Perspectives

Britishness and multicultural Britain

Sarfraz Manzoor’s autobiography Greetings from Bury Park explores the concepts of Britishness and multicultural Britain. At first glance, Britishness and multiculturalism are seen as opposites, as multiculturalism tends to celebrate minorities and different cultural groups, while Britishness is a less inclusive concept. 

Throughout his life, Sarfraz struggles to establish his national identity and reconcile being both British and Pakistani. Heavily influenced by his father’s belief that Britain is not his home, Sarfraz tries to understand where he belongs. On the one hand, Sarfraz belongs to a minority and recognizes that his religion and his family’s cultural values make him an outcast among his British friends: “you are not like them, you have your own cultures and your traditions” (Better Days, 39%). On the other hand, he does not have a connection to Pakistan, and he feels completely detached from his native country: “it was not Islam I was reacting against, it was the cultural values of my parents’ generation” (Reason to Believe,57%). Consequently, Sarfraz finds himself caught between two cultures and unable to fully embrace either of them.

The two concepts – Britishness and multicultural Britain – are also affected by tragic events, like the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorist attacks. Sarfraz Manzoor describes both events in his memoir and observes how the general perception of Muslims has been affected by extremists:

Earlier that summer there had been rioting in three British towns. At the time the disturbances in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham had been described as ‘race riots’ between Asian or Pakistani youths and the police. After 9/11 it was no longer about Pakistanis, Indians and Bengalis but Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. ...

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