Celebrate our multi-ethnic democracy
Rakib’s Britain: the UK has given a golden opportunity to minority Brits, so why are we told patriotism isn’t for us?
“Celebrate our multi-ethnic democracy” is the first article in Rakib Ehsan’s new online column for The Critic, “Rakib’s Britain”.
With this being my first piece for my new column at The Critic, “Rakib’s Britain” (a name that combines good-hearted patriotism with comic grandiosity), I felt this was a golden opportunity to express why I have such a strong sense of “Britishness” — a feeling which has only grown stronger over time.
By being a British Lutonian of South Asian Muslim stock, I have struck gold
Being quite the subcontinental man, I can trace my origins back to the rural beauty of northern Bangladesh and the ancient North Indian city of Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. Born in Hammersmith to parents of South Asian Muslim origin, I have spent over three decades of my life in the multi-ethnic, religiously-diverse town of Luton. While the town’s football club received lavish praise this season for its stunning push for Premier League promotion, Luton is usually known for the “wrong” reasons — including the shameful “Butchers of Basra” demonstrations and the subsequent formation of the English Defence League (EDL). In truth, most people visit Luton to fly straight out of it from its international airport, which serves as a base for low-cost operators such as EasyJet, Ryanair and WizzAir.
While I will inevitably face accusations of being biassed, I can honestly say that I have seen the best of Britain in my hometown — one filled with working-class traditionalists who live by the classic triad of family, faith and flag. Its community-oriented and generous-spirited core has actively challenged the Islamist and far-right extremist fringes that are responsible for unfair generalisations of Luton. It is a London “satellite town” on the move: a dedicated work ethic and can-do entrepreneurialism runs deep in many of its local communities. Across its different ethnic and religious communities, lies a strong sense of fairness; not many are interested in favours. Here, it is more about the golden principle of equality of opportunity, not the hyper-paternalistic equalisation of outcomes.
It might sound bizarre for some — but I genuinely believe that by being a British Lutonian of South Asian Muslim stock, I have struck gold. I was born into an incredibly loving family unit, to two parents who are approaching their 35-year wedding anniversary. Hardworking and attentive, the home that raised me cultivated a “Family First” philosophy rooted in responsibility and self-discipline.
Primarily down to my wonderful foreign-born mother who lived through Bangladesh’s brutal and gruesome 1971 liberation struggle, I was led to believe — in the strictest of terms — that Britain was a land of stability, generosity and opportunity. There was much reason to be optimistic, and the chances for progression and advancement (with the smarts and right attitude) were great. Opportunistically “blaming the system” was not the path towards personal development — taking ownership of failures and learning from one’s own errors held the key.
The reality of the matter is that for all its flaws, Britain is one of the most tolerant and open-minded places on Earth. Its provision of anti-discrimination protections on the grounds of race, ethnicity and religion, puts other European multi-racial countries such as France, Germany and Netherlands to shame (as well as relatively diverse non-European nations such as Australia). While another Commonwealth country, India, brands itself as the largest democratic nation-state in the world, it continues to be blighted by severe communal tensions.
Britain is one of the most successful post-WWII multi-racial democracies
A range of aspirational ethno-religious minorities in Britain are thriving in an economic, social and cultural sense. When taking all of this into consideration, it is no surprise that racial, ethnic and religious minorities traditionally report higher levels of democratic satisfaction and institutional trust than the white-British mainstream. Indeed, the vast majority of British Muslims, all too often crudely painted as an alienated and marginalised bloc, believe that Britain is a good place to live as a Muslim — citing freedom of religion as the primary factor. This is an inconvenient truth for those who wish to frame Britain as a discriminatory hellscape that has systems which are “deliberately rigged” against its ethnic and religious minorities.
Britain, like all parts of the world, is imperfect and flawed. It has one of the most inter-regionally imbalanced societies in the industrialised world. Somewhat exposed by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Britain’s hyper-financialised globalised economy is vulnerable to international market shocks. Unfortunately, the United Kingdom holds world-leader status (along with the United States) when it comes to rates of family breakdown. And there is no doubting that confidence in public institutions — such as the UK Parliament, the police and the NHS — could do with improvement.
However, one thing that we can, and should, take pride in is the fact that Britain is one of the most successful examples of a post-WWII multi-racial democracy. Contrary to the miserable and pessimistic politics of the grievance industrial complex, Britain’s resilient and optimistic minorities are largely appreciative of the anti-discrimination protections and religious freedoms afforded under British democracy.
Irrespective of racial, ethnic and religious background, Luton’s working traditionalists — including myself — will continue to see potential in Britain and know full well that its best days lie ahead.
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