By Nazneen Mehta
Another Muslim family from Bradford has gone to Syria to join ISIS.
What are YOU going to do about it?
A female councillor with an Asian name and a hitherto impressive record has been suspended amid (unproven) allegations of some financial irregularities.
WHY are all Asian politicians so dodgy?
A group of British men of Pakistani background have been convicted of appalling sexually motivated crimes.
WHY aren’t you doing something about it? The problem MUST be in YOUR community.
WHY don’t you have answers? Why? Why? Why?
Ludicrous as this cacophony of finger-pointing questions might sound, they are reflective of the demands that are increasingly aimed at the Asian – no let’s call a spade a spade – the Asian Muslim community in the UK.
Even the mammoth sugar-coated triumph of the Great British Bake Off’s Nadiya can’t redress that particular balance single handed. Not just yet.
But if we step back from our own insecurities and pride – even briefly – it is worth asking ourselves the question ‘What ARE we going to do about it?’
There’s a massive gap between that accusatory ‘you’ and the self-reflective ‘we’.
The ‘sort it out’ pill prescribed by the politicians and right-wing pundits is particularly bitter to swallow when those accused of and investigated for alleged wrongdoing are people we would consider role models or community leaders, people who have attained positions of influence and have become spokespeople for us – be it by desire or default.
And at a time when Britain’s Pakistani Muslim community is feeling particularly demonised and fearful of the inevitable tide of thinly-veiled Islamophobic reprisals – and especially considering the undeniably close-knit nature of many of our Asian communities – is it time for us to really look inwards?
There is much in this messy, fraught and nuanced global society of today that we have little immediate control over. But we are not by any means powerless.
Is it – to put it bluntly – time we put our own ‘ghar’ in order?
Surely re-claiming a problem – if one is found – is the only real way to find a solution to it?
Yes I know all the arguments about ‘can’t judge a whole community by the actions of a few’, and I have always agreed with them by and large.
After all, no-one asks every Catholic person they meet what they are going to do about the issue of paedophile priests.
And we all know not every middle aged white man who worked at the BBC in the 1970s was was a Jimmy Savile or a Rolf Harris.
And not every MP fiddles their expenses.
Yes, there is good and bad in every social group and community.
But like it or not, we are increasingly under the microscope, so let’s deal with it with intelligence and sophistication. We are very capable of both.
We are a proud community with iron-strong traditions, some of them beautiful, others not so much. We’re not different to any other large group in that sense.
And like it or not, our actions DO impact on each other.
Here’s a flavour of what one Asian Sunday reader – incensed at fresh (unproven) allegations against a leading politician from the Asian community – recently wrote in a letter to the editor:
“The Asian community worry about how (the actions of some within the community) will tarnish an entire community and perhaps religion. The English community already despise us for our antics, and it’s difficult to defend ourselves. We give the ammunition to the rest of the world and then wonder why we’re so disliked as a community. It sets us all back our progress doesn’t halt, it puts us back. Why does money blind us? Surely there are more important things in life?”
Emotive stuff, some of it perhaps misplaced, but certainly food for thought.
The creeping rise of Islamophobia in mainstream UK life can’t be denied.
And whilst we mustn’t fall into the traps being laid for us by people with vested interests in doing down our faith and our culture, a little bit of honesty and self-reflection would go a long way.
And it has to start, surely, with re-evaluating the kind of people we want to hold up to the rest of the world as beacons representing the best of us.
Here’s another thought: Let’s start -by stopping the use of ‘back home’ politics as a yardstick.
I have lost count of the number of times I have had heated debates with members of my own family and friends about their insistence on keeping tabs on the news in Pakistan or India – but they don’t know what’s going on in their own back yards.
If just a fraction of those people switched off Zee TV or Geo for a second and looked out of the window, we might see genuine social and political engagement filtering down en masse.
Let’s also stop looking to our religious leaders for all the answers all the time. They are not oracles. Not all of the world’s – and the community’s – issues can be solved from the scriptures or the pulpit.
What is necessary is an increase in safe, open arenas where honest discussions can be had without fear of offending the religious brigade or the PC brigade or attracting the attentions of overzealous Government surveillance and the ‘radicalisation-watchers’.
Our leaders – those really holding the purse strings – have to play their part. And they have to stop with the scaremongering, vote-swaying rhetoric that has become a creeping cancer in our society.
There are some people with Muslim names out there doing bad things.
There are many many more people NOT with Muslim and Asian names doing equally bad and often worse things.
Sometimes difficult conversations need to be had and we shouldn’t be afraid to have them. It’s the only way we can move on as a community, a society and a country.
We are all British and proud and we are all a host of other things.
Let us be the best of all our parts – but let us also cast off the shackles of the labels that often imprison us.
We might not have the answers yet, but damn it we can and will start asking the questions.