This article appeared in today’s Telegraph and I had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing the print edition which has several stock images which are not in the online version. They include a picture of women in veils at an al-Muhajiroun demonstration, and a still from one of those “Muslim vigilante” videos that were shot in east London (Acton is in west London). The article is full of the familiar moans about how a “working-class area” has become full of unfriendly immigrants who cover up to their eyeballs and do not speak to white people or even serve them in shops. I cannot directly challenge the veracity of some of Kelly’s accusations against local shopkeepers, except to say that I doubt it. There are some claims that can be factually challenged, as well as the author’s bias exposed.
The claim that areas of Britain’s cities, notably London, have become ethnic ghettoes from which white residents are “fleeing” — so-called white flight — is a familiar one and has been made by Melanie Phillips, various BNP figures including Charlotte Lewis, who stood in local elections in a council seat where she was not entitled to stand in 2008, and a BBC documentary from a few years ago, and probably many others. The claims are usually made about parts of old mill towns in northern England, Leicester, inner west London and Tower Hamlets in east London; this is the first time I have heard such claims made about Acton. Acton is the eastern part of the borough of Ealing, and is close to the major retailing areas of Hammersmith, Chiswick, Ealing and Westfield at Shepherds’ Bush, as well as the Park Royal industrial area, so there is a lot of work nearby which is not especially well-paid. This may well be why there is a high immigrant population in those areas; as she says, it includes eastern European immigrants as well as Somalis and other Muslims. There is a fairly low percentage of British Asians in that part of London; they tend to live further west, in places like West Ealing, Southall and Hayes.
Kelly says she comes from a Staffordshire village and that she tries to keep up her old village traditions by talking to people on the street and in the market, just as they do “back home”. Assuming she is telling the truth, the problem is that this is not urban white British custom either, so her neighbours might be somewhat surprised to see a strange lady speak to them when others do not. The same probably goes for the male and female Muslim neighbours, but the male ones do not, as a rule, strike up conversations about nothings with strange women, including Muslim women. The same argument was made by Melanie Phillips while arguing against the niqaab in her book Londonistan, but anyone who has lived in London for any length of time knows that people in London do not speak to strangers in public places, niqaab or no niqaab. It’s not that common to get into conversations with people on the bus, or through sitting next to them in the park, or through any other chance encounter in a public place. People talk to those they know.
The pictures attached to the piece give all kinds of inflammatory messages. The use of the “veiled women at an al-Muhajiroun demo” picture, although probably not Kelly’s choice, is misleading as the demonstration was probably not in Acton and the women in it are probably not from Acton (the location, and origin of the participants, is probably Luton, which is not even in London). The majority of women who wear niqaab have nothing to do with the tiny outfit which keeps changing its name as it keeps getting banned, although most of us still call it al-Muhajiroun, and are not always associated with isolationist and highly conservative groups although a large proportion may be. Even so, the majority of Muslim women in Acton wear the standard head covering, not the niqaab, which is the same with Muslim women almost everywhere in the UK.
Another image is of Muslim shops and restaurants, and Kelly claims that the Muslim-owned curtain shop refused to put up curtains for her. Whether this is true or not, it may well be because the shop merely sells curtains or curtain material, and other people are around to fit them or put them up. Maybe most people measure and put up their own — it can be done. Even the fish and chip shop is halaal, she moans … boo hoo … but in fact, all fish is halaal. The only difference is that the other meat products they sell are as well, which is important because if you cook fish in the same oil as non-halaal chicken, the fish is contaminated and thus no longer halaal (the same is true of vegetables or anything else which is halaal by slaughter, or does not need slaughtering). The image gives the message that shops with foreign names or lettering (Arabic as in this case) give the impression of foreign-ness or “colonisation”, and I would have some sympathy if the complaint was about any use of foreign lettering on public signs without translation such that most people cannot read it, but the people who complain about it when the writing is Arabic do not complain about Hindi lettering in Neasden, Chinese in Chinatown or Korean lettering down here in south-west London — it’s only when it’s Muslims doing it that it’s a problem. (The image used in that picture only showed two shops clearly, one of them clearly closed down; the rest of the view was too fuzzy to read anything.)
The reference to the “Muslim vigilantes” incidents in east London also a represents a common tactic of bigots, regardless of who the target is: the presentation of isolated, extreme incidents as if they were typical or part of a trend involving a great many people. I have my own doubts about the authenticity of these videos; I fail to see why a “Muslim patrol” would bother videoing their activities and placing them on YouTube, rather than just going out and doing the patrols. One of the incidents allegedly happened in Commercial Street, which is inaccurately claimed to be part of a heavily Muslim area; in fact, although there may be a number of Muslim-owned clothing wholesalers on that street, it is right on the border between Spitalfields, an area popular with City workers and others who come to shop in the converted Market, and the mixed Muslim-Hindu Bengali community around Brick Lane. The area commonly regarded as the “Muslim area” is around the Whitechapel and Commercial roads, further south. It is much less than the whole of Tower Hamlets, which also includes the Docklands, the still very white Isle of Dogs and the more mixed Bethnal Green. Many local Muslim leaders have given sermons warning against this type of activity, so if it is going on at all, it is a tiny number of people, probably the same type who court negative publicity with their offensive demonstrations, i.e. al-Muhajiroun. There are also a number of areas in many cities and towns where drinking alcohol in the street is banned by order of the local council, and it is also banned on public transport in London. Clearly, Muslims are not the only people with a distaste for public drinking or drunkenness.
The author has an agenda: she is a consulting editor on the Salisbury Review, a quarterly journal of the right-wing fringe of the Tory party, formerly edited by Roger Scruton, which received its biggest membership boost by printing an extended grumble by Ray Honeyford, a Bradford head-teacher, about “multi racial zealots” taking over the British education system (which contained several paragraphs about how Pakistan was the heroin capital of the world and could “not cope with democracy”, when it had existed less than 40 years). White attacks on multiculturalism and ethnic areas only ever considers the refusal of “immigrants” to integrate; they never consider that immigrant communities want to live near where their shops and places of worship are, and they cluster for safety in numbers against violent racists (American interference in Pakistan was never considered as a possible reason for that country’s lack of democracy either; it had to just be down to their culture). If you are uncomfortable in an “Asian area” of any city, consider how comfortable any Asian or Black person feels when in many an English village or small town. You call Whitechapel, Acton, Highfields or Manningham “ghettoes”, but you have the rest of the country for yours.
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- Why Egyptian TV covers American police violence
- When racists rage against racism
- Why Aditya Chakrabortty (may have) called himself Paul