Diaspora


by Leon
22nd June, 2006 at 4:21 pm    

Simon Woolley’s article over at Comment Is Free has provoked some typical responses. Perhaps the failing of the article lays in the lack of context for some people? The word Diaspora is one that should be applied here, the article (whether you agree with the sentiment regarding black footballers) explores one facet of a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) persons identity; their origins outside Britain.

Simon writes;

“As much of the world rightly enjoys the drama of the beautiful game, for me and many others around the globe a parallel story is unfolding: one that has its roots in slavery, colonialism, imperialism and survival. A story like no other, which unites millions of descendents of Africa in one supreme global moment: the World Cup.

The tournament began with 32 countries from six continents. Astonishingly, 22 of those countries, including Japan, Iran and Switzerland, have players of African descent. The raw data, however, cannot begin to tell the socio-political and human journey of so many of Africa’s peoples.” [The Guardian]

Of course not everyone views football within the context of an African Diaspora but virtually all football supporters exhibit some form of tribalism. Why is ok for British ex-pats to continue to support various British teams while living in Spain or Australia but not a black man to feel a connection with those he shares his ancestry?

To be honest, for me, the concept of Diaspora is rather complex one. I’m mixed race so my “loyalties” lay more with the people I know and the country I grew up in (I have the luxury of being able to pick and choose which cultures I draw inspiration from). I consider myself a global citizen as much as I consider myself a Londoner or Brit! But I recognise someone’s identity can be formed differently from me without it being a threat.

What is your identity made up of and which parts do you emphasise and why? Do you feel a connection to one Diaspora or another or are you content with simply being British?


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  1. kraziedude — on 22nd June, 2006 at 4:44 pm  

    I think Leon really sums up my sentiments about the article.
    “the article…. explores one facet of a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) persons identity;”

  2. Kismet Hardy — on 22nd June, 2006 at 4:51 pm  

    i fucking hate the word diaspora

  3. Kismet Hardy — on 22nd June, 2006 at 4:53 pm  

    Would you live-as-richer or diaspora?

    i don’t care if no one gets it. But my apologies to those who do

    isn’t diaspora meant to be Jewish or sommat?

  4. Vladimir — on 22nd June, 2006 at 4:57 pm  

    What interested me about the article was the fact, he ignored the lack of black managers! Shouldn’t it worry us? Also there have only been two black managers in the Premiership too, Rudd Gullit and Jean Tigana. I usually support the team that plays the most exciting and entertaining football, I have no allegiances

  5. contrarymary — on 22nd June, 2006 at 5:48 pm  

    the whole British culture debate is quite interesting in light of the world cup. how many of us would say that we felt ‘English’?
    Leon you say you’re Londoner and British. I too feel more British than English. But happily cheer on England at any given opportunity.
    What is British identity, when in actual fact we have an English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish, football teams.

    I think that British identity is confused – and such a nebulous concept – because many people in this country would identify themselves as English, Scottish, Welsh. which makes it nigh impossible for immigrants to pass a citizenship test on Britishness. most of the indigenous and native population would fail it too.

    what the bloody hell is Britishness?

  6. Johnny — on 22nd June, 2006 at 6:33 pm  

    This is just another nail in the coffin of the old multiculturalist propaganda that stated that immigrants of other races, etc, would be as loyal as natives. This is a complete myth. Blood is thicker than water … or your passport.

  7. katy newton — on 22nd June, 2006 at 7:02 pm  

    Kismet, technically it refers to the dispersal of the Jewish people out of Israel after the fall of the second Temple.

    ps nice pun.

  8. writer wallah — on 22nd June, 2006 at 7:50 pm  

    Come on Ghana!!!

    Look at it this way, we’re all from Africa anyways: origin of the human species and all. And if you’re brown and don’t agree with this, well, the Indian continent is from Africa anyways, so again, we’re African by descent – long time ago given, but still, that’s the way the story goes.

    Also nationality is a socially constructed thing. For example, the colonies of America started as a collection of Europeans from all over Europe who over time gained a sense of identity – American – and thus rebelled against the British. Same too for the former African colonies. There were a copious amount of tribal groups in Africa, but then came along a number of Europeans and redrew Africa. People from different groups were clumped together and subsequently formed a sense of identity and again rebelled against Britain.

    I agree with you leon, things get messy when you try and categorise yourself. It ain’t all bad as I suppose it gives one a sense of identity and belonging, but I much prefer to see myself as a person of the world as opposed to a British Asian, although I am proud of both being British born with roots in India.

    Good article leon.

  9. Douglas Clark — on 23rd June, 2006 at 1:08 am  

    Leon,

    Interesting article. I kind of think that supporting a football team is clannish. But multicultural, sort of. I’m not aware: Millwall, Rangers and Celtic excepted, that there is any sort of pre-condition applied to supporters. If you want to support a team, and you shout at the right points in a game, you are a supporter. Don’t matter where you came from, how big a crook you might be, or anything. You are one of ‘us’.

    It goes without saying that fans will back anyone who plays for their team, as support for the team over-rides any other considerations.

