In the aftermath of 9/11, Western societies have been under the constant fear of foreigners coming into our country to carry out acts of terrorism. The London bombings of July 7th, 2005 changed the emphasis to a fear of home grown terrorists. One of the largest minority ethnic groups in the UK is the Asian community. Yorkshire was particularly badly affected, being the hometown of the 7/7 bombers. Beeston, a tiny and up until that point, little known area of Leeds came to be in the spotlight of a worldwide audience as the place where some of the bombers lived and worked.
The Asian community came under immediate physical and psychological attack with Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims all being targeted. On the 8 July 2005, newspaper headlines screamed messages like ‘The threat from within’ and ‘Murdering Bastards’
Up until that point the British Muslim communities had been reeling from a number of incidents which had started with the protests against Salman Rushdie in the late 80’s. It was the first time in my life-time that this community had gone so public with its views on any matter.
Since then, we have had a whole range of other political issues to contend with like the national and international debates about the veil, high profile Employment Tribunal cases. Coupled with a huge agenda built around issues of ‘Britishness’ and Multi-culturalism.
As residents and stakeholders of the UK we know our society didn’t implode after 7/7 and there were more attempts to build bridges across all faiths. Brilliant organisations like Together for Peace were created. People rallied together with the different communities in the UK and took up the challenge to ensure that British people of all races, beliefs and cultures pulled together.
Over the last 50 years, immigrants from our diverse ethnic minority communities helped build successful regional and national economies. Those communities whose roots and entrepreneurship are now firmly embedded in British society are so important today that without them, Britain would come to a standstill – literally. The transport system would collapse, as would the NHS. Businesses would close and massive numbers of jobs would be lost.
By all accounts we are going to be embroiled in a recession in 2009 if we are not already. We will have to draw upon all our available resources to get through. The phrase “The human resource is the most important resource” has become a clichÃƒÂ© but it is a fact that never was a truer phrase used. People from all our communities will help us to get through this recession. Diversity needs to be a higher priority not a lower one. To get through this recession it’s going to mean that all our people from all our different communities in the UK with their diverse talents, skills, abilities, enterprise, know-how and experiences has to be harnessed. This is the time and opportunity for us to pull together. We are all in it together and that’s how we will come out of it – together.
‘Brits’ of all ethnic origins, religions and backgrounds are a tolerant people but there is a real challenge to get the ordinary good folk of this country to understand that multi-culturalism and diversity are truly essential factors to economic success and the growth of an international community.