As being reported on the BBC website, the population of the UK is expected to increase from 61m to 71.6m by 2033, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). As it states, just over two-thirds of this increase is expected to be related directly or indirectly to migration to the UK.
If the projected increase materialises, the population will have grown at its fastest rate in a century: by more than 10m in the 24 years between 2008 and 2029, less than half the time it took to rise from 50m to 60m between 1948 and 2005.
As part of the British Council’s ‘Our Shared Europe’ project, I have been invited to participate in a debate at the European Parliament on the 19th November 2009 entitled, ‘Europe & Islam: whose identity crisis?’.
If anybody would like to attend the debate, then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org before the 11th November.
Full details of the event are set out below:
Europe & Islam: Whose Identity Crisis?
Hosted by Sajjad Karim MEP
Thursday 19th November 2009 – 10:30 to 13:00
European Parliament, Brussels
In a continent of diverse cultures how people choose to identify themselves is becoming increasingly important; whether through nationality, religion, language or political outlook. Can these identities mix, are they changing, and which are most important?
And is identity in Europe becoming a more complex issue for its citizens? How are European Muslims reconciling their multiple identities? And what is the basis for a European identity? Does an increase in extremism, euroscepticism, islamaphobia and a move back towards nationalism indicate that people are unhappy with those who identify themselves in different ways?
In a continent progressively challenged by mixed identities, who is it with the identity crisis? Europe, or Islam, or both?
Vice-President of the European Parliament
Director, The Centre for Social Cohesion
Vice-President, European Muslim Network
Dr Chris Allen
Academic, writer and broadcaster on Islamophobia in Europe
Chair Advisory Council, European Network Against Racism
Member of the European Parliament
Debate moderated by Shada Islam, Senior Policy Executive, European Policy Centre.
Further information can be found at http://www.oursharedeurope.org/activities.
The BBC website is reporting that Bruce Forsyth has said that people should have a “sense of humour” about the Strictly Come Dancing race row involving professional dancer Anton Du Beke who admitted calling his show partner, actress Laila Rouass, a “Paki”. Forsyth says that in the past the “slip up” would have been treated in a more light-hearted way. Talking to TalkSport he said:
“You go back 25, 30, 40 years and there has always been a bit of humour about the whole thing. Americans used to call us ‘limeys’ which doesn’t sound very nice, but we used to laugh about it. Everybody has a nickname.”
Is he right…???
Trevor Phillips, the Chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, has warned that it is time to recognise that whilst disadvantage in the UK has historically meant that black and ethnic minority (BME) groups and women have been the worst hit, in some parts of the country it is now the white working classes that are facing the greatest disadvantage. As Phillips put it:
…the colour of disadvantage isn’t black or brown. It is white
Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) summit on immigration, he said it was time for British society and its leaders to get a clearer understanding of whom might be disadvantaged and what groups and communities may need support.
To illustrate his point, Phillips highlighted the educational achievement gap between some BME groups and their white counterparts. While two thirds of children of Chinese heritage routinely get five good GCSE’s as do three out of five Indian heritage youngsters, 85% of poorer white boys did not. Similarly, while those Bangladeshi girls who made it to university did well, there was an underclass of teenage white girls who would not make it into higher education at all due to having already given birth to their first child.
He added that now was the time for positive action to support and assist the white working classes:
We may need to do so with the sort of special measures we’ve previously targeted at ethnic minorities. But the name of the game today is to tackle inequality, not racial special pleading. We will fail to do so at our peril
Phillips argued that if the disadvantage currently being faced by those white communities was not addressed and that their grievances were not heard, there was a very real danger that the resentment felt towards immigrants and other BME groups could result in an anti-immigrant backlash. More worryingly, he added that this could mean a stark rise in populist ring-wing extremism.
[If an out of work white mother] sees a clever, young, Latvian with three degrees doing the job she would like to do…It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out how she’s likely to feel.
And add to that the picture of her child’s nursery class, with, as she will see it, an overworked teacher confronted with a class of 30 that speaks 15 languages at home. Who will she resent for not having the life she thinks she deserves?
It is good to see the leader of the UK’s equalities and human rights watchdog raising these controversial issues. Long has it been that ‘equalities’ has been perceived to be about giving – even giving away – something that is ‘ours’ to ‘others’. In many ways, reinforcing the ‘them’ and ‘us’ scenario that too many far-right and indeed various mainstream politicians are increasingly prone to voice and buy in to.
Equalities of course is about making society fairer for all. Let’s hope that others will now follow Phillips’ lead and begin to really challenge those who deliberately equate ‘equalities and human rights’ with ‘political correctness gone mad’ for political or other gain. If we do, then it will be a massive step in the right direction: a massive step towards society being fairer for all.
Everything on this site by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. www.chris-allen.co.uk.
In fact, I have been known to describe the word ‘fuck’ as the best word in the English language given that it is immediately recognisable and can be used across a multitude of scenarios to emphasis and intensify meaning or merely provide a more edgier gasp. It can also be used in a more loving (sexual?) context also, but that I would suggest is more open to personal taste and interpretation than anything else. Am I right in believing that it is also one of the most searched words on Google – fact fans, let me know.
Because of this, I was interested to read about Joe Kinnear’s ‘swear-a-thon’ at Newcastle United Football Club a few weeks ago and how it was subsequently dealt with in the media. Whilst I was far from offended or outraged, many others were, to the point that he has since been reprimanded by the Football Association (FA).
But whether Kinnear was right or wrong, and overlooking the myriad debates about issues of professionalism and responsibility, I am – to use a football cliche – ‘over the moon’ with Joe’s comments today. In trying to justify his 52 swear word outburst in just under 5 minutes, Kinnear said:
It’s the language I have grown up with…I’m not trying to be something I’m not. I grew up on a council estate in Watford.
He went on:
I come from a one-parent family. My dad died when I was young and my mum brought up five on a council estate…
…There were things that had to be said and I don’t know how to say them any other way than to tell them straight how it is
In many ways, I agree with Kinnear. Swearing was very much a part of my family and because of this, a significant part of my upbringing also. Almost all family members would ‘eff and blind’ (slang for swearing) and because of this, swearing became the norm with little attention being attributed to it. Consequently, hearing someone swear now, neither offends me nor makes me feel that such language should be curbed. However, there will be many others that would look down their nose at swearing (even though they do it themselves) as being indicative of someone who is ‘common’, ‘chavvy’ or ‘working class’. Might I generalise here, but these people would tend to be typically middle-class and imbued with an arrogant sense of knowing not only what was right and wrong, but also what is correct and proper. The right and proper bastions of the English language possibly.
Likewise, neither do I agree with the view put forward by some – including Kinnear himself – that the use of swear words is a symptom of a lack of intelligence. When I swear, it is because I have chosen to do so, sometimes for greater effect, sometimes just to annoy or get my message across in a more forceful or even meaningful way. It is not because I do not have the vocabulary to use alternative, potentially less useful words or phrases: I just choose not to.
So despite my critical piece a few weeks ago, ‘“It’s part of our religion…our identity…our culture”: tolerating the intolerable…???‘ questioning the motivations of those who try and justify un-tolerable actions and activities by suggesting that they are necessary and integral aspects of their ‘religion’, ‘culture’ and/or ‘identity’, I am now going to be entirely hypocritical and stand up in support of Joe Kinnear in recognising that swearing is an integral part of ‘our [my] identity…our [my] culture’ !!!
What a great excuse…!!!
This work by Chris Allen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales License. Based on a work at www.chris-allen.co.uk.