Archive for the ‘multicultural’ Category

First, full marks to Sajid Javid, the new Secretary of State for Culture, for telling Asian and other immigrants that they have a responsibility when living in England to learn the language and adapt as far as possible to English ways. Good for him for having the courage to say this: you live here, vote here, use the education and health systems and many other services and institutions which basically you have not paid for, fought for, struggled for. You can’t go on as if you had never left the Punjab. And good manners require it. When in Rome, they used to say…

Well, you are in Rome. You should try to be as English as possible, to fit in, rather than make demands for special treatment all the time, for special dispensations for your children, and going out of your way to look as different and as foreign as possible. There are of course immigrants from all over the place, but no one makes more noise and causes more trouble, out of all proportion to their numbers and importance, than the immigrants from Muslim countries. We are told repeatedly that the noisy ones are unrepresentative, are not the majority. Wouldn’t it be nice, then, if some imams or so-called Islamic scholars were to speak out against the atrocities committed by people claiming to be their co-religionists like Boko Haram or the murderers of nurses trying to eliminate polio in Pakistan or seizing hostages on oil wells in North Africa or advocating the stoning of women or their exclusion from education  or just the bombing of ordinary people in ordinary European cities? What a welcome development it would be if such grandiloquently named outfits as the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain were to recommend to those it claims to represent that they try to be as much like everybody else as possible rather than the reverse, try to fit in rather than being as contrary as possible, rather than going out of their way to look and behave as differently as possible. Oh, they whinge about Islamophobia and discrimination, but have you ever tried to walk, say, down Golbourne Road in London’s Portobello district after prayers when the pavement is packed with aggressive-looking men determined to make themselves look as separate and as unfriendly as possible?

You have to ask, why, if the English way (and other people’s too) of doing things is so distasteful to them, they still remain here. If the reason is that in spite of their distaste they find it rather more convenient to be here than in their countries of origin, then they should remember their manners. And wouldn’t it be nice if some of their more accommodating co-religionists were to remind them of this?

It would also be timely if they could be reminded that Islam is a religion, not a race. Being disturbed by things done in the name of Islam is not racism, any more than objecting to practices like human sacrifice is. Birds of a feather flock together, the old saying goes. And there is nothing surprising or reprehensible about that. Feeling comfortable, forming a group, with like-minded people is an entirely normal human instinct, without which there would not be society. It is entirely natural to go towards those with whom you have things in common and shrink away from those with whom you have nothing at all in common. The cohesion that is the glue that binds society comes only with long shared experience, or at least with sufficiently shared experience, customs, values. To flout that commonsensical observation by insisting on totally strange and alien customs and values at the very least invites disapproval, aversion and even overt hostility. There should not be any surprise about that.

There has been a lot of fuss recently about halal meat being sold without being explicitly labelled as such. I think it should be and I don’t particularly like the idea of having my food associated with Islamic prayers. However, I think it worth pointing out that until very modern times all animals were killed by having their throats cut. That was – and in many, including European, countries – still is the only method of slaughtering, for example, your sheep. From time immemorial the shepherd who wanted to eat one of his beasts has had to kill it with his own hand with a knife across the throat. I have seen it done many times. And when you consider that the man who kills the sheep with his own hand is the man who acted as midwife to the sheep when it was born and has handled it every day of its life, so there is no alienating journey in an unfamiliar vehicle to an unfamiliar place surrounded by unfamiliar smells, sights and noises, I cannot see that there is any particular cruelty in that and I cannot see that there is any great reason for horror and outrage either.

But aside from the question of strange customs and unfamiliar beliefs, it is clear that no society can absorb more than a certain number of outsiders without there being uncomfortable tensions. You could argue until the cows come home about precise percentages, but it is abundantly clear now that in the UK the balance has tilted to the out-of-kilter side. The more different, the more difficult. The problem is not going to go away. We have to find a way of dealing with it. It seems to me that the native people of these islands – pace Bonny Greer with her peculiar notions about what indigenous means – have leant over pretty far in their willingness to accommodate a lot of strangers; it is time some of the strangers did some leaning. They are touchy enough about having their sensibilities respected, it is high time they became wary of offending our sensibilities, because, pace Bonny Greer again, there is such a thing and a perfectly legitimate thing as “our.”

