by Ramna Safeer in Kingston
The hate towards immigrants that has risen exponentially after the Brexit vote is sending chills down my spine an ocean away.
According to the BBC, several mosques in London were sent a suspicious white powder with “Paki filth” scrawled on the envelopes. Britain’s National Police Chief’s Council reported a 500 per cent rise in hate crime incidents just before and after the referendum.
As a daughter of two proud immigrants, who planted their Pakistani roots in Canada a few years after their marriage, I can’t help but feel targeted.
While dozens of post-Brexit comments on my social media attempted to steer attention away from the anti-immigrant focus of Campaign Leave, I couldn’t help but wonder what the “take back control of our borders” rhetoric and its violent aftermath must look like to Britain’s many immigrants.
Taha Khan is a university student and Youtuber living in a town just outside Cambridge. His Pakistani parents moved to the United Kingdom 13 years ago from Saudi Arabia, where they were also immigrants.
The post-Brexit atmosphere is definitely a racially charged one, Khan said, with underlying tensions bubbling to the surface.
“When I go to the villages and towns around Cambridge, where I live, they predominantly voted Leave,” he told The Journal over the phone. “That changes your preconceptions about people when you know that they might have voted on racially prejudiced lines, you’re a lot more wary.”
Khan, who is Muslim, said he and his family might be reacting subconsciously to the exponential rise in hate crimes against Muslims.
“The sharp increase in confidence of racists has led to the sharp decrease in confidence of minorities to be visible,” he said.
The end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan is called Eid. Celebrated by billions of Muslims across the globe, Eid is a chance to spend time with family and wear cultural clothing such as shalwar khameez — a cultural outfit often worn by Pakistanis on special occasions.
Due to the upsurge in attacks against Muslims, Khan said Muslims may be feeling increasingly hesitant about wearing such clothing in public and in general, not being “outwardly Muslim”.
“On Eid, I wore trousers and a shirt. Now that I think about it, I don’t recall it being a conscious choice, but I didn’t wear a shalwar khameez, maybe because it’s such a white area. We kind of live invisibly in this predominantly white city.”
According to The Independent, British Muslims are experiencing a rampant rise of faith-based attacks, particularly people who outwardly identify as Muslim, such as women who wear the hijab — even though British Muslims aren’t exactly few and far between. As of 2011, over two million Muslims called Britain home.
As the referendum result was finalized on the night of the vote, leader of the Leave campaign Nigel Farage claimed that June 23 would go down in history as the country’s “Independence Day”.
As a colonial and imperial superpower that once exercised an often violent control over what is now India, Pakistan and Bangladesh — and given the backlash against these same people following the referendum — Farage’s “Independence Day” isn’t just ironic. It’s downright mockery.
Without the benefits and resources that Britain reaped from these colonies, there would be no “great” in Great Britain. But with one word, five letters, “Leave”, Britain has turned its back on the millions of immigrants whose lives are woven into the country’s history, while halfway around the world, I still feel the violent consequences of the referendum.
New Canadian Media hosted a roundtable at this year's Metropolis conference in Vancouver entitled the "Role of Media in Integrating Immigrants". Here is a brief summary of the discussion:
Q. Does the media have a role and responsibility in integrating immigrants to Canada? If so, what role should the media have?
Absolutely. The media serves many purposes: help immigrants learn English (and French) and represent communities effectively.
However, there should also be discussion around how the media portray immigrants: media can also be the source of misinformation and create "negative poster childs"
Media should be about "empowering readers" not some "paternal sense of multiculturalism"
Immigrant community spokespeople tend to be empowered by "mainstream" media ("ethnic media" tend to use the same spokespeople)
Q. Will market forces strengthen immigrant voices given their increasing numbers and importance in society, or is there a risk of marginalization given the financial weakness of the media today?
Immigrants are already part of the economic mainstream, but largely invisible in the media.
Over the next 10 years, immigrant voices will be strengthened.
So-called "ethnic" media need to also reflect the sensibilities of children and grandchildren of immigrants (not just first-generation newcomers)
Market is highly fragmented and segmented primarily because marketers like it that way.
Marketers are driven by eyeballs and their "need to silo" audiences. "Mongrel" publications/media don't do well financially.
Marketers need to catch up with a dynamic, diversified population
The television ratings system is broken
Q. Are there specific ways the mainstream and ethnic media can cooperate to ensure all Canadians feel like equal participants in national conversations?
"Ethnic media" need to adopt industry standards and become a part of communities of practice
Be aware that there is a "downside to playlists": that when you segment media you can end up "deepening the divide": "self-siloing"
Media should be conscious of their social responsibility
Size matters and smaller media organizations can learn from larger ones with better-established business models.
Our expert panelists included:
Dr. Catherine Murray, Professor, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University, and co-author of Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Media in B.C. study (2007)
Alisa Choi Darcy, President, Quote EndQuote Cross-Cultural Strategy
Alden Habacon, Director, Intercultural Understanding Strategy Development of the University of British Columbia, founder-publisher of Schema Magazine, and co-founder of Asian Canadian Journalists Association
Jagdeesh Mann, Executive Editor, South Asian Post | Filipino Post | Asian Pacific Post, Vancouver
Randip Janda, Assignment Editor, OMNI BC, Rogers Media
Andrew Griffith, former Director General for Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), and Adviser to New Canadian Media
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-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit