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Last Updated: Friday, 25 May 2007, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
White Fright: transcript

White Fright

DATE: 07:05:07

JEREMY VINE: Good evening, I'm Jeremy Vine. It's 8.30 and this is Panorama. Together but separate, the town where people are turning their backs on each other.

DEAN MORGAN: When I was at school I had a lot of Asian friends.

VINE: Did you ever go out with white Blackburnians on a Saturday night?

ARSHAD LAHER: Can't say I do, no, and now we don't even speak.

VINE: We map a community that is splitting down the middle.

IAN GOODLIFFE: It's amazing really, isn't it.

VINE: And we find out why some whites are packing up and moving out.

HENRY BRETT: You end up with Muslim Asian towns, you end up with white British towns.

VINE: Race and identity, it's a subject we probably all have strong feelings on but can find it hard to talk about. There's plenty of argument about how many new immigrants we should have in this country but what about the earlier arrivals? Have we found it possible to live together, or even alongside each other? In some places yes, but tonight Panorama reports from a town where some whites feel so ill at ease with their Muslim neighbours they're taking flight.

Reporter: Vivian White

VIVIAN: British citizens in a British town, marching and flying the flag. They've got something to celebrate. This is Blackburn in Lancashire, a town with an identity crisis. The parade was through what's now an overwhelmingly Asian area. It's the anniversary of the birth of the prophet Mohammed but not everyone is cheering. Some whites here feel they're being taken over.

Good morning. What do you think of it all?

WHITE WOMAN: [on doorstep watching parade] Rubbish.

VIVIAN: Rubbish?

WOMAN: Rubbish.

VIVIAN: Why do you say that?

WOMAN: Cos it is a lot of friggin rubbish.

VIVIAN: Well, you live here, and this is a colourful religious parade going right past your front door.

WOMAN: Oh yeah, their religion. If we done it we'd be thrown out the bloody country. We're not allowed to do owt like this. We can't have our say.

VIVIAN: It was a peaceful religious parade, but it wasn't an experience that Blackburn's non-Muslims could easily share. To white passers-by it might have looked and sounded threatening.

The chants aren't in English and the banners aren't in English.

Lancashire Police
Exactly and this is something we try year on year to get the organisers to at least put English banners up for those who can't read Urdu or can't understand it will know what it is straightaway.

VIVIAN: A few weeks later it was the whites turn to have their parade

The English nature is very laid back and apathetical really. I think we think oh it's okay, we're English and everything is okay. But that's not so at the moment. I think we have to fight now for what we think is English. We have to fight for all those things that really identify us as being English.

VIVIAN: In Blackburn there's a white majority and an Asian minority who are nearly all Muslim. They share a town but keep apart. They haven't had riots, they tell you, here but they've got a growing problem that no one can deny. This is a town that's deeply divided and it's division is getting worse.

The risk is of separate communities and of people breathing the same air but walking past each other. I think that in Blackburn we've done better than some other town, we've sought to avoid the riots that have taken place elsewhere and we have to work hard to ensure there's better understanding and communication between the communities.

VIVIAN: The part of Blackburn just north of the town centre, Whalley Range is where the Asians first arrived in the 60s and bought cheap property. It's now almost entirely Asian owned. Blackburn's Asians originally came from Pakistan and India to work alongside whites in the booming cotton industry. But as those jobs vanished many retreated back into their own community and their own identity, especially their Muslim faith. Mohammed Nawaz, a Muslim is a Blackburn mini cab driver. His firm is based near Whalley Range, and all the drivers at Adams Private Hire are Asians, like himself.

MOHAMMED NAWAZ We're living two different lives here, aren't we. Until something is done to bring both communities together, we're just going to grow apart and it's going to get worse.

VIVIAN: The southern part of the town, the area around the Blackburn Rovers football ground at Ewood Park is mainly white. Blackburn Rover supporters aren't exclusively white, but they're hugely in the majority. Ian Goodliffe is a season ticket holder, he's a mini cab driver too. The firm he works for is based in Mill Hill, a white area, and all the drivers in his firm are white as well.

IAN GOODLIFFE: This end is predominantly white and at the other end of town it's predominantly Asian, just one area, and then you have different areas in between that are mixed.

VIVIAN: But everybody knows that certain parts of town it's predominantly white and that's that.