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“Jihad, Jihad, cover your hair!” two small boys called out to a friend’s student daughter as she cycled home in Leeds recently.

It does not take much imagination to realize that children this age did not think such nonsense up for themselves. They have heard it from their elders.

Yesterday, we are told, the Muslim Council of Britain, instructed imams to preach a sermon condemning the practice of grooming girls for sex. Predictably, it was not hard for the press to find Muslim men-in-the-street complaining that they were being victimized: it is not just Muslims who are guilty of this kind of thing. It was only too obvious to anyone watching TV news  that not a single woman could be seen among the congregations in any of the mosques shown. I have a close relative who has converted to Islam: I do not approve, but at least she spends her time campaigning for the right of Muslim women to attend prayers in mosques and being vilified by conservative old men for her pains. You would have thought there might be some connections to be made here.

Baroness Warsi laments that what she calls Islamophobia is a commonplace around middle class dinner tables. Ed Milliband, conceding, in what was billed an important speech, that Labour policy on immigration had been wrong, could only bring himself to mention the arrival of Poles as a problem.

Have Poles killed anyone on an Underground train in the name of a religious Cause? Have Poles demanded concessions in schools, from diets to what they might deem offensive literature? Have Poles called for the end of democracy, the veiling of women in public, the exclusion of girls from education? Have Poles been convicted in noticeable numbers for grooming vulnerable English girl children for sexual exploitation?

Have those who are always excusing Muslim behaviour ever bothered to read, for example, Ed Hussain’s account of his conversion to and eventual renunciation of fundamentalist beliefs? Have they ever spoken to someone like my Muslim academic friend who has witnessed at first hand the intimidating behaviour of fundamentalist students on English university campuses towards fellow Muslims who do not want to be drawn into the jihadi camp? Not to mention their aggression towards Jewish fellow students?

We hear that those who jeer at the coffins of soldiers returned from Afghanistan are a tiny minority and that the great majority of Muslims do not approve. Would not it be nice if they were to start saying that they do not approve and even exerting some pressure to restrain the extremist element? The day we heard that little girl had been shot on a bus in Pakistan for going to school I happened to ride on my bike through the London square where the Pakistan embassy is. How nice it would have been to see a single placard, never mind a thousand, denouncing this kind of atrocity committed in the name of religion? There was nothing.

The Poles do not behave like this. Is it any surprise that people should be “Islamophobic?”

Who is to say how far religion is to blame? It is always a useful recourse for the bigoted to be able to refer to a “higher authority.” Education and class play a role too. “Stone Age ignorance and religious savagery,” Edna O’Brian has one of her characters declare à propos of her father and a priest coming to condemn her behaviour and drag her home.

These people are hill-billies and, for the most part, have grown up in traditional cultures so different from our own that the two are quite incompatible. Read Sathnam Sanghera’s The Boy with the Top Knot, his account of growing up in a Punjabi Sikh village in Wolverhampton, for a wonderful picture of how insular and alien these immigrant communities can be: they have little contact with anybody English. Their shopkeepers are Punjabis, their solicitors, often their teachers and doctors too. Their so-called community spokesmen are exactly the same people who exploited and controlled them back home in the Punjab. The biggest scandal is when a Punjabi Sikh girl wants to marry, not an English boy, but a boy from a different Punjabi Sikh village. And as to the possibility of any one of “our” boys associating with English girls, let alone marrying out…

For men brought up in societies in which women are kept in one kind of purdah or another, it is easy to see how girls who go about unchaperoned,  wear clothes that show off their bodies and are free to dispose of themselves as they choose, are both exciting and slightly alarming. The usual response to your own feelings of guilt and desire is to dehumanize the girls by calling them whores and slags: they are gagging for it, they only get what they deserve… When custom and religion combine to reinforce the subservience of women, it should be no surprise that Muslim men should be so frequently involved in crimes of sexual abuse against vulnerable English girls.

