After our class discussion the other day about arranged marriage in eastern religions such as Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism, especially, I wanted to look further into the subject. I focused on the “Living” sections of BBC’s Religion & Ethics website, and what I found was rather surprising.
Arranged marriages have been a popular, if not essential, part of eastern religions for many years. Oftentimes parents will chose a partner for their children based on character and personality and for religious reasoning. However, rather less selflessly, some parents have been known to choose their children’s brides and grooms to expand businesses, earn dowries or move up the social ladder.
However, in Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam alike, there can be seen a noticeable shift towards a new phenomenon in arranged marriages: internet matchmaking. The younger generations have taken matters into their own hands and have begun to usurp their parents’ role as matchmakers and look for their own partners on their own, via the internet. Sites like Islamic Faces and Hindu Faces have begun to spring up on the World Wide Web, uniting singles based on their religion and the simple profiles they create.
According to the BBC site, there are varying degrees of acceptance among the parents of those who have taken to the internet to find their soul mates. Some parents, like those of Manush, a Hindu man, were apprehensive about the process, and met it with some resistance. Most, however, were happy with their children’s unions once they met the spouse-to-be. Other parents were relieved that they no longer had the responsibility of choosing a mate for their son or daughter.
Among all these religions, one thing is glaringly apparent: marriage is sacred. Marriage is believed to be a true life-long commitment, and low divorce rates among Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims reflect that. Marriage is likewise something which enables those who enter into it to pass down their religion and culture to their children, which accounts for members of these religions seeking partners with similar religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
What is apparent is that inherent in this shift towards internet dating is also a shift away from traditional cultural and religious practices and towards more modern and western ideas about marriage. Could this trend be evidence of adoption of and integration into UK culture? Or does the fact that internet dating could still be considered, in a sense, a form of arranged marriage render the change simply a shift in the conduit through which partners find one another, and not a shift in cultural practice at all?
My first observation: I have absolutely no interest in comparing Hinduism and Sikhism.
My second observation: I lack the sufficient knowledge to try to act as though I can analyze religion, and if I tried I believe my thoughts would reflect my bias nature.
My third observation: I’m going to shut up and write about what I have learned.
Since we have been in London, I have truly enjoyed our emphasis on the great diversities of faith. Since the day I was born I have practiced the same religion. Although I lay great value on my beliefs, I have always found it fascinating to learn and study other religious beliefs. That said, I find this prompt very interesting, in that, I appreciate the opportunity to look further into how these religious groups face immigration as well as assimilation.
I really like BBC.com. It isn’t the easiest cite to navigate, but its very informative. After reading both the Hinduism and Sikhism profiles I happened to find two, very distinct, characteristics that have and will continue to influence their ability to practice religion in London.
To be a devout practicing Sikh, one must have uncut hair, carry a comb, wear a silver bracelet, wear special undergarments, and carry a sword. These customs were came into practice when the religion was developed in India. India allows and accepts these customs simply because it is natural. However, today, in England these practices may influence the daily lives of those who practice Sikhism. Carrying around certain weapons in a city is against the law, this is an obvious, however other customs the Sikhs practice influence their ability to smoothly immigrate into London. Leaving hair uncut, and wearing certain clothing could factor into attaining certain job position etc.
Hinduism also stems from India. Those that live in India and also practice Hinduism have forever followed the segregation of the Caste system. The system includes the priests, the warriors, the merchants, laborers, and the untouchables. This system is clearly prevalent in India but, now as those who practice Hinduism immigrate to London the system continues. Although the segregation is not visible, within their religious community, tradition continues to flourish and those with in their class remain in their class. The combination of both the Caste system and the British Class system allows for deeper separation, and continual discouragement of creating a people as one.
These two faiths immigrate to London with the desire to continue their religious practice in full. However, when they encounter the different laws and social values in the city it becomes difficult to balance religion and assimilation. Preventing this seems almost impossible. Should the people of London allow one specific religion to carry around a weapon? Should the Hindu rank system be completely abolished, even if it altered the stature of a priest? These question are not simple. Question of this form require more than just a quick conversation or a unanimous opinion, they require both cultures to accept each other 100 percent. Who knows when that will happen….
