Thursday, October 19, 2006

Integration 1

I've been following the debate on veil wearing with interest. Veils themselves don't deserve this much coverage (hehe), the amount of veil wearers in Britain is not that significant. What interests me is the potential for some balanced discussion on the topic of integration.

I've noticed two levels of criticism of the niqab. The politicians (lining up eagerly to issue their own statements) usually say that veils can make people 'uncomfortable'. One of my colleagues wears a veil and I haven't witenessed it bother anyone. The wet patch in front of her mouth grosses me out slightly but not half as much as people in low slung jeans bending over on the tube (a frequent London occurrence).

At a more extreme level, some people quoted in the media have said that they find veil wearers frightening. I find this hard to believe, particularly coming from the tough types who usually state it. Gosh, imagine what new immigrants make of goths!

It is true, however, that veils make communication more difficult. At a recent work meeting my veiled colleague spoke for several minutes to a group, mostly muslims, from a range of countries. Had all people present been native English speakers there might not have been a problem. Without seeing facial expression and mouth movement, however, most found her too difficult to follow and just tuned out.

There are so many things more worrying and common than veil wearing. Yesterday I saw a girl jump out and yell at a cyclist, almost causing him to go under a bus. A few weeks ago I walked past a bus shelter where two boys were doing a similar thing, jumping out and screaming at anyone who approached, old ladies included.

And in terms of integration, I'm much more concerned that English language learning provision in the UK is underfunded and disorganised. I hate it that immigrants are blamed for failing to integrate as if integration should be a one-sided effort. More on this later...


jase said...

UK & Oz Multiculturism - and assimilation...that old chestnut.

To be more British than fish and chip friday, to be more Aussie than oi oi oi.

Interestingly I tend to find most educated people agree with and expect assimilation and intergration - typically, "Why can't all the immigrants just fit it, not live in ghettos and speak good English? Because I would if I were an immigrant." (oh would you really) expats in Singapore and Hong Kong do?

But yet they like to see themselves as wonderfully open and welcoming of people from all other cultures race and nationality. And love to express how great their country is because of it. Enjoying the diversity and cutlural totums of food, music, art, fashion, politics and cultural values etc.

To have their cake and eat it too.

I agree, its a two way street. But how to educate the moronic?

People who are stuck in the middle - are forever trying to find their true identity...the lucky ones can live comfortably in both camps, but they can never really can they. The human need (media influenced?) for tribes is too strong.

Miriam said...

I love it when you're not studying! there's always a new blog to read!