ISMAILGuest Writer Nehad Ismail meets a View from the Pub.

The local know-it-all down the pub appears to be able to solve the world’s problems. Meet Steve.GUESTSM2

Steve and I sat in the pub having fish and chips with a pint of beer, He was boiling with fury over ISIS, illegal immigrants and benefit scroungers and he made it clear that the quickest solution is to get out of the f—g EU.

I tried to simplify the discussion by dealing with each subject at a time; “You can’t just lump ISIS, illegal immigrants and benefit scroungers together. Let’s deal with each issue separately” I said. He wasn’t keen –‘It’s the bloody Muslims, not the Polish or the Albanians’. ‘Ah’, said I ‘But the Muslims are simply more visible, what with their beards, and women wearing hijabs and so on”. This received the reply – “Every time I watch the news on the telly, all I see is bloody Muslims either flooding Europe or killing innocent people as they did in France. I tried to convince him of how small a minority the terrorists are – “Obviously, there are people who sincerely view themselves as Muslims who have committed horrible acts in the name of Islam.”

But Steve ranted about mosques, sharia-law and demanded that the UK government should ban the burqa, “they ban it in France, we should ban it here.”
He began effing and blinding in a loud voice, blaming the EU and Muslims for everything. I asked him to calm down. We were attracting the attention of fellow diners and I didn’t want them thinking we were as common as muck. I played my final card; “I am of a Muslim background but I don’t want or expect anyone to bend backward to appease me. I, like many Muslims I know have integrated and do not want more mosques or any special treatment.”

He banged the table with his fist telling me that ISIS people, supporters and recruiters are here in London, why doesn’t David Cameron deal with them first before going after them in Syria?

So, I turned to solutions “If you could sit down with David Cameron, what actions you will demand from him to deal with the issues you complain about?

“Get out of the EU now, immediately”. Steve also wants the Channel Tunnel closed off with cement, so nobody can come to UK by train. I said this project cost UK and imagesFrance some £12 billion and the French will not be happy. Steve said: “F—k the French. They can use the bloody ferry if they want to come to UK”.

Steve thinks pulling out of the European Union and blocking the Channel Tunnel would stem the flood of immigrants. At this point I said aren’t you confusing immigrants with refugees who escaped the war in Syria, only 5% of refugees said they are escaping from ISIS but over 90% are escaping from the regime’s barrel bombs and chemical weapons. Steve said fair enough but it is not our problem.

Commenting on the Tunnel I said even if it is closed, you can’t shut airports. He said there should be a special terminal for Muslims where they should be subjected to rigorous checks and interviews.” They should tell them “if you want to live in UK, you must accept this is Christian country, not a Muslim country, you must accept our laws and our way of life”. They must sign a statement that they accept. I am fed up with women hiding behind a black niqab in public”. I said this sounds draconian, he interrupted: if they don’t like it, they can go back. In fact; he added that he is in favour of a compulsory repatriation scheme. I asked him how this will work in practice. Steve said; “those Muslims who don’t like our way of life, should not expect us to adapt to them. If they want to live in an Islamic environment, they can choose to go back to an Islamic country where they can enjoy the niqab etc. Why should we keep building mosques for them and the Muslim countries don’t allow a single Christian church to be built”?

I asked how getting out of the EU will help the UK deal with terrorism, bearing in mind that the 7/7 terrorists were UK citizens and some of them were born in the UK? How can getting out of the EU stop another Lee Rigby type murder?

He shook his head, realizing the enormous challenges facing the UK in dealing with such issues, but remained adamant – he is not interested in the geo-political picture but in urgent steps to eradicate the problems with little regards to the consequences.

Tags: Burqa, ISIS, Muslims, Refugees, Terrorists, EU

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17 Comments on "Everyday Britain? ‘Ban The Burqa, Block The Tunnel’."

  1. Thanks Nehad. I enjoyed this, though I do think you are setting up a ‘strawman’ in the sense that you put yourself, the very best representative of the Muslim community, up against the very worst example of the ‘thinking man’ found in Britain’s pubs.