September 7th, 2009 · 3 Comments
Going into the trip at the Sikh Gurdwara last Thursday I was unsure of what to expect. By the time I came out I felt very positive about the experience. Things could not have been more different for me at the Hindu Mandir. From the moment I saw the Temple and noticed that there were security guards in front I had an odd feeling. This did not go away. After depositing my bag and all my valuables in the security trailer across the street I made my way into the Mandir. After depositing my shoes in a rack similar to the Gurdwara our tour guide began speaking with us about the Hindu religion. After a quick introduction he began immediately by praising Hinduism and the Mandir pointing out the intricacies of the building including the ceiling which is made from a special wood found in Burma. Unlike Mr. Singh at the Gurdwara who was dressed in traditional Sikh prayer garb our guide at the Mandir was dressed in western attire with a button-up collared shirt and slacks. After walking through the humungous prayer room my hypothesis that Hinduism and Sikhism should be polarized with one another seemed pretty accurate. The prayer room featured one giant ornate rug that covered the majority of the room. On the walls there were giant portraits depicting the past four Spiritual Guru’s of the Swaminarayan Faith and lifesize statues of each. The prayer room also featured two giant projectors in the front of the room so those that are praying in the back of the room can get a phenomenal view of the front stage. In addition there were skylights located in the center of the hall that could be opened or closed at any time.
After hearing about the prayer room we crossed over to the other side of the Mandir where we entered an exhibit explaining the ins and outs of Hinduism. Although our guide said that the Mandir served a multi-purpose role not only as a place for people to pray but also a place where people can learn, I was still a little disconcerted by the presence of a museum in the middle of a place of worship. While waiting to enter the exhibit the class looked at a wall outside that featured pictures of all the famous world politicians that had come and visited in the past. The wall also featured certificates and awards that the Mandir had won.
Inside the museum I learned a lot about Hinduism but I couldn’t help but notice the lack of humility with which the information was presented. There were quotes from notable figures such as Mark Twain and Henry David Thoreau praising the Indian way of life and the Hindu religion. An example is:
“It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end the self-destruction of the human race…At this supremely dangerous moment in history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way” – Dr. Arnold Toynbee (British Historian. 1889-1975).
Other parts of the exhibit not so diplomatically claimed that the Hindu’s invented the concept of zero and created the first university over 2,700 years ago. Everything seemed glorified and most definitely biased. Although I expect every museum to have some sort of bias I did not expect it to be as brutally obvious as the Mandir made it seem.
To sum up my experiences at the Sikh Gurdwara and the Hindu Mandir it is safe to say that they were vastly different from one another. Since Hinduism is the oldest living religion in the world it makes sense for them to refer to many of their ways as “Indian”. Despite this fact I couldn’t help but notice that Sikh’s were being excluded when these descriptions were being made.
The best way to describe the Hindu religion and the Baps Shri Swaminarayan Mandir is immodest. Everything both in and outside was big, new and technologically driven. Even when our class had an opportunity to participate in a traditional Hindu prayer I found it hard to concentrate because there were security guards standing around the premises. Although the Sikh Gurdwara was certainly big and looked fairly new the message preached inside was of simplicity, the polar opposite of what I sensed at the Mandir. Although I still did not feel entirely comfortable paying my respects to the guru at the Gurdwara I felt that had I participated in prayer I could have felt at peace. Even something as small as just sitting down to a meal together was significant to me. Especially since every single Gurdwara serves the same meal to every single person everywhere. To me this example completely JUXTAPOSES the Hindu tradition of hierarchy rooted in their caste system. Since Sikhism is a fairly new religion and has not fully been recognized by much of the world there are bound to be some bumps in the road but it seems to me that part of the reason Sikhism was founded in India was to rebel against the values of Hinduism.
As far as where I see these two religions going within Great Britain it is hard to say. Both Southall and Neasden seemed to be pretty homogeneous communities with mostly people of Indian descent in both regions. Because of this I think that both the Hindu and Sikh religions will have their place within London, at least for a while. Using the example of Mrs. Suri in Tarquin Hall’s Salaam Brick Lane it seems that the Indian community remains tightly knit regardless of where members of the community immigrate to. The Indian community itself traditionally churns out millions of educated “youngsters” every year many of which go on to hold prominent positions in a variety of fields including business, law and medicine. Because of this the Indian community as a whole is in no danger of disintegrating anytime soon.
