"I recall a number of years ago seeing gangs of youths walking around the streets dressed in hoodies. It wasn't their numbers that intimidated me, but the fact that they concealed their identities from the other passers by. I suppose that in some way, it was like seeing cowboys from the days of the wild west wearing bandanas which concealed their identities when they held up a stage coach and robbed a bank or when they covered their faces on long dusty cattle treks to market as they rode at the rear of the herd.
Women of some Islamic traditions daily dress in the Burka; a garment that covers them from head to toe and which is used to preserve their modesty. The fact that faces are concealed offends the sensibilities of many who also find this practice intimidating. It is as though when one cannot see what lies beneath a hood or face covering, then something untoward must be going on beneath the veil; some evil thoughts must be being thought or some wicked action intended.
I realise that we are now living in more violent and uncertain times when suspicions are raised more easily and one person is capable of doing all manner of wrong to countless others, simply because they follow a different religion, support a different political group or hold widely different opinions on this or that; even because they look different, act differently or come from far away places and are culturally different!
I also accept that while each country in the world has a humane responsibility to assist and assimilate asylum seekers as Britain has done on many occasions in the past, that to operate a policy of 'uncontrolled emigration' for the economic migrant is neither helpful nor viable to the indigenous person or newcomer! I still recall in 1972, when President Idi Amin of Uganda expelled almost 60,000 of his people from their country besides killing between another 100,000 and 500,000, and the British response. At that time, only Great Britain welcomed the expelled Ugandans, who in turn prospered as successful shop keepers and business men here, because they brought added skills and chose to culturally fit into their adopted country.
When my family and many other Irish families came to England during the 1940s, it wasn't to change the English culture and customs, but to have a better life in the form of occupation, accommodation and future prospects; things that were in short supply back in Ireland. I won't pretend that relationships with one's new neighbours was always dinky dory and that when natural disagreements occurred between a native to West Yorkshire and an Irish immigrant, that name calling like tinker and exhortations to 'Go back to your own country and take your popery with you' didn't take place. Of course it did!
The discrimination hurt deeply at the time, but it didn't diminish our character or destroy our future. Neither did we allow such insults to keep us segregated from the larger English community or divorced from their affections. Within a short time we were truly integrated with English customs and the family adopted those customs we liked whilst ignoring those we didn't. I will always remain grateful to England for offering my family a home and a future. All that we aspired to over the years, all that we have and all we became, none of this would have been possible if England hadn't accommodated us during the 1940s in our time of need.
When I read about the rest of the world, both during the 1940s and today, the discrimination displayed by the English at the time (although admittedly wrong), was no more than any other country in the world and was in many ways much less! Whereas the discrimination of the English was exercised mainly through name calling and denying equal status, other nations were cutting off hands for having stolen a few coppers or lynching those citizens from trees whose facial features were harder to identify in the dark of night!
I doubt that the present problems in the world will be sorted out in my life time, or indeed if they ever will, but what I do know, what I instinctively feel is that the English are a compassionate nation and shall, in the end, do their bit and play their part in helping any new neighbour to our shores, whatever dress they choose to wear." William Forde: February 25th, 2016.