    The problem with many of these arguments is that few people seems capable of speaking about them with any degree of intelligence, nuance, or understanding. I am an avowed atheist but I defend the right of people to believe what they wish. I only have concerns when one person’s belief impose themselves on another person’s freedoms. For example, Christmas annoys me more than I imagine it annoys most people because it forces me to listen to Yoko bloody Ono wishing me a Merry Christmas every time I shop in Tesco…

    In that sense, I find the debate about the niqab interesting. I’ve been thinking about this for weeks and I keep hitting a dead end. Unlike, Steve, I don’t like the idea of governments banning anything. Yet, for a more articulate argument, I’d direct you to Christopher Hitchens’ essay ‘In Your Face’, in which he argues that outlawing the niqab is lifting a ban and not imposing a ban.

    I’m not sure Hitchens was right but, I think, he at least provides a better argument than Steve.

  2. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 6th December 2015 at 2:40 pm | Reply

    Thanks David for your remarks. Steve is a genuine bloke and a jolly stout fellow. He said much worse things which I censored. At any rate I don’t think Tim Marshall would have approved. As for the Burqa/niqab I am personally in favour of banning it. We all heard of cases of criminal activities/ smuggling/terrorism committed by burqa-clad persons. One Somali terrorist wanted by the police managed to leave the UK via Heathrow undetected a few years ago. Imagine a small child encountering a niqabbed woman in a back street in the middle of the night. I would be scared to death.
    Ps I have never met Yoko b— Ono but I had seen her on TV years ago.

    • I tend to agree but it’s such a tricky one. Do we also ban all masks from protests? But what about masks that cover faces for medical reasons, health, to block pollution? Do we also then ban the police from covering their faces, though I suspect that’s already a rule (often ignored in the heat of a riot). Like the Hitchens’ article argues, the ban would be the lifting of a ban but contrary to what our instincts should be.

      As for Yoko Ono: all I’ll say is that I certainly don’t recommend this year’s Pirelli calendar, though banning it might be a little too much…

  3. Nehad, that must have been an embarrassing and frustrating lunch with Steve! We’ve all met the Steves of this world and we see them portrayed on our tellies every day; often satirically like Alf Garnett. I’d like to ask you this; why does Steve think this way? Is he stupid, ill-informed or both? There isn’t much you or I can do about the ravings of stupid individuals but what of the ill-informed?

    Most of our popular news services provide candy-coated soundbites to be swallowed whole and without question by those with the attention-span of a two-day-old kitten. News and media sources have their own editorial agenda laid down by the proprietor(s). The most powerful people in the western world are not the political leaders or, come to that, the bankers. The most powerful people are the media moguls. Maybe there’s nothing new about that but the ‘Steves’ of this world shouldn’t be blamed for failings in the media and the appalling education system that did not equip them to challenge the news and current events presented to them or encourage them to be more critical about the source and validity of what they are fed. Steve probably knows more about the ‘best buy’ in wide-screen TVs than he knows about world current events.

    While your heartfelt plea is palpable, you and I both know that Steve is never going to read your article. People who read Tim’s blog are up for informed knowledge and discussion, not a Farage-esque rant. The really frightening thing about Steve and his mates is they have an equal say in who governs Britain as those who take the time and trouble to inform themselves and think for themselves. Maybe I am arguing against universal suffrage? On that note I’d better duck and run!

    • As much as I’d like to say it’s because of the ‘right-wing press’, I think liberals largely intellectualized their selves into a corner. Immigration, in particular, was a taboo subject for most of the 1990’s and 2000’s. Labour MPs would routinely shut down the debate by citing ‘racism’. It meant that the debate was neither civilized nor reasonable. It allowed UKIP to emerge, playing the ‘non-PC’ card, which gradually edged beyond patriotism and into a proto-nationalism. Add to this the focus on materialism and consumerism which means that ‘the customer is always right’, as well as a dumb moral/artistic/spiritual relativism which makes people wary of arguing in favour of ‘facts’. The result is that the quality of debate in the UK is at an all-time low. Unfortunately, every Steve really does think they have a valid point of view and too few people are willing to challenge them about them.

  4. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 6th December 2015 at 3:34 pm | Reply

    Thanks David. I wasn’t really embarrassed by what Steve was saying because you and I heard it all before or seen it on the Social Media. I was embarrassed when he raised his voice and people started looking at us. I don’t think he is stupid, he is just fed up with the state of Britain which he blames on EU, Muslims and so on and I agree with you that he may not be well-informed given that he is an avid reader of certain tabloids. But it is fascinating to listen to his views which are shared by many people.

  5. Matt Lancaster | 6th December 2015 at 5:04 pm | Reply

    When immigrants from the Sub-Continent first arrived here, heavy beard growth,niqabs,hijabs and Pakistani traditional garb did not arrive with them. It is only latterly that they have become so visible. So visible in fact that they are represented here more than in Karachi.
    It is arrogant to assume that Steve, because of his animated opinions does not make valid points. There are parts of our town and cities that have assumed the status of ‘alien’ outpost of another culture or cultures. There is polygamy, there is a village mentality where unelected voices wield substantial power and influence.

    One man having four wives and twenty kids between them and access to housing and associated benefits for his ‘single mums’ with the option to buy of course, does seem like jolly good deal and negates the need for him to get out and work to support and house them.
    The previous comments regarding the media agenda setters for turning the other cheek to such goings on is quite correct. The previous Labour Government was more than happy to accommodate Sharia as something as benign as Beth Din; but it isn’t.
    While we still have a tacit claim to freedom of speech, these things need saying, not closed down as today’s equivalent of something that Alf Garnet may have spouted.
    Garnett was an ignorant biggoted racist invented to teach us aboriginals how stupid we sound to judge a man by the colour of his skin. Today the closest we can get to that is the like of Citizen Kahn or Goodness Gracious Me – both of which exist for the same effect. The sad part is a White British person would not be allowed by the thought police to get away with it. The objectors to the latter examples get to send death threats to the writers from withing the ethnic groups they parody.
    One has to ask why stay in or come to a country where religion or nationality can be mocked then spend generations fighting the iniquitous reality of self alienation and failure to assimilate.
    As a white skinned Englishman I cannot avoid my appearance and national history which many would long after events, try to render from my generation some sort of apology of repentance for what today is perceived morally reprehensible. I feel no obligation to recognise this what so ever; should I be demanding an apology from the French for the actions of William Duke of Normandy? or the Vikings for teaching us how to build ships to trade with the rest of the world.
    And while I’m on a bout it – What did the bloody Romans ever do for us!

  6. Nehad, thanks for the article. I enjoyed the read although I do have some criticisms.
    It’s all to easy to pooh-pooh “Steve”‘s rant as the as the ravings of some grotesque “Alf Garnett” type figure, worthy of disdain and perhaps ridicule – but he does have a smidgeon of a point. Tolerance is a two-way street: any one group cannot expect tolerance from others whilst being intolerant themselves. Why should any Moslem expect the right to build a mosque in the UK and wear the burqa freely, whilst refusing the rights of Christians to build churches in Saudi Arabia or to wear the crucfix openly there. Here in Israel, there was the famous (at least here) example of the US Army Chaplain – a Rabbi – who was not allowed to light a Menorah during Channuka, whilst protecting Saudis during “Desert Shield”, for fear of offending the local populace.
    Perhaps you may remember that during the troubles in Ulster, flights to and from Northern Ireland went through a seperate terminal. Even today, El Al flights need to take special precautions. I can promise you, the fear is not from terrorist Christians.
    Perhaps before complaining about the views of millions of “Steve”s in the UK, Moslems should take a long hard look in the mirror and cosider their own views. And those who sympathise with them, as a result of some misguided liberalism, should consider how they would feel if it was their child brutally murdered whilst hitch-hiking – just because he/she was born into the wrong religion.

