Wednesday 24 May 2017

Opinion: He was British, what changed him?

He was British
The Manchester bombing suspect has been named as a 22-year old British-born son of Libyan refugees. His parents were refugees from Muammar Gaddafi and they had recently returned to Libya.
Obviously, many questions arise and flags raised about how a person born in England, having attended local schools, was a Manchester United fan and was at one time a student at the University of Salford before he dropped out, became more religiously devout and outwardly hostile to his community before he took on a suicide terrorism quest against innocent people in Manchester.
In some of the news stories I have read, there are words and phrases that worry me, they show tectonic plates of acculturation that stand at the nexus of integration, assimilation, indifference or abnegation within the societies in which we exist.
How do we relate?
Wherever we were born, we have many roads to travel to some sort of self-ideation and completeness of personality and life within the communities and societies in which we live. I was born in England, I was exposed to significant culture norms of my parents but at the same time, I was raised in a culturally diverse community.
There are areas where certain animist activities of my father or the religious extremism of my mother could have impacted negatively on my outlook and worldview, for some reason, there was a part of my education and observation that meant that there was a more independent streak in me, as I have not so fully imbibed any culture, I am more of a world citizen with hopefully a healthy respect for our diverse humanity.
However, we cannot entirely ignore the influence of what the media terms ‘closely-knit’ communities, ethnic minority groups that cluster in areas for social, religious, cultural, economic and traditional validation and affirmation. To say I am suspicious of settings that attempt to create for offspring in host culture the semblance of home cultures long departed by forebears creates serious psychological problems for the children.
Dangers of little-stans
The tendency to create uprooted little-stans and ghettoes to ensure the children do not become alien to the culture of their parents, whilst laudable can be quite damaging too. Culture has become a fluid existence that is an amalgamation of many influences garnered from all the many places in which we interact, that to limit interaction to close-knit communities bereft of accommodation of the wider setting in which they exist is dangerous.
One such significant indication of this is where a cultural predilection to consanguineous marriages amongst certain communities in the UK is the leading cause of child mortality or congenital deformities in the newly born in the UK. The science is clear, but a deference to fatalism seems to reinforce the need to keep the traditional despite the avoidable heartache that comes with it.
The same goes for beliefs and teachings that appear to reject or criticise the norms and values of host communities. I remember whilst looking for a church to attend in the Netherlands walking into two services in different churches in two major cities one Sunday and thinking these were literally slum churches transplanted from Nigeria to the Netherlands.
The language was alien, the teaching was fundamentalist, the views were ultra-conservative that I left with the decision to seek out a church representative of the city in which I live, accepting of the broadest spectrum of humanity from all walks of life with an international and yet integrated cultural viewpoint. I found such in the Christian City Church which was consequently renamed to C3 Church. I felt I not only belonged but I could also contribute without the imposition of some Pharisaic authority over me.
We must attend to it
The process of acculturation is both slow and demanding, yet it is necessary for everyone who departs a home culture for a host culture to have discernment and make the best of every influence to be a net contributor to the fabric of society in which they exist. It means there is less stress on affirming who you are and reduces the necessity to adopt imported practices inimical to a proper and fulfilled life in host communities.
It should cut a swathe through demands of tradition that forbids intermarriage, that requires religious affinity or the person risks ostracism, that supports Female Genital Mutilation which is by terms an evil practice of butchering girls for some deluded idea of tempering sexual expression and worst of the lot, the murders termed honour-killing.
We must be careful what we project on our offspring as culture and traditions that they do not begin to rebel and revolt against sense, sensibility, reason, reasonableness and accommodations of diversity despite our innate beliefs.
What made the young man give up his life to such an atrocious terrorist cause? We may never know, but the signs were there and through the normal cause of minding our own businesses, he in plain sight became the mass murderer whose memory would attract eternal ignominy not only to himself, but maybe unremittingly and unfairly to his family and his close-knit community, when we should all gather together in our shared humanity to mourn the lost, comfort the wounded and strengthen the bonds that celebrate the best of who we are.

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