|You are in: Talking Point|
Friday, 14 December, 2001, 11:48 GMT
Race riots report: Your reaction?
British communities are leading "parallel lives" because of ethnic divisions, according to a report into race riots in the north of England this summer.
A series of four studies looking at the disturbances in Bradford, Oldham and Burnley, warn of a lack of contact between different ethnic groups.
The reports says right-wing extremists played a part in stirring up trouble but says the underlying causes run much deeper including high youth unemployment and a feeling is disaffection with society.
Among the suggestions given, the report says immigrants should have to swear an oath of allegiance to show their "clear primary loyalty" to Britain.
What do you think of these suggestions? Should ethnically diverse communities work, live and go to school together?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Paul T Horgan, UK
I'm not convinced by the oath of allegiance argument. People make and break promises all the time - look at the divorce statistics. Also, there are a lot of first generation immigrants who have lived here all their lives who would find this uncomfortable, notably my Irish friends who have lived here most of their lives, love the country, but in no way could pledge allegiance to the Queen, Bless her!
I find it quite funny to hear western views on this matter, and yet if you go to the Middle East and check how the western immigrants have blended into the local way of life you might be surprised at how many anti-social habits they have brought with them. They also have no apparent interest in swearing allegiance to their oil-producing hosts.
Most immigrants in the UK would welcome integration into the way of life, but up t now what guidance have they had? Very little. Had immigrants been given guidance over the past 20 years instead of being shoved into communal areas how different things could be now. It's not exactly rocket science.
Vic Price, Scotland
It's ironic that the British government report uses the words "race" riots and talks about "race" relations. Our societies have a tendency to shy away from the debate on misguided religious influences. Race wasn't the problem in the British riots. It was religious and cultural influences. There were no Blacks or general Asians participating in the riots - it was Pakistani Muslim youth that had become disillusioned in the UK due to the extremist teachings of a few Islamic clerics.
I think that an oath of allegiance is a good idea. I am not so wilfully naive as to believe that the people who would swear to it would necessarily mean it but it would have more meaning to existing citizens of the UK. All too often immigrants are seen as coming here to have a better way of life whilst pretending they still live in the country they came from. I also think that those who rant on about how it is wrong to swear allegiance to a geographical location have missed the point entirely. It is not about swearing loyalty to the hills of the Lake District, it is about swearing allegiance to the people of the UK and the way of life developed in that country. It is about people showing that they have chosen the UK for the right reasons.
When you leave your home country for another you have to accept the rules in order to get the privileges of being allowed to live there. Some are written and some are unwritten. The key is conforming, working hard, paying taxes, being socially responsible. They are endearing qualities that any immigrant can aspire to and I know this from first-hand experience. Any immigrant who doesn't like the situation in their new country should leave, just as they did their home country. Immigration is the risk you take to better yourself and sometimes it doesn't pay off - at which point you move on, start afresh and try for something better. Having a riot will do nothing for you or your cause.
The debate about whether or not immigrants should swear allegiance to the UK is missing the point. Any Muslim's primary allegiance is to God and to their religion, wherever in the world they may be. Their secondary allegiance is to their family, whether they are here in the UK or elsewhere in the world. These things are not difficult to understand and not in fact particularly difficult to accept - unless you are someone who does not hold these same human priorities. Asking a Muslim to swear allegiance to a geopolitical entity we call the "United Kingdom" above allegiance to God is a joke. Any true Christian or Jew would agree. The culture of the society in which you live is really the spice in the main dish of faith, and as far as I can tell, curry is now as British as fish and chips.
Martin Wood, UK
I am a British citizen now living in Canada. I am from Bradford. I have also lived in the USA. I have three children in the school system in Canada. Every morning they have to sing the national anthem at school and swear allegiance to Canada and the Queen. In America they had to do the same. This instils pride in the country in which they live. Canada also being bilingual they have had to learn French. We lived in Montreal, which is a very diverse city but with one common goal - to be Canadian. We accepted when we moved abroad that we would have to be Canadian and we have. The riots in Bradford are due to frustration as people do not seem to know where they belong and they should live in the country where their loyalties lie. The British Government needs to become very firm on its immigration process and basically say that to enter or live in Britain one must become British. The Queen is the head of the English Church. All schools in Britain should be Christian, we do not have a Muslim queen. People should be integrated and not allowed to segregate in one area .
As one who emigrated to the USA 20 years ago, I can confirm that I now speak American, think American and am a proud American. It was not difficult at all even with the language barrier! When in Rome, etc. If people want to take advantage of the freedom that the UK offers then they should embrace British values and culture. If not why go there in the first place other than to live off the British taxpayer or undermine the British way of life, what's left of it anyway!
I guess that this whole furore is aimed at distracting the media attention from the bigger picture this week - the attempt to push through draconian anti-terror legislation that has nothing to do with terrorists, instead giving even more power to our leaders.
My wife recently applied for naturalization as a British citizen. We downloaded the Home Office 'Guide AN' from their website and guess what? The second last paragraph states "If...you are not a citizen of a country of which Her Majesty is Queen, you will be asked to take an oath of allegiance". In another part of the guide it states that you either have to be married to a British citizen or "have a sufficient knowledge of the English language (or Welsh or Scottish Gaelic)". It seems to me the people at the Home Office who compiled this report don't even know their own requirements. In the context of the riots we saw during the summer the question is largely irrelevant anyway. Does anybody seriously think swearing allegiance will stop these sort of riots? It had more to do with bored young men with no football to watch than any feelings of not being British.
I've felt for a long time that faith-based schools are a bad idea, now this confirms it. It's time to abolish all schools that have a religious foundation. I'm thinking as much of the role that single denomination schools play in perpetuating division in Northern Ireland as of this report. I now live in the USA and here the have got it about right.
I was born and brought up in Uganda prior to migrating to the UK. I was struck by the lack of understanding and knowledge by the white community in Uganda who could not speak nor attempted to learn the national language Swahili. It is very easy to say "when in Rome", however it is very rare to see a white person attempting to integrate into the society of their hosts.
Learning English should be the first step for any immigrants in the UK. Culture will come with time, learning from everyday experiences. The English in Spain still cry for their fish and chips and pubs. Have they integrated into Spanish culture?
I for one have taken the best of both worlds and have created my own world where I am able to mix with all cultures and acquire a level of knowledge, tolerance and understanding. This has allowed me to study and progress in my profession
I would rather people considered what it is to be human than what it is to be British.
Create a bit of employment and wealth in these areas and the situation will improve. Maybe then people won't be so full of despair that they feel they haven't got anything to lose.
Laila has a good point. There are small communities of ex-pat Brits who do not learn the local lingo. For myself, I worked abroad for a few years and made a point of learning the local language. Not only was it impractical to try to insist on communicating in English, I felt it would be disrespectful of me no to learn the native tongue. That said, I suspect that very few of those who rioted were not fluent in English. I rather think their complaint was more fundamental than simply a lack of a common language.
If a person obeys the law and pays his taxes, then he has the right to live as he chooses with no interference from others. To demand oaths of allegiance, or any kind of linguistic or cultural conformity is to deny everything that being British should stand for.
Everyone seems to think that integration into a different society or culture is necessarily a sudden, painful experience. For the first generation it is stressful, difficult and hard work. But the actual process of integration itself happens so gradually over time and generations that one day, years down the road, you realise have more in common with your adopted home than that of your birth. Learning the language and the social codes of behaviour are one necessary part of a long process. I emigrated to the US two years ago from the UK, but a few generations ago my family were French. You wouldn't know that from talking to me.
I was born in the UK by Nigerian parents but I am Nigerian not British. I feel Nigerian. I do not want to become British in any shape or form. I am proud to be Nigerian. God bless Africa.
Peter C Kohler, USA
As usual the white working class will be expected to send their children to multi-ethnic schools, whilst Tony Blair, Harriet Harman and the other middle class Labour party apparatchiks run a mile from them. Obviously the middle class's right to choose is completely different from the working class's right.
Hans Baumann, United States
There is no understanding between the communities and the reports into the riots hit the nail bang on the head. The local C of E school where my children go celebrate major religious festivals. They get members of the local Christian, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish communities to come in and explain what the festival is all about and sometimes do a mock ceremony. The only thing this will breed is understanding, and perhaps this needs to be done on a much wider scale.
Robert Morpheal, Canada
Some British people are very racist. In most cases this stems from a lack of understanding of history. They seem to think that they have done the immigrants a huge favour by allowing them into their countries, little do they realise that the reason they are here is because their grandfathers plundered the wealth of other nations and systematically destroyed and oppressed many countries and nations.