VIVIAN: And in other parts of town it's predominantly Asian and that's that.


VIVIAN: The separation between the Muslim Asians and the whites is stark in Blackburn, but it's not unique. It graphically reveals a problem facing the whole of the UK. In 2001 separation led to riots in nearby Bradford, Burnley and Oldham, and to disturbances in nearly 40 towns.

Government Advisor
I think it exists as a problem to some degree or other throughout the country and it may be in small pockets and neighbourhoods within larger cities like London and Birmingham and therefore not quite so evident. It might be whole boroughs or whole cities, but to some degree or another it exists. There is some degree of separation or segregation in most towns and cities.

VIVIAN: In Blackburn segregation means that young people like Jaffer Hussein, an Asian student, stick to their own territory.

People are afraid of walking into another person's area, realising that... you know, they might be in someone else's turf, they might.. you know, be racially abused, they might be violently attacked, something might happen. Really there should be no problem, we should be able to get on, but you know, with people segregating themselves into their own areas, that does become a major problem.

VIVIAN: There are 500 racially motivated crimes a year in Blackburn, two thirds are white on Asian. The numbers are increasing and they can be triggered by events happening outside the town altogether including terrorism.

Superintendent ANDY PRATT
Lancashire Police
They're invariably fuelled by something and they can come out of an international football match when we might have a rise. They can come out of the back of the terrorist attacks in London, you get a rise because people will then pick on people. They say: ?Right, okay then, this is your fault and I'll blame you for it."

VIVIAN: Recently in Mill Hill a white area, a local chippy changed hands. The business was bought by Asians. What happened next was captured on camera.

CCTV footage
[Youths smash chippy window]

My windows have been smashed, my car tyres have been slashed and I've been given so many times racial abuse for the last six months and I'm scared now. I'm thinking of selling this business now. I can't carry on like this. I can't say that this is a safe place to do business.

Source: Experian

More research details on the Panorama website: bbc.co.uk/panorama

VIVIAN: Besides their heartlands where the communities live separately and the Muslim Asians mainly in the north and the whites in the south, there are large parts of Blackburn where Muslim Asians and whites live together, but how much do they actually mix? We tried a simple experiment.

[to Ian Goodliffe] I want to give you this, if you plug this in there's a tracker on the end of this and it's going to see where you go, which parts of town you go and we're also going to compare it to where someone else goes in their job.

[to Mohammed Nawaz] So we'll put it onto the dashboard and from this point on, it'll see where you go and it'll give us some idea of what you do.

They each have the trackers in their cabs for about ten hours. Would their passengers, white and Muslim Asian get together, or would they stay apart? Would the two communities ever head for the same destination? Would their paths ever cross? And besides the tracker test we went to find out whether Blackburn's younger generation went out together or apart. We witnessed Saturday night fever for whites, and Muslim Asian style.

Do you ever go out with white Blackburnians on a Saturday night?

[in snooker hall] Can't say I do, no.

[in pub] When I was at school I had a lot of Asian friends. The older we've got, the more we've grown apart and the more distant we've become, and now we don't even speak.

VIVIAN: Have you ever been into the house of a Muslim Asian in Blackburn?

[in pub] Not at all.

VIVIAN: Has any Muslim Asian, as far as you know, ever been into your house socially?


IRFAN MAMANIAT We don't go into their house as well I'd say because obviously different to our houses and how we are.

VIVIAN: And what would you feel awkward about?

MAMANIAT: That I'd not fit in. I think probably I'd not fit in.

VIVIAN: And the result of our tracker experiment? Our two mini cab drivers and their passengers had shared the town centre, otherwise their paths hardly crossed.

Where you've been, that's your cab, those are the road lines there. Okay?


VIVIAN: That's the other cab driver, those are the green lines.

GOODLIFFE: It's amazing, really, isn't it.

VIVIAN: You're overlapping there, that's the town centre, isn't it.

GOODLIFFE: Yeah, it is, yes.

VIVIAN: You never.. you never ever go up here. What's that?

GOODLIFFE: That's the Whalley Range area.

VIVIAN: That's Whalley Range, so that's primarily Asian.

Ian had made a couple of trips into another mainly Asian area to two long-established working men's clubs, but that was it. Then we showed the same result to Mohammed Nawaz, their separate lives and separate journeys, but sharing the town centre as a destination. Was there anywhere else?

