In recent weeks Visa issues for my friend and employee Mo who originates from Pakistan prompted me to set up a petition on his behalf, and to write a letter which was published as Star Letter of the day in our local newspaper.  Mo’s situation seemed to highlight inconsistencies in our immigration rules.  It also provided an opportunity to speak out in a debate that for years in our country has been hampered by misdirected accusations of racism.  My long-standing support for Mo demonstrated that I was not a racist and so enabled me to speak more freely about my views on immigration, with the hope that they might be heard rather than misrepresented.   The text of the letter is shown at the end of this post.

It is greatly to the detriment of all who have made their home in this country that for some time, in much of public life, a shallow political correctness has taken the place of a genuine moral viewpoint.  Political correctness frets about the appearance of things, it’s ultimate aim being not to offend.  A strong moral outlook is concerned rather with truth and goodness, to the ultimate benefit of all.  A moral outlook is willing (though never desiring) to offend those who are easily offended, if that is the cost of doing the right thing.

In many human relations there is a tension between ‘invitation’ and ‘challenge’.  It is right to welcome, to include, and to affirm our fellow human beings, perhaps especially those different to us.  That is the ‘invitation’ side of things.  It is also right for us all to be challenged – to be the best we can be; to learn consideration where we have lacked it; and to rise to the necessary demands of being integrated members of the society we live in.

Political correctness challenges the wrong people and avoids challenging the right ones.  It ascribes fault to those who don’t say the ‘right’ thing, while limply hoping for the best from those it fears to challenge.

The most devastating example of the effects of politically correct reasoning devoid of moral consciousness has recently come to light in Rotherham, the town just down the road from where I live in Tinsley, Sheffield.  After many suppressed indications over recent years, sexual abuse of the most extreme kinds against vulnerable young girls has now been shown to be more widespread and organised than we could ever have imagined.  It was suppressed for so long by those in authority because it occurred primarily at the hands of men of Pakistani origin.

Such was the moral vacuum of our leaders in the council and police services that they were willing to sacrifice the innocence, the mental health, and in some cases the very lives of some of the most vulnerable people in their community, at the altar of political correctness – to avoid offending those who might be more vocal about their offence.   Did it never occur to them that the Pakistani community – let alone the community as a whole – would be far better served by having this evil rooted out from their midst at the earliest possible opportunity?  Instead they allowed it to simmer, and now that it has inevitably boiled over, they have played into the hands of anybody looking for a pedestal on which to place their wider prejudices about the Asian community.

I could say much more but instead, as a way forward in our multicultural communities, let me share the wisdom of Satish Kumar who I recently read about in the wonderful Australian magazine ‘Dumbo Feather’.  He lifted my spirit and my hope tremendously.  (Please find time to read the link).

He and a friend once set out on a 13,000km peace march.  His spiritual mentor told them to take no food or money – thereby forcing them to trust, because trust is the essential ingredient of the peace he was striving for.   The first country they had to pass through was Pakistan, the enemy of his native country of India.   And he said:

‘If we come here as Indians, we meet Pakistanis.  If we come here as Hindus, we meet Muslims.  But if we come here as human beings, we meet human beings.’

In the turmoil of our emotions in this dark world, let us always approach one another as fellow human beings.  Knowing others frailty, just as we know our own, let us see the need for both invitation and challenge, caring enough to spur one another on to be the best we can be.  Never hating nor fearing.  And never offering the limp hand of political correctness.

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My letter to the local paper:

“The UK invites people in without a consistent requirement for the language or cultural understanding that would enable them to thrive. It’s like inviting someone to your house who is accustomed to keeping their boots on, not telling them the rules, then shouting at them for making a mess of your carpet.

Some of us say ‘explain the expectations first’. Others just condemn the shouting. Others advocate having no unifying standards at all and then criticise those who cry out under the stress of the consequences. False accusations of racism only cloud the debate further.

I once discussed immigration with the Hungarian owner of Killi’s on West Street. Back in the 60s he arrived with the expectation of learning English, working hard and contributing to his new society. Consequently he is an asset to Sheffield.

In Romania where I used to volunteer, helping to create micro-enterprise amongst Roma gypsy communities, I saw fathers of 15 children in abject poverty, leaving for Ireland or Spain without language or skills, only to come back with less than they started with. And we encourage these sorts of false hopes in our country too.

I now live in Tinsley and employ a local Muslim lad of Pakistani origin in my small fitted furniture business. He first arrived in Sheffield at the age of 14 as a dependant on his dad’s work Visa. He won awards for punctuality and student of the year as he progressed through school, college and an NVQ with me. Now at the age of 22 he is helping to grow my business and give back to the economy as a tax-paying employee. We have just heard that he has not been granted a Visa renewal.

If Mo was from Europe and not Pakistan, I fear he would have more hope of being allowed to stay, even if he was not the hardworking, reliable asset to Sheffield that he is. I long to see an immigration policy that both expects and rewards hard work and integration to the mutual benefit of all, regardless of race.”

(The petition for Mo is here:  https://www.change.org/p/uk-visas-and-immigration-allow-muhammad-mobeen-ali-to-stay-working-in-the-uk )

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