It is inevitable that in times of economic distress and widespread apathy that tensions rise. This rise has led to a rapid increase in Islamophobic sentiment; it is impossible to scroll through social media without encountering some form of nationalist group attempting to ban the burka, defend Christian Britain or condemn Islam as a violent religion. These groups masquerade as though they represent the British population, yet they are the exact opposite of what this nation has historically stood for.
Britain has a proud tradition of diversity, multiculturalism and tolerance. You are as likely to have a curry or Chinese take away for dinner as you are to have pie and mash or fish and chips. Britain’s empire (which was responsible for many unspeakable atrocities) saw these otherwise alien cultures inducted into our own. As much as we may like to pretend Britain is an isolated island with its own distinct identity, this is not the case. Our cultural identity is the outcome of a multitude of interactions whereby parts of other cultures were assimilated into our own. This is how Britain Tea first reached Britain, and could you imagine Britain without tea today?
The British identity, as well as being the result of a globalised network of events, has been sculpted in the last century through tolerance. In 1848 a wave of revolutions and counterrevolutionary political repression spread across continental Europe. One place offered dangerous revolutionaries (such as Karl Marx) refuge and safety; Britain. During World War Two, Britain proudly fought against the Nazi’s not just because of the potential threat to our sovereignty, but because we stand opposed to the totalitarian and bigoted views of right wing fascism. It is far from British to terrorise and ignite fear in minorities; Britain has a heritage of protecting the minority will, and that is the heritage we should proudly attempt to maintain.
…Britain has a proud tradition of diversity…
Having seen the resurgence in radical right wing ideas through social media I have argued against this bigotry; the typical response has been to question my identity and ask whether I am British, then to claim I am deluded in defending minorities. It is British to defend minorities, not attack them.This sense of nationalism is dangerous. The age of technology has made it easy to only receive views you already agree with, and this is certainly the case in regards to the supposed threat by Muslims to British identity. Not everything we see on Facebook or Twitter is true. An infographic or a blog do not make for a reputable news source, yet certain nationalist pages continue to spout hatred under the facade of defending Britain.
It is not British to attack minorities; writing of democracy in the 1820s Alexis de Tocqueville spoke of the threat of a ‘tyranny of the majority,’ whereby the largest group in society are able to terrorise smaller groups through democratic means. The resurgence in right wing rhetoric shows how correct this prediction was. To be British means to defend others, not diminish their rights in an empty attempt to construct a cultural identity. There is plenty wrong with society, but to blame minority groups is dangerous and undemocratic.