You are here:   Columns >  The Mole > Mole Special: A Stranger in My Own Land

I have just returned to London, where I have lived since I was 11. I have been away for four years, living as an ethnic minority in a monocultural part of the world, amassing a host of stories to tell to disbelieving friends. On the whole, I am glad to return. I shan't miss some locals' assumptions that, being a white woman, if I was outside after dark, as I occasionally was, usually to walk the few metres between my house and the church, I must be a prostitute eager to give them a blow job. I shan't miss the abuse my priest husband received: the daubing of "Dirty white dogs" in red paint on the church door, the barrage of stones thrown at him by children shouting "Satan". He was called a "f***ing white bastard" more than once, though, notably, never when in a cassock. I will also not miss the way our garden acted as the local rubbish dump, with items ranging from duvets and TV sets, to rats (dead or twitching) glued to cardboard strips, a popular local method of vermin control to stem the large numbers of them which scuttled between the rubbish piled in gardens and on pavements. Yes, I am very glad to have left Britain's second city.

Brum Deal: Everyday life in Britain's second city (Photograph by Julian Anderson)

For four years, we lived in inner-city Birmingham, in what has been a police no-go area for 20 years. We know that because some plain-clothed cops told us when they asked to use our vicarage as a stake-out to bust drugs rings that pervade the area. Having heard a parishioner's tales of what his neighbours did to him when he was wrongfully suspected of having grassed up a cock-fighting ring, we refused, explaining that we had to live here, they didn't. Even during this time we saw the area change. When we arrived, the population was predominantly Pakistani. Now Somalis are there in equal number. Most of the run-down Irish pubs were turned into mosques during our time. 

As a woman, it was difficult for me to gain many first-hand impressions of the Muslims. I was generally ignored by both men and women, and on the rare occasion that I had to interact, when for example a car was parked illegally and blocking my gate, I was addressed as if inconsequential. My husband, however, faithfully reported conversations which you may find somewhat alarming. One of our favourite dinner-party pieces is this: opposite our vicarage there is a "library" which has some computers, some burkas and occasionally tracts that say offensive things about Jews and Christians. My husband did his photo-copying there, and got on rather well with everybody. One day he was chatting to a man with a passing resemblance to Lawrence of Arabia, who had just arrived from Antwerp — one of an increasing number of Muslims who are arriving here with EU passports. He asked him why he had come to Birmingham. He was surprised at the question: "Everybody know. Birmingham — best place in Europe to be pure Muslim." Well, there must be many places in Europe where Muslims are entirely free to practise their faith, but I suspect there are few places in which they can have so little contact with the civic and legal structure of a Western state if they choose. It seems to be particularly easy to "disappear" if that is their intention. A parishioner once described a lorry pulling up outside his house, the side opening to reveal stacked mattresses full of sleepy, and presumably illegal, immigrants, who staggered out into broad Brummie daylight. We heard tales of how houses are exchanged for cash payments in our area. An untaxed car was once clamped by a frightened-looking official at 8am, but within hours the owner of the vehicle had organised the clamps to be sawn off, and he sped away.

Another instance of separation from the Western world is revealed in the following: my husband frequently chatted to a neighbour who could be described as one of the more questioning Muslims, and who has often provided an insight into the locals' mindset. Even this man, however, believes what the whole community thinks: the 9/11 planes were organised by Jews. Everybody knows there were no Jewish people in the World Trade Centre that day, as they had been tipped off. Oh, and the Mumbai terrorists had been kidnapped and brainwashed by Indian people. The tendency towards denial is strong. When my husband mentioned the "dirty white dogs" graffiti to a local Muslim, the response was, "One of your people did it." I have to say that the police's response was no better when the local Methodists complained about the same thing. They chose not to believe it had happened, since we had removed all sign of it with the buckets of anti-graffiti chemicals we had stocked since we arrived. They asked, somewhat pathetically: "Are you sure it was racist?"

To a London reader, born and bred with multiculturalism, I know that my stories may come across as outlandish and exaggerated, and that I must surely be a BNP voter — I have observed people's expressions as they have listened to my tales of life in Brum. When I recently told a friend how a large Taliban flag fluttered gaily on a house near St Andrew's football stadium for some months, her cry of "Can't you tell the police?" made me reflect how far many of our inner cities have been abandoned by our key workers: our doctors and nurses drive in from afar, the police, as mentioned before, have shut down their stations and never venture in unless in extremis — they and ambulance crews have been known to be attacked — even the local Imam lives in a leafier area. 

