Jan 2002 Journal

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Bradford: verdict on multiculturalism

Throughout the nineteenth century the industrial north attracted immigrants – Irish, Germans, Jews – to this country. The absorption of these newcomers was often beset with difficulties. In North and South Mrs Gaskell describes the tension between Irish immigrants and striking Lancashire textile workers; over half a century later Louis Golden depicted the invisible iron curtain separating Jews and Gentiles living on opposite sides of Magnolia Street.

Notwithstanding all this, our northern cities were a melting pot. Liverpool, city of the ‘Mersey Beat’, is inconceivable without its Irish ingredient, while Manchester’s Halle Orchestra immortalises its German founder and Jews created Montague Burton, Marks and Spencer and ICI.

The main tide of post-Second World War immigration into the area has been from the Indian subcontinent, with Pakistanis (of whom there are 75,000 in Bradford) much to the fore. Their absorption into British society leaves a lot to be desired. The responsibility for this unsatisfactory state of affairs rests partly with the Muslim establishment and partly with its British counterpart. By the latter we do not mean that the powers-that-be in the UK suffer from post-imperial withdrawal symptoms. The very opposite applies. Out of retroactive shame at the misdeeds of the Raj – the Irish famine, the Amritsar massacre – the educational establishment has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Ultra-liberal windbags have laid down a smokescreen of multiculturalism in which all cultures – including the Judeo-Christian, Muslim and Hindu ones – are accorded equal value.

On the surface, this attitude appears wonderfully colour-blind and anticolonialist – but in reality it is based on a profound fallacy. A religious culture which pigeonholes individuals from birth as high-caste, low-case or ‘untouchable’ conflicts with the democratic principles of British public life. The same applies to a faith-based culture that sanctions polygamy, arranged marriages, female circumcision and the subjugation of women in general. By denying that ‘British is best’ – an-ever-so-liberal ‘admission’ – the multiculturalists are in effect signalling that, for instance, Ali Jinnah, the autocratic ‘father’ of Pakistan, deserves as much respect as Winston Churchill, and that Shari’a law (with its Stone Age punishments) is equal to Westminster statutes.

If self-deluded multiculturalism is one part of the problem, Muslim isolationism is the other part. In Islam, the woman’s sphere is exclusively the home, and therefore many UK-resident Muslim women cannot speak English. The young are pressured into marriages with partners from Pakistan, which further weakens their links to this country. The Western way of life is presented to the faithful in mosques and to pupils in Muslim schools not as desirably democratic but as repulsively decadent due to alcohol and drug addiction, family breakdown, prostitution and crime.

Well might one ask: if Britain is so steeped in degeneracy, why live here at all? Ultra-liberal leaders may jibe at this and counter-quote the Mosleyite cry ‘Go back to Palestine!’ But the UN-approved return of the Jews to Palestine is something else that sticks in the UK Muslims’ craw as much as Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses did a decade ago (remember the Bradford book-burners?). The Muslim Society of Great Britain has dubbed Israel – which contains a million enfranchised Muslim citizens – racist, and has instigated a boycott of Israeli goods. Now they are crying wolf over the fall of nonexistent Islamophobia.

But the boot seems to be on the other foot entirely. The recent massacre of Christians in Pakistan has not prompted attacks on UK mosques, but a Muslim attack on a Catholic church in Bradford. Moderate Muslims and self-deluded liberals – wake up!
Richard Grunberger

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