    I think this is a good thing. If the Swiss and the Japanese can shout on an African footballer playing for their country then their capacity for prejudice, it seems to me, is diminished. Closer to home, England play with several black players, and the fact that they are judged as players irrespective of their origins is also good.

    writer wallah is right however, at the end (or should I say, at the beginning) of the day we are all Africans!

  10. Roger — on 23rd June, 2006 at 9:20 am  

    It’s worth remembering that diaspora originally referred to people who were forcibly exiled. Members of a diaspora- or people who think of themselves as such- tend to have the psychology of exiles- emigrants rather than immigrants.
    As for supporting teams, I never passed the Tebbitt test even though I’m English-born with English ancestry as far back as I can remember. I don’t want england to win the World cup, partly because I don’t like the way they play, mainly because having to listen to england football fans for the next few years if they do win would be unbearable. i watch football because it’s a beautiful game and because I can’t play it any more. I don’t give a twopenny damn what colour shirt someone wears or which flag they flap.

  11. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 12:26 pm  

    :-) well said Roger. In any case, perhaps if people felt that ‘british’ was an overarching inclusive term ( in the way it attemped to ‘include’ english, welsh, scottish and irish identities’) then maybe there wouldn’t be an issue of ‘competing’ loyalties.

    Still as long as we maintain ‘competitive’ nation-states rather than collaborative forms of social organization this competing loyalties business will carry on and on. ( for example, we don’t view the london borough of southwark as inherently competing or conflicting with the london borough of redbridge say. but we do view a nation-state e.g. the United Kingdom of Great Britian and Northern Ireland as somehow competing with some other nation-state.)

  12. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 12:27 pm  

    Of course, that’s a bit too subtle for a lot of people who simply want to shout unpleasant things at someone else and for whom social boundaries are a convenient fact of life.

  13. Leon — on 23rd June, 2006 at 5:03 pm  

    “mainly because having to listen to england football fans for the next few years if they do win would be unbearable.”

    Hahah! Very true!

  14. Leon — on 23rd June, 2006 at 5:14 pm  

    “Members of a diaspora- or people who think of themselves as such- tend to have the psychology of exiles- emigrants rather than immigrants.”

    I’m not sure I understand this. There’s a difference between immigration and forced displacement (which typically lies at the heart of a Diaspora). Broadly speaking I would argue that the term has evolved with many people identifying with it beyond it’s technical meaning. It’s this area I’m most interested in; where do you come from, how much emphasis do you give to your roots etc? And how is that reconcilled with your current location?

    @Sonia, point taken but the issue of roots ['n'culture] would exist whether we had nation states or free roaming anarchist communes! The tribalism I spoke of in the piece is part of human beings long and bloody history and in my view would come out no matter what societal make up we had.

  15. Roger — on 23rd June, 2006 at 5:35 pm  

    Everyone who changes the place they live regards themselves as both an emigrant and an immigrant. I think that the identification which dominates their outlook affects their attitude- if they identify as someone who left- especially as someone who was forced out which is what a dispora means- they will identify with their nation of origin more and so may their children. I noticed it with Poles and other east Europeans especially and the Irish were famous for remaining- or being made to remain- Irish no matter how many generations they’d lived in Britain.
    A survey has found that British muslims are much more hostile to “the west” than other muslims living in the west. i wonder if this is because they still identify with their origins more than muslims in other countries. One aspect of cheap fast travel and the ‘net is that it’s far easier to remain psychologically in a different country to the one tou actually live and work in than it nused to be.

  16. Arif — on 23rd June, 2006 at 6:20 pm  

    Roger, it is an interesting theory, but I have another based merely on my own experiences and wonder whether it can make any sense to you.

    Most young British Muslims I know are less hostile to “the west” in culural terms than their parents. But they are likely to be more politically hostile.

    Back in Pakistan (I can’t speak for other countries so much), the culture in the towns is much more westernised than my subculture as a British Muslim. So if anything experience of travel and interaction with people there is likely to loosen hostility to western cultural life, or increase identity confusion.

    The growing identification with Islam is more a result of attachment to a sense that they are human beings. When feeling their humanity is being attacked and degraded because of one part of their identity, some may try to lose that identity, but some people try to defend it. Not too long ago there was a lot more solidarity between British Asians from different religions, because we were all degraded as “Pakis”. Now there is more solidarity with other Muslims because it is this aspect of our identity we feel is most under attack.

    The perceived attack is mediated less by culture (which has become much more liberal) and more by politics (you know the lengthening list of countries attacked, occupied or whose vicious dictartors are supported by western governments which are cited by the radicals as proof of a western campaign of genocide). And so the hostility is more on a political level.

    You may think they have misinterpreted the intentions of western governments and that they are being oversensitive. But the identification which underlies this attitude is more an identification with being human with the right not be brutalised and occupied than anything else.

    Just as we are told “We Are All Americans Now” after a massive terrorist attack against innocent Americans. Muslims also feel (albeit selective) sympathy for the Lebanese, Palestinians, Chechens, Iranians, Kashmiri Muslims, etc etc. The fact that others feel relatively unmoved can transform sadness into anger as we feel our lives are worth less.