Only the priest remains, if you can get one — the thriving but clerically-vacant church down the road has had no applicant in two years. In their absence, we get stabbings that never make the news, dog- and cock-fighting rings, cars torched as pranks and cars used for peddling heroin. (One of the more amusing moments of our time came when a local lad provided one reason people often gave us stares when we drove past such deals: "Two white people wearing seatbelts — you've got to be cops.") In their absence, we simply have the witness of those who are unlikely to be heard, who, through a variety of unfortunate circumstances, have not been able to move out: the elderly, the infirm, the illiterate, the chronically poor. Indeed, some of the Muslim residents deeply regret the flight of the non-Muslim population. It is they who now have to live in a crime-ridden ghetto.

On holiday in Germany recently, we watched a TV documentary about how schools were coping with Essen's growing Muslim community, and how the community itself felt. When it was over, we turned to each other, and said simultaneously (a drawback of having been married for a while), "This could not have been made in Britain." At the moment, also in Germany, the whole country is debating Thilo Sarrazin's controversial book Deutschland schafft sich ab ("Germany abolishes itself"), in which the author — a former member of the board of the Bundesbank and the German Social Democrats — examines research about immigrant communities and then makes specific recommendations about the integration of the Muslim community. I have only seen scant reference to this in the British press, which usually dismisses it, wrongly and lazily in my view, as good old German racism. This has nothing whatsoever to do with race. The Muslim community in Birmingham, for instance, is made up of people from many continents and races, including Afghans, Yemenis, Pakistanis, Indians and Somalis. 

There is no doubt in my mind that we need to have the same openness in discussing what is happening to many cities in Britain. If current demographic trends continue over the next few decades, the West Midlands, as well as other parts of the country, will become a predominantly Muslim area. Much more needs to be done to integrate the communities among whom I lived, and we need to be much less negligent of our own values too. Frankly, if we happened to walk down Broad Street on a Friday night, where mobs of identically undressed and mostly aesthetically unpleasing gals and lads were on the piss and pull, it was almost a relief to drive back to our ghetto enclave. 

It is time to rub the rime from our eyes and to look clearly at the shape of Britain today. Everyone living here needs to be able to talk about what they see, without the lazy or fearful, but certainly paralysing, accusation of racism. Only then will we be able to discern what is best for the future.

View Full Article
January 17th, 2011
9:01 AM
>>>Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Royal Ballet Company, The Rep Theatre, NIA, Symphony Hall, Hippodrome, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, The Ikon Gallery, The Barber Institue, The Custard Factory, German Christmas Market, St Patrick's Day Parade... Need I continue?<<< Detroit used to have a similar array of attractions.

January 16th, 2011
7:01 PM
anonymous, jan 4, and jan 8th, tell it like it is. the most pertinent thing may be that they have to be anonymous to tell the truth. FScarn, jan 14, as another from usa, i wish to warn you that your superior attitude towards the cowardly shortsighted, politically correct, suicidal british way of dealing with muslim immigration is not justified. in the usa, we are ruled by the same cowardly, politically correct suicidal traitors that have destroyed britain, only we are a few years behind in achieving the necessary critical mass of muslims. our demise is as inevitable as that of europe. once a nation descends into the hellhole of islam, there is no reprieve. our children will cry out in their misery, rattle the chains of their slavery, and curse the fools that traded freedom from islam for freedom to not be called islamophobic, and got neither.

Laban Tall
January 16th, 2011
5:01 PM
Sounds a bit like Coventry Road to me - or maybe Sparkbrook.

January 15th, 2011
9:01 PM
We got history in the making here: Britainistan will soon be set up, and it'll be tough **** on you all. It boggles the mind how a powerful nation like the UK can shoot itself in the foot, like that!

January 15th, 2011
9:01 PM
Yes but since you have left this area why is your article written anonymously. You are presumably not now physically afraid but you are unwilling to be seen to be non politically correct.

