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Ed Driscoll

Strangers in a Stranger Land: Their Own

February 5th, 2013 - 3:54 pm

Jane Kelly of the London Telegraph, a resident of London for 17 years, writes, “I feel like a stranger where I live:”

“When you go swimming, it’s much healthier to keep your whole body completely covered, you know.” The Muslim lady behind the counter in my local pharmacy has recently started giving me advice like this. It’s kindly meant and I’m always glad to hear her views because she is one of the few people in west London where I live who talks to me.

The streets around Acton, which has been my home since 1996, have taken on a new identity. Most of the shops are now owned by Muslims and even the fish and chip shop and Indian takeaway are Halal. It seems that almost overnight it’s changed from Acton Vale into Acton Veil.

Of the 8.17 million people in London, one million are Muslim, with the majority of them young families. That is not, in reality, a great number. But because so many Muslims increasingly insist on emphasising their separateness, it feels as if they have taken over; my female neighbours flap past in full niqab, some so heavily veiled that I can’t see their eyes. I’ve made an effort to communicate by smiling deliberately at the ones I thought I was seeing out and about regularly, but this didn’t lead to conversation because they never look me in the face.

I recently went to the plainly named “Curtain Shop” and asked if they would put some up for me. Inside were a lot of elderly Muslim men. I was told that they don’t do that kind of work, and was back on the pavement within a few moments. I felt sure I had suffered discrimination and was bewildered as I had been there previously when the Muslim owners had been very friendly. Things have changed. I am living in a place where I am a stranger.

The London Telegraph has a reputation of being a right-leaning paper, but Kelly’s headline sounds very much like something John Cleese of Monty Python — a comedy team that made a habit of skewering Tories, the British upper class, and its tradition in general for decades on TV and in the movies — said in 2011:

Cleese also spoke about the shift in British attitudes away from a “middle-class culture” and the emergence of a “yob culture”.

He said: “There were disadvantages to the old culture, it was a bit stuffy and it was more sexist and more racist. But it was an educated and middle-class culture. Now it’s a yob culture. The values are so strange.”

He added that he preferred living in Bath to London because the capital no longer felt “English”.

“London is no longer an English city which is why I love Bath,” he said. “That’s how they sold it for the Olympics, not as the capital of England but as the cosmopolitan city. I love being down in Bath because it feels like the England that I grew up in.”

Cleese moved to the much smaller town of Bath. Kelly is planning to decamp from the City as well. Linking to her recent article, Rod Dreher has some thoughts at the American Conservative, in a post whose headline inspired ours:

The problem is not necessarily immigration, per se. It’s who is allowed to immigrate, and in what numbers. Are they willing to live peaceably with their neighbors? Are they assimilating, by which I mean, do they maintain their own traditions, but adjust them to the general prevailing norms of the liberal democratic society into which they have chosen to move? If they’re not doing this, what kind of crackpot liberal democratic society accepts large numbers of immigrants from cultures radically opposed to the ideals it cherishes?

Fortunately, we here in California need not worry about that particular issue

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