I would like to summarise some thoughts I have been having for some time now.
Community Relations are one of the most serious challenges we currently face as a nation. We seem in a state of denial. We like to think of ourselves as a multicultural society yet we have had terrorist bombings in London and recently racial tension in Birmingham.
The politically correct like to think that by pussyfooting around words such as 'black' and sanitising Christmas in case we offend anyone is the way forward. We have a government that are going down the road of draconian measures such as ID cards and confused laws and yet how does that contribute to multiculturalism.
Yet we have a situation where a minority of Muslims feel alienated to the extent that they become involved in extreme groups creating a climate of suspicion for the rest of their community, a Black community that feel disadvantaged, immigrants that are tarred with one sweeping brush with a media fuelled paranoia of immigrants. I feel that no one is listening to the real feelings of the various communities out there, including the vast majority of white open minded people.
I firmly believe that Britain with its long history of immigration and multiculturalism stretching back for almost 2000 years should have the experience and the will to get this right. The answer is not ID cards or laws to control what we say or the erosion of civil liberties. The answer must lie in what we have always done, work towards a society where we can celebrate our differences, respect for others whilst building a sense of pride in our own communities.
I have met no one from any non Christian culture that is offended by our celebrating Christmas. I have not seen any Christian offended by other communities celebrating their own holidays. In fact the vast majority of us from whatever background welcome the opportunity to share in the cultures of others, whether it be 'Jamaican Independence Day' (celebrated each year at Hectors in Leamington Spa), Diwali celebrations, folk festivals, watching the West Indies playing at Edgebaston or whatever events take place in our towns.
Outside the paranoia we have a fusion of arts and music, embracing various cultures, there is a new trend in music to fuse Asian styles with British Music that has much of its roots in Celtic or Black music. It is this that makes British Culture so rich.
There has been talk of segregated faith based schools, recent moves by the government for private initiatives in education may accelerate this. Yet how better to build a society of social inclusion than in a school playground where White, Black, Asian, eastern European, all children from whatever background that makes up the blend of communities within an area, play together.
I believe that ID cards and some of the laws being considered at the moment are looking at putting a very flimsy lid on the issue without tackling the real heart of the problem. Clearly there are people from various communities that do not feel included or integrated. Is no one listening to the real issues.
I would like to see less money spent on ID cards and rather more spent on projects to promote community inclusion. Facilities where young people of all backgrounds can play sport, get involved in arts or music. I would like to see investment to promote various cultures that communities can be proud of and share with others. This will in no way erode British culture, whatever that is, it will contribute to enrich it, as it always has. Of course there will still be a minority from all backgrounds that cannot see this, yet they will be marginalised and have little voice, as has happenned with Gay Discrimination, the way to silence them is to take away the very things they shout about.
Once we have a society where all cultures feel included, can be proud of their sense of identity and share it with others, then the tensions that create racial unrest and extremist tendencies will diminish.