Leigh, USA (UK originally)
Oldham is similar in beliefs to my mining village: ignorant about other cultures, needing reasons to respect and trust others, overdue to rewrite their guides on neighbourhood renewal. Our multi-cultural society is ever changing and so must the leadership. I call for Councillors and MPs to retire at the age of 65 and for everyone under 40 to join any political party they believe in. Prove the old ways are irrelevant and that by peaceful democratic means we can all make a significant difference. I wish Oldham every success in re-building an integrated community. Just remember you will be handing the town down to your future generation, so do not forget to consult them.
Gary Penton, Northern Ireland
Enoch Powell was right. He predicted that such a mix had potential for "rivers of blood". Of course, the trendies ensured he was castigated.
Gordon Lewis, UK
The problem is not only race or ethnic origin but one of wealth and poverty. Many of these minorities settled and live in cities that were thriving in days gone by. Now with the decline of mills and factories there is high unemployment and not much social activity in these cities. Trying to hold onto customs and traditions from their roots, there has arisen a confused generation. This tension results in distrust between communities and an explosion into riots. More mixing of communities and a focussed effort by Elders and the local councils will result in better understanding.
Christian Lavin, England
Who exactly are these 'immigrants' who are going to be taught English, or British citizenship? Immigration from outside Europe is at a very low level, so Blunkett's measure is unlikely to have any bearing on the level of English speaking or 'assimilation' in existing Asian or black communities, many of whom have lived in this country for longer than I have. Is Blunkett proposing that Asian and black people who are already British citizens should have to take these tests - surely not? What would happen to them if they failed - would they be deported? Would people coming to live in Britain from other EU countries have to take the Blunkett test? Like a lot of this government's policies, it's intended more for public consumption than to have any real bearing on any problems, real or imagined.
Sunny Hundal, London, UK
My parents came to this country as refugees immediately after the war when there very few foreigners in the country. They had to carry an "Alien Registration Card" and report to the police regarding their movements and their address. They did this and did not complain. They were happy to have found a haven after losing their homes during the war. We lived in a mission hut until I was 11. Outside toilet, cold water, two miles to a bus stop and one mile to the nearest shop. Difficult, yes. Rioting, no.
As soon as you allow another race to behave differently and be treated differently from the indigenous, problems are created. People begin to believe they are different and need to be treated differently.
Come here and live as the rest of society. Contribute and nobody will point the finger of difference at you.
I was born here and there's no way I'd swear an 'oath of allegiance', so why should immigrants have to?
Why not launch an inter-faith movement in Britain to bring together communities belonging to different religions so that each group learns to appreciate and respect the other's faith and point of view. For example, during Christmas Christians, white or coloured, can invite a few Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus to their homes and explain the significance of the Christian faith. Likewise, the Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus can follow suit when they celebrate their religious festivals. This gesture will not only promote communal harmony but also improve the race relations to a great extent be it in Bradford or Oldham.
There is one fact that is totally overlooked by your correspondents and completely ignored by all politicians.
It is this: Nobody ever asked the British people if they wanted to live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial society. Had a referendum been held on this back in the l950's, l960's or 1970's the answer would almost certainly have been 'No.' Were it to be asked now, it would definitely be a resounding 'No'.
It does not matter what ones views are on the subject, the fact is that the people of a country should be represented by their politicians, not dictated to by them.
To J Cameron in London:
Rustam Roy, England
The suggestion that religious schools are a major contributor to the mistrust between communities is laughable. I went exclusively to religious schools and was never taught that any culture or faith was superior to another. Many religious schools are mixed faith and have a great cultural and religious diversity, beyond the faith running the school.
Unemployment and poverty are the two single biggest reasons for the riots, which was then exploited by extremists in both white and Asian communities. Disaffected individuals looking for a reason for their situation found race to be a suitable tag to hang their grievances on, rather than looking at the real reason for their problems.
I come from Aylesbury - we have had a large multi cultural community for decades. I fail to see why Oldham has riots when Aylesbury has Indians, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis all living in the same town with nowhere near the problems that Oldham seems to have. However, I'll admit that our employment rate is much better than the Northern parts of the UK so maybe there is truth in the theory that the unemployment levels were partly to blame for the riots.
In the light of the recent reports Tony Blair must now scrap his plans for single faith schools. Children benefit from going to school with a mixture of children from different faiths and cultures rather than developing an 'us and them' mentality from an early age. Racial and cultural tolerance can and must be encouraged and this will not happen by segregation.