  7. Nehad, you say “I don’t think he [Steve] is stupid, he is just fed up with the state of Britain which he blames on EU, Muslims and so on…”. Is Steve fed up with the state of Britain? The ‘state’ of Britain isn’t likely to be causing him much day to day concern. Our streets are safe, utilities 99.9% reliable, shops full of goods from all over the world, most of which Steve could afford to buy. Steve can go on one or two package holidays a year and maybe he can afford bespoke travel? Skiing, unusual destinations or cruises? He has his own car and lives in a warm house, decent clothing, decent furniture. Steve enjoys a wider range of passive entertainment than his parents and grandparents.

    Steve has another luxury not enjoyed by previous generations of Britons or most of the world’s population; Steve has time to ponder on the ‘state of Britain’ and rant in the pub over beer and a fish supper.

    As people become more comfortable, with more time on their hands, they become pawns available to those who wish to create social unrest for their own purposes. Man’s nature is to strive to influence and control others and to seek wealth from this power. Millions of Steves and Stephs who are not dissatisfied with their lot but have nothing better to do. They are told by those who want to manipulate them if the national ‘pack of cards’ is thrown into the air and re-dealt, their hand will be better. Which is unlikely for the average Steve or Steph who are already doing better than they deserve.

    It’s time for the media to show Steve and Steph that there are better more constructive things to do with their time than rant about things that are already excellent or they’ll never change. Go along to the local Parish Council meeting and see how many bother to turn up. Steve and Steph can’t be that fed-up with the state of Britain?

  8. I’m not sure why you would want to have lunch with such a character to be honest. The man has no idea what he is talking about and can only display ignorance and bigotry with every word he utters.
    On the niqb, I do not support a ban on any form of clothing, even if it is the niqab. I am not fond of it myself, but I believe in everybody’s right to wear whatever they like. As for the security issue of the niqab, it is not an issue at all. Every airport and border point has women staff who can ask niqab wearers to remove it and be checked. The Somali man escaped because of a lack of proper checks, not because he was wearing a niqab. He was hardly waved through with a “have a nice trip madam” type of comment, but somehow, somewhere, there where no checks and he got away with a forged passport or something similar.

  9. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 6th December 2015 at 7:54 pm | Reply

    I am grateful to Matt and Stacey for their valued comments and valid points. I really don’t disagree with what you say. After spending couple of hours with Steve, I thought it would be a good idea to summarise in an article why he feels fed up and frustrated and we all know he is not alone in his way of thinking. He is entitled to express his feelings whether we agree or disagree.

    As for Omar’s remark “why you would want to have lunch with such a character to be honest”? all I can say I met Steve briefly couple of times during the summer in the same place and I liked him and when I suggested that we meet again and have more time to discuss things, he readily welcomed the idea and he opened up and spoke as I described in the article. I am looking forward to having a drink with him before Christmas.

  10. So….. apart from the practical difficulties of filling in the Channel Tunnel and a separate queue for Muslims at airports, are we all agreed about the rest of Steve’s agenda?

  11. A thought provoking article Nehad. I once remember hearing a lecturer paraphrase a quote of Viscount Melbourne “All the damned fools were on one side and all the clever men on the other, and egad Sir, the damned fools were right”. That quote has stuck with me and as time has ticked on I have found it applies more often than you might suppose. It is is easy to dismiss the Steve’s of this world as ill educated, bigoted and paranoid and I don’t think you would find many people outside of the cement industry in favour of concreting up the channel tunnel or more than a single figure percentage in favour of separate queues for muslims but the general anti-EU, muslim and immigrant feelings he expresses are too widely held, albeit in a milder form to be so easily dismissed. For instance according to polls almost 50% of Britons want to leave the EU, 62% believe an increase in the muslim population would weaken Britains national identity. I have had to listen to what you might call a 20 year anti-EU rant by my father in law, 10 years ago he added an anti immigrant and muslim diatribe to his repertoire which gelled nicely with his position on the EU. The problem I find is that whereas 20 years ago I would have fun running rings around him in arguments about the EU and ditto on immigration and muslims, as time has gone on it has become harder to rebuff him whether it be on his claims of the EU being an undemocratic and power mad bully, immigration causing pressure on wages, housing and public services and even on muslims not wishing to integrate. As David Waywell points out a lack of recognition of these concerns and the shutting down of the people who hold them as racists or idiots has simply allowed resentment to grow. The seeds of the problems the Steve’s believe we face can be traced back to two disastrous decisions by Tony Blair, firstly not exercising our opt out on immigration from the accession states as Germany did and secondly committing the UK to the invasion of Iraq, if neither of these had taken place it would be interesting to see where we would stand today in terms of sentiment towards the EU, immigration and Islam.