    Please note, this is not offered as a justification, it is an explanation I have developed to understand what I see happening around me. I think the fact that British Muslims are trying to defend their identities (rather than repressing them) is a tribute to the freedoms available in the UK and high expectations of social equality that we have been taught here. Sadly, anger, righteous or not, can be destructive of good things as well as bad.

  17. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 11:32 pm  

    yes leon, in the same way if you’re british that’s got nothing to do with the fact that you may be into one kind of music or another which contributes to your identity. say if you’re a Goth..and there could be punks..the point is of course people will have different ‘identities/belonging/influences’ whatever, but no-one posits that as a ‘threatening’ difference, perhaps it’s to do with the detachment from the political sphere. Conflating identity and socio-political organization isn’t automatic.

  18. sonia — on 23rd June, 2006 at 11:38 pm  

    “Back in Pakistan (I can’t speak for other countries so much), the culture in the towns is much more westernised than my subculture as a British Muslim.”

    That’s an interesting observation. I have to say that’s one thing that struck me too – quite a few pockets of asian sub-cultures here were more conservative than those you could observe in cities across the indian sub-continent.

  19. El Cid — on 23rd June, 2006 at 11:42 pm  

    I like the word diaspora, especially when it’s spelt with a small ‘d’, unless it’s at the start of a sentence or is someone’s name or a country or maybe a title… am I going off at a tangent?
    Now where was i?
    Ah yes, the diaspora, meaning the scattered or the dispersed. I think it’s origins are in Jewish history.
    I stand corrected after a quick Wikipedia burst — Greek and then most commonly applied to the Jews after they were expelled or enslaved by the Baylonians and by the Romans. See, it really started long before Balfour!
    It is a word — arguably a metaphor — that refers to any tribe scattered far and wide. I have heard it used in the context of the Lebanese, Galicians, and or course, Indians. However, in the context of the Afro-Caribbean community it is more than just a word but a political concept, such is the size of the TransAtlantic chasm created by the African holocaust of slavery and its aftermath. I feel it is more of a quest for a common identity.
    Leon, when you ask “Why is (it) ok for British ex-pats to continue to support various British teams while living in Spain or Australia but not a black man to feel a connection with those he shares his ancestry?”
    Two things spring to mind: 1) each to their own 2) on the other hand, that’s hardly a fair comparison. I mean, if you replaced ex-pats with, say, white yankees or Australians then I’d get the analogy. There are quite a few generations difference after all.
    Still, your central question, who does one identify with — a question second and third-generation immigrants of all creeds have to grapple with. It’s a less tricky question for first-generation immigrants, I find. Again, I say each to their own. It’s not something you can force on people (insisting people speak English is a different, more practical matter). What I would say, is that I can’t but help feel proud if I walk around North London and I see a lot of West Indians, West Africans, Somalians, Albanians, Pakistanis, Latinos, Greeks, Indians, Algerians, etc wearing an England top or hat. I like that sense of common bonding that supercedes race, but that’s just me. Jumpers for goalposts and all that.
    That’s why I’m a Londoner first (unless you’re Chelsea — only joking Vik, not).
    That said, I’m supporting both Spain and England in the WC. If they play each other, I can’t lose. And I would support Aregentina vs Brazil, coz I identify more with the former, being a Spanish rather than Portuguese speaker. And yes, Maradona was better than Pele.

  20. El Cid — on 23rd June, 2006 at 11:47 pm  

    Great post Arif btw

  21. Roger — on 24th June, 2006 at 7:59 am  

    One aspect of islam in England is that many muslims actually came as communities: the Lancashire and Yorkshire mills tended to employ people from the same district and even village. This would create a much more specific identity among the children and a much more specific sense of threat from outsiders precisely because there were so many outsiders. I think that comparing cities in Pakistan and English muslim communities isn’t a good analogy: immigration to England was part of the same world-wide move to cities that has happened over the last few centuries: in the case of most people from India and Pakistan who went to England they were more isolated linguistically, racially and culturally from the surrounding communities than they would have been and so clung more tightly to their original identity [the custom of importing wives and husbands from the original homeland would help here]. The result was that as they began to identify as muslims in Britain rather than as people from somewhere the identity took a defensive and hostile form. There’s also the fact that a specific islamic- or any other- identity in a small population can probably only be retained if the people who so identify- regard the rest of the country with hostility.

  22. Katy Newton — on 24th June, 2006 at 10:36 am  

    I found what Arif said about Pakistani towns being more Westernised than English Muslim groups very interesting because it’s the same in Judaism. Jews outside of Israel tend to be fairly westernised, but they also tend to identify very strongly with the concept of Diaspora, whereas Jews within Israel are almost contemptuous of it. They see Diaspora customs as having served their purpose in keeping Jews together historically, but as now being outmoded, or at least I think that’s how they see it.

    I went to Hebrew classes a while ago. Ivrit (the colloquial Hebrew spoken in Israel) is pronounced very differently to Hebrew as it was taught to my parents’ generation in Europe, and if anyone slipped into Ashkenazi (European) pronunciation, the teacher, who was Israeli, would immediately say, “No oy sounds, that’s Diaspora”, with real scorn.

