Pakistan

Friday, July 07, 2006

False Sense of Grievance

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair said, “if we want to defeat the extremism, we have got to defeat its ideas and we have got to address the completely false sense of grievance [among Muslims] against the West.” while delivering a virtual sermon to British Muslims. It is crucial to find out if there are any grounds for grievance among Muslims in United Kingdom (UK). Whether these grievances are based on facts or perceptions. There has been a long debate in the West about reasons of resentment and alienation among non-white migrants and particularly among Muslim youth since September 11. Therefore, it is vital to find out answers to this important debate, because, it will determine the policy direction of the West to manage this resentment and alienation.

Usually, levels of resentments in any community are a reflection of its economic, political, and social conditions. Communities which are economically well off are less likely to resent and show alienation to wider society. However, levels of resentment and alienation can be very high in disadvantaged communities living in ghettoes. This is why most of unrests find its roots in disadvantaged communities. Last year’s riots in France were among socially and economically disadvantaged migrant communities living in ghettoes.

The starting point of these riots was poor housing for migrant communities. Many innocent women and children died due to fires in rundown apartments. There were other reasons as well such as unemployment and discrimination. The German newspaper Berliner Zeitung, pointed out that, “as long as employers prefer to give jobs to applicants with French-sounding names, rather than to those whose names suggest Arab or black African parentage, social policies will be a dead letter”. Now it is time to ask if migrants in UK are in a better economic, political, and social conditions than their counterparts in France?

Migrants in UK are also a part of economically disadvantaged community. Most of the Muslims in UK are from second or third generation non-white migrants. They are also facing high levels of unemployment. This high unemployment translates itself into low levels of income, housing, health and education.

According to National Statistics UK, “unemployment rates for people from non-White ethnic groups were generally higher than those from White ethnic groups…Among men, those from Black Caribbean, Black African, Bangladeshi and Mixed ethnic groups had the highest unemployment rates (between 13 and 14 per cent). These rates were around three times the rates for White British and White Irish men (5 per cent in each case). The unemployment rates for Pakistani and Chinese men, 11 and 10 per cent, were around twice the rates for White British men or White Irish men” in 2004.

People from non-white background were more likely to live in low-income households. For example 68 per cent of the 1 million Pakistanis and Bangladeshis were living in low-income households after housing costs were deducted. Black Non-Caribbean households represented 49 per cent of such group. However, only 21 percent of white population was living among low-income households in 2000/01 according to National Statistics.

The critics of migrants and Muslims can turnaround and say this is their fault that they find themselves in such dire circumstances. But according to human rights point of view this is not the case. It is the duty of the wider community to make sure that minorities also enjoy same levels of employment and disposable income as their majority counterparts. A society in which minorities do not enjoy same standard of living cannot be regarded as an egalitarian society.

For example one can demand high standards from the legal profession of a society. When it come to its openness to offer employment to minorities. However, UK legal profession also failed to employ enough workers from minorities.

Law Society’s Equal Opportunities Committee’s Chairperson Caroline Herbert said due to racism among "sections of the legal profession … ethnic minority students continue to face a difficult task in obtaining training contracts and permanent positions at law firms … the last place in which it should be tolerated is the legal profession, where lawyers are charged to embody the principles of justice”, according to one of BBC reports. She commented on this issue back in 2003. Since then, is there any material change in the status of ethnic minorities in the legal profession of UK?

Non-white minority in UK is almost 7.9 percent of the population. If you look at the House of Commons or House of Lords then it is evident that they are under represented in both houses of the parliament. There are 646 members of House of Commons and numbers of members from non-white minority are extremely low. Muslims are 2.8 per cent of UK’s population that means if they are properly represented in the House of Commons then there should be around 19 Muslim MPs and there should be around 51 MPs from non-white minorities. However, only 15 members represent non-white minorities and out of those only 4 are Muslim.

The editor of the Muslim News paper, Ahmed Versi said, "Whilst welcoming the election of two more Muslim MPs, this reflects the lack of commitment by the three political parties to select Muslims in winnable seats,"

Here is another example of political marginalization this time by the British Prime Minister himself although this is not the first time he did this. It is an established tradition for the politicians in the West to say that he/she will work for the whole community rather than just for the people who voted for him/her. Blair Said, “I am probably not the person to go into the Muslim community... It's better that we mobilise the Islamic community itself to do this.” It is obvious that he is trying to exclude Muslims from his area of responsibility by saying that he cannot face Muslim community. Is he a Prime Minister for whole of UK’s population, which includes Muslims as well? If yes then why he cannot go and talk to people in Muslim community?

