London Diary: 'Achche Din' for United Kingdom Muslims?

For all the talk of Muslim-baiting, apparently British Muslims are in good nick with an overwhelming majority saying their lives have improved in recent years

London Diary: 'Achche Din' for United Kingdom Muslims?
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Hasan Suroor

Islamophobia? What Islamophobia?

For all the talk of Muslim-baiting, apparently British Muslims are in good nick with an overwhelming majority saying their lives have improved in recent years.

They told a survey that life was getting better on 10 out of 12 measures with more job opportunities, an increasing number of public role models and growing acceptance in wider society, though some complained that discrimination at workplace remained a problem.

Some 68 percent of those surveyed said they felt that Muslim “participation in society” had increased over the past five years. One indication of this was that businesses were creating more products and services tailored for Muslim consumers. Asked how Britain's three million Muslims saw their future, a majority sounded optimistic that young Muslims growing up in the UK today would be more successful than their parents.

The mood today is in sharp contrast to the deep pessimism of the previous decade amid a wave of racist clashes and Islamophobia following the 9/11 attacks. A widely publicized government study accused them of separatism saying they led "parallel lives" and were reluctant to integrate.

But that was then. "Achhe din" are finally here.

How about a similar survey of Muslims in India?

Shut up & eat

London has some of the world’s most famous restaurants but they have also been found to be among the most noisy in Europe.

More than half of capital’s restaurants are too noisy to hold a conversation, with decibel levels the same as caused by a lawn mower, according to a survey.

“In the worst cases, you might as well be eating your dinner next to a bin lorry,” it said.

Factors said to be responsible for rising noise levels include the trend for stripped back hard surfaces, open-plan kitchens, and poor acoustics.

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Mind your accent please

Few things excite Brits more than other people’s accent. In a country which for all its egalitarianism remains a deeply class-conscious society, how you roll your “aitches” and “Rs” matters a lot.

But it’s no longer just about class, those who don’t have the “right” accent are now regarded as intellectually inferior, and slightly dim. People with strong northern accents (those from cities like Birmingham and Manchester with large Indian and Pakistani-origin population) have protested that they are viewed as “less intelligent” and “less educated” than their southern counterparts.

A team of researchers at Northumbria University found that “accentism” causes “profound” social, economic, and educational harm for those with “denigrated accents”. So much so that some try to disguise their native accents in order to “fit in”.

Dr Robert McKenzie, a social linguist who led the project, said “accentism” was “alive and well” with most people often unaware of their “deeply embedded implicit biases”.

“We played northern and southern speech samples to the study participants and asked them to associate positive traits, such as whether they sounded educated, with those voices. People were much more prejudiced when it came to accents from the north of England, for example, believing they sound less intelligent, less ambitious, less educated just from the way they speak,” he said.

Reminds me of Urdu-speaking "purists" who look down upon those who don't get their "Qs" (kissa instead of qissa) and "Gs" (gazals instead of ghazals) right.

London Diary: 'Achche Din' for United Kingdom Muslims?

A young dialect

A new dialect, invented by young East London immigrants with English as a second language, is catching up so fast that it is predicted to become mainstream speech across England over the next few years.

Dubbed the Multicultural London English (MLE) it is said to be rooted in Caribbean patois but borrows words and grammatical forms from a number of languages. Children pick and mix words from a combination of languages to communicate with each other leaving their parents struggling to decipher what they’re saying.

“A never-ending cycle of slangs and dialects”, is how one linguist described it.

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Pets? Not for me

Actors have often talked about the risk of working with animals. Now a famous British writer has shared his non-too-pleasant experience of featuring them in his novels --and vowed never to do it again.

Ian Rankin said that a cat was killed in one of his novels and he was inundated with complaints.

“I got so much hate mail...You can kill as many human beings as you like and everybody is fine with that, but never kill a pet,” he said.

It feels so much like the Britain of 1970s: a tumbling economy; trade unions up in arms; ruling party in meltdown; and now polio is threatening to come back after it was thought to have been eradicated some 40 years ago.

Health authorities have gone on alert after a routine surveillance of wastewater in two London areas found evidence of community transmission of poliovirus for the first time.

However, no actual polio cases have been reported, and for now the risk to the general public is considered low.

And, lastly, welcome to a new affliction: “psychiatric injury” apparently caused by feeling slighted.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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