  23. writer wallah — on 24th June, 2006 at 12:53 pm  

    Well observed Arif.

    The same can be said of Indians. While most of India has considerably moved on culturally since Indians first began leaving the shores in the middle of the twentieth century (give or take a few years), those who settled in the UK – first/second/third generations – stringently held onto the values and traditions and passed them on. Of course this was natural, a collective mentality and a sense of belonging, security and community, but what it does mean is that in some ways British Asians are more “fresh” – i.e. old-fashioned and stuck in their outdated views – than those back in India.

    It is a popular misconception that India is not as modern as it is. Sure it stil has problems – notably aids, the huge poverty line and the ever growing rich/poor divide – but it is culturally vibrant.

    Back home in the UK, especially in heavily saturated asian communities, asians are living in days long gone.

    Arah yaar ve are so fresh.

  24. Cisoux — on 24th June, 2006 at 1:32 pm  

    Arif

    The Muslim ‘anger’ and ‘fear’ in Britain is self created and self perpetuating. In 1989 Muslims rioted and came out with the same arguments about how the world was persecuting them and the West is evil blah blah blah in the whole Satanic Verses affair. The same arguments were used as were being used now. This is a type of psychosis and deeply ingrained persecution complex that turns bullying aggression into victimhood. And in turn, it makes other people angry.

    Watch it in full effect, the ultimate and inevitable endgame of this psychosis, in todays Guardian:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/attackonlondon/story/0,,1804930,00.html

    Saddest detail of it for me – the young black teenager who was murdered by a street gang of which the suicide bomber was a part because he ‘insulted Islam’

    How many more of these cells and psychopaths are fermenting and plotting in our cities? All under the rubric of ‘anger’ and ‘fear’ that is all self created and self perpetuating and turns bullying aggression into victimhood.

  25. Sid — on 24th June, 2006 at 3:03 pm  

    Arif, thoughtful and frank comments like that are always welcome in this frazzled discussion.

  26. Desi Italiana — on 24th June, 2006 at 8:49 pm  

    “What is your identity made up of and which parts do you emphasise and why? Do you feel a connection to one Diaspora or another or are you content with simply being British?”

    Interesting discussion going on here. I’ll offer an Indian American perspective, since I’m an American Desi.

    In my youth, I used to ponder what my identity was made up of and which parts are emphasized. But now in my late 20′s, and having lived and travelled abroad, I’ve realized that my American and Desi identities are not so easily extricable from one another. And what’s more, my experiences living in a different country have shaped me too. All these influences seep into my identity and assert themselves more than the others depending on the situation and context. In the end, it is impossible to draw a cut and dry line between all these multiple identities that make up who I am and allocate them to specific compartments; ie I’m more of an American when I go vote, I’m more of a Desi when it comes to cultural and religious matters and so on. This is not feasible.

    Another thing that someone hasn’t mentioned yet when one speaks of diasporan identities: class. Here in America, if you’re a wealthy, well-to- do diasporan, your diasporan identity differs from those diasporans of a lower socio-economic stratum. Of course, it’s not so simple as this, but I think in general, class also defines your relationship to your diasporan identity. For the rich ABDs, the Diaspora is the successful NRI who can afford to take trips back home often and partake in middle/upper middle class indulgences, ie going to a Desi fashion shows, buying lots of jewelry, etc.
    Class also affects how a diasporan relates and situates him/herself in their diasporic location. Again, the upper middle class Desi doesn’t find too many things wrong with their diasporic country, whereas the others do. Point in case: wealthy ABD’s as fervent devotees to the free market ideology and capitalism, whereas the Desis who are taxi drivers hardly agree with many of their host country’s policies.

    Sorry for the long post.

  27. Arif — on 26th June, 2006 at 11:06 am  

    Roger, I agree that the coming “from the same district even village” is a fact, but it doesn’t have the consequence you want to ascribe. The villages they come from are very unlikely to stress Islamic identity. The village memory seems to me to have more impact on the imaginations of the older generations than the younger ones, who now usually identify at last as much with Bradford or Luton or wherever they have grown up themselves.

    I accept the identity can be strong, and there remains cultural differences between communities from different parts of the Subcontient – but this isn’t connected to Islamic identity as far as I can tell. It may be connected to anti-police protests or protests against visits from visiting politicians from time to time, but that is very different from a terrorist agenda.

    I understand that you find the Islamic identity is threatening and want to get to the bottom of it. And perhaps you also feel threatened by every other religion which is brought over with immigrants who maintain connections from their former homelands, so this theory may have wide application which gives it credibility to you, and so you may be able to persuade me if you can show its wide application.

    But the most aggressive and dogmatic strains of Islam which I believe actually are threatening, tend to attract younger Muslims to come together from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds – and from my experience – their identities refers far more to an imagined future or a medieval past, with hardly any reference to home villages, except perhaps in a condescending way.

