My thoughts after the event in Woolwich in May 2013 ...
I have no conflicting thoughts about this incident. I do have an awareness that's particular to my ethnicity and to my work history. I'd like to share some insights with you if I may.
I served in the Royal Air Force from 1981 - 1985. My roots stem from India - that's where my parents were born. We're estranged because of one main reason ... religion. They're Muslims and I'm not. I'm sure you can imagine the complications for yourselves ... but just in case you can't, please allow me to shine a little light on some of the issues concerned.
Life was very different in England in the 1960s. Racism was rife in certain parts of the land ... much like it is now but we didn't have legislation such as the Race Relations Amendment Act. It's true to say that the Act hasn't addressed racism in the UK, it's just driven it underground ... but at least we now have a baseline for acceptable behaviour in public places on the grounds of race. It's early days for these changes and prosecutions using such legislation may be few ... but give it time and see how things develop.
There are many people whose parents were immigrants that settled in the UK at the request of the British government. Let's be clear about this: The UK's labour force was decimated as a result of World War 2 and immigrants were invited into the UK to work and to help build up the country and its economy. You can find references to this in many places. Google the issue. Many of the jobs given to immigrants were of a menial nature ... jobs that the indigenous natives thought were below them.
My parents were such immigrants. They worked very hard and my dad set up his own business and has done very well for himself. That is his life and it's not something that I am a part of ... by my choice.
There are many of us that were born in the UK to immigrant parents; British citizens by right of birth.
Walking between cultures
It may surprise you to know that life for children born to 'traditional' Asian parents can be extremely difficult. At home we were only allowed to speak Urdu. So I guess that means that English is my second language! It wasn't until I started going to my first school, a Primary school in Bletchley, that I learnt how to speak English. I seem to have mastered it sufficiently enough to allow me to have a life in the UK.
After my parents divorced (something that they never would have done if they'd been living in Pakistan at the time), we ended up living with our mother; a woman with deep rooted issues to do with her removal from her society and roots.
- If we spoke English in our home, we were told off and sometimes beaten.
- We weren't allowed to have 'white' friends come into our home.
- We weren't allowed to play with our 'white' friends out of school.
I used to see one of my 'white' friends for second breakfast most mornings. He lived with his father just around the corner from us. I'd play with other 'white' friends in secret ... because if I was discovered, the punishment would be a beating, sometimes with a slipper, sometimes a rolling pin ... and not a thin one at that.
Many of us that were born in the UK had to live such secret lives because we didn't know what racism was ... and because we wanted to be with our friends, who, in our eyes didn't have a colour ... they were just other kids that we liked and played with.
We were exposed to a minimum of two cultures, dependent on who else we mixed with. Break that down:
- A minimum of two religions
- At least two languages
- Music from completely different perspectives
- Diverse food
- Very different rules in cultures
- Racism from 'whites'
- Racism from our own people
Racism in the UK
A child doesn't know what racism is ... it has a purer way of looking at the world ... an innocence. You could put a group of babies or young children from different races together in one room and they would interact happily, for the most part ... but there would be no racism.
Racism is created and generated by adults. If you're an adult that generates racism toward any race ... shame on you; you're responsible for acts such as the murder of the soldier at Woolwich. This means all of you that generate racism, irrespective of your race, ethnicity or religion. You are all part of the events that led to his death and are just as responsible as the men in custody for the crime ... because you decided to take part in a cycle of hatred that contributed to this and many other saddening similar events throughout the UK. Please read this news clip: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/may/02/birmingham-murder-racially-motivated-police.
When are you going to realise that a pendulum moves in two directions; that every action has an equal and opposite reaction; and that sometimes, the implications of that reaction are so far reaching that it can cause a loss of life.
Tolerance, understanding and mutual respect
We have laws in this country that protect people in various ways ... not just against criminals. Those of us involved in issues of 'Equality' fought for those rights, fought hard for the changes in legislation and made a difference to the lives of everybody in the UK, whether you have had to use that form of legislation to address the problem is irrelevant ... the protection exists for all as a safeguard and helps to modify the practises and behaviours of those that would otherwise abuse you to some degree in the work place, your place of worship, your place of learning ... or even where you live.
This means we have invested our hard work, our energy and our hopes in the UK and it's legal framework ... and while not Utopia, it's a damn sight better than the Human Rights track record of some other countries. If it wasn't, we couldn't get so many asylum seekers.
Acts like the murder of Lee Rigby are brutally divisive. By their very nature, they rip communities apart because there will always be an undercurrent of racism in our societies, because there will always be hate harbouring bitter souls that can't let go of senseless issues. Such undercurrents are like kindling waiting for a spark ... and all it takes is an act like a senseless, cowardly murder to ignite a situation that could ripple through the whole of the UK - something that we must all guard against.
Christians Vs Muslims
This little fight has been going on since the crusades. We're a little way further on now ... unless I'm working from a different calendar? Let it go.
I have experience of both of these religions and both can be gentle, supportive and enabling in terms of human growth and sustenance in times of trouble.
Equally, both have been used to commit atrocities that cannot be pardoned (eg the decimation of various tribes and their culture around the world).
Christians and Muslims are both going to have to come to terms with a few things:
- Yours isn't the only way
- You should refrain from telling people that they're going to hell
- You need to be aware that both Muslims and Christians (and people from many other religions) have fought in battles for the UK, defended it's borders and served in their communities - risking their lives for you ALL ... irrespective of your race, religion, ethnicity or any other difference.
- Even if you disagree with the doctrine of another's faith, you must be tolerant of it and must never use your religion as an excuse to create civil unrest.
- You need to get over the fact that there are many people that don't want anything to do with religion - you just worry about saving your own soul
Speaking as a British Asian
The UK is my home because I was born here. Please would all Muslims and Christians (and any other group) that want to cause unrest and try to divide our communities board the space-shuttle bound for YourAnus on platform 1.
I would like to finish by adding my respect to all of you that have responded with reasoned comments to the murder of one of our soldiers. Particulary:
I would like you to remember that Britons come in many different shades of skin nowadays; they speak different languages - in addition to English; and are very diverse in matters of Relgion and Spirituality.
Villayat 'Wolf' Sunkmanitu