You Love My Food But Hate me Being Here?

I cooked for some people just before Christmas- some mates, some acquaintances, some allies, some foes. One thing they ALL AGREED on was how great the food was. How boring food used to be in the 70s. Then came a very divisive conversation on immigration and class. they were eating my food and blasting away at how British culture and cohesion had been ‘destroyed’. How so? I asked? Even now not one of them has a child who goes out with a plumber’s son or daughter. The North-South chasm is bigger than ever. So what is this united nation they dream up? Two people left crossly. Before the pudding. Good. I saved the best till last. Sweet and bitter do not mix. Here is the pud.

Indian Bread and Butter Pudding

6 slices good white bread

1/2 tin evaporated milk

1/2 tin condensed sweetened milk

1/2 cup full cream milk

3 eggs

2 tbsp. toasted, shelled pistachios and the same amount of flaked almonds and golden raisins

1/2 tsp saffron and cardamom powder

Mix the milks

Add saffron and cardamom and leave for an hour

Cut out crusts from bread

Beat in eggs into milk mixture

Lay down bread in two layers

Leave for ten mins

Bake in medium oven for twenty minutes or until the top starts to brown.

Rest for ten minutes and serve




Hating the Immigrant: A National Sport

Immigration Hatred

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

 I want the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson to look me in the eye and tell me that it was a big mistake to let my people- the Ugandan Asians- into this country. A big mistake because the majority of Brits resented us coming, believed the ‘influx’ would put intolerable pressure on jobs, housing, NHS and education and corrupt the national identity. Local authorities paid for full page adverts in Ugandan newspapers asking Asians to keep out of their areas. Most of the media was maniacally opposed, same as when Jews were coming over before World War 11 and in the centuries previously. Mr Robinson is presenting a programme on BBC2 this week showing the scale of public concern about immigration. Instead of being an objective conduit, he has, in a jingoistic, right wing newspaper, slammed the Corporation for censoring anti-immigrant opinions. A big lie. These are the only views now dominating the papers and airwaves. Robinson was once an ardent Chairman of the Young Conservatives. Possibly deeply held political positions don’t just wash away when you get a top broadcasting job. If that feels like a slur, forgive me. But as an immigrant I feel slandered by the caustic populism now flaunted by respectable intellectuals and politicians.

Roger Mosey, previously a BBC executive, now Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge,  made similar observations late last year. Others are on the same warpath. They seem or care not to know the history of this eternal crisis. Here are a few of the facts gone missing in this so called debate: In 1903, Cathcart Wason, Liberal MP for Orkney and Shetland- no migrants there, even now-  asked in parliament: ‘What is the use of spending thousands of pounds on building beautiful workman’s dwellings if the places of our own workpeople, the backbone of the country, are to be taken over by the refuse and scum of other nations’? In the sixties the people and many of their leaders complained bitterly about ‘aliens’ living off benefits. Patrick Gordon Walker, Midlands Labour MP said in 1962: ‘This is a British country with British standards of behaviour. The British must come first’. Not only Cameron, and May, but Ed Milliband and Yvette Cooper too are repeating that mantra. Remember the hysterics over migration from Hong Kong when it was handed back? The way Afghani refugees were treated when they came here? Migrant hatred is part of the complicated story of this country. And so is hard won migrant love. The media surely has a duty to ensure social trust and tell the whole story.  

BBC and other journalists  have not excitedly prioritised  the majority view that the death penalty should be brought back or that paedophiles should be put away on some remote island forever. Ministers too have been leaders not followers on these issues.

Until a decade back, most Brits did not support real equality for gays. Leading media outlets presented sane arguments and aired persuasive voices, felt morally compelled to argue the case. By not pandering to democratic tyranny, they enabled the population to shed prejudices.  On immigration the BBC and others are led by right wing trendsetters on social media and encourage the tyranny. I do understand that in recession people fear the foreigner. And that Islamicism has increased those fears. But those can’t be the excuses for the pervasive nastiness directed at migrants and refugees.

Robinson is disdainful of senior BBC figures who feared a free-for-all immigration debates ‘would unleash some terrible side of the British public’. They were right. When doors are opened to objectors and neo- jingoists, responsible broadcasters must ensure fairness. They don’t. For balance, programmes should cover the concerns of immigrants too. How it leaves us feeling vulnerable and devalued. Call me Tony Hall. Let’s talk. It’s time.

According to received wisdom, those opposing migration are not racist . But if verified data is ignored, if immigrants’ voices are silenced, if the bullish majority freely maligns incomers, it is  xenophobia. The economic downturn was caused by irresponsible bankers and a dysfunctional economic model not by migration. Housing shortages and the misery of the poor, for whom I feel deeply,  is the result of government policy not the Polish carpenter or Punjabi waiter. We came, settled and became productive citizens. As did most of those who came before us. Researchers at Manchester University have found the most mixed UK neighbourhoods are the most healthy and that it is deprivation, not diversity, that adversely affects the quality of life in some urban areas. In 2012, The National Institute of Economic and Social Research found ‘no association’ between higher immigration and joblessness and that immigration was an economic stimulant.