This kind of attitude, it has to be said, has been common in European peasant societies too. It is, after all, not so long since Greek and Italian peasant society felt honour-b0und to slaughter its daughters on the suspicion of any kind of relationship with an unapproved male. When girl tourists travelling alone first arrived on the shores of the Aegean and Adriatic and bared their breasts on the beaches, the only possible explanation in the minds of the natives for this bizarre, indeed unthinkable, behaviour was that they were in some sense whores, and they were set upon, hungrily. But I am not aware that Greeks or Italians ever attempted to turn their conquests into sex slaves.

When I travelled in Turkey and worked in Libya in the Sixties you did not hear talk of jihad and Crusaders and violence against the “decadent” West and you did not see crowds of women covered in black from head to toe. (Why, one has to ask, if the West is so awful, do so many of these people want to be here? And why do they resort so readily to the language of rights and civil liberties to promote their own interests when they have no intention of allowing their own people, women in particular, to enjoy such things?) There has always been a powerful undercurrent of intolerance and puritanism in Islam, reinforced no doubt by the fact that the only form of political organization experienced by any Muslim people is off-with-his-head despotism. Why should it have come to such prominence now? Someone has put a lot of effort and money into ensuring that it does, namely, the rich and despotic Arab regimes who saw nurturing religious conservatism as a buffer against the spread of more dangerous ideologies like revolutionary socialism.

The English Defence League and its brethren get stick for being fascist and hard Right. No doubt there are crackpots among them, but any conversation down the market, at the bus stop or in the pub will quickly reveal that the resentment they feed on, against immigrants, Muslim ones in particular, is very widespread. And is it surprising? For two or three generations ordinary English people have seen their streets and schools and familiar places overrun by foreigners whom they did not invite, whose arrival they were never consulted about and whose interests seem to be given preference over their own. Foreigners, moreover, who seem to make not the slightest effort to fit in, indeed go further than that: who seem to go out of their way to stick two fingers up at the culture and customs of the land they have settled in.

It is very hard to understand what goes on in the minds of these Muslim immigrants. Presumably they are here because in some way they think they are better off: richer, safer, better educated, better health care… – all of this of course without having had to endure the hardships, make the sacrifices, fight the wars and pay the taxes that our parents and grandparents had to in order to bring these things about.

Do they feel entitled to these goods? Do they think they have a right, without any obligation? That there are no quid pro quo’s? It is true that the law may give you a right that can be upheld in a court but that does not equal the right that derives from having lived and toiled and died on this patch for many generations.

There is a problem. There are practical problems. How can schools make a decent shot of educating children when they come from such diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds? Why should native children suffer because of this? It is hypocrisy to pretend that they do not. There are actual conflicts and incompatibilities, like the difference in attitudes to women, not to mention attitudes to things like political honesty, vote-rigging, using your vote freely rather than following the voting instructions of your “community spokesman.” These problems are not going to go away by being ignored or being by blamed on the Poles. We have to find away of living together.

We, the English, are entitled to ask that people who want to come and live in our country make an effort to adapt and assimilate as quickly as possible, to become as “English” as possible as soon as possible. Some do it very successfully, as any morning commute to the City of London or visit to the GP will show. If this does not happen, the social glue will unstick.  Society is well ghetto-ised as it is.

Baroness Warsi needs to wise up and acknowledge that Muslims have brought their own bad name upon themselves: that the silent majority, if it is indeed a majority, needs to speak up clearly and loudly and denounce the murder of Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse and the bombing of trains in Madrid and the oppression of women that is done in the name of Islam, if they do not want to be tarred with the same brush as the extremists. That they need to find the courage to abandon their petty-bourgeois respectability – What will the neighbours say? Must not wash the community dirty linen in public – and resist the pressure of the belligerent militants. Would all the little girls in Somers Town be veiled in black if it were left only to their parents to decide?

And Ed Milliband and his ilk need to grow up and accept that all is not for the best in the best of all possible worlds: that the downtrodden and the poor can be nasty little shits just like anybody else:  that some people’s ways are just not acceptable and they need to be told so, not appeased and excused.