The former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has criticized Tony Blair while he was talking about integrating Muslim community into society. He said, “If I'm honest we haven't made enough progress. It's one of the great challenges of government…We never move fast enough. We have excellent initiatives, not soundbites, not some sort of spin, excellent initiatives…We're very poor at following them through.”

Apart from failing in integrating Muslim community into society Tony Blair also failed to improve educational outcomes for minorities. For example in case of admissions in universities minorities do not do well. Most of the elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge prefer students from private schools. It is obvious that minorities which are over represented in low income groups will not be able to afford high fees of private schools. As a result, young people from these minorities will not be able to join elite universities. University admissions have been a big political issue in UK in the past, because, there was a tendency among the universities to ignore students from minorities and disadvantaged socioeconomic background.

According to National Statistics, “In 2004 people from the Bangladeshi, Black Caribbean and Pakistani groups were less likely than White British people to have a degree (or equivalent). Among men, Bangladeshis and Black Caribbeans were the least likely to have a degree (11 per cent for each group). Among women, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis were the least likely to have a degree, 5 and 10 per cent respectively.”

Minorities are less likely to have better education but they are more likely to be searched by police. According to a report by the Home Office, "Forcewide, minority ethnic people were 1.9 times more likely than a white person to be searched, however this varies on the divisions,". The arrest rates show that 8.9 per cent of minority people and 8.7 per cent of white people were detained after search. It is clear from these figures that arrest rates after searches are almost identical then, why police searches more people from minorities? If minorities have high crime rates then there should be more arrests after searches. Apart from this, there have been many incidents of racial discrimination by the UK’s Police. Last year police killed a Brazilian man who was mistakenly suspected as a suicide bomber. Recently a man was shot by police but was released without any charges in terrorism related raid. These incidents have been widely criticized by human rights groups.

How to improve human rights of Muslims in UK? If Muslims in UK work hard and become successful even then the problem of discrimination will not be resolved. If we look into the history, Jews in Europe worked very hard and became very successful but did that success saved them from discrimination? We all know the answer to this. Jews used to be massacred in Europe from time to time and they used to seek refuge in Ottoman Empire inhabited by Muslims. The history of minorities is very heartbreaking all around the world, especially in the West. They have to suffer in all circumstances, because, the root cause lies in the discrimination by the majority. If minorities become successful then they are accused of being greedy and exploitative, and if they remain poor due to discrimination then they are labeled as lazy and welfare dependent. The main obstacle is discrimination by the majority. Once this obstacle is overcome then human rights situation of minorities improves.

The economic, political and social grievances among minorities in UK have wider implications for the West. There is a growing evidence of the rise of China and India in the future. On the other hand the West is likely to become less prosperous due to aging population and transfer of jobs to economies in Asia and other parts of the world. If these grievances cannot be resolved now, while the West is wealthier and stronger, then what will happen when the West will be much poorer and weaker? The history shows that in the time of economic difficulties racial tensions tend to rise. The West is busy criticizing other nations for human rights abuses, its time to look into its own backyard.

8 Comments:

  • ...and a public inquiry, an honest examination of the facts I believe would start to bring healing & trust post 7/7.

    Thanks for visting the blog

    By Blogger Rachel, at Saturday, July 08, 2006 3:55:00 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Rachel, at Saturday, July 08, 2006 3:55:00 PM  

  • Hi. Could I just say, I'm not sure you figures on 'arrests after search' bear the conclusion you draw from it. The fact that the arrest after search figures for white and non-white groups are almost exactly the same would seem to me to suggest that the police have got the number of people whom they search almost exactly right. Please think about it a bit more - if you want to delve deeper into the figures I'm happy to do so.