All Britons should keep a diary for one week and note the interactions with ‘outsiders’. It’s what we all do, have to. So why this relentless hostility?

 The independent, 6th January 2014




Lee Rigby

The two sisters who worked for Nigella Lawson were found not guilty of fraud  just after the convictions of Michael Adebolago and Michael Adebolawle, the two brutal murderers of  Lee Rigby. Swiftly, shamefully, the fickle nation was gripped by the final act of the Lawson/Saatchi melodrama and  Rigby was forgotten. Not, obviously, by his grieving relatives who, in court, had watched the gruesome footage of the soldier being butchered and heard one of the killers justifying his barbarism.  And not forgotten by most of us Muslims who feel collective guilt about what happened and seek ways to make amends. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims in Leicester had a charity dinner in October to raise money for an education trust for Jack, the young son of Rigby. His widow attended the dinner. This week mosques have prayed for the young man as have Muslim families. I prayed too.

With passions running high, some of us have experienced  unspoken and viciously spoken hatred. Two emails asked if  I wanted to cut off the heads of all soldiers. (Me? I couldn’t cut the head off a very dead turkey.) This was after the catastrophic interview by John Humphreys on BBC Radio4’s Today programme.  Has the BBC a death wish for itself and the rest of us too? Once again it handed  air time to an extremist, bellicose Muslim, shunned and despised by British Muslims, including the most conservative. Anjem Choudary is an  ideological jihadist who uses words like sharp blades. He nicked John Humphreys here, cut there, shredded tough questions with counter-questions, left our nation’s scariest interrogator wounded. How thoughtless and brainless do you have to be to make such a choice the day after Rigby’s killers were sentenced?

The programme has form on this. When columnist Rod Liddle was the editor of Today, he amused himself by frequently featuring Abu Hamza, a latter-day malevolent Captain Hook but with worse breath. ( By the way I think Hamza should have been tried here, not sent off to the USA to face unspecified charges.) Our national broadcasters are not noble exemplars of Voltaire’s dictum: ‘I do not agree with what you have to say, but I‘ll defend to death your right to say it’. They are motivated by mischief. As Labour MP John Spellar said when condemning the interview, ‘It makes good radio’. Makes great TV too. Bring on the angry veiled bats, mad mullahs, bearded brigands, reformed terrorists, watch the ratings shoot up .  None of this whipped-up excitement helps anyone understand what Islamicism is and why it is spreading among young black and Asian males and possibly white converts. 

These angry, chaotic men are nomads, psychologically disjointed, rebels looking for a cause. Charismatic proselytisers get to parts unreachable by parents, educators, lovers or friends.  I am not making any excuses for them, but it is important to try and go beyond the usual and useless rhetoric of ‘extremism’. Banning imams and extremist sites will not stop the destructive rush or maddening roar in the heads of men like Adabolage and Adebowale. Since 9/11 there has been no attempt by the US or UK ( as far as I know) to explore the mental and emotional wellsprings of  terrorism. Why do some Muslims fall into violence while others opt for a life in politics, or doing good?  No deep research is carried out to discover the reasons for the disparities or explore the personality profiles of those who fall into Islamicism. 

The effect of western foreign policies too needs to be objectively investigated. Politicians who brush this aside are being criminally negligent. Bad, unjust policies and wars can make the sanest of us lose hope in the democratic system.  Two days ago the Gibson report confirmed our secret services were complicit in the torture of Muslims and cooperated with the US on rendition. This was under New Labour. Then on Friday, High Court judge,  Mr Justice Simon, ruled, ‘with hesitation’ that Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Bellaj could not pursue a valid claim of torture because, he said, it would damage US/UK relations. My insides turn to molten lava when such information surfaces or is pulled out of the secret state. Think then how it could affect impressionable, hot headed, rootless young men  

And finally,  we need reliable facts on how Wahabism, dark age Islam, funded by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, has infiltrated Britain, especially in educational and religious institutions. Imagine China trying to disseminate Maoism in the UK, in a veiled, but planned and systemic way.  There would, quite rightly, be an uproar.  But because of oil dependency, Saudi Arabia et al are free to do just that and are protected by our cowardly state.

Unless there is a serious, concerted effort to tackle these three evils, there will for sure be more savagery. Politicians and the media still don’t get it and don’t want to.    The Independent, 23rd December 2013   

Gender segregation in British Universities 1&2

Universities and Gender Segregation

The 10th of December, this Tuesday is Human Rights Day. It is my birthday too and insha-allah ( God willing) I plan to mark both by joining a demo outside Woburn House in Tavistock Square, London. These are the offices of Universities UK, ( UUK) an affiliate which describes itself as ‘the voice of UK universities’, being a bit presumptive I think, especially now.