PS – Friends ask, “Aren’t you afraid to write about Muslims and Islam?” British Muslims should be ashamed that they have allowed their fellows to create such a climate of fear in a country that has presumably given them so much that they prefer to remain rather than move to the Muslim homelands from which they came. An occasional  show of gratitude would not come amiss.

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The Swiss have decided they do not want minarets in their country.

It is of course an outrage, a violation of all that progressive thinkers hold dear: diversity, equality, ethnic and cultural sensitivity, minority rights.

At least they were asked. And don’t they have a right – the right  to say what should happen on their patch? For it is their patch, isn’t it?

In that ridiculous BBC TV Question Time programme with Nick Griffin, Bonnie Greer, sibyl of fatuous utterance offered to the world as timeless profundity, reprimanded Griffin for referring to indigenous people. “There is no such thing as indigenous English,” she sneered.

Whose country is it anyway?

We are not talking about purity of blood, although there are families who can trace their line back a long way on the same patch of ground, some even who have lived in the same house for several hundred years. My brother tells me that in the villages of the Welsh Marches there are still plenty of families bearing the names of men who fell at the battle of Mortimers Cross in 1461.

There is an obvious commonsensical case for my claiming to be much more indigenous than Bonnie Greer. I have been here longer. I can point to a long line of ancestors who have lived on this patch. They have shed blood on the Somme, preached from nineteenth-century pulpits, served with Wellington, sunk in Boat Races, died in the Sudan Defence Force, given their name to pubs in South Shields, collected and classified wild grasses. I belong here in a way that she cannot, no matter how hard she tries. And belonging in that sense is important.

Like plants, we are the product of a habitat. Climate forms us, geography, language, shared memories, both near, like the tunes we danced to in our youth, and distant, like Drake and his game of bowls, Harold dying with an arrow in his eye and the Crystal Palace. Not to mention the shared past that school gave us, in the days when education worked: Julius Caesar sighting the white cliffs, Boadicea, Gregory’s angels, the murder of Becket, the revolting peasants, the wars against France, Magna Carta, Cromwell’s Commonwealth; the poets’ lines learnt by heart – scepter’d isles and winding herds, mists and mellow fruitfulness; the philosophers, novelists, artists, and scientists – Watt and Newton, Locke and Hume, Jethro Tull, Arkwright, Abraham Darby, Faraday, Dickens and George Eliot… And underlying it all the long tradition of moral questing, the endless and continuing search for the best way to live, handed down to us via the Greeks and the Romans and, above all, Christianity.

These are the influences that have shaped us, formed the institutions that we have developed to frame our lives and help us live. Not all of us, perhaps, can name or enumerate the particular components that together make up Englishness, but we are nonetheless the product of them. George, who runs the stall in the street market where I buy my fruit and veg, and I recognise each other. We belong and we know it.

We belong not just to a culture but a patch of ground. Cross 40km of sea to Calais and even the set of people’s shoulders is different. Cross the even less visible line that separates France from Italy or Greece from Turkey and again everything changes: food, clothes, driving habits, attitudes to truth-telling. Our island does have a story, as does everyone else’s.

Nowadays it is considered childish, even mawkish, to talk in such terms, at least among the educated classes. It is uncool to be stirred by a sense of loyalty to England, to be moved by the Queen’s Christmas address or the rousing strains of Elgar. Working-class Englishmen are less troubled by feeling English and asserting their Englishness; look how many white vans and domestic windowpanes now display the flag of St George – an emblem that fifty years ago only flew from church towers. But then they are also the people whose lives have been most directly touched by the arrival of huge numbers of foreign immigrants: they are the ones who saw the streets that for generations had been theirs gradually taken over by strangers whose ways were very different from their own. Did anyone ask them what they thought about this alien influx? Did any government ever consult them?

The feelings involved in ‘belonging,’ in being ‘we,’ in considering this to be our patch, are certainly tribal, certainly irrational, but they are nonetheless authentic, natural, legitimate for that. Reason has little to do with it; think of Hume’s little finger and the destruction of the world. Reason is not the source of our strongest feelings. Norman Tebbitt’s loyalty test – which side do you cheer for at a Test match? – is not as silly as its deriders try to show.

