Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Discipline and assimilate!

From the pages of the Calcutta Telegraph comes a strange opinion piece with worrying undertones. Expressing wonderment at the British nation's sense of tolerance, 'discipline and assimilate your immigrants!' it seems to suggest. Full of strange phrases - 'host nations', 'Muslim settlers', 'indigenous British' - as if the thickly Yorkshire-accented British Muslims we've been seeing on TV everyday could never ever count as 'indigenous', even if they'd lived here for 3 generations.

More strangeness: 'It was not just the colour of their skin that ruled out complete assimilation, though that must have been a factor. More significantly, they carried within themselves an awareness of the self that is rooted in family, culture, lineage, everything that is bracketed under the label “genes”, bearing no relation to the sceptered isle to which their families migrated.' The bracketing of 'family, culture, lineage' under 'genes' is probably the oddest conflation of nature/nurture I have ever come across.

Most problematic of all: 'Compared to the provocation, British nationalists have uttered not a squeak. Perhaps the liberal conscience of Britain does now accept that south Asians born and bred there are part of the natural scene, and that their sins are the sins of society as a whole.' We can quibble about the empirical accuracy of this last observation, but if it were true, that would be something to be welcomed. The author's tone of incredulity through the rest of the article is deeply disturbing - he is either highly pessimistic about the prospects for civic nationalism and tolerance anywhere in the world, or simply a closet ethnic nationalist.

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