NAWAZ: It's either town centre of the hospitals, that's where the majority of places where we share on that map.

VIVIAN: So you use the same shops, go to the same checkout, go to the same doctors, go to the same hospitals...


VIVIAN: Anything else?

NAWAZ: That's it. It is one town but it's divided. It's made into two towns.

TED CANTLE Government Advisor I think they are still operating on the basis of parallel lives by which I mean there is not just simply residential segregation, but there is separation in education, in social, cultural, faith, in virtually every aspect of their daily lives, employment too. I think Blackburn and a number of the other northern towns in particular made some attempt to address that and to deal with those issues, but nevertheless I think there is evidence that the separation really hasn't improved a great deal and in some areas it's probably getting worse.

VIVIAN: To many whites in Blackburn, and elsewhere, the increasing numbers of young Muslim women who are now wearing the full veil is proof that they want to be separate. It was Blackburn's MP, a senior Member of the Government, who caused a storm when he commented publicly on the veil last year.

Leader of the house of Commons
I described it, and I was right to do it, as a symbol of separation because it makes conversation and contact between strangers that much more difficult. Now when I came out with these observations I was not coming down on one side or the other between the white community and the Asian community. The significant thing about the Asian community is the number of people who said to me: ?Jack, you are right to raise this. We too have been concerned."

VIVIAN: But some ordinary Asians, like our cabby, said he'd just made things worse.

I think Mr Straw was quite wrong to say that Muslim women should remove the veil. It sort of distanced us again from the community.

VIVIAN: So his intention was to heal the separation. In your opinion, all he's done is to increase it.

NAWAZ: Yeah, it's definitely increased it.

VIVIAN: Three years ago there was only one fully veiled student at Blackburn College. Now there are about 40. Whatever the women who wear it intend, the veil has now become a symbol of difference for both sides.

Did you consider what will other people in Blackburn in the community think of this?

Not really because my religion is.. it teaches me and all the rest of the Muslims out there that we don't.. we only live for the hereafter. This life is just a test. So in that way I want to show everyone that I'm a Muslim and I'm proud of showing that through my veil to the rest of the world.

VIVIAN: And the new generation aren't just proving their religious identity in the way they dress. In their heartland Muslim Asian youths are helping to make sure that contact with whites of the opposite sex is strictly limited. Another student at Blackburn College, Jaffer Hussein, recently crossed the line. All he did was to walk through Whalley Range with a fellow student who was a white girl.

Whilst we were walking along, you know, we'd get looks every so often from people from within the community, you know, looks of probably disdain, looks of shame, and that made me feel nervous and pretty scared as well.

We were having a laugh about it. It was like.. we actually joked ?Oh are we going to get battered here?" and then when we noticed that more and more people were doing it, we were a bit like that... like.. took a step back and then we're alright, actually I think we should hurry up. And it was just a little bit scary, a little bit intimidating.

HUSSEIN: I was pretty scared, you know, and I just wanted to get through the area as fast as I could.

VIVIAN: You felt afraid that you would be abused and she'd be abused.

HUSSEIN: No, no, I wouldn't be abused. I was scared that she might be abused. And it wouldn't be by any of the older generation, it'd be people from the younger generation who really didn't have any sense of what was happening.

COX: It felt like a foreigner going to like a really close knit community and you didn't feel like you belonged there, I don't know.. it was really strange.

VIVIAN: Apparently they'd broken the rules, and as for marriage between Muslim Asians and whites, extremely rare, around a dozen a year in Blackburn we were told. Our white mini cab driver was amazed we even asked.

What chances do you think there'd be of any of your children of marriageable age ending up marrying a Muslim Asian?

IAN GOODLIFFE Absolutely none at all, and that would be hostility from the Asian girl's family.

VIVIAN: You've got a son who's 19 now.


VIVIAN: And the mere thought of if he went out with a Muslim Asian girl....?

GOODLIFFE: I would fear for his safety.

VIVIAN: You really would ?

GOODLIFFE: Mmm. I don't know whether I want that said.

Source: 2001 Census

VIVIAN: The Muslim Asian community is expanding fast. They now make up 2% of the UK population but 24% of the population here, and in Blackburn they're no longer confined to what has become accepted as ?their parts of town'. Mohammed Nawaz's friend, Gulistan Khan, who goes to the same mosque as he does, made the move from the heartland up the hill, deliberately choosing a predominantly white area, so his children could integrate.