As Mr. Singh told us at the Gurdwara he wishes that a day will come when he can go to the security check point at an airport and the security guard will know that he is a Sikh, therefore a peaceful man, and let him pass without any hassle. Due to the fact that Sikhism is such a young and upcoming religion (according to the BBC there are 336,000 Sikhs currently living in Britain) one can only hope that over time and with more exposure in the U.K. people will come to understand it better and the Sikh’s will find their place here in London. The only obstacle I see Sikh’s facing is their ability to blend in to the professional work force here in London. Some businesses may require that men shave off their facial hair in an attempt to look more like the typical British professional. As a Sikh one would have to ask himself how much that part of his religion means to him and whether he feels like he is sacrificing anything by shaving. If the answer is that the Sikh feels like he is sacrificing something than it will be difficult to predict what will happen.
With Hinduism being the world’s oldest living religion it is clear that Hindu’s have managed to traverse many obstacles throughout the years. In addition, they have completely modernized their religion to fit 21st century standards. Although I did not enjoy my experience at the Mandir all that much I have to admit there is certainly a rare brilliance and resilience that comes with being a Hindu. With some of the world’s smartest, most self-motivated and disciplined individuals running the show Hinduism is not going anywhere in London or in the U.K. In fact I see it growing steadily, especially with all the adaptations Hindus have made to fit the times.
September 7th, 2009 · 1 Comment
Family. I’m not part of a particularly close one. This summer I was fortunate enough to stumble into Issi’s Place where I was adopted into an incredibly quirky and close-knit family of Hasidic Jews in Beechwood, Ohio. At Issi’s- a pizza parlor that keeps kosher- we got into each other’s way in the tiny kitchen, sweated through humid summer days next to the oven, stressed out over wrong orders, yelled at each other for taking too long to close the store, and then sat around for hours afterwards chatting the night away about Israel, Judaism, my life story, their life stories, life in general…It was truly fantastic. I’ve never before really had a home that I yearned for when traveling but the lack of Issi and my co-workers in my everyday life has definitely shown me just how difficult the feeling of homesickness can be to handle. With every kippah-wearing gentleman that passes here in England, I am reminded of the family I have back in a small pizza parlor in Ohio.
Enter the happy part of this story. Yesterday, a friend and I stumbled upon a concert of Klezmer Music that was happening in a beautiful area of Regent’s Park. Upwards of a hundred Hasidic Jews were gathered around a gazebo listening and dancing together. Instantly, a sense of nostalgia that I’ve never experienced before just hit me. In a corner of a park in London, England, a community much like the one I so love in Beechwood, Ohio collected in a preciously familiar fun-loving, care-giving way.
Now, the sentimental part of me can only go on so long before the liberal arts college student in me starts to analyze situations. Many of our readings on London’s history have addressed how immigrant communities are viewed in the city. A few of those readings have compared today’s “outcast” immigrant culture to yesterday’s “outcast” Jewish community. While this may not be the most politically correct of comparisons, it supports an optimism that London will accept the cultures that it seems to be ‘outcasting’ currently. If the same Jewish community that once was separated from the majority of the city can now celebrate a music form that has close ties to its culture in one of the most heavily visited parks in the city then clearly the city can accept what it once rejected so fully. Assuming this progression remains in place, today’s immigrant cultures that seem to be outcasts in London’s society would seem to have light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. That being said, the hope is that London doesn’t actually continue on in the same vein as it has been. While we should celebrate the fact that the city can and eventually usually does recognize and attempt to better its mistakes, we should actively push for a change to take place to make sure that such segregation never happens in the first place. Yes, it’s great that the city can apologize but wouldn’t it be better if it didn’t have to apologize at all? Wouldn’t it be best if the mistake wasn’t made in the first place?
By birth, I’m not a part of a Jewish community whether it be a secular or incredibly orthodox branch of the religion. This summer showed me that one does not need to be born into a family in order to be a part of it though. Like a family, a city cannot hose whom its members are. Maybe at one point in time this could have happened, ut- thankfully- we are past those days. We now live in an age in which cultures of all different roots are living in the same area. We need to do more than that though. We need to bump into each other, tell a few jokes with one another, and invite each other over for dinner. This may sound a little naïve or wishy-washy but I think the parallel is there. Issi accepted me into a community this summer that I could not have differed more from. He didn’t make me sit in a corner by myself and only speak when be spoken to. I went to the pizza parlor to do more than just work. An outsider both culturally and religiously, I was accepted despite our differences into their conversations and they into mine. London would do well to start doing the same.