When in Rome…

How should you behave when you go and live in someone else’s country? When in Rome, ran the old adage… When I worked in Libya many years ago European women were asked to dress modestly, wear longish dresses and keep their shoulders and arms covered: in other words, respect local customs. If, when I entered your house, I made a beeline for your wife or daughters, helped myself from your fridge, sprawled uninvited on your sofa with my feet on the covers, demanded that you let me stay for three months at your expense, how would you react? At the very least, my behaviour would be regarded as extremely bad manners. Probably you would try to throw me out.

I have lived and worked in France and Greece as well. I did not expect anyone to make special allowances for my Englishness, go out of their way never to say anything that with my cultural background I might find offensive. Equally it would never have occurred to me to attempt to interfere with their way of doing things, even if I thought mine might be better. And I made sure I learnt both languages.

I would have thought it was both common sense and good manners to be discreet, try to fit in, not make demands on your hosts, be grateful for the opportunities that you are allowed and, if there are fundamentally important things that you do not like about the place, remove yourself and go back home. You are the new boy on the block; you should not expect to receive special attention.

Multi-culturalism versus assimilation

I remember hearing Anne Cryer MP lamenting in a television programme about immigration just a couple of weeks before September 11th 2001, that “assimilation” was now regarded as an outmoded model: multi-culturalism was the fashion of the day.

We live in a multi-cultural, multi-faith society, we are told ad nauseam. But what is this supposed to mean? If it is meant merely descriptively, to describe the blindingly obvious fact that lots of people of different races, from different cultural backgrounds, now live in this country, then one can scarcely object to it. If it is simply a plea to us all to live in harmony and not pick on each other for differences in colour, belief, diet etc, well again, fine. But it is not, of course: it is a prescription, a rallying cry, a policy, which  seems to mean in practical terms that anyone who wishes to live here as if he had never left home should be encouraged to do so.

And we are smug about it, proud of ourselves, for our openness and tolerance, especially in contrast to the dreadful republican French who go around banning things. I think Wole Soyinka is right: it is a kind of arrogance and it is blind, because very few Englishmen know any foreign languages any more or have any experience of living in cultures different from their own. We seem to think that there is no more to cultural difference than the chicken tikka massala or throat-singing or steel bands that so enrich our culture. That other cultures might, as a matter of course, regard women as chattels; might consider fathers or brothers honour-bound to kill sisters and daughters who so much as bid good-day to males outside the family circle; might consider anyone who does not rig an election or cheat at exams or answers truthfully when asked a question as a pitiable idiot, seems to be beyond their understanding. Indeed you are a racist and therefore not entitled to be heard at all if you so much as suggest such things. And yet anyone who has lived and worked pretty much anywhere in the world south and east of Rome and, more importantly, learnt to speak the language, knows this to be the truth. Why, when there is a vote-rigging scandal in this country, is there nearly always an Indian sub-continent name attached? Why did the University of London regard Greece and Nigeria as the greatest threats to exam security?

You do not have to pass a judgement on these practices. It is simply how people do things, in Iran, in Turkey, in Egypt, in Greece, in India. And if you do not do them also, you will never get anywhere – there. It is part of speaking the language, one might say.

But do you want to encourage people to operate in that way here, where by and large you cannot bribe the magistrate for a favourable judgement in a divorce case or buy the Biology A-level questions in advance of the exam or pay a million dollars to a couple of employees of the Inland Revenue in order to introduce a new accounting system?

The people who talk about multi-culturalism and advocate it seem to me to have little idea what they are talking about. Theirs are the muddled heads.

Sure, there is advantage to some in pursuing this line. Thousands of jobs have been created to monitor diversity and equality and ensure that our attitudes are “culturally sound,” as the mental health charity Rethink would have it. And there are immigrants who themselves have learnt very successfully to exploit this climate.

“Abroad, the emigrants threw themselves on the mercies of the civil liberties organisations. They sought the protection of the laws of the countries where the planes had brought them. They or their representatives spoke correct words about the difference between poor countries and rich, South and North. They spoke of the crime of racial discrimination and the brotherhood of man. They appealed to the ideals of the alien civilisations whose virtues they denied at home.”

