Courageous Buteman editor, racism, bigotry, refugees and the issue of ‘the enemy within’

Argyll is fortunate with the editors of its local newspapers. One who has stood out over the years as resourceful, committed and wise is Craig Borland of The Buteman, part of the Johnston Press portfolio.

Bute is now known more widely in the United Kingdon as the most memorable of the Scottish destinations for some of the first of the Syrian refugees accepted by the UK from long term residents of camps on the Syrian border – and double checked first for being who they say they are and for not being radicalised jihadis in disguise.

Despite all the First Minister says about Scotland being a tolerant country, the reality – of course – is that Scotland is no more tolerant or intolerant than any other, no less fearful than any other and no less self protective than any other.

The country has, as do most democracies, a healthy sector of middle class liberals who are, at least theoretically, open and inclusive. Also, as do most democracies, Scotland has a hefty enough welter of those who instinctively distrust and dislike ‘difference’, ‘otherness’; and a substantial number who express themselves most articulately in acts of violence.

This is an unhappy time for the first of the Syrian refugees to arrive in Scotland – accepted by the UK from long term residency in refugee camps on the perimeter of Syria and double checked that they are who they say they are and are not jihadists in mufti.

Bute – welcome and hesitancy about hosting refugees

Bute is now more widely known as one of the destinations in Scotland for some of these refugees.

Craig Borland has reported thtt The Buteman has been receiving a handful of local grumbles, that ‘we should be looking after our own first’; and that we should be doing something else with our taxes.

He has made a courageous public statement about this in the national press yesterday, 18th November, saying: ‘..these are just not very thinly veiled ways of people saying ‘I don’t want them in my backyard’.

‘Well, I do.

‘I want Bute to be a place where people who come here with little more than the clothes they standing in can feel safe and at home.

‘I want Bute to be a place known not for narrow-minded bigotry but for its warmth and humanity and willingness to help people who have nothing in whatever way it can.

‘The families coming to Bute [Ed: a single digit number of people] have been through things we can’t begin to imagine. Surely, as human beings, we have a duty to help?’

This statement is a powerful counter to the tendency to demonise, ghettoise and alienate the unknown as much out of fearfulness and self protection as of bigotry.

‘The enemy within’

The provocation of the awful massacres in Paris has seen in Scotland, as elsewhere, violence and intimidation targeted on long standing residents of local Muslim communities and on Muslim businessfolk.

The Mosque is increasingly concerned at these behaviours, reporting that Muslims now feel that they are all seen as ‘the enemy within’.

This is a dreadful way for the vast majority of innocent British Muslims to have to live – but the awkward reality is that there is an ‘enemy within’ and that this enemy is indeed Muslin – and within and well as without the Muslim community itself.

This does not remotely compute to a single Muslim community. never mind every single Muslim resident anywhere in the UK.

The British jihadists who went on commit acts of indescribable and unthinkable primeval violence belonged to British Muslim families, had friends and school mates in the Muslim community and beyond it with people of other races, including British kids.

One of them, the infamous Jihadi John, now eliminated by a targeted drone strike, recently announced that it was his intention to return to Britain ‘and carry on beheading people’.

With immigrant communities living largely separate lives, how can anyone outside them know who is a threat to their survival and who is not?

Self-protectiveness understandably comes alive in these sort of circumstances; and it is easier to keep your distance and treat an entire community as suspicious rather than, lacking the insights and the contact, attempt to identify the dark souls.

Living as the innocent ‘enemy within’

I have some personal understanding of what life must be like today for so many of the innocent Muslim community – since I am Irish.

For years my country’s men and women randomly bombed on the British mainland, often in London, killing and maiming innocents in the name of Irish republicanism – always more nationalist than republican.

These bombings left dead and destruction on buses, in and under buildings from the Arndale Centre in Manchester, the bus on the M62,  the pubs in Birmingham, to pubs in Guildford, to Canary Wharf and to the Baltic Exchange in London, to mention a few.

