Immigration and the future of Britain

Britain is losing its traditional cultural identity, and with that loss goes a loss of authority over many cultural values

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Vincent Cooper
On 21 September 2013 07:53

Birmingham Metropolitan College surrendered to well organised Muslim and Left-wing activists and reversed its eight year ban on wearing niqabs and burkas on its campuses.

Why the change of policy? Was Birmingham Met intellectually convinced by the activists’ argument that Muslim women were being denied civil rights by its eight year ban, or did the Met cave in to intimidation and fear?

As is common with British institutions caught up in culturally sensitive issues, the college authorities deftly (some would say cravenly) avoided answering such awkward questions and spoke instead of their “mission of providing high quality learning.”

But such an answer is a typically British ‘liberal’ fudge – and a forlorn hope that the problem will somehow go away. 

We find the same fudging of the issue in the Blackfriars Crown Court ruling that a woman may stand trial wearing a full-face veil (a niqab) but must remove it while giving evidence. The court would provide a screen to protect her from public view.

Why the culturally sensitive acrobatics? The tradition of English common law sets a premium on open public justice so why not ban the veil outright in British open courts?

Heavily immigrant Europe has a problem with the veil. France has banned it, but the British political class believe that ad hoc adjustments and compromises will eventually result in a happy multicultural community. In this belief, the British political class has the support of the feminists who, quick to condemn sexist language on twitter, are silent when it comes to what many perceive as religious misogyny.

But that happy British multicultural community is unlikely to be realised. Consider the demographics. At present, Muslims make up about 5 percent of the population of the UK. However, even the most conservative demographic projections acknowledge that the Muslim population of the UK will increase from approximately 2∙7 million (almost 5 percent of the population in 2011) to 5.5 million in 2030, making Muslims 8.2 percent of the UK population (see Pew Forum).

But these total numbers are not uniformly distributed. In Birmingham, Muslims make up almost 22 percent of the population. In London Muslims make up almost 13 percent, while in parts of London, Muslims make up over 30 percent.

Assuming a uniform percentage increase, these figures would suggest substantial increases in the Muslim populations of Birmingham, London and many other British cities. With native birth-rates below replacement levels, relatively high Muslim birth-rates could mean that Birmingham, for example, would become a Muslim majority city by the year 2030. Ed West, the Daily Telegraph journalist, acknowledges this in his book The Diversity Illusion, perhaps the most truthful book on British immigration yet published.

What would a Muslim majority in Birmingham, London or Leicester mean for issues such as the right to wear the burka, or indeed for many other contentious issues such as taking alcohol in public places or public displays of homosexuality?

With such deep-seated demographic changes, strongly felt cultural differences would very likely become openly and forcefully expressed. Muslims, being a majority in those cities, could reasonably argue, and demand, the right to wear traditional dress in all public institutions, including colleges and courts. Very likely, Muslims would in fact make up a majority in such institutions.

In this new scenario, there could be no democratic argument against Muslim demands. Indeed, Muslims could – and well might – argue that non-Muslims, particularly women, should conform to Muslim dress code where Muslims are in the majority. Female head covering could well be the future for many British cities.

Many people find such a prospect hard to believe. The British political class has always encouraged the belief that Britain could have high levels of immigration without damaging the traditional social fabric. ‘Liberals’ in particular have pushed the view that abstract Western secular principles of law and justice would always prevail, irrespective of demographic changes.

But that was always an unrealistic view. Demographics, in the long run, make all the difference. Political authority and stability depend, ultimately, not on abstract principles of law or justice, but on a shared cultural identity. As the British political philosopher John Gray puts it, the West’s “common cultural identity was that of European Christendom. Insofar as this cultural identity is depleted, or fragmented, political authority will be attenuated.”(Gray’s Anatomy, page 84)    

Britain is losing its traditional cultural identity, and with that loss goes a loss of authority over many cultural values. If the Muslim population becomes a majority in Britain’s towns and cities, then traditional British culture will very likely have to change.

There has always been an air of political unreality in debates about cultural assimilation and diversity in heavily immigrant Britain. Debates on contentious issues always assumed that large scale demographic changes could be ignored and that everyone, immigrant and native, would somehow come happily together in a liberal, secular common culture.

This has not happened, and with birth-rate differentials and continuing immigration, it is hard to see it ever happening.

Vincent Cooper is a freelance writer with a particular interest in philosophy, mathematics, and economics

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