Quotas in schools for people of different race or faith? What other crackpot ideas are there to come?
What about quotas for atheists and agnostics? Nobody seems to consider their sensibilities.
Would it not be far more sensible just to remove ALL religious instruction from state schools? People would still be free to take their children to worship on Friday, Saturday, Sunday or whenever, if they want. Otherwise, children would grow up NOT seeing differences, but enjoying the common ground among their neighbours.
Many people blame religion or social unrest and racial hatred, but how many of those waving the fingers actually understand what various religions teach? Was it the case that in Bradford and Oldham there were clashes between Christians, Muslims and Jews? This debate is less about religion (Muslims, Jews and Christians will all agree that they are to love and respect each other, not fight) and more about the lack of education and contact between different racial and religious groups, especially in schools.
Many adults could also use the same education it seems, based on events such as the recent riots.
Theresa Meehan, London, England
When I attended high school back in the early 1980s, there was a varied mixture of children from numerous ethnic backgrounds, who all mixed together well, with no problems arising as a result of racial prejudice. There is no need for separate single religion schools - one goes to school to learn. Whatever religion a person chooses to practise, they should be instructed in it away from school by their parents and their own church or place of worship.
The government has commissioned many reports, which have confirmed all kinds of racism within our society; but David Blunkett has made a serious error in his statement. Immigrants that would fail his English language test did not cause the riots in Oldham. It is offensive to label second and third-generation ethnic minorities as immigrants.
Barney, United Kingdom
Whilst I won't pretend that there are easy fixes to this problem, maybe part of the answer is ensuring all immigrants can speak English and are taught more about the culture that they have decided to become part of. Surely this must help them settle into a strange country, so why is this policy being shouted down ?
Colin, this policy is not being shouted down. It is a well-established Blunkett trick. State the obvious, common-sense solution. Then imply it is not happening, but should. No right-thinking person could disagree. I've seen Blunkett's statements in relation to what schools should be doing, when all along the overwhelming majority are already doing that!
Whilst there is little doubt that there are social problems in the likes of Bradford where I live, you can't ignore the fact that the riots were instigated and fuelled by a criminal element hell bent on creating disorder - and not much to do with the issue of race, which is too easily being used as an excuse for this criminal behaviour that was condemned and recognised as such by both white and Asian communities.
Kristel Chambers, England
I agree that it takes one culture to reduce inter-cultural tension. This doesn't just apply to race - it also applies to religion. Ban religious schools and introduce positive discrimination to ensure racial segregation in the classroom. This really does seem to be the age of the world characterised by clashes of culture: let's hope McDonald's, Microsoft, individual freedom and secularism win the day.
I am white/English, and I was growing up in a small village in Northamptonshire. My mother was Church of England, my father was not of any religious faith, and as a result, me, my brother and sister were brought up with an understanding of all religions and cultures. In fact both my parents encouraged us to often question certain concepts of religion, because there is so much unknown and it makes you more of an independent individual if you sometimes question rather than accept what is said. We were given the choice to follow and believe in what we wanted. Over the years I have come to follow no particular religion but have read the Bible and other religious texts which I found interesting. I had a gay uncle that I was close with and it was always accepted that my uncle had boyfriends instead of girlfriends, and before entering my teenage years I was of the understanding that it didn't matter about colour of skin or sexuality.
But after moving to a large town when I was twelve I was shocked by certain comments said by white kids at school about people of a certain colour or religion or their sexual preference. For a while it was a difficult time for me to adjust since I did not understand and was made fun of for being naive, (once got my face punched - not nice, believe me). I think it is a shame that people have to hate something that they don't understand, and have the arrogance to think they are better. I can't see why we just can't all get along and am happy to say that I now have friends from different religious backgrounds, cultures, and gay friends. Variety is the spice of life, and since that dreadful time at school when my eyes were opened to a world that suddenly seemed full of people that enjoyed being hurtful to each other, I have come to realise it is the ignorant people of this world who hate what is different. You cannot always make them understand, which is sad but true. I hope to see a big change in my lifetime but am sceptical.
Re: Adrienne, UK - I fully agree, my life is so much better since moving to London. I have so many friends from so many backgrounds and my life so much better. People should learn to mix in, no matter what background they are from. This makes life so much more interesting.
11 Dec 01 | England
Race 'segregation' caused riots
11 Dec 01 | England
Oldham fears further clashes
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy