A Religion And A Town. Pt1 – A Shoddy Town

Posted: August 11, 2010 by ifyoutoleratethis45 in Culture and Society, History

Dewsbury is a town which stands at the intersection of many of the issues which dominate the cultural landscape of Europe in the 21st century. It is no stranger to the hysteria raised over Islamic Fundamentalism and immigration, nor to the growth of the racialist far right . In four articles Tom Coates explores the religious, political and economic contours of this supposedly divided town and comes to a conclusion which is at odds with the two-dimensional image often portrayed by the media. – J Chisem

Dewsbury is a changing town, it is changing as I write this and will continue to for many years to come. The migration, settlement and integration of a religion is a long process, particularly when it is happening against a backdrop of international political unrest and local misunderstanding.

The actions of a few on July 7th and September 11th damaged the name of Islam. In many aspects, the religion is still recovering from the abhorrent actions of Islamic fundamentalists who claimed to be acting on behalf of the people it, instead, would make life very difficult for. These atrocities provided ammunition for the right wing who have made enemies of moderate Muslims around the UK and in Dewsbury and, in doing so, fanned the flames of racism.

Dewsbury is not without problems. It struggles to find an identity much the same way as the Muslims who live in the town do. Whilst followers of Islam fight against racism and misrepresentation, Dewsbury struggles to answer the questions posed to it by 21st century capitalism.

Muslims and non-Muslims may live in isolated communities at the moment but share a myriad common values, some of which they’re not yet aware of. We come together in the workplace without issue, laugh at the same things and express anger at the same things. Over the last ten years, the only acts of segregation have been perpetrated by extremist minorities on either side. On one we have radicalised Islam and, on the other, racism and hate politics. It is impossible for one of the two to dominate and the other to fade into obscurity – the more powerful one side becomes, the stronger the resistance will be from the other – the BNP, for example, will categorise Muslims as stubborn colonisers the same way they themselves are often categorised as a neo-Nazi party.

What is not up for debate, however, is that Dewsbury has gradually become a multi-cultural town with symbols of its recent Islamic influence apparent to any visitor. Often overlooked, however, is that beginning in the 1980s, aside from south Asian influence, the hallmarks of a town situated within a global market have become apparent. American companies WalMart (Asda), Clinton Cards, McDonalds, Subway and KFC all have bases in the town. Danish discount chain Netto opened a purpose built store in 2008 and German supermarket Lidl stands 200 yards from the train station. Electrical retailer Comet stocks televisions and electrical equipment made in China and Japan and Australian and Belgian beer flows from the taps of Dewsbury’s pubs. Italian and Chinese takeaways line streets across the town, family run Woodkirk garage sells French cars and Cook Islanders play for the town’s rugby team. The examples are poignant and numerous but this international dimension to the town is often missed.

Those critical of the South Asian influence over the town speak of an erosion of British values and culture whilst failing to recognise that the cultural shift commonly associated with Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Islam only tells half of Dewsbury’s story as, fundamentally, a cog within the global machine. It is a story told in towns and cities up and down the country and a trend that shows no signs of deceleration.

Islam and the people who follow it have made several significant contributions to Dewsbury making it a town of ‘firsts’ for proud British Muslims. It is incredible, and perhaps crucial, though that it is the same town considered by many to be the UK’s capital for Muslim terrorism and right wing extremism. It is because of this that the original question remains unanswered. Dewsbury is in a state of limbo, and will continue to be, for as long as the militant wings of the two communities are active. It is up to the majority of Muslims and non-Muslims living in the town who seek peaceful co-existence to realise their common goal by rejecting the poisonous elements, on their own sides, which stand in the way of unity.

Tom Coates

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Comments
  1. […] A Religion And A Town. Pt1 – A Shoddy Town […]

  2. […] a Religion and a Town Part 1 & Part […]

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