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  • Still failing the Tebbit Test

    by Sunny
    12th April, 2006 at 4:14 pm    

    cricketOn Thursday last week, when India beat England to win the one-day international series 4-0, I could not help but let out a small cheer.

    What would Norman Tebbit think now, I asked myself immediately after, as I do almost every year.

    On a regular basis, this turns up as a light-hearted debate on the BBC Asian Network, onto which I was recently invited as a panelist, along with Nasser Hussain’s dad.

    There are usually two sides to this discussion. Nasser Hussain and his father feel that if you are English, then you should only support this country. Their opponents say they do not feel British enough because of the racism they’ve encountered.

    I remain happy supporting India against England, not because I agree with either, but because I’ve grown comfortable with the multiple facets to my identity.

    There is something fundamentally wrong with any debate that forces people to choose sides on such issues. India or England? British or Muslim? British Indian or British Asian? Daddy or chips? They’ve become meaningless.

    Most approaches to this issue don’t take into account the wide range of opinions on how the new generation of globalised Britons see themselves. While we are increasingly soaked in British culture, we want to retain the extent to which we pick and choose from our different identities.

    Appreciating Desperate Housewives, Little Britain or the latest Bollywood film is the acceptable face to all this. But people start getting jittery when they see Muslim girls in hijabs or men with long beards.

    But actually it isn’t much different. I frequently see different groups of young Somalian girls where I live. Some wear tight jeans and others mingle with their hijabs on, laughing and chatting in cockney English slang that would not be out of place in a white working-class neighbourhood.

    I sometimes make conversations with friends in Hindi; sometimes we go to parties where they only play Panjabi music. This is 21st century Britain.

    9/11 and 7/7 have made some people so politicised and exaggerated their worries so that even talking in another language than English is taken as a sign of betrayal. I find such attitudes irritating.

    To the racists I say: I will call myself British whether you like it or not. To those who want me to take sides I say: that is for me to decide, not you. Let’s start by treating each other with a bit more respect and understanding.

    Plus there is the added bonus that supporting India is just a much more passionate exercise. Arsenal v Chelsea matches have nothing on India v Pakistan.

    Anyway, England just beat India in the 6th ODI so I don’t know whether to feel despair or be elated. Any ideas?

    Cross posted on Comment is Free

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    Filed in: Culture,Humour,Sports

    32 Comments below   |  

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    1. Vikrant Singh — on 12th April, 2006 at 4:55 pm  

      AFAIK only Rohin (that bloodtraitor!) passes Tebbit test amongst us.

    2. raz — on 12th April, 2006 at 6:05 pm  

      Bangladesh are currently running Australia close, although the Aussies have fought back and are probably favourites to win now.

      On the subject, check this:

      All time Test match records:


      Good to see Pakistan in second place, behind only the mighty Australia.

    3. contrarymary — on 12th April, 2006 at 6:09 pm  

      it’s not only Rohin. it’s me too. :-(

      I’ve always been massively pro India, especially when it came down to Cricket. But then Nasser Hussain became captain… and I found myself supporting England instead of India. Why? I’m not sure … it wasn’t a conscious decision.

      Perhaps it was because I identified more with Hussain than the Indian players - Ganguly especially And in this current series I thought I would be backing India, but no I’ve been secretly wanting England to do well.

      I figure I’m closer and identify more with the England players than the Indian players. What do I have in common with the deified Indian players, and their lives in India with servants and all?

      Much as I hate Tebbit, I pass his test… Sunny what did Nasser Hussain’s dad have to say about it?

    4. Vikrant Singh — on 12th April, 2006 at 6:18 pm  

      Good for me i’m only a resident not a citizen. No such wishy-washy England or India dilemma. Its India all the way.

    5. Sunny — on 12th April, 2006 at 8:18 pm  

      Nasser Hussain’s dad was a wonderful fellow. Could not understand for the life of him why people who have grown up in this country could support anyone else.

      I also posted a few more observations below that article on the Guardian site:

      I find a lot of young kids from ethnic minority backgrounds don’t really like supporting England until they grow up, start taking an active interest in the world around them, and start engaging with institutional structures. Like getting into higher education, getting a job etc. A lot of friends (and myself included)who would not support England before end up swearing allegiance as they grow older.

      I find the media fetish interesting too. Amir Khan: a great boxer who loves waving the British flag around. I have respect for the kid because he’s done well. But I wonder if the Daily Mail/Sun etc would have given him as much publicity and heaped all that praise if he also waved a Pakistani flag along with the Union Jack.

    6. Neil — on 12th April, 2006 at 9:16 pm  

      I’m the same I actually despised the English football and cricket teams until a few years back because of the racism I experienced growing up. Quite clearly when you are in your early teens and made to feel like an outsider it is something not easily forgotten.

      I will always support India but will now want the English footy team to do well (more so then the cricket team), maybe because I identify with their working class roots more.

