Britain used to ask Muslims to maneuver right here. What occurred to us? | Diana Darke | Opinion


In the present local weather of Islamophobia, I ponder what number of British persons are conscious of a collection of movies made within the early 1960s, which have been expressly designed to encourage folks from Arab nations to come back to Britain to work or research. The 4 movies, all in Arabic, have been made on behalf of the International Workplace, and all start with a mosque skyline and melodic chants of “Allahu Akbar”, the beginning of the Muslim name to prayer. They’re unapologetically spiritual, keen to point out Arabic-speaking Muslims how welcoming Britain is, how Islamic establishments exist in Britain to cater to their cultural and non secular traditions, as a pleasant dwelling from dwelling.

Two of the 4 movies are set in London, one in Manchester, the opposite in Cardiff. The cheerful Egyptian presenter drives from place to put in his Ford Anglia, interviewing native Muslims of their mosques, their workplaces and their houses. Most people we’re launched to are males, however a handful are ladies, together with a Christian convert to Islam, now the proud mom of 10 youngsters, after 16 years of marriage to a Yemeni man in Cardiff. The presenter cuts to the mayor of Cardiff to ask how the Muslim group has built-in. “Very properly,” she replies, “they’re an integral a part of town. They’re accepted as associates amongst the remainder of the group.”

The presenter of Moslems in Britain with the mayor of Cardiff.



The presenter of Moslems in Britain with the mayor of Cardiff. {Photograph}: BFI

In London the presenter does a tour of town’s universities, together with Soas and the London Faculty of Economics, the place an Iraqi scholar marvels that his expertise is like dwelling in “a world society”. The British authorities reveals “an curiosity in widening cultural boundaries” that he has noticed over the 5 years he has lived in London.

On the Saudi Arabia embassy a Saudi official describes the British folks as “well mannered and affected person, with such an enormous respect for order as to make it virtually sacred”. A scholar on the Islamic Cultural Centre by Regent’s Park explains that King George VI gave this land to the Muslim group in 1944, and {that a} mosque can be constructed there as soon as the group has gathered sufficient donations.

In Manchester, typically dubbed the “Cosmopolitan Cottonopolis”, the presenter enthuses concerning the metropolis as “one of many largest buying and selling centres on the earth”, the place commerce runs in folks’s veins. Footage reveals folks at prayer inside mosques, and younger youngsters being taught the Qur’an, earlier than shifting on to a library the place the presenter is allowed to show the pages of the “largest written model of the Holy Qur’an on the earth”. Seated on a park bench, an aged native Englishman tells him: “My father’s physician, even 30 years in the past, got here from Iraq. They’ve at all times been with us.” Subsequent comes a Yemeni halal butcher who discovered his expertise in Liverpool, and a rich Syrian businessman in Manchester’s cotton commerce. To this present day, the overwhelming majority of Manchester’s 5,000-strong Syrian group is concerned within the textile business, particularly in cotton and yarn.

The Manchester episode of Moslems in Britain.



The Manchester episode of Moslems in Britain. {Photograph}: BFI

The movies have been designed solely for displaying overseas and have been most likely by no means seen within the UK on the time. The explanation I learn about them is as a result of a Syrian cotton service provider I interviewed in Manchester despatched me the hyperlink to them. I watched them as a part of the analysis for my e book a couple of textile service provider from Homs who got here to Bradford within the early 1980s as an financial migrant, purchased a failing mill and constructed up a world commerce in broadcloth whereas different Yorkshire mills closed down.

But regardless of such success tales, at present greater than a 3rd of the UK inhabitants believes Islam is a menace to the British lifestyle, based on a report by the anti-fascist group Hope not Hate. Islamophobia in 2018, based on their findings, changed immigration as the primary issue behind the rise of the far proper. As well as, half of Brexit voters within the 2016 referendum and almost half of Conservative voters within the 2017 common election mentioned that Islam was not suitable with Britishness.

What went so unsuitable? It could be straightforward to put the blame solely on the door of Isis and its terrorist acts. However the “hostile atmosphere” presided over by Theresa Could and David Cameron since 2010, years earlier than Isis declared its caliphate in Raqqa in 2014, additionally has a lot to reply for. The 1960s movies have been produced within the interval following the Suez disaster, as a part of an initiative to enhance strained relations between Britain and the Arabic-speaking world. If the British authorities’s coverage since 2010 had been to create an inclusive, multicultural society reasonably than a hostile, nationalistic one, a lot of at present’s political and societal dilemmas might need been averted.

Diana Darke is a Syria specialist and a Center East cultural knowledgeable. Her newest e book is The Service provider of Syria



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