In its wisdom, this august body has published guidelines on gender segregation at universities. The issue has been raised over the last few years by lecturers and students who complain that, for certain events, organisers and speakers expect men and woman to sit apart or not attend. Sexist dress codes and other behaviours are being spread and pushed in British universities by retrograde Islamic societies and individuals, most of them men, though there are always willing maidens who say yes, yes, yes to such diktats. UUK okays this Apartheid and offers up nauseating justifications. It’s done  in the name of free speech, yes really. ; ‘Concerns …[for the] beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief systems’. Furthermore, staff should not worry unduly about the rights and wrongs of this small matter.  


So as of now, separation in lecture halls and seminar rooms is fine so long as women don’t have to sit behind men (gee thanks!) but can be seated in lecture hall reservations. Separate but equal. Just how Boers ordered society in pre-freedom South Africa. So should gays have to sit apart from heterosexuals? Hindus be kept equal and apart from Muslims? If EDL members want to have meetings and insist blacks can only sit in designated areas, I suppose UUK would not object. Having conceded to the most objectionable demands once, they would absolutely have to again and again.


What will they do if a Muslim, female Mandela goes sits with the men? Will they carry her out and throw her down the steps? Some preachers on campus are today telling women to get back into the home, out of public life. Muslim women in jeans or with hair uncovered have been asked to leave lecture rooms by clothes vigilantes. Two Muslim LSE students harangued me for my unholy attire and views just a month back. The guidelines effectively endorse the most offensive prejudices about women: that they are a social and moral peril and if they sit with men, pornographic fantasies or molestations will make it impossible for anyone to concentrate on lectures, say, on Plato or the Life of the Prophet. Think of how grades will tumble, and league table results. One wonders who and what else universities will accommodate to get their hands on £9000 per year.


Throngs of students, academics, parents, politicians, and feminists should fill Tavistock Square and shout out loud. Not that they will, what with Christmas shopping and perhaps inchoate fears. Various student unions roll over, again and again before Islamicists and their outrageous demands- backing full veils, speeches by Wahabis- and thus far, there has been no clear condemnation from the NUS of this disgraceful document penned by the deluded UUK. This latest capitulation is a disaster for feminism, for university life, for modernism, for progressive ideals and for Muslims most of all.   


 Muslim education achievements are so abysmally low because our educators do not liberate them from dark age interpretations of Islam and instead encourage those. (Perhaps it’s a cunning plot to keep them down and out of mainstream life!) I know of female medical students – three Muslim and one Orthodox Jew- who will not touch male patients, of all male religious professional networks and even worse examples.     


I end with a poem by American poet Stephen Dobyns.    


A cry was heard among the trees,

not a man’s, something deeper.

The forest extended up one side

the mountain and down the other.

None wanted to ask what had made

the cry. A bird, one wanted to say,

although he knew it wasn’t a bird.


… They waited

for it to come a second time. It’s lost,

one said. Each thought of being lost

and all the years that stretched behind.

Where had wrong turns been made?

Soon the cry came again. Closer now.
To me it expresses the unspoken dread felt by millions of us, as reactionary religious practices stealthily enter heads, homes,  citadels and national institutions. How many wrong turns have been made by guardians of nations and other leaders? How many more twisted paths will they take us down? Our noblest sanctuaries have been infiltrated, our faiths corrupted by zealots abetted by western liberals, our so-called friends. Instead of being free and enlightened our universities are now closing off and surrendering to Saudi Arabian obscurantism. God, please, please help the young.  

 The Independent, 10th December 2013

Gender Segregation 2 

RESULT! In one week, we, a small group of stalwarts, Muslims and non-Muslims, who opposed sex apartheid in universities raised slumbering politicians and jolted gutless academics. Universities UK  (UUK) will reconsider its guidelines sanctifying gender apartheid in the name of freedom of speech and equal access. 

My column denouncing this advice appeared last Monday. On Tuesday, Human Rights Day, a bitterly cold night, protestors demonstrated outside the UUK Headquarters in central London. No UUK rep came out to speak to us.  ( Dear readers you should have been out there with us) .That evening, on Channel4 news I took on Omar Ali of the federation of Student Islamic Societies. He said uni segregation was no different from what happens in synagogues and mosques and that a liberal society should accommodate such ‘choices’. I argued that prayer houses were not state funded public spaces and that some choices ought never to be accommodated. The next day, Nicola Dandridge, UUK’s CEO was on the BBC Radio4 Today programme,. Presenter Justin Webb, probing, yet reasonable, put to her the arguments against male-female separatism. She rebutted them all, alight with self righteousness. I threw a glass of water at the radio. Missed the radio, broke the glass, picked up the pieces, almost weeping with rage. Such white liberals from left to right need to grow up. By Friday UUK had shed its earlier overconfidence and seemed to be wavering. I predict the guidance will be binned.

 This Talibanisation of British universities has got to stop. Now I think it might be.

The Independent, 17th December 2013