The Bigger Picture: The City in the Global Village


A Culture of Democracy

And that should be the long and the short of our national identity: a culture of democracy. Of course, that includes the central value of tolerance. If all our ethnic communities, whether native or recent immigrant, tested their 'identities' and 'values' against the principles and values of democracy then we should have no problems, except those which our democratic processes can resolve.

It is when members of immigrant communities find rejection, rather than acceptance, that a third response is possible, and that is a nationalist one: to fall back on the national identity of their former homeland, and to regard themselves as foreigners in their adapted land. That's when problems arise.

However, ethnic identity in a new society is forged in contact with the host community and is not simply the identity with which immigrants arrived. Hence, such multi-bus identities as Black, Hispanic, Asian, Muslim develop. Thus 'former homeland' can become the wider Muslim world, or Africa.

It seems very odd that a British government should be fretting about ill-trained, rural mullahs arriving in Britain. A state which two centuries ago was able to see the political need to finance the training of Irish Catholic priests, despite the then diehard Protestant nature of the state, should surely not find itself in such a position. I ask out loud: How many Muslim theological seminaries are there in Britain, and what is the level of state funding?

There is no reason why Islam in Britain should not be a progressive force in the world of Islam, always provided that we grant it full and equal recognition as British Islam.