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Absence of Asians from sport and the arts



Absence of Asians from sport and the arts

2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
'Asians were conspicuous by their absence, no more than extras' in the London Olympics opening ceremony. Above, staff from Great Ormond Street hospital perform in one segment. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Lenny Henry is right to argue that the inequalities faced by ethnic minority talent must become a thing of the past (The door to nowhere, 25 January). However, his list of highly successful actors, directors, and writers includes only one Asian, and his description of "Team GB in its full multi-ethnic, multicultural butt-kicking glory" is sadly not correct.

Little commented upon at the time, Team GB was, in fact, comprised almost in its entirety of whites, blacks, or those of a black and white parentage. Similarly, in Danny Boyle's marvellous Olympic opening ceremony, Asians were conspicuous by their absence, no more than extras in the various sets.

There are profound reasons for the lacuna of Asians in the world of entertainment and sport – the fact that the Premier League is devoid of Asian footballers is perhaps the most striking example. A survey by the Commission for Racial Equality in 2000 found that black Caribbeans had much greater exposure in the British media (particularly in television) than Asians.

Though such a survey has not been repeated, there is no reason to think that the situation has changed. This has little to do with racism or discrimination but instead much to do with the separatism engendered in our supposedly "multifaith, multicultural society" – indeed it seems almost quaint to refer to a segment of society as "Asians", given the preference for a "faith identity". To truly comply with Lenny Henry's laudable wish, a starting point is for such separatist identities to be reined in.

Letter in Guardian on 3rd February 2014 in response to Lenny Henry article

Interview with Voice of Russia on faith identities on 20th February 2014



"The forging of faith identities is radicalising people" - Dr Hasan

Birmingham Central Mosque

Birmingham Central Mosque


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The radicalisation of Muslims in the UK who are prepared to go abroad to wage a holy war has become an increasing security concern. The government has repeatedly warned that so-called British jihadis could return to the UK and pose a significant home-grown terrorism threat. We spoke to Dr. Rumy Hasan from Sussex University, who has written to the Times saying that radicalisation begins in Britain, not abroad. 

 Dr Hasan is the author of Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths. He told VoR."The government hasn't really been much interested in integrating people from ethnic and religious minorities, " Dr Hasan, who is the author of Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths, told VoR. "In fact, they used to talk about Britian being a multi-cultural society, then after 9/11 it became a multi-faith society, so the stress was now on faith identities.

 "So whereas before you had Asians, they became divided into Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs.

 "People have been allowed to express their faith identities and have been provided resources, recognition and even exemption to the law."

 Wasn't that to satisfy the demands of people from those faiths and ethnicities in Britain?

 "To a some extent it was. It was the community and religious leaders who are deeply conservative and were hostile to the fundamental tenets of western liberal democracies who have been pushing for separate resources and exemptions to the law. And the government brought in the incitement to racial hatred act."

 So you're saying that paradoxically that has fermented radicalism?

 "Yes, in the sense that now if your primary allegiance is to your faith, and a lot of radicalised British Muslims are saying we're not British, we're Muslims first, then they have much more interest in what is going on to their fellow Muslims around the world in Syria or Iran or Afghanistan and they might in fact have no material connection with these countries - they might in fact be from India or Somalia.

 "Forging of faith identities is radicalising people particularly if they feel unjust policies have been imposed upon their co-religionists around the world."

 What can the British government - of whatever political persuasion - do apart from telling people they have to be less sensitive?

 "This is what the ministry of defence officials said in an interview last month, when they said that future Afghan or Iraq-type invasions are ruled out because of our increasingly diverse or multi-faith society. 

 "Stop illegal wars of invasion.

 "Second, start forging a common identity. You have very deep segregated neighbourhoods throughout the country and it'll take more than a generation to undo this."

 Is government policy foolish, based on political correctness?

 "Once you have segregated neighbourhoods and you start giving in to the leaders of these neighbourhoods and saying, okay you can have mosques and Muslim of Hindu cultural centres, then you vote for me. We actually are having bits of the sectarianism of Northern Ireland and parts of western Scotland creeping into the mainland.

 "Political Islam particularly is becoming quite a powerful force."

 But wouldn't Muslim leaders be outraged if they weren't allowed mosques and community centres?

 "They can, but there is a trade-off: these are granted with the view that you will vote for us, but what you then set in store - which is peculiar where basically faith is dying out amongst the majority white population - is increasingly strong faith identities among strong ethnic and religious minorities."
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