January 15th, 2011
4:01 PM
Perhaps I am more sensitised to it, but it seems to me that Jack Straw's frank and very true statement about the culpability of the Muslim culture for some Pakistanis believing that they have the right to groom under age white girls for sex purposes has given heart to those of us who have seen this coming for decades. Multiculturalism is not synonymous with the privileging of one culture over others, but in the hands of successive and spineless UK governments it is akin to cowardice. I agree that everyone needs to be able to talk about what they see, and to this end I would recommend the articles at the following links: It's time for us all to wake up and naming spineless capitulation to Islam exactly for what it is, rather than dressing it up in "mutliculti", warm and fuzzy mindless acceptance, is a vital prerequisite.

Colin Hawken
January 15th, 2011
3:01 PM
If the day comes that the BNP gains power in the UK,will anyone really be surprised? Look back at history.Remember Adolf Hitler and how he came to power quite legally.Be very sure,if popitical opinion in the UK crystalises,it will swing hard right not left.

January 15th, 2011
11:01 AM
A very good article, and one I understand very well. I lived in Birmingham (Edgbaston) and in Walsall, and despite being a black, Englishman (born in Peterborough), living in Brum was hellish, as it was constantly a case of feeling like I was the "outsider", versus so many Muslim and other immigrants. At least the Polish immigrants try to integrate with others. Muslims, in general, just seem to want to all live together, work together, socialise together, but not with anyone outside of their own little group. Then, when people don't want to be around them, use their services, work with them, or live within their "communities" (that they themselves have created), they get angry and claim everyone in Britain is racist and anti-Muslim! I have no problem with anyone from any nation. I only ask that you treat me as you wish to be treated yourself. Sadly, whilst living in Norfolk, it's the same here. Muslims don't want to integrate with others, and create their own "ghettoised" communities, and complain when British people who work and live here, don't want an unused building turned into a mosque, Muslim meeting area, etc. It frustrates me, that many Muslism seem to think that integration is a one-way-street: that others have to integrate with them, even though they are the immigrants, and not us. Also, people all over the world, are fed-up of Muslims taking over areas of their country, areas they've lived in all of their lives, and see them being turned into mini-Muslim towns, with Muslim stores, Muslim businesses, mosques, etc, etc. People also loathe the idea that we should be tolerant of Muslims, but it is acceptable for Muslim's to not tolerate others! Why is this? Muslim rhetoric comes across as "You're either with us or against us." That "Islam is the only truth, and everything else is rubbish." I'm sorry, but that's not how I see the world, and the people in it. There is no one, individual truth, or way. Muslims need to accept that integration is a two-way street, and they need to accept certain Western cultural ideals, if they want us to accept certain Muslim ideals! This is not an anti-Muslim post, nor a denonuncement of all Muslims or followers of Islam. It's simply my view that Britain is becoming segregated and ghettoised by vast Muslim immigration, which then refuses to integrate with the people already living in places like Birmingham, Manchester, London, Norfolk, etc.

January 15th, 2011
11:01 AM
I have a Sikh friend who is currently caring for an elderly relative in an area that used to be mixed but is now almost totally Muslim. Because they are Sikh they receive low level harassment from local Muslim men. They have had anti-Sikh graffiti scrawled on their property. Their car has been urinated on, scratched, had milk bottles placed under the front wheels concealed under newspapers. He has almost been beaten up on a couple of occasions when going to the cornershop to buy a pint of milk. He does not wear a turban, but when his cousin visits, who does wear a turban, he is subjected to obscenities and taunts about his religion - Sikh sister-f**ker, and his turban is mocked. My friend experienced the worst of the NF and the skinheads in the 1970's and 1980's. So he knows what he is talking about. He now feels as I do, totally accepted and respected in Britain amongst white people. Islam is triumphalist in Birmingham. He is now planning to sell the house and move his elderly relative to a safe area as soon as he can.

January 15th, 2011
12:01 AM
As a secularist atheist I have only respect for this writer and her husband keeping their civil role under such circumstances. They both have the right to express their beliefs and to be offered protection by the police, and I am deeply depressed that neither they, nor their elderly and poor neighbours (nor law abiding Muslims) could be sure of safety. It is time for people of all beliefs and none to recognise that these are cultural and subcultural issues - and nothing to do with any beliefs 'considered sacred' - just confident bullies who will bully any group whom they can, going un-policed and unpunished. Reclaim the country - keep the flame of the Enlightenment burning bright.

Post your comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.