INTEGRATION – IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES’ DILEMMA
Issue Date 09 - 15 Sept, 2017 at 2:00 PM
Over the years, immigrant communities in the UK have quarrelled and fought over the terms ‘assimilation’ and ‘integration’, arguing that while they do want to integrate, assimilation was perhaps a bridge too far for them. Integration was supposed to be a situation where the immigrant communities would be equal participants in society, as opposed to assimilation which implied being absorbed into the mainstream UK society, and in the process perhaps losing their own identity or some part of it.
The question is, does that sort of differentiation on paper really work? Can one, in the real world, without absorption, expect to be an equal participant especially in a society where cultural differences count, as indeed they are bound to when cultural differences are so vast.
The case in point which brings up these issues is that of an adoption of a white five-year-old Christian girl who, a local council decided, should be given for adoption to two Muslim households, said to be strict Muslim establishments. The girl is reported to have complained that the two ladies in these households who were looking after her knew no English, and that one wore the niqab and the other a burqa every time they went out with her; she said that she was made to take off the crucifix she wore and was taught to think that Christmas was stupid. It was even suggested that the child should be learning Arabic. There was a great deal of anger over the local council’s decision and the matter ended up in a law court, where a Muslim female judge, Khatun Sapnara, decided that the placement was inappropriate and since then the child has been placed with her grandmother. All of which begs the question that if her grandmother was there, why was she put up for adoption in the first place? Perhaps, grandparents are not given as much importance in the West as they are in the East; perhaps, it is because with broken families littered all over the place, family ties going back two generations are not always easy to maintain. Recently, the US President Donald Trump decided that only close relations of Muslims immigrants to the US would be allowed a visa and grandparents did not make the definition of close relatives. There is much talk of ageism in these parts but if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, this one definitely does not taste too good.
But the more important question is that if after almost six decades as immigrants in the UK, a Muslim family is seen as being so eminently unsuitable to adopt a white Christian girl, are Muslims in the UK headed in the right direction? How is it that so many Muslims living here take up attitudes that their peers do not back in their respective countries of origin. My wife, who used to be a school teacher in the Tower Hamlets district of London, one which has a heavy concentration of Bangladeshi immigrants and which was duly reflected in the makeup of her class, said that one day she was taking her class out for a trip to a local museum when she was surprised to see all of them looking away to one side. Since they were all walking ahead, this could have resulted in them bumping into other people and so my wife, thinking that this was some children’s game that was going on, asked the children why they were turning their faces to one side and not looking in front, in the direction in which they were walking. All of them, the entire class of some 30 odd children, said that they could not look in front as there was a church there and they had been told at home never to look at a church because Shaitan resided there.
The unfortunate part is that while all women who wear the niqab or the burqa certainly do not contribute to such attitudes, court cases like the one described in this piece about the adoption of a five-year-old girl, will certainly lead to such a presumption in the mainstream public’s mind with the result that there will always be some hotheads around who will abuse, or even attack a woman in a niqab or burqa. But that is the extreme fringe. Even people who do not belong to that fringe ask the more pertinent question whether people who are not prepared to make the slightest deviation from their own culture and value system, should they then chose to migrate and live permanently in a society whose values are so much at variance with their own? One can only say that it is a moot question. •
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