Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Windsorstan

The term Londonistan has become something of a cliché which is misleading to anyone trying to understand the geographical extent of the problem. While London is the prime target the 7/7 bombers came from Leeds and the most recent plot was uncovered in Manchester. The confrontation between our intelligence services and the police and violent Islamic extremists is taking place across the UK.

The less violent version of this clash between mainstream British society and Islamic radicals is also found both in London, with the protests at speeches by the Pope or refusals by police officers to guard the Israeli embassy, and, increasingly, in the rest of the country. What is interesting, and new as far as I know, is that this clash is becoming a serious issue even in bastions of Middle England such as Windsor. From this, fairly small, town there are a couple of big recent cases:

1) Soldiers of the Household Cavalry, returning from Afghanistan, have had bricks thrown through their windows and angry messages written on their property. They also received phone death threats. In the end Army leadership advised them to move elsewhere to avoid causing trouble so near the Windsor Castle home of the Queen. This was quite a big story which reached the national news and the Sun report describes it well.

2) This Sceptered Isle highlights riots between gangs of white and Asian youths in Windsor. The Ascot, Windsor & Eton Express reports that the disturbance began with growing local frustration at the Dairy's use, and clogging, of a residential road. The dispute grew with an application to use part of the venue as an "Islamic education and community centre". Locals do not like the idea as it would further congest a residential area but apparently it has already been converted to that use before the application has gone through.

It turned ugly with reports that the "security guards from the dairy are aggressive and abusive to mums collecting their kids from school. They won't let anyone down Shirley avenue because they say it's their land." Another woman alledges that she was beaten with a lead pipe by men from the Islamic centre and her car smashed up while going to check on her son during disturbances in the area as white and Asian gangs squared off.

There has since been a petrol bombing of the dairy and arrests for public order offences and possession of offensive weapons. Now the police have been given the ability to put dispersal orders in place under anti-social behaviour legislation.

There is a symbolic importance to Windsor. As Britons we are all subjects of the House of Windsor; any confrontation there has tones of Stalingrad. However, it is more important as a sign that the confrontation over the British Muslim community's proper relationship with the rest of Britain is not going to be confined to the Northern Cities and the poorer parts of London.

While the confrontation was taking place there it was closeted away from the middle classes who are most populous in the Home Counties and dominate the British political discourse. Like the case of the taxi driver who would not take a guide dog because it was 'unclean' but got unlucky and had picked a legal officer for the Royal National Institute for the Blind these stories in Windsor make the failure in integration increasingly relevant to the politically important.

There is a growing fear in Britain that 'no-go areas' are developing which the Muslim community claims as its own and can segregate off from the rest of the country. This could probably have worked well for those who want to cut British Muslims off from their fellow citizens had it been limited to the traditional areas in which the British have always benignly neglected immigrant communities such as the East End of London. The problem may have been ignored for some time until it eventually became apparent that the process of steady assimilation was not going as well as it has for previous waves of migrants.

However, tangle with the British middle class on their home ground and there will be a reaction far more quickly. The shape of that reaction has yet to be decided. Hopefully, it won't be internment but there is an increasing chance it will be something stronger than we might have expected a year or so ago.

2 comments:

edmund said...

good post, i would say the home counties are most important not so much becasue they're where the chattering classes live (most live in London i'd say) but because they're not segregated from the general population there in the same way

Serf said...

You say hopefully it won't be internment.

Unfortunately this government's response to increasing concerns, is likely to be authoritarian.

The majority of these problems can be solved if it is seen as an issue of law and order and not ethnicity / identity. Simply arresting, charging and locking up those who try to create their own rules, would go a long way towards solving the problem.