      Nasser Hussain and his father seemed to have rejected their roots completely. I’ve read Hussains autobiography and he seems happy with the fact that he has no knowledge of his mother tongue Urdu or Islam, he see’s himself as no different to the average white Englishperson. This is fine for some but the only positive way forward to me is to embrace the culture you live in as well as respect and understand where you’re from.

    7. Sunny — on 12th April, 2006 at 10:20 pm  

      In defence of Nasser Hussain’s father, he supports India most of the time. That is because he grew up there etc. So his position is pretty logical.

    8. El Cid — on 12th April, 2006 at 11:18 pm  

      he see’s himself as no different to the average white Englishperson Whatever they are.

      As for cricket — it’s an odd one. If they were any good, I imagine 90 percent or more of British Asians would play for England without hesitation. But as fans, that percentage probably drops significantly. Is it any diff, though, to rugby and to the fact that English people with the merest traces of Scots, Welsh or Irish blood are fanatical about supporting the Celtic teams in the Six Nations?
      I think there’s an element of tradition about it, don’t you think, which isn’t present in football — a far more unifying sport (with the help of the fact that India, Pakistan, and even the West Indies — with apols to the Reggae Boyz and T&T -aren’t very good at the beautiful game).

      I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s between each person and their own conscience. Most second and third generation immigrants when they visit the “motherland” tend to find that they have “gone native” to a greater degree than they initially would have cared to admit. Even the testimony from Britan’s ex-Guantanamo detainees suggests that. You won’t see me moaning about Mark Cueto or Ginger Space abandoning their Spanish heritage! What matters to me is what me, myself, and I know and pass on to my children. I don’t think Italian or Irish Brits are too bothered about Lawrence Dallagio and Wayne Rooney either.

      But I draw the line at this, which plainly fails the El Cid test. Pathetic. These people have no respect for the game. Yeah, whatever.

    9. Nush — on 13th April, 2006 at 10:22 am  

      I fail everytime

      i support india when they play england

      and england when they play austrailia

    10. Average White English Person — on 13th April, 2006 at 1:13 pm  

      As an English bloke living in Australia I fail the Tebbit Test happily. I couldn’t ever see myself supporting Australia in any sport whatsoever. I’ve been cheering Bangladesh for the last few days and it’s been great fun watching Ponting eating his words in public.

      Just as an aside, I recently went for an X-Ray and the operator was an Indian girl from Yorkshire that had recently moved to Aus. We had a good old chat about “the mother country” and I felt I had more in common with her that with most white Australians.

      Funny old world, eh?

    11. Sunny — on 13th April, 2006 at 1:16 pm  

      Haha! Nice…

    12. Vikrant Singh — on 13th April, 2006 at 1:20 pm  

      Bangs banging Kokaburras… yaay…

    13. Average White English Person — on 13th April, 2006 at 1:54 pm  

      Here’s something else that may surprise you.

      Down here there is far more racism than in the UK and it’s not just based on colour. A Brit will hear the words “Whinging Pom” at least once a day in the mainstream media. Add to that the times I hear it in everyday conversation and it soon gets a bit stale. Being pretty much the same colour as the locals (I try and stay out of the sun) I blend in reasonably well but some people here often let loose about “the bloody Poms” without realising that they are addressing one.

      I realise that it’s not the same kind of racism that non-whites suffer - although British backpackers do tend to disappear at an alarming rate - but it’s still unpleasant.

    14. Jay Singh — on 13th April, 2006 at 2:06 pm  

      Every Aussie I have met has been spectacularly chilled out. But I suppose the Aussies that come to England to travel are fairly broad minded and liberal anyway.

    15. Average White English Person — on 13th April, 2006 at 2:16 pm  

      Jay, you’re correct about that. I hope I didn’t give the impression that all Aussies or even the majority are racist. Some of my best friends are Australian ;) . It just seems more commonplace or at least more overt here than in the UK.

    16. Jai — on 13th April, 2006 at 2:32 pm  

      =>”Nasser Hussain and his father feel that if you are English, then you should only support this country. ”

      The key point here is that “English” and “British” do not mean the same thing.

      There is no “British ethnicity” (despite what the BNP think); however, very loosely-speaking, there is an English “ethnic group” (even if it is actually a combination of various different historical groups, eg. Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Scandinavians etc) as opposed to Irish etc, within the broader framework of British nationality/citizenship. When UK-born British Indians support India (same analogy for British Pakistanis etc), they are partially doing so out of feelings of ethnic kinship. Obviously this was much more pronounced when racism here in the UK was more prevalent than it is these days.

      Being born in England does not make one English in the genetic sense of the term, but it does certainly make one British with regards to nationality & citizenship.

      If it was a specifically “British cricket team” (as opposed to one perceived to represent only England, ergo English people) then it would perhaps be a different scenario.

      Anyway, this is just picking holes in the situation. Everyone is free to support whatever team they want to, and in our multicultural era where Asians have a much higher profile then we used to, I think it’s not regarded as such a bad thing amongst Asians these days to support the English cricket team if that’s what they feel like doing.

