x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Diversity can contribute to a nation's identity

The immigration of Muslims does not compromise Britain's essential character and its democratic principles; but the head of Islam4UK is certainly not helping.

Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, believes that his nation's essential character and its democratic principles are rooted in Christianity, and are thus compromised by the immigration of Muslims. This is preposterous, but Anjem Choudary, the head of Islam4UK, is certainly not helping him to think otherwise; "I believe there are two types of people in the world - Muslims, and non-Muslims." No wonder, then, that 45 per cent of British people believe that their country is divided by religion.
Neither Lord Carey nor Mr Choudary are correct in their assertions. Mr Choudary barely deserves rebuttal, but his organisation's aim to force sharia onto his adopted nation is no less worthy of condemnation than the British National Party's anti-immigrant platform. Citizenship can be granted or denied on a number of grounds, but no segment of a democratic nation's population has a right to force their religious beliefs on another. That is what undermines the democratic principles of a country, not religious belief in itself.
The United Kingdom is not alone in considering questions that have arisen because of increased immigration. One event that has driven the rise of globalisation has been the increased migration of labour. Every year hundreds of thousands of people leave their homeland in search of work. North America and Europe have long been destinations for the desperate and destitute. More recently, millions of people have been attracted to the Gulf's booming economies. The UAE's struggle to balance the need for foreign labour with the need to preserve the nation's character is not unique. The issue may be at the forefront of public debate because of the size of the expatriate population, but it is an issue faced by nearly every prosperous country in the world.
A cause of particular discomfort in the UAE is the fear that the character of the nation is being diluted by immigrants. In some cases these fears may be well-founded. But we also must not allow ourselves to fall into the mindset of either Lord Carey or Mr Choudary. A nation's character grows organically - and with the help of immigrants. Efforts to keep a nation's identity static will fail. That does not mean, however, that a nation shouldn't find strength for its future in the traditions and customs that are fundamental to its character. Indeed, a nation must.
The mass movement of people across the world is an irreversible trend, but that need not become a threat to the integrity of any nation's character. Immigration often provides renewed vibrancy to a nation's identity. But immigrants also have a duty to respect the laws and traditions of their host nation. The remarks of Mr Choudary and Lord Carey pose similar threats to British society. This threat is not rooted in their respective religious traditions, but in their belief that this tradition has a monopoly on the right ideas for how a nation moves forward.