    It probably is the case that ethnic minorities have higher crime rates, (though not of all crimes - house burglaries, for instance, are overwhelmingly committed by young white men, usually on drugs of some kind). If this is true about ethnic minorities, then I would tend to attribute it to the kind of factors which you delineate - higher unemployment etc. However, I'm not convinced that these are the factors behind terrorist/militant attacks. There have been several high-profile cases of British Muslims getting involved in terrorism who were by no means of a deprived background. Two of them, for instance, went to private schools before attending my old university, the London School of Economics (which I must tell you isn't exactly the usual sign of someone born to poverty). They are Omar Sayeed Sheikh, who is currently doing a life sentence in a Pakistani jail for the murder of American-Israeli journalist Daniel Pearl; and a young man who travelled to Israel an attempted, unsuccessfully, to blow himself up in a Tel Aviv bar.

    If we look into the history, Jews in Europe worked very hard and became very successful but did that success saved them from discrimination? We all know the answer to this.

    Given that we are talking about the UK here, I would humbly suggest that discrimination against Jews does not exist here any more. If you have any examples to the contrary, I would appreciate if you would post them. I would also suggest that immigrant communities can make it here. You quote figures about unemployment and low educational achievement among Afro-Caribbean and Muslim communities; but did you know that children of Indian and Chinese backgrounds do better at school and university than white children? I'm not saying it's a bed of roses for immigrant communities. But maybe it's also worth mentioning that nations which are traditional countries of immigration, like the USA, tend to have a different approach to these matters, being more tolerant of the fact that immigrant communities are poorer when they first arrive, and expecting them to work their way up. And by the way, I don't accept the claim that the De Menezes shooting was an instance of racism. It was incompetence by 'PC Plod', and perhaps a bit of a cover-up afterwards. But they did actually think that someone who'd tried to blow up the Tube the day before was living in that house.

    It is obvious that he is trying to exclude Muslims from his area of responsibility by saying that he cannot face Muslim community. Is he a Prime Minister for whole of UK’s population, which includes Muslims as well? If yes then why he cannot go and talk to people in Muslim community?

    With all due respect, I would draw your attention to what happens when a British minister tries to do exactly that:

    http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,,1876868,00.html

    By Blogger Lopakhin, at Saturday, September 30, 2006 3:42:00 AM  

  • "There are 646 members of House of Commons and numbers of members from non-white minority are extremely low. Muslims are 2.8 per cent of UK’s population that means if they are properly represented in the House of Commons then there should be around 19 Muslim MPs and there should be around 51 MPs from non-white minorities. However, only 15 members represent non-white minorities and out of those only 4 are Muslim."

    There should also be about 330 women MPs. They've been waiting longer than immigrants for fair representation - since the dawn of time. Get in the queue, and make sure that half of Muslim candidates for public office are women.

    By Blogger Bob Doney, at Saturday, October 07, 2006 6:38:00 PM  

  • "Most of the elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge prefer students from private schools."

    Maybe you mean they take a disproporionately high number of private school people. True. But if you mean they actively seek out private school people over anyone else, that's either a lie or an ignorant statement. They select on merit.

    As to MPs, I'd second Bob Doney's point. Perfect representation should also mean we'd have one or two gay Muslim MPs as well, but we don't. That's just how politics plays out, and it's not exclusive to Parliament.

    You might also ask why most self-styled Muslim leaders and representatives are men (MCB, MPACUK etc.) - those groups don't like representation either.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, October 09, 2006 1:12:00 AM  

  • Wake up!

    There is no room for political or economic slavery in 21st century.

    Everyone deserves freedom and justice.

    By Blogger maakhter, at Monday, October 09, 2006 4:57:00 PM  

  • You say everyone deserves freedom and justice, but you also say "The West is busy criticizing other nations for human rights abuses, its time to look into its own backyard."

    Do you mean the west should do both? After all, a lot of people are helped away from slavery, theocratic law, murder, rape and so on because people from outside their countries make a fuss.

    And it's not just western governments, it's also groups like Amnesty International, people campaigning against the death sentence for Amina Lawal (as if what she was accused of should be a crime in the first place). So are you saying these people should just be left to the non-west? And what is the non-west? Should a developed country like Pakistan be able to put pressure on Nigeria for human rights abuses?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, October 22, 2006 8:36:00 AM  

  • You are a grievance-monger extraordinaire. A dull one at that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, October 29, 2006 9:57:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home