    Cisoux, by arguing that Muslim anger is self-created and self-perpetuating, I guess you mean that there is no excuse for it. And I assume you believe any anger you have about Muslims would equally be self-created and self-perpetuating and cannot be excused. I also would not excuse it, but my way of challenging it is different to yours.

    Because I believe from what you say that your anger does have an explanation, based on how you perceive Muslims to act in a psychopathic manner which cloaks aggression under a cloak of victimhood.

    And I believe that angry Muslims have similar perceptions of those who justify or deny certain oppressions of Muslims.

    I consider this a beginning of understanding what might be going on, and you consider it the beginning of psychosis, so I also understand why you will resist any invitation to empathise in this way.

  28. sonia — on 26th June, 2006 at 11:50 am  

    Roger’s got a very good point in post #21. writer wallah – #23 spot on. in india you can see a huge range of attitudes and mores ranging from very conservative to very ‘westernized’ if you want to call it that, i would say non-conservative.

    Katy – that’s very interesting as well. It kind of reminds me of the whole difference between how Arabic is pronounced by South Asians or non-Arabs generally. here are all these people who believe as muslims they’re doing a good job learning arabic and all that stuff and little knowing they carry on teaching all this mispronunciation which the Arabs when they find out about are horrified about and keep on going about how the rest of us have messed up their language ;-)

    Desi italiana has touched on a very valid point that i haven’t heard much of here on PP – ‘class’ – “Here in America, if you’re a wealthy, well-to- do diasporan, your diasporan identity differs from those diasporans of a lower socio-economic stratum”. Same here too i’d say. there are clearly big gaps between upper middle class ‘desis’ here and say folks living in some council estate who at the end of the day have a lot in common with e.g. white and other working class groups ( though they may not all acknowledge this!)

    I think Arif’s also got a good point about the younger Muslims who’ve been ‘fired up’ – “But the most aggressive and dogmatic strains of Islam which I believe actually are threatening, tend to attract younger Muslims to come together from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds -….”

  29. Roger — on 27th June, 2006 at 9:23 am  

    I don’t feel threatened by every religion which is brought over with immigrants, Arif. I feel threatened by every religion.
    I agree that the common communal background of many children of immigrants wouldn’t necessarily stress muslim identity ['though an identity that is built into everyday customs and behaviour doesn't need stressing formally], but when they begin to identify themselves primarily as muslims it would affect the way they identied and the kind of islam they identified with. Members of a community which perceives itself as small and surrounded by enemies or strangers will retain the same charcteristics, I think, even if their focus of identity changes.

  30. sonia — on 27th June, 2006 at 10:31 am  

    well then! maybe not making them feel like strangers would help!

  31. Desi Italiana — on 27th June, 2006 at 11:11 am  

    Wow– I feel like I walked unexpectedly into a conversation where everybody is deeply engrossed and passionately discussing things that I don’t know much about.

    Judging from the few threads that I’ve looked over here on PP (I’m a newcomer), it seems as if British society is heavily saturated by the politics of religious identity.

    Or is it?

    I am not personally familiar with British society and my knowledge of it is fairly limited (scholary works), so I may be wrong, but could it be that many other aspects factor into British society and the identities of immigrants and their children? Class, for instance? Politics? Foreign policy? Society? It seems to me that everyone here is placing a tremendous and overwhelming emphasis on religious identity, when there could be other factors, processes and dynamics that play into the formation of identities, not solely relgious markers.

    I do realize that the current discursive framework/narrative is largely built on religion, immigrants, and their identity. Foucault, for example, points out that the marginalized often speak in the very language of the dominant actors (politicians, mass media, etc). So I can understand that people feel impelled to use that language and the entailing concepts involved in order to address issues, dispell and clarify misconceptions and so on. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is helpful, or even that the constructed framework is accurate or truthful (here I am talking about the concepts of “Islamic fundamentalism”, the “war on terror”, etc).

    I don’t know, I may be wrong, seeing that I am not British, my own views are colored by the fact that I’m an American Desi with considerable time spent abroad and I am just working off the few threads that I’ve read.

    Help.Me.Understand.

  32. Kismet Hardy — on 27th June, 2006 at 11:20 am  

    Desi Italiana,

    As a keen reader of Popper, Russell, Heideggar and Shaver Raver, I think I’m best qualified to explain the world of British politics to you.

    America wants to run the world. They have a policy called Project For The New American Century, which is akin to a religious crusade designed to wipe out non-believers of democracy, consumerism and Nike. The British government know that if they don’t build aircrafts and submarines to help them kill these people, America won’t give them any money and possibly even impose sanctions by starving us of ER, 24 and Lost.

    The Asians who feel strongly against this are insurgents, the ones that want to be seen as British are seen as poodles.

    Interestingly, page 76 of this month’s Hot Horny Wives features a rather flattering picture of my mother striding a trident, which I think is an image that you might want to take to bed with you tonight

  33. sonia — on 27th June, 2006 at 11:27 am  

    kismet you are a funny one. :-)

    ..”which is akin to a religious crusade designed to wipe out non-believers of democracy” aka themselves.