September 7th, 2009 · 1 Comment
After every major wave of immigrants that come to a country like Britain, the debate over national identity will inevitably come up. If these people are here to stay, will they affect our society in a way that changes our everyday lives? What does it mean to be British? Will these people ever become one of us, or will they always just be outsiders? For a country with such a long standing national identity, it would only make sense that the British would be unyielding to the newest members of their nation. However given England’s history, it seems that incorporating these new cultures would be the more British thing to do.
Take food for example: If you had asked the public only fifteen years ago what the national dish of England was, chances were they would say “fish and chips”. Ask that question today and you would be shocked to hear that “chicken tikka masala” is the dish of choice for the majority of British people. The origin of the recipe is the perfect example of immigrant identity in England. The (unconfirmed but generally accepted) story goes like this: A customer in a Glasgow restaurant complained that the chicken tikka, a dish Punjabi in origin was too dry and asked for some gravy. Allegedly, the chef then composed a sauce out of yogurt and spices and POOF, chicken tikka masala. Today, you would be hard pressed to find an Indian restaurant that did not at least offer the dish, and there are even some non-Indian restaurants who serve it. How was it that a dish so un-British in nature could have such a serious effect on British cuisine? Some could say it is the increasing amount of people who are either from or descended from India. While this answer is certainly plausible, that doesn’t account for the overwhelming white British population who still chose this dish over “fish and chips” (Another very plausible answer could be that fish and chips simply isn’t appetizing, but that is an entirely different debate).
What happens instead is something much more unexpected: British Identity changes. Chicken tikka masala is only one of many instances throughout British history in which England has absorbed a part of its immigrant culture and called it its own. It was Jewish immigrants from that modernized England’s banking system. Many members of the royal family throughout history have been from other countries. Even fish and chips, the pride and joy of English cuisine (which is sad beyond words), is actually French in origin. The character of Aktar in Tarquin Hall’s Salaam Brick Lane describes it best as being “Englished” and points out that despite the mindset of the English to be predisposed against foreigners joining the fold, the assimilation will inevitably happen. However, who changes who will be and always has been largely up to debate.
September 7th, 2009 · 2 Comments
What I have gathered from visiting both the Hindu temple and the Sikh gudwara is that Sikhism is all about the equality of people from all classes, races, genders, and backgrounds, while Hinduism is founded on the idea of the jati, or caste system. Also, in the practice of the Sikh faith there are very little rituals and very few gaudy symbols, while Hindus use numerous rituals and symbols in their worshiping practices.
In most ways it is more difficult for Sikhs to adjust into British culture than it is for Hindus. With their five Ks, or the five physical symbols that Sikhs have to symbolize their faith, the Sikhs stand out a lot more than the Hindus. Since 9/11 and 7/7 there has been a lot of hostility toward South Asian individuals who wear turbans and have long beards, since then ignorant individuals have tormented Sikhs because they associate them with terrorist activities. Also, some work places do not permit their employees to have unshaven faces and uncut hair. Living in England also forces the Sikhs into a unequal class society that is not compatible with the Sikh’s belief in equality.
Hindus have an easier time adjusting to the British culture because they do not have any spacific visual keys to thier religion that could create a social backlash or hostility. They also have a strong understanding of the British class devisions because of their understanding of their own caste system. However, the fact that Hinduism is a polythisit religion might create some agressive actions from the primarily Christian British society.
September 7th, 2009 · 2 Comments
During our time in London, we have noticed that many of the religious institutions we have been visiting rely on gift shops and cafés to increase revenue. Some basic internet research shows that many people have mixed feelings about whether or not this practice is acceptable. Generally speaking, we do not believe it is necesarily inappropriate for a church or temple to sell refreshments or gifts related to the location or religion. Given a decrease in European religious sentiment and worldwide economic difficulty, donations aren’t a very reliable source of funding. If a place is to be kept open to a public (tourists and worshipers alike) it needs money to run. Employees and utilities need to be paid and maintenance isn’t cheap. It’s easy to understand the rationale behind the decision to open a shop.
For the most part, the places of worship we have visited had signs informing the guest that the proceeds from the shop or café benefit either local charity or the building itself. For example, St. Martin’s in the Fields’ gift shop benefits “the work” of the church. Additionally, the products sold are related to Christianity, the church itself, and the church’s location. Furthermore, the Shri Swaminarayan Mandir‘s gift shop sold incense, prayer beads, and other products Hindus would need for everyday use in addition to more “touristy” items. We consider all odthese items to be appropraite for such a shop; they are directly related to the place and its purpose.
