Friday, March 02, 2007

Messages from Earth

When I came to Korea I left behind something important back home. A war. Or at least, this is what a recent CNN Special shown here in Asia would have us believe "Britain - The War Within". It seems that when young Muslim fundamentalists aren't trying to blow themselves up on the streets of Britain, they are intent on imposing their rules and values on everyone else in the society around them, including more moderate members of their own community - CNN showed the efforts of campaigning Muslim women attempting to be allowed inside several British mosques to pray, but being robustly prevented by Muslim men who despite their presumed desire to eventually see one global Islamic state, really see no public place for women within it's mosques.

Meanwhile - not shown by CNN - the level of racism within the white English community is rising and more disturbingly, the wider tolerance of that racism. One comes across it all the time, in the news, in the media, and in social circles among those who think they are in safe company or simply don't care who hears their comments. Of late the UK-based trading discussion board I read
- of all things - has developed a subtly racist tone judging from the number of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim stories posted there, not to mention one comment recently that was, in my opinion, openly racist but went unchallenged.

So overall the result is that Muslims and non-Muslims alike in the UK are locked in an ever-increasing cycle of paranoia and hatred, and not just between each other, but also within themselves. And as the multicultural diversity of Britain increases, the many faceted landscape of distrust grows ever larger. So British social cohesion is breaking down on several levels, and the result seeks destined to be an ever-increasing cycle of hatred and violence.

I come from a multicultural city, and despite being white I've been a victim of racial violence, having been driven out a student house in the wrong area I once lived in by stone throwing youths. I shrugged it off and moved to a safer part of the city. Years later, and while I had other reasons for moving to Korea, at the back of my mind I was glad to escape from the chaos that is inner-city Britain today, and the endless talk of war.

So here I am in Korea, living in exile, and not everything is working out - so sometimes I think of going back to live - even if only for a little while longer before things get completely out of hand, but then I see something like the CNN report from back home, or read another racist comment on a British bulletin board, and I wonder whether I can ever truly go back, or whether I need to live the life of a permanent exile, either in Korea or elsewhere, so I can stay away from all the hate-mongers on all sides who are determined to destroy the country.

And as far as this particular 'war' goes, Korea is innocent in this respect. The only mosque I've seen here is the 'Blue Mosque Hof & Coffee' bar - hof is Korean-English (or German in this case) for beer - which I'm sure would be seized upon as being considered insulting on several levels back home (the Nazi-themed 'Hitler Bars' didn't go down too well either).
Meanwhile, the irony that I - in being here - am contributing to the change or cultural pollution of my host society is not lost on me. Perhaps these are the true costs of globalisation. But in the meantime, innocence is bliss.

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