Thursday, January 20, 2011

Prejudice, Baroness Warsi and a trip down Rainbow Road

There's a big storm a brewing today on how prejudice against Muslims is now becoming the social first I assumed that 'Baroness Warsi' trending on Twitter meant that they'd brought out a new Supermario character. It turns out this is not the case.

I'm not really sure what I think of the subject. (Prejudice not Mario - I'm a huge fan of Mario) but strap yourselves in and let's find out...'s come to light that people aren't completely fair to Muslims. People are accepting of moderate intolerance towards other religions - particularly Islam.

I might be completely insane but I think I'm ok with that...? I don't think it's natural for different races to instantly bond - how can you bridge the gap between a total cultural divide instantly...? Should we not be stopping to be proud of the fact that the ethnic tension is limited to snide remarks across a dinner table and not resulting in mass murder and rioting?

Isn't it perfectly natural that Islam will take the hit as the least understood religion in the country as, for most people, it's been the only real source of war/terrorism/conflict in living memory? We need education not condemnation - but education takes longer so the condemnation is bound to exist in portions.

Besides which, anyone who has been to University will know that the Christians take a far bigger weight of mockery and disparaging tuts than any other religion. I believe they are only superseded by the drama students.

There's a tendency to think that all issues like this will escalate...can we not see this as quite a good step forward? That actually, although we're not 100% there, on the large scale, two cultures with a huge history of warring and misunderstanding are largely living together side by side?

I found it interesting earlier this week that during 'Big Fat Gypsy Weddings' one of the guys in it used the term 'Paki'. Instantly Twitter was aflame with how this was unacceptable, what the hell were channel 4 thinking broadcasting can this 'gypo' be so narrow minded?

Personally, I think it's a pretty cool thing that Twitter was in uproar - is it not great that one man says it and thousands are furious? Does this not mean that on the whole we are moving closer and closer to a society of acceptance and language that fails to alienate? The news report the next day does nothing to show how many people of how many different ethnic backgrounds were really uncomfortable with the idea. Perhaps it's a good thing that once in a while something like this slips through the net and we see the response of the populous?

As a country it would seem we're all sitting round the dinner table and slagging off Muslims over our roast beef and yorkshire puddings. Isn't this an entirely normal thing to happen?

Surely, if you're not a Muslim yourself (add Christian/Jewish etc etc as you will) it's because you don't 100% agree with their beliefs? If you thought a religious group were right in their thinkings and teachings you would join them. If you haven't, it's because you disagree...?

Cultural slagging off is slightly different...but the mass influx of ethnic minorities to this country only happened about 60 years ago. It took thousands of years for the counties of this country to stop's only been 70 years since the countries of the worlds stopped warring en masse - and that's not to say there's even anything like world peace when we're all behind our own why would we expect that within a mere 60 years we'd all be able to mingle with zero intolerance on the same street?

Can we please stop and praise the progress that has been made for racial integration? We didn't start from a point of perfection and regress - we're trying to work out an entire race's existence worth of differences.

When I first moved to London I moved in with Muslims. In my first week in the house I opened the microwave and found a tupperware box labelled 'goat'. I was grossed out by it. I immediately felt ashamed for being naive. I moved on. There's nothing unnatural about not being instantly cool about eating an animal I've never really considered food before. It's not cultural ignorance - it's instinct and a lack of exposure.

When I split up with my boyfriend whilst living in that same house, one of my Muslim housemates sat me down and explained that my ex's cheating was my fault - that I'd given him my body too early and that there was no real reason for him to stay with me after that. He gently explained that what I needed to do was to give up my job, get a husband and hurry up because at 23 I was getting on a bit.

I'd never been so insulted and furious and hurt and confused. But, who was wrong? Should I have accepted it's a valid point and changed? Should he have kept his opinions to himself and respected my cultural inheritance? Should I have phoned Jeremy Vine and told him about my housemate spreading hatred towards women at the foot of my bed?

What happened was I cried for a while, told him that was really quite an offensive thing to me, he apologised and we both moved on. We carried on living together. After that I understood he wouldn't really ever understand why a career is more important to me than a man and I never fathomed the hard wiring in his view of the world that meant women and men were completely different and incomparable.

Whilst I was home after Christmas my mother and I discussed the levels of ethnic minorities in this country. I found her view on 'them having their own aisles in the supermarket' almost amusing. Is this what religious tension has come down to?

There is one less aisle for cheap American crap because we've put some brown rice and jerk chicken out? Is halal meat taking up space for a white person's baby food? Gutted.

Personally, I'm proud to live in a country where it may not be perfect but there's the understanding that while your head might not have caught up, we know that religious tensions are wrong and, in the majority, we don't act on them. You can't control thoughts...they won't evolve quick enough to instantly comprehend the complexity of another person - but you can know that you want to.


  1. I don't necessarily believe that your views on progress are at odds with Baroness Warsi's views. I think both are valid and I don't think they cancel each other out. The level of racism and other assorted mad bigotries has decreased but I think she is right to focus on the bad. At the end of the day we shouldn't be happy with how things are, or satisfied; whilst there is still bigotry, idiocy etc. we need to stand up to it as forcefully as we can. I think that we can academically understand the progress but too often "we have made progress" can be translated as "Its OK to be X now so they don't need any extra protection/help etc." which I don't think is the case.

  2. I agree with your general point - that things could be a lot worse, and that we're not that bad as a country. It reminded me of Stewart Lee's bit on political correctness that things are better now than they were a couple of decades ago. I also agree with Guy. I do not agree with Nick at the moment, but that's another matter.

    One other thing: "Should we not be stopping to be proud of the fact that the ethnic tension is limited to snide remarks across a dinner table and not resulting in mass murder and rioting?"

    I feel that it's really not limited to this. Racially motivated crimes against Muslims seem to be on the increase. (

    The recorded crime stats ( show that "Racially or religiously aggravated harassment/public fear etc." and "Racially or religiously aggravated less serious wounding" have both gone up since 2000 (more than doubled in number). But you can prove anything with facts, especially as I'm not comparing them to population numbers.

  3. "as, for most people, it's been the only real source of war/terrorism/conflict in living memory?"


  4. A good interesting article Laura. It is nice to be in a country that while may not fully understand other cultures, we will do our best and for the most part accept differences without hate or violence. I look forward to reading more of this nature from you.

    Also I like Mario too (-:|3)