Whilst visiting the Christ Church College in Oxford (this may or may not have been related to Harry Potter), we stumbled into “The Cathedral Shop” adjacent to the college’s chapel. Most of the items sold by this shop were very similar to the other gifts shops we previously encountered. There were chalices, books, t-shirts, postcards, etc. There was a fairly modest Harry Potter section relating the the films that were partially created at the location alongside a small section dedicated to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, which was written in Oxford.
However, we did notice a few items that did not seem appropriate for a shop entitled “The Cathedral Shop.” Instead, they seemed to be trying VERY hard to appeal to young, hip buyers:
The last time we checked, no religion condones binge drinking and sleeping until 4pm and Oxford isn’t particularly famous for its hangovers.
We’re curious to see what everyone else in the group thinks about the idea of gift shops in religious buildings and what kinds of items they should sell.
Tags: Churches and Cathedrals · Alli · Sarah
The BBC recently featured an interesting article discussing Internet matchmaking in the UK Sikh community. In the past, meeting people and dating over the web was shrouded in taboo and its legitimacy has always been in question. Throngs of success stories from major sites like eHarmony.com and Match.com have changed the public perception in recent years, however.
The UK is the home of the world’s second largest Sikh population (after India, of course). Many Sikhs are second-generation Indians torn between the completely different cultures of India and the West. Marriage is a particularly difficult and confusing subject. In India and elsewhere, most Sikh marriages are arranged by the parents. Occasionally, the bachelor or bachelorette will have some say in the matter. Such a practice is unheard of in Western culture. Here lies the essential difference: while Western marriages are based upon love, passion, compatibility, and chemistry between the two parties, modern Sikh matrimony is based upon pragmatism and stability. Sikh parents have marriage experience under their belts, possessing invaluable expertise about how to love your partner for life. Young people in Western society who fall helplessly in love one day are actually more likely to end up divorcing each other than remaining together. Alarmingly, divorce rates in many Western nations have breached the 50% mark. India has found its niche at the bottom of the list.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/sikhism/living/matchmaking.shtml shares the story of Jazz, a young Sikh man living in the UK who met his wife Nonie, who still lived in India, over the Internet. He and his friends were skeptical at first, but after Jazz and Nonie became happily married, the skeptics started logging on to sikhnet.com by the droves. While Internet courtship has only recently moved into the mainstream here in the UK, it has been socially acceptable for years over in India.
What I find most interesting about this particular union is that Nonie did not have any pictures uploaded. And Jazz didn’t care. From the BBC: “I didn’t see a picture of her. There was no chemical interaction. Instead got to know her character.” He believes that marriage is less about “chemistry and emotion” and emphasizes “the unification of two characters.” Sikh marriages seem to held together by a societal bond. Through happiness and hardship, the husband and wife remain resilient and adapt to each other. This holds in stark contrast to Western couples, who tend to split when the going gets tough.
The Internet dating option bypasses the the idea that Westerns cringe at, that the parents are in control. While her parents were out searching for a suitor, Nonie elected to set up a profile on Sikhnet that she could customize according to her individual character. Through email, the two got to know each other and felt a definite connection. The lack of physical contact removed the passion aspect that drives so many Westerners to unwise matrimony and subsequent divorce.
How many Americans who use dating websites would even bother contacting someone without a picture? Nonie writes, “For me being a Sikh is about continuing what my parents gave to me. It’s part of my identity. I wanted to marry someone who could share this with me so I didn’t lose my identity.” The institution of arranged marriage or emotionally detached courtship could only work for people whose religion is the most important aspect of life. Someone once asked me if I was a Jewish American or an American Jew. Fitting into the category of Western secularized, I consider my American identity to be more important than my Jewish heritage (much to the chagrin of most of my extended family and their oh so delicious matzo ball soup). This is purely speculation, but I would think that most of the Western world probably thinks along the same lines. I would never let my parents pick a woman for me. I plan on meeting a mate based upon what I wrote earlier: love, passion, compatibility, and chemistry. I can only hope I end up on the undivorced side of the fence.
