Integration 27th January 2016
How many players in Premier League football teams are Muslims? Or Hindus, or Buddhists? Or Anglican or Catholic or non- conformist or humanist or atheist or agnostic? And how many people care?
I pose this pretty fatuous question following a meeting, last week, with a local Member of the National Youth Parliament. The NYP has been campaigning against religious and racial intolerance and how, I was asked, can we help to end both and bring about true integration? In a month that started with mass violations and rapes upon women in Cologne and other European cities it is a question that needs to be asked, and answered. Those crimes, perpetrated it appears by immigrants, generated a consequent and equally violent right- wing reaction of a kind that, in Germany, resurrects harsh memories of other, earlier, racist conflicts.
There is, of course, no quick fix. I personally share the view that language is a good place to start and that the Prime Minister's carrot- and- stick requirement that those wishing to settle in the United Kingdom should, in short order, learn to speak English, however misconstrued by the liberal chattering classes, is on target. If you cannot comprehend then you cannot integrate.
It also has to be the case that those, of whatever colour, class or creed, looking to become resident in Britain - or indeed in any other land than their own - have to adapt to local customs and courtesies rather than expecting to have the right to demand that the indigenous natives change to suit their own ways. What is acceptable in one country may swiftly give offence, as those of us who have travelled widely have sometimes found out the hard way, in another.
But what to say to my young friend? Those who play together tend to live well together, which is why I come back to my opening slightly crass question. We are not concerned, are we, by the nationality or the religion of, say, our goalkeeper. All we want to know that he is going to be able to stop the ball going into the back of our team's net. So while politicians agonise over what to do about waves of migrants generated to a large extent by the political failings of the past and present those young people who want to help could do a lot worse than persuade newcomers that are already here to join in and play. They will not solve all of the problems of integration overnight but , through sport and other team activities and the bonds that they generate they can make a valuable contribution.