KAHN: I have been brought up in a mixed culture. This is my home and this is the home of my children. In order for the children to learn and understand different cultures you have to have them in a mixed environment, not only in school but even at home and socially. Now I wanted to do that for my children, and so we moved here.

VIVIAN: He's bringing up his children in the Muslim faith, no sooner are they back from school before they're off again for religious instruction. But he wants them to mix with non Muslims too, and as soon as he moved into his house Gulistan Khan made sure he met the locals.

GULISTAN KHAN We went to our neighbours and we took a box of chocolate or a bar of chocolate or something, the way of not going there empty-handed which isn't a tradition for us, to introduce myself that look, I have just moved into the area and this is what my name is and this is my wife.

VIVIAN: And what was the response after all your generous gifts?

KHAN: They've been very disappointing from my point of view, that here I was trying to mix in with the host community here and out of a dozen or so there's only one elderly lady that has kept in touch. I find that they'd walk past me without even acknowledging that you were there. So I don't know, I find that a little odd.

Leader of the House of Commons
It's striking in the last ten months of so the numbers of Asian people who for the first time, even the people I've known for years and years and years, expressed resentment to me about how they feel they've been treated when they've moved into white schools or moved into white areas, and these are very westernised people who want English neighbours.

VIVIAN: But some of their white neighbours feel equally resentful as Muslim Asians arrive in significant numbers they change the area that they have chosen. Just opposite the Khans is the house where the Boothmans live.

ROSEMARY BOOTHMAN We've got very good neighbours. We get on great together, you know, but they wont try, some of them.

JAMES BOOTHMAN They don't speak English, they tend to speak Urdu or whatever it is they speak, which is a bit uncomfortable, especially if like I go in the barbers to get my hair cut and they're talking and you're thinking to yourself, are these guys talking about me, you know. They wont integrate. That's really what I'm trying to say. We should work more together and keep the place as it is, English.

[V/O: Film of closed and boarded up Little Harwood Pub over which ?For Sale' sign forlornly hangs]

BOOTHMAN: We've got our heritage as well, you know, which is.. well if only a pub, you like a pub to be handy and you can go and have a drink, especially a nice day like today. We're slowly getting swallowed up and we're losing our identity.

VIVIAN: As non-drinking Muslims have moved into new areas of Blackburn, one after another, local pubs, under threat already because of changing social habits, have closed down altogether. Hard going for the landlady at the Dog Inn.

When you took this pub on, Tracey, you knew this pub was in an area which was changing.

TRACEY: Yes I did.

VIVIAN: Did you think to yourself, wait a moment, there are more Muslims moving in here, this is a pub, this is going to be difficult. What did you think?

Landlady, The dog Inn
We looked at the.. obviously the Asian community, but then again we looked at our English community, and there was a lot more of them three years ago than what there is today.

VIVIAN: And you didn't see the area going on changing the way it has?

TRACEY: No, not at all, dramatic as it has done.

VIVIAN WHITE What's happening is ?white flight' as Asians move into white areas, the whites are moving out. The business for estate agents around here is nearly all one way. We met one who said that in 28 years he'd never sold a house owned by an Asian to a white family. But the whole subject of ?white flight' and why it's happening is something people find difficult to discuss. They're afraid that if they do, they'll be labelled racist.

Why are the ?For Sale' signs going up?

GEORGE BARNES I think some people's views will be probably somewhat different to mine. Some people are maybe putting their house up because they can see the way that things are changing and maybe because.. you know, Muslim Asians, you know, are moving into the area, that could be one of the reasons.

HENRY BRETT I don't know them further down the street, but I have seen them coming up and down, and you say good morning and how are you and that, but name wise I don't know their names.

VIVIAN: But beyond saying good morning, would you have anything you could talk about?

BRETT: No. No, nothing at all.

TIM DOGGART My daughter was offered a place at the local school. We felt that it was an inappropriate setting for her. She would have been in a class with largely children from Asian backgrounds, for a large number of whom English would be their second language.

VIVIAN: So you sent her to a school outside Blackburn.

DOGGART: Yeah, where we felt it was a more appropriate educational setting for her.

VIVIAN: And now you're going too.

DOGGART: Well we'd very much like to be nearer them so that they could actually walk to school rather than have to be driven to school each day.