    17. El Cid — on 13th April, 2006 at 5:03 pm  

      eg. Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Scandinavians etc) as opposed to Irish etc

      Your way wrong to make the contrast Jai. Irish immigration into England is historical and massive. There isn’t an English family I know without some Irish blood. From the uncouthest BNP working class to the snobbiest public school middle class, there’s Irish in em all.
      In fact, I would describe the native English as being more truthfully Anglo Irish — Wayne Rooney, Reggie & Ronnie Kray, Ronnie O’Sullivan, Peter Reid, etc.
      These are Irish surnames.
      Wake up and smell the Guinness.
      It’ll be same for Anglo-Indians, etc, in years to come, don’t you worry.

    18. Jay Singh — on 13th April, 2006 at 5:07 pm  

      That’s fascinating El Cid didnt know it was like that, so much Irish mixed into the English

    19. Vikrant Singh — on 13th April, 2006 at 5:18 pm  

      It’ll be same for Anglo-Indians, etc, in years to come, don’t you worry.

      It already is…

      Julian Gardner is a farmer in Bihar, India speaks lil’ English has never been to England yet is the Baron of Uttoxeter.


    20. Sid Singh — on 13th April, 2006 at 5:23 pm  

      Yeah but if you had the luck of the Irish you’d wish you were English instead, as the old doggerel goes.

    21. Jai — on 13th April, 2006 at 5:26 pm  

      Interesting about the Irish, El Cid — it certainly puts a different spin on the prejudice many native Irish used to be subjected to in England.

      Anyway, you get the analogy I’m trying to make anyway, and yes it will change for Asians here too as a result of mixed-marriages etc, especially if this becomes very widespread (yes I know it already is, I mean if it reaches significant numbers — at present, the majority of UK-based Asians end up marrying other Asians).

    22. Sunny — on 14th April, 2006 at 12:12 am  

      There was an interesting story that a writer told me once, and I believe she’s writing a book on it. Apparently there is lots of mixed Irish-punjabi blood in Punjab because a lot of the British soldiers posted there were originally Irish, and some ended up having local families etc…

    23. Jay Singh — on 14th April, 2006 at 12:51 am  

      Yeah I heard that too - these was a batallion stationed in Jalandhar or Amritsar of an Irish soldiers

    24. El Cid — on 14th April, 2006 at 9:04 am  

      The north-west of Spain may have Celtic roots (the word Galicia is very similar to Gales, which is Spanish for Wales. They also play bagpipes in both Galicia and Asturias). BUT, whenever I see a ginger in southern Spain, I think exactly the same: some Irish or Scottish soldier or mining supervisor has definitely passed through here!

    25. El Cid — on 14th April, 2006 at 9:15 am  

      Agreed on that Vik. Yep, it already is happening. Hundreds of thousands of second and third generation immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, the West Indies and West Africa, southern Europe, et al, have lalready gone native even if many make an exception for cricket, retain an interest in their parents’ culture or are reluctant to admit it.

    26. Jai — on 14th April, 2006 at 10:35 am  

      =>”Apparently there is lots of mixed Irish-punjabi blood in Punjab because a lot of the British soldiers posted there were originally Irish,”

      I didn’t know about the Irish connection but I do know that there were a hell of a lot of Scottish soldiers in India, especially Punjab.

    27. Roger — on 14th April, 2006 at 4:29 pm  

      In 1800 the population of England and Wales was about ten million, of Ireland about seven million and of Scotland about one and a half million.
      Ireland’s population has got smaller, Scotland’s got about three times as large and England and Wales’s grown by about five times since then. Much of the explosion in England’s population came from immigration from Ireland and Scotland. In addition large parts of the army- officers and other ranks- were Irish and Scottish. Ireland was an agricultural country with only one crop- potatoes- so people got out. Scottish highland lairds were army officers and recruited their clansmen into their regiments and- again- the only other option for the Scottish highlands was to live as your ancestors had or clear out. that was before the great clearances in Scotland and the Irish famine in the 1840s. They merely accelerated an established trend. In fact, empire-building was probably more of a celtic industry than an English one at every level .

    28. Roger — on 14th April, 2006 at 4:30 pm  

      Another part of the world where this happened was the West Indies; plantation supervisors were often recruited from Scottish or irish petty gentry.

    29. El Cid — on 14th April, 2006 at 8:37 pm  

      Interesting illustration of my point Roger. What’s the source of your population stats btw? I’m a stickler for good sourcing.

    30. Roger — on 15th April, 2006 at 8:21 am  

      Erk..I’ve been quoting them for years because they show the comparative sizes of the populations and the comparative importance of the countries then- most people think that the population ratios were always the same as now. I can’t remember where I found them, i’m afraid, but if you google you can find sources quoting the 1831 censuses that confirm them by extrapolation.

    31. Raj — on 17th April, 2006 at 8:42 am  

      I normally would support India in this contest (especially since I’ve lived most of my life in Scotland) but since I’m currently on a long break in India I felt much more supportive of the England team as it’s a taste of home.
      This was to me at least an interesting reversal of what normally happens with Indian immigrants to the UK wanting to retain their Indianness as a reminder of home.

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