Bradford is at the heart of the UK and it was once the wealthiest city in Britain, riding the wave of the industrial revolution, its mills churning out textiles that dressed the world. But Great Britain is no longer the great empire that it once was, and today, the city of Bradford is not defined by industrial or political power but by poverty, inequality and social decline.
Another thing that has changed is the make-up of the residents themselves. White Christian Anglo-Saxons used to be the only racial and religious denomination in Bradford. But then the children of the empire started migrating to the UK in search of better lives - and stayed. British society became multi-racial and multi-cultural.
Britain embraced multiculturalism, mosques jostled with church spires on some city skylines and Chicken Tikka Masala became the nation's favourite dish.
The problems started when the once colourful minority became, in places like Bradford, the majority. Native Britons felt left behind, especially as times got tougher. There were race riots in Bradford in 2001.
The so-called white working class is angry and alienated and the divide between communities seems to be growing. Add the threat of home-grown terrorism and religious extremism and it becomes a volatile cocktail.
The Cafe discusses multiculturalism, race riots, poverty and Islamophobia and what it really means to be British in the 21st century.
Joining our conversation in The Cafe at Bradford are guests:
- Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, was the UK's first Muslim cabinet minister and the co-chair of the ruling Conservative Party who recently warned that Islamophobia has become socially acceptable in Britain. She is now the Minister of State for Faith and Communities;
- George Galloway, a British member of the parliament who took a stand against the war in Iraq and was expelled from the Labour Party, then went on to found the Respect Party, which in a dramatic by-election here in Bradford, overturned the massive Labour majority;
- David Goodhart, the director of influential British think tank Demos who mantains that mass, unregulated immigration has led to segregation and is undermining the UK’s welfare state;
- Ratna Lachman, the director of Just West Yorkshire and a human rights campaigner who warns that politicians use loose talk of segregation for their own political gain;
- Jason Smith, the Bradford district chairman of UKIP, the UK Independence Party, who argues that multiculturalism has split British society, and who advocates freezing immigration;
- Arfan Naseer, a former drug dealer who now leads Consequence, an organisation that works with young people locally to help them stay out of crime and who recently won the Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
Source: Al Jazeera