VIVIAN: The phenomenon of people like you moving out is described as ? putting it bluntly ? ?white flight'.

DOGGART: Mmm hm.

VIVIAN: So you're part of a process of white flight.

DOGGART: If you want to put it that way. I mean, I've described to you the reasons why we're moving. If you want to put a label on it, then that's up to somebody else.

BRETT: And I think the way it's looking.. it's going is that we're getting more and more separate. You'll end up with Muslim Asian towns, you'll end up with white British towns.

VIVIAN: A school trip to meet strangers, but these children aren't off on a journey to France or to Germany, they're going to meet each other.

[St Michael with St John C.E. Primary School Children]

TEACHER: Have a lovely morning, careful getting on the coach, watch your footing, and please ? seat belts! Safety first year 4!

VIVIAN: They're meeting children from Whalley Range in the Muslim Asian heartland, children from a largely white school being taken to meet and learn about children from another ? not country... just a different part of town. A union has been arranged in the cathedral in Blackburn town centre.

CANON CHRIS CHIVERS: So what we're going to do is we'll take... we're just going to form pairs from each of the schools, so it's one person from St Michaels, one person from St Francis.

MISTRESS: Could I have a young lady please.

VIVIAN: Several towns besides Blackburn are also using school twinning as a tactic to try and bridge the gap between the communities.

Canon CHRIS CHIVERS I'd previously worked in South Africa, in Cape Town, which is of course emerging from an apartheid history which was deeply divided and deeply divisive, and I think I can honestly say that I've never worked in such a segregated community, or lived in one as this.

CHIVERS: [addressing children] Working in a group you have 20 minutes to redesign your town. You may want to keep some things the same, you might want to change some things. Think about all the people who live in our town. You need to provide spaces and buildings to help with their needs.

VIVIAN: And Blackburn schoolchildren started with a blank sheet of paper to try and rebuild the relationship between their communities.

[Mixed groups of children set to work developing new town plan]

VIVIAN: Alright, so we've got two mosques, two churches... and a big cathedral?

CHIVERS: Clearly twinning is only one thing that we can do, but it's an important first step. We've got to encourage people into the belief that having their children educated alongside children from another culture or another religion or another race, however we describe it, is an enhancing thing and not a diminishing thing which is clearly what some people believe because they've chosen white flight.

VIVIAN: In one part of Blackburn a property developer and the council have literally tried to redesign the town to get the communities together again. A new estate, modestly titled ?Inspired" as part of a regeneration project, with town houses for sale, just a few minutes walk from the centre.

MOYA JONES: So this is the close show home which is a four bed-roomed two and a half storey house and with this one we went well over the top with the interior design. We actually went to Istanbul for inspiration and it's quite traditional.

VIVIAN: The Turkish style was deliberately chosen to be diplomatic.

JONES: We felt that people would like it from kind of a multicultural perspective.

VIVIAN: So you've picked the Turkish theme because it will be a bridge between the two communities, between the Muslim Asians and the white communities, quite deliberately that's why you've picked Turkey?

Circa Homes
Yeah, yeah.

VIVIAN: And you went shopping...

JONES: Where East meets West. (laughs)

VIVIAN: Where East meets West?

JONES: Yeah.

VIVIAN: Where East meets West in Blackburn.

JONES: Yeah.

VIVIAN: The developers aimed the houses at both communities, but the estate has been built in what's now become a predominantly Asian area. They spent nearly 70,000 advertising the homes locally. Both Muslim Asians and whites came to view and the developers thought they'd buy in equal numbers, but only one out of 37 houses has been bought by whites.

What you were trying to do, Moya, was to please everybody, wasn't it?


VIVIAN: But what you've shown is that you can't please everyone in Blackburn.

JONES: It certainly hasn't brought the people through the door that we anticipated it would.

VIVIAN: Blackburn's future is bound to be more Muslim Asian still, and the separation between it's two communities, the subject many people find so difficult to talk about, isn't just a problem here. This decent but divided town is a warning to the rest of Britain.

JEREMY VINE: Vivian White, reporting there from Blackburn. You're bound to have your views on what you've just seen. Don't hold back. You can call me on my Radio 2 Show tomorrow, or email our website. Next week: "Scientology and Me" - John Sweeney investigates a religious organisation that does not like to be called a cult.

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