Monday, 16 March 2009

East is East and multicultural Britain

Walking the streets of almost any British city you meet people from all corners of the world, and stating what is typically "British" gets harder and harder. Ever since World War II a great number of people from the former British colonies have come to England in pursuit of a better life. All these people have, of course, given their contributions to the British society and influenced post-war Britain in various ways. This week we wanted to put focus on multiculturalism in Britain in class, and as an introduction to the topic we showed the movie East is east. The film is hillarious, but there is also a serious tone throughout, displaying the problems second generation immigrants face in Britain early in the 1970s. Growing up with a strict Muslim father from Pakistan and a more liberal British mother, the seven children in the Khan-family find themselves torn between the wishes of their father and their ever-growing identity as British.

In an interview the author of East is east, Ayub Khan-Din, tells that there are many parallels between the story of East is east and his own life: The parents are drawn directly from my own family. The youngest boy, Sajid, is me as a child. All the arguments in the film, all the theories behind the father's way of thinking, are my own arguments and theories which I developed from writing the first draft of the stageplay to the last draft of the screenplay. The different issues, the different aspects of different relationships - they're all very similar to my own background. Hence we can probably see the film as a realistic portrait of what life was like for young, ethnic Brits at the time. But what is the situation like today? Is the gap between the generations as wide as it used to be? Do second generation immigrants face other problems in Britain today than they did 40 years ago? I have tried to find some resources that could highlight some of these questions, but I have not found many yet. "The truth of multicultural Britain", published in The Guardian in 2001, is quite informative, however, telling how there is not "a single 'ethnic minority experience' of life in Britain", but a complex pattern of opportunity and disadvantage with as many differences within and between different ethnic groups as can be found by comparing the 'ethnic minorities' to the general population. An other page I like is the UK in the USA-page where we can read about the history of immigration, and also about how Britain is a result of its post-war immigration history. "Everything in modern Britain - from music and fashion to food and language - has been shaped by different ethnic communities, cultures and social groups," the article says, and in this way we may all be seen as influenced by this multiculturalism. One final page worth mentioning is the BBC page on the history of immigration from the 250 AD to the present.

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