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
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