  12. nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 7th December 2015 at 7:05 pm | Reply

    Many thanks Rob and I appreciate your comments. I like just to say I had not suggested that Steve was paranoid, racist, idiot or bigoted. Steve and I engaged in a lengthy conversation and I respected his views because I had heard them before from other people and I know many people feel the same way as Steve does. He was comfortable enough to speak his mind and to listen to my views. After 20 years your father-in-law was proved right as these issues are still being debated and are a cause of deep concern to many millions of people in the UK.

    • Nehad, I hope my post didn’t infer that I thought your were suggesting this, it certainly wasn’t my intention.

  13. Just to flesh out my earlier post…. I have to say that when I read your piece my immediate thought was “Je suis Steve”. So what is Steve on about? Ignoring as best we can patronising remarks and un-British behaviour like shouting in pubs, perhaps Steve has a point (or several).
    Steve is reported as cross about ISIS, illegal immigrants and benefit scroungers, and sees a connection in our membership of the EU. You have “tried to simplify the discussion by dealing with each subject at a time”. But is it so far-fetched to see a common thread? If, like the Germans, you’re receiving a million plus asylum seekers and economic migrants this year (and next and the year after), and if your security services are warning that a small but potentially deadly proportion of them are ISIS operatives, and if your local authorities are unable to cope with the physical problems this poses, and if your finance ministers are protesting that it can’t be afforded, Meine Damen und Herren can’t really be blamed for seeing a connection. Likewise the British Steves. And we don’t have to have a particularly clear crystal ball to see that what is now a German problem may soon be coming our way in the very near future, as a direct result of our EU membership.
    You say, “I tried to convince him of how small a minority the terrorists are”. But how many people in some degree or another support them? The polls I’ve seen don’t give a clear view, mainly because they, like most pollsters, ask the wrong or loaded questions. But I’ll hazard a guess the minority is big enough to give real concern.
    Next Steve “ranted about mosques, sharia-law and demanded that the UK government should ban the burqa”. However the Frenchies, following the Enlightenment and three hundred years thinking about such matters, have come to similar conclusions as Steve, in terms of requiring a secular state. Just because the French approve, it doesn’t automatically make him wrong.
    So you played your final card: “I am of a Muslim background but I don’t want or expect anyone to bend backward to appease me.” Of course that is a good thing, but when the bombs go off in the West End in the next couple of weeks, is that going to bring consolation to the grieving relatives? A lot of people, including me, do agree with Steve that Mr Cameron would be best advised to sort out troubles at home before making a Third World War starting in Syria even likelier than it already is (good geo-political topic for your next discussion down the pub). Getting out of the EU would be a good start. Indeed anything that drags us away from the Middle Eastern madness is a good start.
    I suspect that much of Steve’s anger is down to his feeling that nobody asked him, or the millions of other Steves, if he wanted any of this social upheaval. He, and they, may be struggling to find how he has benefited from it. His frustration may be multiplied by a feeling that the Westminster bubble-dwellers don’t really care, and, even if they did, haven’t got the experience and clear thinking needed to put it right. It’s enough to make a chap swear, shout and bang on the table.

    • nehad ismail - United Kingdom | 8th December 2015 at 9:51 am | Reply

      Good morning Bob. Valid points noted. Just a quick word; it was never my intention to patronize or belittle Steve or anyone. I tried to convey the conversation and the atmosphere as I observed it. Steve felt so strongly about the things that frustrated him that he got worked up and shouted which is a human reflex. We all do it at some point. Compared to the stuff I read in Titter and elsewhere Steve’s remarks are restrained and under-stated.

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