‘Undesirables’ debate

Problem of the AlienPete Tobias takes issue with last night’s Evening Standard debate, “Is Islam good for London?”

“… the issue is not so much the outcome as the title of the event itself. How would any minority group feel if it were to find itself the subject of such a public debate? What might be the response if the Evening Standard invited readers to consider the question ‘Is Hinduism good for London?’ or question the value of the contribution made by any other minority group to the capital’s well-being? The problem lies in the fact that the question is being asked at all, and the improbability of any other religious or ethnic group having the same question asked about it should set a number of alarm bells ringing.

“I suppose we should be grateful that the Evening Standard was at least kind enough to frame its prejudice as a question. Just under 100 years ago, the same newspaper ran a series entitled ‘Problem of the Alien’, assuring its readers that the city was being ‘overrun by undesirables’ who had set up ‘vast foreign areas’ and were ‘a growing menace’. They were referring, of course, to the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, among them my great-grandparents.”

Comment is Free, 14 November 2007