Such atrocities – and more of them – were also, of course, carried out on ‘home soil’ but that seemed at least our own problem. Exporting such destruction of the innocents though, for no reason other than that England – a very different earlier England – had once been the colonial master of the island of Ireland and remained, unwillingly, the political senior of the state of Northern Ireland – was a matter of the most profound guilt by association.

My job as an academic in Northern Ireland – and as an arts critic for broadcast media on the side, saw me fairly often on the UK mainland, often in London. I learned quickly that my accent brought immediate instinctive recoil – as did the occasional Irish coin amongst the sterling currency I had brought for the duration.

I self-edited. I spoke almost not at all. It is perfectly possible, smiling reassuringly all the while, to manage a wide spectrum of transactions wordlessly – and to choose what you do  according to what can be managed in this way. Behaving like this was using a form of disguise and made me feel oddly subversive – not in any exciting way but in one which underlined my real status as a suspect outsider.

In this experience I had the huge advantage of not being physically or visually identifiable as ‘different’ or ‘other’. I just had to keep quiet and I could go about my business as I wished, passing without notice or remark.

The innocents in the Muslim community, which is today’s inevitably indiscriminate  ‘enemy within’, do not have that immense advantage.

They are racially and visually identifiable. Many women routinely wear the hijab or the burqa. They will be keeping to an absolute minimum the occasions on which they leave their homes. When they do, they will try to remain as invisible and self effacing as possible. And if they are ill-served or even abused, the last thing they can possibly do is to complain or protest. They can only take it and get offside as fast as possible.

This is no way for innocent folk to have to live.

Is there a solution to this?

There is little that can be done about this in the immediate instance – but is there anything that can be done to address the obvious problems of parallel lives in parallel cultures in the future?

Where immigrants come to live here who cannot and do not speak English – as English emigrants to Chiantishire or the Dordogne often do not bother to learn Italian or French  – bonds cannot be made with local residents and their cultures, nor can personal connections be made.

The UK Government is considering the tested ability to speak English as a condition of entry to this country. This has something to commend it – but were it to be the deciding factor on entry, the downside would be that terrorists intent on infiltration would be certain to speak the best English.

If the children of current UK residents of all races and children of newly arriving immigrants attend the same schools and study the same curriculum – taught only in English – it will progressively act against the damaging perceptions – from both sides –  of ‘otherness’.

We need secular state schools to be statutorily compulsory for all young people to attend.

We need – now – to start cutting state funding for faith schools of all kinds in transition  to this.

Will it happen? Unlikely.

The faith lobbyists have a firm grip of politicians of all parties.

However, together, these measures form the only strategy that has a chance of creating a cohesive multi-ethnic citzenry, living in mutually assured survival, in which the genuine ‘enemies within’ would be more accurately identifiable – and, seen as the universal enemies they are – would be identified.

 Lynda Henderson, Editor

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Related Articles & Comments

  • Well done Craig Borland in standing up for decency and humanity .There are many people on Bute who want to support the refugee families who have fled from torture in Syria.As somebody who works for Argyll Community Housing Association I have been humbled by the enquiries received from decent folks asking for translations of Arabic welcome in order that they can extend a hand of friendship .

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4

    Alastair MacGregor November 19, 2015 10:08 pm Reply
    • Well,Well, Well I hope the two thumbs down come from those that have a problem with me rather than the poor souls who are escaping with little children from the trap between dictator Assads army and militia allies on the one side and the Jihadists of Isil on the other .
      You could do worse than read Pastor Neimollers poem

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

      Alastair MacGregor November 20, 2015 8:32 pm Reply
  • A very true interpretation of the current situation in the UK today. Whether we like it or not, as you state, more integration is needed, to make it all work better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

    Dunoon Lad November 19, 2015 11:13 pm Reply
  • I’m sure the Syrians arriving in Bute will be very welcome and will integrate into the community.