  34. sonia — on 27th June, 2006 at 11:28 am  

    heh heh i was saying to someone if anyone came by reading this forum and hadn’t much idea of britain they’d think everything was all segregated and you only saw young asian girls in saris floating around not spending a lot of their time money and effort on that wonderful idea – shopping. fitting right in – oh no.

  35. sonia — on 27th June, 2006 at 11:51 am  

    I’m not really sure why everyone keeps assuming only British people read this site. Sure it’s aimed at ‘home country’ but still! Or is it that only the views of British citizens are wanted? I’ve refrained from posting a ‘reply’ to the ‘question’ partly for that reason – but then i thought – ah. interestingly i was reading Leighton Cooke’s post – England – whose england? and he mentioned Patroclus’s post on ‘England, their England’ and they really resonated with my own experiences. As a person who’s always been an expat, i’ve always been somewhat rootless and equally at ‘home’ anywhere and have had to learn to fit in everywhere. and interestingly, it’s when you go to the one place you’re ‘supposed’ to be from – for me Bangladesh – people there always say how unlike them you are, how you’re a ‘foreigner’. :-) i lived there for two years, had a brilliant time, and i’ve learnt to not let get people’s ‘oh you don’t belong here’ type comments get to me. After all – if you don’t belong anywhere, it’s easier to feel you belong everywhere. ( even though others don’t accept that – but that’s their loss..)

  36. Jai — on 27th June, 2006 at 12:12 pm  

    Desi Italiana,

    =>”it seems as if British society is heavily saturated by the politics of religious identity.”

    It’s a relatively recent thing, post-9/11 and post-7/7.

    =>”my own views are colored by the fact that I’m an American Desi”

    You should also check out the Sepia Mutiny blog too if you haven’t done so already. It’s by American desis and so are most (although not all, including me) of the commenters there.

    =>”America won’t give them any money and possibly even impose sanctions by starving us of ER, 24 and Lost.”

    Let’s not forget Desperate Housewives, House, Battlestar Galactica, and my personal favourite, Two and a Half Men.

    Although I suspect Kismet Hardy occasionally likes to partake of “2 1/2 men” in quite a different sense of the term.

  37. Kismet Hardy — on 27th June, 2006 at 12:19 pm  

    “After all – if you don’t belong anywhere, it’s easier to feel you belong everywhere.”

    Sonia, that’s really beautiful. I’d like you to meet my mother

    Jai, thanks buddy. But it’s hard enough getting just the measly half let alone the whole two and a half…

  38. Jai — on 27th June, 2006 at 12:24 pm  

    =>”Sonia, that’s really beautiful. I’d like you to meet my mother”

    Knowing Kismet, he probably means that in the Biblical sense, rather than the idea of Sonia being led into the room by some chaparones with her head demurely wrapped in a dupatta while she coyly offers her prospective mother-in-law a tray of laddoos.

  39. Kismet Hardy — on 27th June, 2006 at 12:48 pm  

    Jai. Or should i say… father!

    Ha!

    I knew you didn’t really get abducted by qawwali singers

  40. Roger — on 27th June, 2006 at 12:54 pm  

    “well then! maybe not making them feel like strangers would help!”
    One of the effects of religion is to make people feel like strangers with and to anyone who doesn’t share their religion. It’s a way for the religion to survive.

  41. El Cid — on 27th June, 2006 at 12:56 pm  

    Sonia: agreed, class is def overlooked time and time again (that’s the self interest of the middle class media and general scribe-types for you)

  42. sonia — on 27th June, 2006 at 1:05 pm  

    Heh hehe

  43. Jai — on 27th June, 2006 at 2:41 pm  

    Roger,

    =>”One of the effects of religion is to make people feel like strangers with and to anyone who doesn’t share their religion.”

    Er, only “exclusivist” religions have that tendency. Not all faiths follow the same attitude.

    But I do understand your point.

  44. Vikrant — on 27th June, 2006 at 5:09 pm  

    Or is it that only the views of British citizens are wanted?

    Sonia like ya even I am just a permanent resident (sounds much better than American “permanent alien” doesnt it?). Hell i wont exchange my Indian passport for that maroon lil parchment for a million punds. 2 million maybe…

  45. sonia — on 27th June, 2006 at 5:22 pm  

    :-) agreed it sounds hell of a lot better than permanent alien! if someone wants to give me a passport though im all for accepting it – just think how much less hassle applying for visas would be! { after all..we can vote in general elections already..so methinks visas is the big difference..)

  46. Roger — on 27th June, 2006 at 7:50 pm  

    ” only “exclusivist” religions have that tendency. Not all faiths follow the same attitude.”
    All religions are exclusivist in that they want their members to know they’re different to everyone else and inclusivist in that they want everyone else to want to join them. The problem comes- or gets much bigger- when one term in your self-definition overwhelms every other in importance. Exclusivist religions tend to outlast others, I think.
    Most of us would define ourselves in ways that are so complicated that they would either exclude all of us but “thee and me- and thee’s a bit queer at times” or allows everyone else admission an some fairly early stage. The problem with religion and patriotism is that both can provide you with a lot of people to hate and an automatic sense of virtue so you need never examine your own conscience. I’d no more trust someone who is ostentatiously patriotic or religious than I’d trust someone who boasted of their honesty.

