The musings of a Mancunian sport loving Muslimah

In response to Baroness Flather

In light of the recent comments by Baroness Flather, which I was pretty concerned and frustrated by, I felt the best way to release the anger was to blog about it.

Flather, a member of the Conservative party and who sits in the House of Lords, is part of an elite group of Asian women who have had this honour.  The highlights of the beginning parts of her career was her entrance into the House of Lords wearing a Sari.  According to Wikipedia she has also been Asian Who’s Who Asian of the Year 1996. In addition she has also served senior posts in various organisations involved in refugee, community, race relations and prison work.

Her comments for me brought up several issues.  For those who are not sure as to her comments, her main claims were that:

  • Pakistani and Bangladeshi families have large families in order to claim benefits and council houses
  • Pakistani and Bangladeshi families do not encourage their children into education , therefore I would assume she believes the ‘circle’ would continue
  • Pakistani and Bangladeshi families have not become a part of British culture in the same that Indian and Jewish immigrants have, the comparison based on the basis that all four sections of the community arrived to Britain at the same time.

A letter by Baroness Flather in, surprise surprise, the Daily Mail.

I listened with interest to the BBC Asian Network show fronted by Nihal, where the Baroness was given an opportunity to further explain and provide evidence for her views.

Firstly, let’s consider the communities she has mentioned.  I will not say here and feel that we have been attacked, far from it.  Every community and person can improve, we all require criticism from time to time, although in essence it should constructive and progressive.  As a child born in a family where both my parents were born and bred in Pakistan, my father came to this country in 1967 and began working.  I therefore do not feel it fair to become a speaker for Bengali’s or other Pakistanis, however I certainly can from my experiences.

Pakistani communities have long been targeted, previously we saw comments from Jack Straw, Blunkett, Blears and various other organisations including the BNP and EDL, where they have been singled out and blamed for various issues, including pedophilia, rape, not allowing women to progress in society and terrorism.

I speak as the child of Pakistani immigrants, I speak as a female and I speak as someone who has 5 siblings.

Saying that Pakistani parents have children in order to claim benefits couldn’t be further from the truth.  I would actually like to invite Baroness Flather to come into my community and speak to the people I acquaint with and speak to my parents.  I find it incredibly rude dismissive, where she has little scorned and poured water on the flawless and effortless hard work that immigrant families have done since coming to this country and the positive contributions they have made.  My father is successfully self employed, we have never ever taken any money from the government whilst growing up or even now.  In fact I remember days and have been told of my times where my father worked 19 hours days, holding down two jobs in order to give his family what he may not have had.  This is not an isolated case, it was not only my father, it is thousands of immigrant families who have done the same, my friends and their friends, have known no other way of life.

We have been instilled from birth with the ethos of work, with the knowledge that if you want to get anywhere in life you will need to work for it.  Pakistani and immigrant families are already associated as being spongers, yet we regularly pay our dues via taxes and giving back to society at large.  Surely it would have been better of Baroness Flather to use this time to highlight the positive contributions that immigrants have made to Britain?

To say that Pakistani families do not instill the importance of education on their children, is an absolute joke, tell that to their children!  Me and my siblings were all privately educated, paid for through my fathers hard work, we went to college, we went to University, two of us hold Masters degree, three of us are teachers and one is self employed.  This is reminiscent of Pakistani families throughout the UK, the number of people not pushing their children into education is far less than those who are.  Immigrants came into this country for a better life, do she honestly believe they wouldn’t fight for them and want the best for their children?

Not are all 'uneducated' as Baroness Flather claims.

I have friends who within their own families and siblings have solicitors, doctors, policeman/women, teachers, fire fighters, self employed, technicians, plumbers and every other occupation you can think of.  I myself am a teacher, am I not then giving back to society?  Have my parents not obviously instilled an importance of self discipline and education within me? I went to a school in which all my Asian friends have gone onto further education, likewise at college and those with me at University are now either in jobs or in their families, but have their education if ever required.