    The Provost in his diatribe comes across as an intemperate and ignorant bigot unfit for public office

    Argyll and Bute’s very own Alf Garnet if I may opine.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

    willie November 20, 2015 2:28 am Reply
  • As for Newsie’s view of Scotland and it’s people, she as usual considers them all to be as inclusive as her Northern Irish unionist community are to Catholics.

    Or am I generalising unfairly against the NI unionist community.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 13

    willie November 20, 2015 2:35 am Reply
  • Yes Integrity, some societies do indeed have more odious people than other.

    And yes, without generalising, Provost Scouler comes across as one of the ugly intemperate bigots that all societies unfortunately have.

    It’s probably just a colour or race thing with the guy. White pointy hat, white robes with noose in hand and standing in front of a fiery cross is how he comes across.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 3 Thumb down 13

    willie November 20, 2015 11:01 am Reply
    • I don’t know the Provost personally so couldn’t possibly comment however that doesn’t actually have anything to do with my post.

      Newsrooms original article simply states that Scotland is no more or less a tolerant nation than any other. I’m not sure I would entirely agree with that. I think there are some which, if you could somehow measure it, would be less tolerant however her overall point is a fair one. You seem to Interpret that as her saying that all people in Scotland are as inclusive as the northern Irish unionist community is to Catholics. So you twist her words entirely.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

      Integrity? November 20, 2015 2:54 pm Reply
      • Might we agree that Scotland is no more or no less tolerant than any other part of the UK?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

        newsroom November 20, 2015 6:38 pm Reply
        • I think that is fair.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

          Integrity? November 20, 2015 6:43 pm Reply
    • Would you quote what Mr Scoullar is recorded as having said and to whom, as we have no idea what this is about?
      It is worth considering that fear – and particularly at the level currently being deliberately and tactically generated – makes most people retreat fast to the narrow bounds of the absolutely known.
      That does not necessarily make a fearful person a bigot or a racist.
      In a fight or flight scenario, the throwing up of the barricades of all kinds is a sort of marriage of both.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

      newsroom November 20, 2015 4:52 pm Reply
  • Pick your paper to read Newsroom. Try the Dunoon Observer headline : Provost in “Terrorist” row.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

    Dunoon Lad November 20, 2015 11:33 pm Reply
  • living just across the water in larne northern ireland i live on the breadline and struggle to survive and have recently overcome homelessness i have 2 spare bedrooms and would gladly take in a refugee family dont dare bring religion into the equation as i am not in the slightest bit interested the issue is those genuinely fleeing war and persecution and fellow human beings go back to 1939 and a certain race of people were being hunted and exterminated out of europe if you knew then what in this age of technology what exactly was going on would you open your arms or slam the door shut i for one will never judge a book by its cover so i welcome my fellow human beings in their time of need yours sincerely terry mccloskey

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

    terry November 21, 2015 10:39 am Reply
  • further more if any refugees reading this wants to come to northern ireland my offer is valid i dont have much to offer but a roof and a place of refuge

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

    terry mccloskey November 21, 2015 11:10 am Reply
  • Clr Scoullar did NOT make any racist remark, all he really said was that he hoped that the vetting of these people was thorough enough to endure that non of the refugees had thoughts against this country and its people.
    To NOT consider this possibility is in fact dangerous.
    It is now being reported that at least 2 of the so called refugees who came via Greece to Paris were in fact involved in the recent atrocities there.
    Speak out, its a free country, better safe than sorry

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

    john November 23, 2015 12:17 pm Reply
    • I have seen his comments now and tend to agree it wasn’t racist. I don’t think it was a particular intelligent, or necessary, comment to make and certainly won’t help to quell any unpleasantness which may or may not be bubbling under the surface in areas of A&B however I wouldn’t say it was racist.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

      Integrity? November 23, 2015 1:28 pm Reply

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