These words were written thirty years ago by VS Naipaul in  Among the Believers, the book in which he described his journey through the Muslim states of Iran, Pakistan and south-east Asia. It seems rather apt to recall them in this week when Ali Dizaei, the police officer who was so quick to use the charge of racism, has been found guilty of behaviour very unbecoming of a policeman.

Indian Muslim separatism: legacy of the Raj

For thirty years Gilles Kepel, the French Arabist scholar, has been writing about Islam in Europe. In A l’Ouest d’Allah, published in 1994, he devoted a chapter to the history of the Pakistani and Bengali Muslim immigrants who established themselves in the Midlands and North of England in the 1950s and 60s. I have just re-read it in order to refresh my memory of what he has to say about the English way: multi-culturalism rather than assimilation or integration. It is really quite shocking to be reminded of the unscrupulous manner in which the self-appointed leaders of these communities, mainly people associated with the various mosques and their different rival tendencies, set about extracting from the local authorities (often only too ready to collude, generally for reasons of political expediency, i.e. Labour politicians losing their appeal for increasingly prosperous English working class voters) concessions designed explicitly to maintain the separateness of the immigrant groups – people like the Bradford Council of Mosques of Satanic Verses fame and the later Leicester Islamic Foundation. The pretext was preserving Muslim identity, children in particular, from contamination by the immoral, pornographic, materialistic etc (sic) English contemporary culture by association with English schoolmates. It makes the familiar charge that the natives excluded the immigrants rather laughable.

Kepel shows how this exclusiveness presented as a demand to be treated as a separate community was inherited from Muslim experience under the Raj post-1857 and the removal of the last Muslim Mogul ruler and imported, as it were, in the intellectual/political baggage of the first migrants, who were coming, it should not be forgotten, from a new state whose whole raison d’être was Muslim separateness and Islamic identity.

In 1966 Roy Jenkins, then Home Secretary, reassured anxious Muslims that Britain was a “pluralistic” society that valued and was enriched by its cultural diversity and was not going to require them to assimilate – the original source, I suppose, of  all those diversity monitoring forms that accompany every notice of planning application, charity membership questionnaire, Council document… If there are six of you, then you may be entitled to one twenty-fifth part of a Council post.

He rather changed his tune about the wisdom of this approach when one of the components of this rich diversity staged, in 1989, its own version of the Nazis’ 1933 burning of un-Germanic books. It is pretty difficult not to see a direct and obvious development from these “separatist” beginnings, the setting up of the Muslim Educational Trust, the proclamation of a Muslim Parliament, right through to the London Underground bombings and the terrorist risks of today. Muslim militancy has quite clearly been a factor in the equation since long before any war in Iraq or indeed long before Palestine became such a hot topic.

The author of the 1990 Muslim Manifesto told his readers that the acquisition of British nationality did not absolve them from the duty of jihad. One could be forgiven for thinking that this looked suspiciously like evidence for the existence of a fifth column. My mother was stopped by a policeman while walking across Hyde Park in wartime and taken to the police station. Why? Because the sharp-eyed copper had spotted a tiny swastika-shaped amulet on her charm bracelet!

The superior virtue of the oppressed

We hear endlessly about communities. The white community, the black community, the gay community… Suppose you are black and do not want to be part of the black community, do not think of yourself as being part of it. Suppose you come from Mali and do not want to be lumped together with the Sudanese. My mother once turned to my Greek wife who was describing the chaos that is Greek political and economic life (in 1981 – what is new?) and said, “I suppose what the country needs is a white man to run the place.” Are Greeks then not white? Are Albanians ethnic but not Slovaks? You have only to look at the way the categories on the diversity monitoring forms wander unsystematically among races and nationalities – it would seem sometimes that season might be a determining factor – to realise that the originators of these schemes have not a clue what they are doing.

Why do we go in for this nonsense? It is expensive, it is riddled with contradiction, it is clearly potentially dangerous. In fact it would be hard to think of a better way of loosening the glue of social cohesion altogether. And it is essentially anti-democratic. How can you have a proper democratic debate if the electorate will always divide along predictable lines, according to membership of definable groups which can in effect be “whipped,” rather than according to the merits of the case?