  47. Desi Italiana — on 27th June, 2006 at 9:15 pm  

    Jai:
    “You should also check out the Sepia Mutiny blog too if you haven’t done so already. It’s by American desis and so are most (although not all, including me) of the commenters there”
    Thanks, I’ve checked it out for quite some time. But it doesn’t hurt to expand one’s horizons :) . Also, this blog is interesting to read.

    Sonia:
    “As a person who’s always been an expat, i’ve always been somewhat rootless and equally at ‘home’ anywhere and have had to learn to fit in everywhere. and interestingly, it’s when you go to the one place you’re ’supposed’ to be from – for me Bangladesh – people there always say how unlike them you are, how you’re a ‘foreigner’”
    I am a 2nd generation Indian American, have been an expat in Europe, and I have always felt “rootless” everywhere, hence making it easy for me to be “equally at ‘home’ anywhere”.
    And I hear you about the one place where you’re supposed to be at home, you are regarded as a foreigner–for Desis, I am not “Desi enough” if I say I’m American, and if I say I’m a Desi, it’s been pointed out to me that I”m really “American”….you can never win either way :)
    And this is the beauty of being of the Diaspora, isn’t it? :)

  48. Vikrant — on 28th June, 2006 at 8:59 am  

    just think how much less hassle applying for visas would be! { after all..we can vote in general elections already..so methinks visas is the big difference..)

    OTOH Sonia unlike our cousins here, our passports sport a wide array of colourful visa stamps! Hell visa stamps are the things i keep my Indian passport for…

  49. sonia — on 28th June, 2006 at 10:08 am  

    :-) true – very colourful..we should be exhibiting and displaying them! i do think going around having to apply for visas all the time makes you aware of all the ridiculous bureaucracy that does exist. mostly if you’re swanning around without needing to get visas it’s easy to imagine everybody else has it the same. whenever people go to india and they have to apply for a visa ) i find it quite amusing listening to their diatribes – oh my god i had to queue! oh they asked me so many funny questions. and im like yah…be glad you don’t have to do this all the time. Seriously though, i find it quite irritating that a lot of my friends still haven’t clicked that i can’t just up and rush off on a weekend trip to paris with them. Duh.

  50. sonia — on 28th June, 2006 at 10:18 am  

    You’ve got some good points in no. 46 Roger – the bit about ostentatiousness – certainly. i mean essentially what i’ve always thought about ‘religion’ as opposed to just your own personal code of ethics ( which everyone has – at the end of the day)is that it is silly to do something because your religion says so, and not because you would have done it anyway. that to me is very unconvincing. i get lots of people telling me oh you must start paying ‘zakat’ – the paying of alms – because you’re now working blah blah and you ‘should’. i was like fuck off – i’ve been giving money to charity and whatever other ’causes’ i’ve felt like for absolutely years – cos i wanted to – and not cos i’ve been ‘told’ to. ( i’m a bit contrary i don’t like doing things if i’m told to ;-) ) Especially irritating when some of these same people have always been telling me off about being a muggins and giving money to homeless people. So a lot of these people will give money when they feel they ought to but only because they’ve been told specifically. that’s not much good in my book. Similarly if i’m only going to do something because i feel i have to, then that in my book is hypocritical and makes me feel like i’ve ended up a ‘worse’ person..if any of this makes any sense. Possibly that’s why i’m not a big fan of ‘Authority’ and ‘Rules for the sake of Rules’.

  51. Roger — on 28th June, 2006 at 10:47 am  

    If you’re “not a big fan of ‘Authority’ and ‘Rules for the sake of Rules’”, why go in for religion at all? From an unbeliever’s view you’ve chosen a big authority and an absolute and definite set of rules to follow- you can’t have your own code of ethics or work out a code with everyone else because of that.
    Is zakat a compulsory donation as well as every other or a set minimum or does it have to be to specifically muslim charities and anything given to someone for “a cup of tea” doesn’t count?

  52. Roger — on 28th June, 2006 at 10:49 am  

    Signed off before I’ve finished:
    There are some virtues that are only virtues if people don’t deliberately practise them.

  53. Arif — on 28th June, 2006 at 11:14 am  

    Religions offer different things to different people – a touchstone for their assumptions, a means of making a connection to other people in a fragmenting society, a means of exploring existential questions, a tool for self-improvement, a means of exerting authority over others, a justification for anger or hatred, a means of adding a self-righteous glow to your otherwise conscienceless actions, a means of awakening a slumbering conscience, a means of remembering your humble place in the world, a means of remembering your importance in this world……

    There is wisdom in religious texts, there is teaching, there is prejudice, there are outdated prescriptions, there are mind-broadening stories, there are all sorts of discussions which might address questions which are important to you, which might challenge your prejudices or make you fearful and disgusted. There are rules and codes and there are warnings not to follow rules and codes. There is the interest in your own responses to these texts, and the spotlight it puts on easily ignored spirituality… I could go on and on.

