Monday’s BBC Panorama programme ‘White Fright, Divided Britain’ focused on Blackburn’s white and Asian Muslim communities with an overriding message that we must all work harder, together.
The show was a follow up to the previous Panorama programme ‘White Fright’, which was broadcast ten years ago. This week’s show provided an up-to-date look at how the population of Blackburn is changing, how communities of different faiths and ethnicities are integrating and how residents feel about the evolution of a town known for its diversity.
It recalled how in the past there have been initiatives to help people from different backgrounds to integrate and get to know one another, for instance ensuring schoolchildren meet and socialise with those from different ethnicities. But it revealed how some of these much-needed activities have decreased or stopped altogether.
What is worrying is that Blackburn appears to be becoming more divided. Without taking steps to facilitate integration, suspicion builds and intolerance breeds.
Integration is a two-way street that requires effort from all sections of society. Asian families have not ‘parachuted’ into Blackburn – many have been living in the UK for generations and consider themselves British. They are British Asian Muslims and quite rightly are proud of that.
Of course, in predominantly Asian Muslim areas of Blackburn, services have grown to meet their needs. Therefore, there are mosques, halal food is available, children can easily go to madrasa when they want to. It is a question of practicality.
Some hold the perception that immigrants are economic migrants and that they want to live off the state and not give back. The truth is that these families contribute hugely to the fabric of life in the UK in a range of industries from the NHS to business and politics. They are also appreciative that others have made space for them to live there.
During the Panorama programme, we heard a statement from the local council which said: ‘Our diverse city is a strength. We fully acknowledge segregation exists and building links is a priority.’
We must all work harder, together, to understand each other. To know each other leads to an understanding and an understanding leads to respect and acceptance.
There is always more that can be done to create cohesion within communities – the same is true around the world. When we work together we improve our communities.