Big Society and Britishness


The idea of European community and ethnicity as a whole has always been interesting to me, and I could not let go of the possibility to talk to Dr Andrew Mycock, a co-founder of the Academy for the Study of Britishness and the senior lecturer of the University of Huddersfield. Following, our conversation touched on some very delicate topics of immigration in Britain and Britishness in general.

The election in France are seen to be the predominantly standard setting for the whole European community, and the absolute favourite Francois Hollande is believed to be a saviour for many immigrants living in France. That would mean that France would shift from closed, conservative immigration policy adopted in the Sarkozy era to a more liberal approach. Considering recent events in Toulouse which were claimed to be a one man terrorist attack carried out by someone who has been living in France for a while, is it possible that the PM David Cameron would consider a different approach to the British Big Society and is the complete integration of immigrants a realistic scenario?

Cameron has consistently criticised the failure of the state to encourage integration of Muslims, in particular since becoming leader of the Conservative Party. It is ironic, however, that although Cameron derided PM Gordon Brown for promoting Britishness, he drew on a similar framework that prioritises British values to encourage specific communities to integrate.

As for his linking of extremism with immigration, potentially re-demonising the Muslim community at a time when tensions were slowly subsiding. Support for the BNP has fragmented recently and the EDL remains peripheral to mainstream politics.

Cameron’s concerns are genuine and there is a need for British society to continue to negotiate what are our shared values are and how we build connected multicultural communities.

In other words you believe that British schooled immigrants will be more acceptable towards the idea of Britishness and more patriotic of England?

The faith of politicians in the mercurial properties of school to inculcate a common British identity and issues of extremism is misguided. There is little evidence to support the idea that school alone effectively inculcates a common British national culture and identity in schools or that it will somehow preclude many of the global causes of extremism. All of the 7/7 bombers were taught some form of British history during their time at school but this did not stop them from turning to extremist violence.

Therefore, we can claim that Western values have no impact on Muslim culture or on their believes, how about the recent events of the Arab Spring?

The claim that pro-democracy demonstrators in Tunis and Cairo were motivated by an ascription to Western values is a weak argument. This is deeply flawed and somewhat colonial, discarding the possibility that the actions of those seeking reform in either country were a product of their own national circumstances or values. It also highlights Cameron’s myopic view that the reformed democracies in the Middle East will be founded on Western liberal democracy.

By Ksenia Solovyova

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