    It has a lot to offer. If you reduce it to one aspect, then you will misunderstand its hold on people, and your condemnations might seem as ignorant to the believer as their condemnations of secular rationalism, as if it leads inevitably to wars, political and social intolerance and democratic demagoguery leading people to fear and oppress everyone whose material possessions they want to get their hands on.

  54. Jai — on 28th June, 2006 at 11:32 am  

    Arif,

    Great post as usual. You always have an extraordinary level of clarity and insight to contribute, and always stated diplomatically and in a balanced tone too.

    Roger,

    I hate to say this but you’re still making a lot of generalisations. Not all religions have “rules and commandments” that one “must” follow — recommendations, yes, but not in the way that you seem to think. Figuring out one’s own ethical code is entirely compatible with several so-called “Eastern” religions.

    Sonia,

    Re: posts #49 & 50

    Well said, and you’ve inadvertantly summarised the Sikh view on all of these matters ;)

  55. sonia — on 28th June, 2006 at 11:41 am  

    Roger – who said i do go in for religion? did you just assume i did because i’m not ready to declare they’re all a bunch of dogmatists? obviously because they aren’t all that way. i’ve met just as many atheists who i find have as dogmatic beliefs as ‘religious’ people.

  56. sonia — on 28th June, 2006 at 11:47 am  

    ‘Organized’ religion is something i definitely don’t go in for..it’s like being a member of a political party to me. just as if you’re not a member of a political party doesn’t mean you don’t have political theories or ideas.. get my analogy? i have my own ideas about stuff and i don’t think they would fit into any One ‘religion’ or philosophy or thinker whatever. i think of my ideas as simply that – my ideas – that come from different sources. You know like reading many books – and taking what you want from them. It’s also silly to dismiss ideas that exist within religions just because one doesn’t approve of the sociology of religion and how that manifests itself. it’s like turning your back on an idea because you don’t like a group of people who’ve organized themselves around some version of that idea. An anti-intellectual thing to do…fine for lots of people – but i’m interested in ideas so i don’t see why i should. some people call that ‘going’ for religion but i don’t. i’m flexible, not rigid, as far as i can see rigidity is part of dogma.

  57. sonia — on 28th June, 2006 at 12:03 pm  

    roger – i’m no theologian – paying of alms is simply as far as i can see meant to be distributing a certain percentage of your income around -in a socialist kind of way i suppose. some hardline people do think they only give it to ‘charities’ and muslim ones at that but that’s certainly not indicated and i think completely against the original purpose. a cup of tea/a cigarette to a homeless guy would count in my opinion – its really the intent anyway which i interpret as Share and share alike.

    i’ve no idea what you mean by “From an unbeliever’s view you’ve chosen a big authority and an absolute and definite set of rules to follow- you can’t have your own code of ethics or work out a code with everyone else because of that”. Please don’t tell me what i can or cannot do – you sound patronizing and no different to some dogmatic person on what religion is or isn’t. Who has the authority to say what it is or isn’t? No-one – in my book. Individuals think what they like. Sounds like you’re kind of accepting religious authority’s take on things – which i don’t in the first place anyway. i personally would and do contest that religion is a set of absolute rules to follow – rather than personal enlightenment and spirituality. As i mentioned earlier – the sociology of religion is what i find interesting. How people have gone about organizing themselves and codified belief and ideas. Traditionally that’s what has turned into ‘organized’ religions – but so what? i’m not a card carrying member of anything and reserve my right to think and behave how i like without any one else’s intereference and suggestions as whether i am religious or not. it’s not anyone else’s business – full stop. People do choose to make it their business – and that’s a problem. Unlike you i don’t have an us vs them attitude about religion. It would be useful to realize that belief systems aren’t unique to religion.

    ( in any case – Who says there are absolute rules? Possibly a bunch of mullahs – i don’t accept their authority. that may be their intrepretation – they’re entitled to it, but they don’t know anything i can’t go and find out if i so choose. what makes sense to me and i’ve seen this in pretty much every religion – though downplayed of course by Religious Authority – is that there no absolute rules and you have to use your own judgement. which is pretty obvious but then wouldn’t place power in the hands of the clerics would it?)

  58. sonia — on 28th June, 2006 at 12:27 pm  

    Jai – cool…that’s good to hear. :-) the sikh view sounds like a pretty sensible view to me!

    right that’s me with my rambling done!

  59. Vikrant — on 28th June, 2006 at 3:31 pm  

    you aware of all the ridiculous bureaucracy that does exist.

    lol yeah… well last easter i’d applied for a schengen visa to belgium and holland at the Belgian embassy. I’d booked a days stay in brussels and 2 days in amsterdam. But the bitch at the belgian embassy turned down my visa for the most non-sensical of bureacratic reasons. It says some where on the schengen visa form (in fine print ofcourse) that u should apply for schengen visa from the country of your maximum stay whilst another rule states that you must apply for a visa from the country which you will be visitng first. Hell never thought that a day would make a difference. Lost 200 quid in the whole affair!!!

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