Baroness Flather, in her wisdom then went on to the classic argument of comparing Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities to those of Indian and Jewish heritage. She claims to be someone who fights against discrimination and as someone born in Lahore and will remember the ensuing partition on India clearly, she would do better than to make wild accusations.  I know personally of an Indian family where none of the children have gone above sixth form educated, and on the same hand know of an Indian family of five siblings which consists of a doctor, accountant, teacher, pharmacist and an engineer.  Does that then give me the right to make sweeping generalisations?  Has she visited areas within Manchester where Jewish families are large?

In what ways exactly have the Indians integrated but the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities haven’t?  From a Pakistani perspective and someone who is interested in sport I can name Zesh Rahman, Sajid Mahmood, Adil Rashid and Amir Khan who themselves and their families have sacrificed and contributed to the culture of Britain and represent them at various levels.

Representing Britain - Muslim, British & Pakistani.

Has Baroness Flather considered that people may like to have large families?  She mentioned in the BBC Asian Network phone in that it is not possible for a parent to bring up more than two children properly or given them equal time and love.  Absolutely abhorrent comment and nothing short of ridiculous.  This will sound like a cliché, but I have nothing but fond memories of my childhood, my parents loved and continue to love us all equally and to the best by us.  Baroness Flather has created yet another divide between the Indian and Pakistani communities, giving herself an elitist feel which allows her to feel on par with the others Peers sat at the House of Lord, however on a ground level, what about what these comments for them people?  As an Asian woman she has so much power in the House of Lords and could use this in a positive manner yet instead has pandered to the Daily Mail readership, made friends with the BNP and given further fuel to the EDL.

Whilst channel hopping I have come across the Jeremy Kyle, this does then allow me to sweeping generalisations of te indigenous population of this country?  People at 16 purposely become pregnant in order to receive benefits, a home and have no realisation of who fathered their child with no educational future or job prospects and then become rioters.  Absolute nonsense.  How would it come across if I made that comment as all council estate kids being the same?

As a teacher, I personally understand that EVERY child and EVERY family is different.  Every family has a different background and brings their children up in their own, majority come from caring families with very supportive parents and an extended family who care for them.  I would never ever dream of tarring them all with the same brush.

Baroness Flather then went on to say that Pakistani and Bangladeshi families have not mixed into British culture.  That is surreal.  I really want to know how many Pakistani families she actually knows.  It’s like listening to a ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ sketch, and something I would expect someone to say in the 1960’s.  I consider myself to be Muslim, British, Female and Pakistani.  Notice how I put my nationality as British first?  Instead of labelling us, why does Flather not call us British?  How do you expect integration when you are not willing to even label people as British but rather as what their forefathers were.

I read with interest the LeftFootForward blog, where fact speak louder than words.  It is a fact, that on average Pakistani families consist of 3 children, close to the magical ‘2.4.’  I would suggest Baroness Flather could also walk/travel down various roads in Manchester,  Birmingham, Leicester and London to see the number of self-employed families who work tirelessly for their families whilst their children are going through the education system.

Baroness Flather repeatedly said on the BBC Asian Network that progress was required and people needed to go out and help with family planning and education.  She then went onto further split the communities by claiming she was only talking about Mirpuri and Sylhet families, but couldn’t say this in the House of Lords as she was trying to raise a point.  Evidently, trying to make a name for herself as no-one had noticed her for a while.  It’s interesting that Baroness Flather is part of the House of Lords, which includes peers and is associated with the same government which was found guilty of fiddling with tax payers money in the MP expenses row.

I am not sure what exactly her comments have done for community cohesion, I feel Baroness Flather is out of touch with the same people that she claims to represent, I feel she needs to come out into these areas and speak to these communities, rather than making rash claims.  She has left many, including myself, feeling isolated and stigmatised, anytime someone see’s an Asian family now, what will they think?  And how has this made the first generation of immigrants feel?  They have worked tirelessly for years to build a generation and a heritage to give their kids the best in life via the best possible means, maybe it was time for this to be credited, but no, Baroness Flather had better ideas.

Truly disappointed and shocked.  I wouldn’t anticipate an apology, I would anticipate however that she uses facts and not as she put it ‘anecdotal evidence’ for her claims.  I have also questioned her motives further, with her regular reference to Islam and Muslims, although I am sure that could be for another blog.


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