Tags: Andrew B
So, since we’ve all been given the post topic, I feel as though I don’t need to go into the simplistic description of our travels. We saw Sikh and Hindu places of prayer. They were both gorgeous. What is their differences and how are they reflective of the two cultures attempts to integrate into British culture? Looking at the Sikhs, I would say they were looking for acceptance, where as the Hindu guide was trying much more to impress. Both are devices used to gain positioning within a society. I distinctly remember our Sikh guide saying something along these lines: I hope one day people will not stop us at the air port, rather they will say ‘oh hey, he’s a Sikh, he’s ok.’ Sikhism in general is a younger religion than Judeo-Christian faiths and Hinduism. With this, it is often forced out of public eye and understanding. For this reason, they are often left to get whatever cultural capital charity they are able to get. the Naara Mandir was also looking for a piece of the British-cultural pie, but they have gone about attaining it in a very different way, despite the fact that they came to England initially around the same time. Almost like the girl who punches you when she likes you, the temple seemed to me to be attempting to out do British structures in order to gain their respect. If I heard another comment about Italian marble or how amazing the whole thing was, I may have just laughed. Further, I thought the way that the temple was presenting Hinduism was simply a way to cater towards Judeo-Christian understanding. Hinduism comes from Vedic traditions, and by nature is not a singular religion. While they are all relatively accepting of each other, there are many distinct traditions far beyond what the Mandir was expressing.
Possibly too bold: the Sikh’s looked to intergrate through submission (BBC mentions cutting their hair, putting down their sabers) while the Hindus looked to intergrate without compromise. Strangely enough, it has worked for the Hindus. Overall they have gained respect much more far reaching than that of the Sikh.
The few other Hindu temples I have been to have been quite a bit less opulent. This may simply be because of the focal-point nature of the Mandir. Ali and I both went to a small Hindu farm where monks lived and worked together to live and pray. At the farm, the only sign of riches at all was a small pillar filled with donated trinkets. And even then the trinkets were out of sight.
The one thing I noticed about both religious groups, Sikh and Hinduism, is that have both been greatly affected by globalization (not necessarily from an English influence). Comparing the Mandir to an Indian village, where there may only be one TV for the whole community, is quite startling. Also, the concept of a global leader is also a fair new concept– relative to the existence of Hinduism that is. But I think the world requires that of religions these days; the Other needs a Dahlia Lama or Pope. The Other needs a hierarchy to categorize and compartmentalize. Even the name Hinduism, is silly. Hinduism was the name given to the people of the river valley, an umbrella term that described hundreds of tribalistic beliefs.
Onto the articles… Sikh’s using the Internet to find mates makes perfect sense. What better way to cut away the physical attraction than through having emailing dates. You get all the perks of talking to someone and learning about them, without the issues of false attraction and dating. The concept of sexual abuse in a religion preaching sexual suppression is not unimaginable. Look at Rumspringa in the Amish community. When you push and ignore any aspect of a person’s psyche, it just enforces a person’s need to let it out. Why do Amish kids go out and drag race, do coke and who know what else? I would wager it is because they know they can’t otherwise. In many conservative religions, people are more likely to go to extreme sexual lengths when they do actually go about having sexual experiences.
Tags: Andrew R
September 7th, 2009 · 4 Comments
Over my one-pound-fifty take-out lunch that I brought back to the garden, Megan and I discussed last week’s blog topic: identity and immigration. “I just have no idea where I’m going to take this,” I said. “We’ve done so much reading about this already, I just feel like I have nothing new to say.” Megan agreed, saying that she felt as though she had done all the research, knew all the background information, and was just struggling to “find a conclusion.” I think we both really had valid points here.
It is impossible to form any sort of thesis about identity and immigration in London because of the essence of London. It is, according to one of our Guardian readings on race, “a city with immigrants” rather than “a city of immigrants,” like New York. London is definied by its ever-shifting immigrant populations. If one were to establish some sort of grasp on what immigration means to London today, and what London means to immigrants today, it would shift within a matter of years and become obsolete. Immigration is part of what makes London London, and therefore, there is nothing new to say about it because it has always been this way, and will continue to be.
Perhaps this blog is too short, perhaps some of you will think it was ill-structured, poorly thought-out or had no new ideas to introduce to the reader. Well, you may be right. However, over-analyzing immigrant populations – identifying where the Afro-Caribbean communites or the Polish communities or the Jewish, Indian, Bangladeshi or Pakistani communities are located – only serves to further isolate these populations from one another and from the rest of British culture. We’ve discussed the topic to death. What we need to do now is look at the issue from a new vantage point, or even better, from no vantage point at all. If we accept immigrants as Londoners, and cease to discuss these populations as separate entities, then the possibility of a new London would be possible.