young brides brought in, who do not speak the language and thus are isolated from the host culture?
How will they bring up children who will fully integrate in this country? How about not having any checks on the numbers coming and leaving?
Oh , he said most of these policies were initiated by the opposition, and they were taking steps to rectify. And they are going to introduce the controls on migration and a language test. And with that he was whisked away by the Al Jazera television crew.
I did feel like the fly in the ointment !