Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Have we ever questioned why we only celebrate certain events? Halloween, Christmas, Valentines Day, April fool, and many more. But what about the events and festivities that other cultures celebrate but are not part of the general syllabus? Why do we exclude dates of importance for all other cultural groups?
To quote two examples only, how many know that Nauroz is the joyful festival of the Zoroastrian year? A celebration of early spring celebrated also by the Persian/Irani New Year. Parsis too are a minority of Pakistan that celebrate this feast. Similarly, Hindus celebrate Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Holi, Navratri – Dussehra – Durga Puja and so on. Yet, nobody talks about these joyful celebrations because they are simply “off-stream” in British society.
Worldwide, nations geographically and demographically bigger than the UK, have had more cultural diversity in terms of ethnicity than we can imagine, yet they have managed to emerge as one nation. In countries having served time under colonial rule, English has more often than not been given a legislative status. Most African States, for example, had English as their national and official language to curb ethnic disputes, which would otherwise arise from the existence of multi-tribes and ethnicities. However, dialects and unofficial languages have never ceased to exist, they are still living and nourishing among populations, marking and addressing identities.
We made the mistake of trying to impose one uniform language. The educational policies followed by successive governments to create different classes based on language preferences namely the elite and regular (the English language being mandatory for good jobs) has undoubtedly created a deep schism within the ethnic minorities on our society. We must move towards a solution, as it is high time, not remain bogged down by deterrents preventing us from achieving greatness.
No country can develop as a nation if it negates its component parts. Translated, it means, our society’s identities cannot establish and entrench itself in the psyche of its people minus the British 'identity' being a composition of all its multi-cultural and multi-religious roots that compose the Commonwealth.
Pictures: From outside Buckingham Palace. England - Credit: Powell and Barns Media
We need to look at the bigger canvas. Some measure it by religion, others by culture, yet some use other varied markers. Each of these markers is used in exclusion of other elements involved; a fatal mistake.
Inclusivity can be at different levels. Including and owning all “ethnic minorities” and sects within a given religion is one level only and needs an address.
You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State…. Even now there are some States in existence, where there are discriminations made and bars imposed against a particular class. We are living in the days when apparently there is no discrimination, no discrimination between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle that “we are all citizens and equal citizens of one State.” But are we really?
Today we stand, in 2020, trying to piece together what exactly the identity of what we believe to be a” pluralistic society” means. The identity is not based upon religion to the exclusion of rights of those not following the religion of the majority. The celebration of certain festivities only is an example of this.
To deny uniformity will at some point lead to a rigid and tense national identity destined to breakdown. Acknowledgement and nurturing of sub-cultures making up these layers; does the opposite. The imposition of anything that is alien will not create an identity; it will only destroy the existing one leaving one group in the dark and in confusion.
The British identity is not based on one aspect alone to the exclusion of every other component involved; it is multidimensional and multilayered. It is many things rolled into one. The objective never was that once the goal of creation of the United Kingdom was achieved, British people wouldn’t meet out the exact same treatment to their minorities as meted out to them in the undivided nations.
VIDEO: People flock from around the world to see 'British traditions' at Buckingham Palace
The Commonwealth was born to essentially be pluralistic in its identity; a society composed of different ethnicities, religions and cultures and as such must be given the environment to nourish, gain strength and grow, learning in the process to love and celebrate their differences. Belittling or nullifying these varieties of flavour will only damage the fabric of our combined identity. Yet at the same time, one needs to understand that all are intertwined as one under the umbrella of ‘The UK’ and this; defines each of us!
Multiculturalism is the underlying thread that weaves the UK identity and holds it together. Emphasizing on citizenship alone will fail to gel people from different faiths and cultures as one. Accepting and celebrating the differences, initiating serious interfaith dialogues and appreciation of cultural flavours will create a bonding.
What we must focus on is inclusivity and more inclusivity.