Ansar Ali on diversity and community cohesion

diverse09:23 Wednesday 7th October 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: Theresa May causing a bit of a stir yesterday, saying that high migration had made a cohesive society impossible in this country. She made that speech at the Conservative Party conference yesterday. Is she right? Net migration into the UK currently stands at a record high of course. 330,000 in the year to March came here. Some will say the increase in population puts a strain on services, causes fractures in society. Others that immigration has helped improve our economy and given us a wider cultural understanding. So we’re asking this morning do we all rub along together very nicely? Is Theresa May wrong, and do her comments inflame the situation? Are her comments more damaging to society than any one of us? Let’s speak to Ansar Ali. He’s a member of the Muslim community in Peterborough of course. Ansar, good morning.
ANSAR ALI: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Is she making things worse?

ANSAR ALI: I think she is to be honest with you. You could tell that most sensible British people would see right through what she said, trying to cause hysteria. And politicians like those, Theresa May and others who make those sort of speeches, don’t help the situation at all. They make the situation worse to be honest with you. And they’re pandering to the right wing Tories, and in particular the threat of UKIP.
PAUL STAINTON: So they’re hankering far to the right. But when it comes to being a cohesive society, we don’t all actually live together do we?
ANSAR ALI: There are challenges. Let’s accept that. When people come from different backgrounds, they’re living together, there are challenges. But what people like Theresa May and others should be doing is enabling and encouraging people to come together. She has been the Home Secretary for six years as we all know. They’ve made these sort of speeches, and as you’ve said in your opening remarks, we’ve had the highest number of net migration.
PAUL STAINTON: Is this deflection then from a failure of policy? Is that what it is? Deflection from a failing policy Ansar?
ANSAR ALI: Absolutely. Immigration does create challenges to our public services etcetera. We haven’t got the infrastructure. It is going to cause challenges. Absolutely right. But this is not the way to deal with it. Since I was asked this morning to appear on the show, I’ve been scanning quickly through our media, and they’ve just grabbed this. There were a number of other issues which affect you and I and many people living in Cambridgeshire which worry us more than immigration, but they haven’t caught the attention of the media. But this particular speech seems to have grabbed all the headlines in much of the media sadly. People with responsibility have to be behave, act and say things which are responsible, which create a cohesive society. What she’s done yesterday in that speech sadly, sadly shows that she has ambitions of becoming the leader, and if she makes a speech like that it will make her more popular. Well I don’t think so to be honest with you, because our wonderful British people will see right through that.
PAUL STAINTON: People are worried though aren’t they about the high levels of immigration, the high levels of people coming here. For one reason or another they see this and it worries them. When you look at whether or not we live in a cohesive society, let’s take Peterborough for instance which is where you live, New England, Millfield, Eastern Europeans mainly these days; Gladstone Street area, mainly Asian of course; Fletton mainly Italian. And then the indigenous population moving out to leafy villages. So we’re not .. we’re sort of putting up with each other, aren’t we?
ANSAR ALI: To be honest with you I see a lot of Asian people, Muslims, Pakistanis, Indians who are becoming affluent and moving to better areas. As people become affluent that’s what they do.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s about money, is it? It’s about status.
ANSAR ALI: Absolutely. My parents moved here. I like living here because a lot of (unclear) that I enjoy going to, but let me respond. Many of these people who make these comments, I don’t know how often they visit the real people in communities like the ones that you mentioned.
PAUL STAINTON: Let’s bring it down to the core things Ansar. Could I buy a house in Gladstone Street and live in Gladstone Street very happily? Would I be welcome?
ANSAR ALI: You would. To be honest with you sometimes this hysteria like the one that we heard yesterday. When it’s caused and sometimes when there is some sort of crime in areas like the ones that you mentioned, they would probably grab more of a headline in the press than if something happens in Longthorpe or the leafy areas. That’s what happens. But on Monday evening I was at a community event. I go to a lot of these events. Not many weeks ago I was at the Italian community centre for the Italian national day. In the coming days I’m going to go to a big event for the Hindu community that they’ve organised at the Cresset. On Monday evening I was at the Salvation Army. One of the local community organisations had a meeting there. And I saw wonderful diversity. These people had been on these various courses, they’d been presented with certificates and awards. I sat next to a Polish guy, had a nice conversation with him. The guy got a bit worried because they announced his name to get the certificate and they pronounced his name wrong, and basically he remarked, I’ll have to change my name. I said , you shouldn’t have to do that. We will all learn from this experience. Just make a comment that this is how your name is pronounced. There was no problem whatsoever. People were happily mixing, talking to each other, and that’s what we need to do more of. Yes, immigration does present its own challenges. We have to deal with them. We have to make sure that our British people who want to work, indigenous people, have the opportunities for good jobs as well. We need to make sure of that. But at the same time putting the blame on immigrants of the problems that we have in our society is the wrong way to go about representing our community. That is the wrong tactic, and it’s playing into the hands of those people who are inherently prejudiced anyway. And it creates fear, and that doesn’t help anyone.
PAUL STAINTON: Ansar, always a pleasure to talk to you. And I do see the work that you do on Facebook. I see all the pictures. Amazing ambassador for diversity and cohesion in the city of Perterborough. Ansar, thank you. Ansar Ali, his views this morning on the comments from Theresa May.