My first “google” hit to define “Community Cohesion” gave me: “by community cohesion, we mean working towards a society in which there is a common vision and sense of belonging by all communities; a society in which the diversity of people’s backgrounds and circumstances is appreciated and valued; a society in which similar life opportunities are available to all” and I decided the definition was nigh spot on, and I will go with it.
A few years ago when involved in a number of community enterprises, including on a paid basis, working alongside many statutory and voluntary organizations, this term was much in vogue and most agreed, given our communities were becoming more diverse, community cohesion was something we should be promoting and working toward. Among the many related activities I was involved with, was organizing an annual diversity event that tried to bring together all sections of the community for a day of fun but with the serious intent of promoting community cohesion.
While agendas change over the years, it seems many community minded people still see cohesion as an important goal to aim for, as does government because a more cohesive society is likely to be easier to govern as there will be less conflict that needs to be dealt with. Personally, I feel a measure of pride as a promoter of community cohesion given the number of disparate groups I have dealt with over the years and have struck up a measure of trust and rapport. Yet I feel this now can be as a matter of contention.
For the past year, I have seen a widening gap between me and some of my community cohesion minded friends, firstly over Brexit, then concerning the US Presidential election and now what may happen in Europe with the resurgence of right wing nationalism. I have given my view why I support Brexit and Trump and have yet to decide regarding Le Pen and other hopefuls to gain political power in France etc. I recognize also that one of the reasons some folk are so anti (Brexit, Trump, Le Pen) is that none of these are seen as particularly strong when it comes to promoting community cohesion, and could reverse progress already made in this regard.
Two of my recent blog posts have touched on the subject of Muslim immigration and the possible overall detrimental effect this has had on countries that have allowed Muslims, particularly those classed as refugees, into the country. It is a sensitive subject and one that is a contentious one. In suggesting Muslim immigrants may be problematic, this can create an anti-Muslim backlash. By making the point that a disproportionate number of Muslims engage in criminal and other activities not in the national interest, one can be accused of not only promoting hate but also peddling false information.
Yet I fear by failing to address these matters we do a disservice and lay ourselves open to problems down the line that could be avoided. When it comes to immigration, my view is this should be regulated but priority be given to genuine refugees with checks and safeguards in place and they should be treated hospitably when in the country. While allowing for the culture and ways of those coming in, we should not be ashamed of or apologise for our own culture and ways and expect all immigrants to integrate and respect these. The perception some don’t adds to community tension (the opposite to cohesion) and has been exploited by hate groups.
Just before the Brexit vote, we learned of the murder of the MP Jo Cox, by a white racist. Jo was one who put much effort into creating cohesive communities and it was this that her attacker took exception to. Along with others, I joined “Love not Hate” themed vigils in Jo’s memory. My main qualm was that around that time there were other atrocities that could have given rise to a similar response but wasn’t. Without decrying concerns of those wanting to protest when we see things happening in our communities that give rise to division and in the light of Donald Trump becoming US President, I do see a certain irony that among those leading the protests, e.g. the recent women marches, are a hotchpot of feminists, pro-abortionists and those calling for Sharia Law, who scorn folk like me who don’t adopt those positions yet share many of their concerns for community cohesion and a just society.
I was led to thinking along these lines by listening to two Bible scholars who take particular interest in Islam and end times prophecy. One made mention that before Obama became President he used to conduct training for Intelligence operatives around Islam but after Obama came in, this was dropped and deemed unnecessary. The other recounted that he was refused entry to the UK on the basis that his warning concerning allowing Muslims into the country and the need to be aware of the Islamification of the culture was deemed to be hateful. This same ostrich approach of not wanting to offend or speak ill of Islam is noted concerning the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal. According to Wikipedia: “Widespread organised child sexual abuse took place in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, England, between 1997 and 2013. … The report estimated that 1,400 children had been sexually abused in the town between 1997 and 2013, predominantly by gangs of British-Pakistani men” although interestingly the fact they were Muslim was missed out. A similar thing happened concerning attacks in Germany and Sweden, again by Muslim men immigrants, on innocent women and children, the very matter that caused outrage when Trump alluded to this in his recent speech.
While it will be argued perpetrators of these crimes do not truly reflect Islam and that there are many Muslims who are also horrified such crimes have taken place, I have grave concerns that in the interest of creating community cohesion the causes are ignored and the end result will be opposite to that which is intended. I will continue to champion the cause of community cohesion but not at the expense of hiding the truth, ditching the values of the host country or laying ourselves open to avoidable threats.
PS I should add that the so called Fake News sites that highlight some these concerns, people expressing views unpopular with those who control Facebook and even the President’s Twitter feed are not only threatened but are in the early stages of being censored. This I deplore. Of course inciting hatred is unacceptable but so should shutting down free speech aimed at highlighting the truth.
Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life