So why do we do it? I think there is a powerful element of Bertrand Russell’s Fallacy of the Superior Virtue of the Oppressed about it. All these poor disadvantaged people from backward countries whom we once so bitterly oppressed. Let us open wide our virtuous welcoming arms and make up for our past villainy and show them that really we do truly appreciate their wonderful colourful and various cultures.

It is as if we cannot bring ourselves to believe ill of our “inferiors.” We have no trouble being rude and critical about the French, but suggest – Heaven forfend – that a black person might be at fault… As happened last night: a dear friend had just lost her husband and was telling us that some of the nurses had been brusque and unhelpful and it was generally the black ones. Another friend, a kind and understanding person, immediately suggested that it was probably because black nurses had to go to a second job. And why should it not be the case that the black nurses were quite simply brusque and unhelpful? It is a complaint I remember my first wife making forty years ago when giving birth to my son in a London hospital. Different manners, different culture. Not always compatible.

In the aftermath of September 11th the Blessed Jon Snow frequently gave air time on Channel Four news to representatives of Hizb-ut-Tahrir to spout their nonsense about re-establishing a universal caliphate, presumably believing that thus he was upholding the great English tradition of balance and fair-mindedness. Since some of their co-religionists murdered a few of us on the Underground, their appearances have been less frequent, I notice.

A Muslim friend, an academic who taught for several years at SOAS and the LSE was pestered continually by these people,  trying to get him on board. Their methods, he said, were indistinguishable from the Socialist Workers of yore, bullying and threatening fellow Muslim students and attacking Jewish ones.

It is not fair, we are told, to tar the vast body of calm and law-abiding Muslims with the same brush as the extremists. Fair enough: but might it not be a good thing if they were not quite so quiet in their condemnation of the loud ones? Why are they so quiet? Is it just the response of the traditional timid villager afraid to draw attention to himself or a kind of inverted class solidarity: must not wash the dirty linen in public?

Can  villains smile?

Talk to any Pole, Ukrainian, Romanian, anyone who because of his status finds himself at the bottom of the social pile, having to rent accommodation from dodgy landlords or accept employment from dodgy employers. They will tell you many a tale of immigrants fiddling the benefits system; they are shocked at our stupidity in allowing this to happen.

Why do we refuse to recognise that some people are very much against us, not with us? That they will use the liberties that we allow for their own ends; that, as VS Naipaul said, they speak correct words and appeal to ideals that they most definitely deny in their own countries? Can we really not see that it is possible to smile and smile and yet be a villain?

I once had to pay off a Greek building worker. The man who had engaged him was a friend and I checked beforehand how much I owed this worker. When he came to receive his pay, he said that I had made a mistake and the amount was not right. I told him I had just spoken with his employer but would ask again to be sure. Would he come back the next day?

I checked again and was told his wages were the same as the others who had already been paid off: I was not to pay him a penny more. He was a man in his forties. He stood in front of me. “I who am your friend,” he said, “would I lie to you? I swear on the head of my son,” and tears ran down his cheeks! I phoned my Greek wife. “You are the Greek,” I said. “You deal with it!”

It is always easier dealing with your own villains. They speak the same language.

Our ancestors the Gauls

In France children’s first contact with history at school traditionally began, “Nos ancêtres les gaulois… Our ancestors the Gauls…” But as French teachers will tell you today, when they look out over their classes, they do not see many children who look as if they had Gauls for grandfathers.

Yet I believe this is the way to go. There must be integration. What is the point of living in someone else’s country unless you are going to try to be part of it? Why, if it is okay to protect the identities of small minorities of newcomers, is it not doubly okay to promote the identity of the English? What is more, I am sure children brought up on a full, rich diet of English history, literature and art will come to think of it as theirs. If that leaves the parents somewhat out of the picture, should not they be asked why they left their villages and came here in the first place? And what happened anyway to English working class children who received a proper education for the first time?

In Istanbul the cacophony of muezzin calls five times a day is stirring and romantic. Echoing down the valleys of the Lugg or Clun, it is rather less so.

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