It’s been a terrific week for integration Britain. First the National Union of Students (NUS) elected what the BBC joyously headlined as its ‘First black Muslim woman president.’ Wahey! Another victory for diverse Britain. But amid the preliminary bunting some people still remembered that Malia Bouattia is principally known for two things: a reportedly extreme opposition to some things Jewish, and an equal opposition to measures which protect the country which gave her and her family sanctuary when they fled from Algeria. Ms Bouattia denies being an anti-Semite and insists she is, instead, simply anti-Zionist.
Of course expecting people to receive asylum in our country and then feel even slightly grateful for the fact must seem so patriarchal and twentieth century. The new deal seems to be that people flee some terrorist-destroyed hell-hole, arrive in the UK and then campaign against efforts to protect ourselves from terrorism. And people wonder why people’s hearts might be hardening towards not just migrants but to genuine refugees?
Ms Bouattia made her name in student politics with a ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ campaign. And it seems nobody ever gave her the simplest answer, which is, ‘I dunno. Maybe for the same reason that if you went to Algeria you might find it somewhat ‘black’.’ Of course it would probably be considered not just rude but racist for someone who found themselves in the unlikely situation of fleeing the UK to go and live in Algeria to start a campaign called ‘Why is my curriculum black?’ But maybe that’s because of the Crusades, or the British Empire or some other tired excuse of the new demagogues.
Anyhow, we have our ‘first black Muslim woman president’ of the NUS and now a grateful nation only has to make its way through the first non-binary President of the NUS, the first non-binary President of Muslim background of the NUS and so on. At any rate, perhaps somewhere around the end of the next century the NUS could get round to electing a vaguely conservative student? Or perhaps that’s the realm of science-fiction.
In any case, yesterday brought another great success story. Naz Shah got a fair amount of sympathy at the last election, primarily because of her story of a forced marriage to a cousin in Pakistan, but also for being insulted on the campaign trail by George Galloway. Now it turns out that the new Member of Parliament for Bradford West is a bit like the old one. Except this one seems even more virulent.
I noticed earlier this year from her appearance on an edition of the BBC’s The Big Questions that although she had suffered some of the harsher corners of Pakistani culture, Ms Shah was no moderate. And then yesterday morning the wholly unsurprising news emerged that she has spent recent years railing against the Jews and the State of Israel on social media. Specifically she seems to approve of a plan to remove all the Jews of the Middle East from Israel. If there is any irony to a Bradford Muslim telling the Jews of the Middle East to ‘go back to where they came from’ then it is clearly lost on Ms Shah.
Of course this is the same Ms Shah who sits on a Parliamentary Group investigating anti-Semitism. She has already issued the pro-forma statement stressing that in the wake of this unfortunate outing of her views she will be 'seeking to expand my existing engagement and dialogue with Jewish community organisations, and will be stepping up my efforts to combat all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism'. Yes - that's it! All that's needed is for Shah to 'fight' racism just that little bit harder. Hitherto she just hadn't been doing it quite enough. All she needs to do now is promise to crush 'all extremists' a little bit more and the sunlit uplands will be reached for all of us.
But she hails from a culture and a religion where anti-Semitism is rife. Why would you expect her not to hold some of the rancid views of that culture as well as some of the nicer bits? In any case, her attitudes have now proved so extreme that she has had to resign as John McDonnell’s PPS. Imagine how extreme you have to be to be too extreme for John McDonnell.
I say all this is a success for integration Britain, because every week brings up cases like this and nobody seems remotely willing to reflect on them. While people in senior jobs in public life turn out to be open and essentially unapologetic racists, we pretend that all that's needed for our country's future to be secure is to tweak the racism awareness lessons a bit more or make one more big push to 'smash' the fascists.
The mistake is far more basic. For decades, successive governments in Britain pretended that if you brought millions of people from other cultures into this country and gave them enough time plus all the provisions of the British state then before long they would be down the pub and failing to attend church like everyone else. For some time now it should have been clear that a great many people who come into our country have no such desire. They – and very often their children – have another set of ideas, a different attitude towards the purpose of life and an alternative view of what constitutes respected ‘authority’.
Of course as the ICM / Trevor Phillips poll the other week showed, a lot of Muslims in Britain like living in Britain. But the poll also showed they like it because they get the freedom to live the lives they want to live. Not British lives, but lives that are convenient for them. The question of how convenient or pleasant all this is for everyone else is naturally a question that is never asked.