Sunday, 31 July 2011

Muslims in Rochdale.

I spent ten years teaching English as a foreign language during the years when there was mass immigration into the North of England. To begin with we encouraged Asians to come. They were willing to do the jobs we were not prepared to do. It was mostly the men to start with and as they earned enough to buy homes they sent for their wives and children.
When the realization hit the indigenous populations that in some places they were being out numbered, racism took hold.
The children I taught were a pleasure to reach. They wanted to learn, were never rude or difficult. I talked to them about my religion. They told me about theirs. I went to theirs weddings. They came to my house for tea.
I took the girls swimming and taught them about sex with the permission of their parents. None of them were in any way militant to start with but as they faced abuse and often physical violence from racist thugs masquerading as political parties they became more self aware and assertive.
Anger breeds more anger. we could see it growing and could do nothing to stop it.
These children held British passports. Their parents were entitled to vote. Once, several teachers from the school stood outside the polling booth to give safe passage through a howling mob.
I was subjected to abuse both verbal and physical and once I was spat at..and called a Paki lover.
These Muslims were not militant then, it happened as result of the way they were treated. It had already started to happen when I left Rochdale in the eighties.
On my leaving day they made me a feast. Food was brought, songs were sung and dances danced. It was lovely. At the end the Imran came to say goodbye. He told me I was too good to be British. I wept then and now at what had caused those sentiments to be uttered.

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  1. This post resonated with me at many levels Jean.
    This morning, my usual taxi-driver was waiting for me to go to St. M's at about 10 past 9.ooam
    As I came out, i realised he was out of the car and was smoking.
    He made a 'putting it out' gesture and i said, "please finish your cigarette, there's plenty of time"
    He did so beaming, then getting into the car explained that tomorrow is the beginning of Ramadan, and he will be unable to smoke until after dark for a month.
    Our journey into town was about Ramadan, its rules and the similarities with Lent for those who observe them.
    Fascinating, a good start to the day and helping to establish some points of similarity rather than pointing up the differences.
    Really, that is what it should be about.

  2. If only Ray there were more people like you who take the trouble to listen and understand.. There is more in common than we think!