Monday, July 02, 2007

Blowing off steam...   posted by DavidB @ 7/02/2007 03:35:00 AM

Excuse me while I blow off steam at a report in yesterday's New York Times (may require subscription) about the latest terrorist attacks in Britain. The authors casually refer to Britain's 'disenfranchised South Asian population'.

Disenfranchised??? According to my dictionary, 'disenfranchised' means 'deprived of the right to vote', or 'deprived of rights as citizen'. So in what sense, literal or metaphorical, are South Asians in Britain 'disenfranchised'?

Unless they are very young or very recent immigrants, they certainly have the vote (which in Britain depends on residence, not citizenship). Indeed, they may have more than one vote, as the South Asian communities tend to follow the old Ulster maxim 'vote early and vote often'. Nearly all the recent cases of electoral fraud in Britain have involved South Asians, especially in the abuse of proxy and postal votes. Never mind if your granny is in Pakistan (or dead), that is no reason why she shouldn't vote. And your local Mullah will probably be kind enough to deliver your postal vote for you - just leave the details blank!

Nor can it be said that South Asians are lacking in political influence. They have fewer Members of Parliament than their proportion in the population, but they make up for this in the influence they exert on other Members. This applies especially to Labour Members from the North and Midlands of England, where the Muslim vote is a powerful factor.

Of course, not all South Asians in Britain are Muslims. In fact the largest single group are Hindus of Indian origin. But they just do their work and make no fuss, so they are not a factor in politics.

Added on 3 July: This was written in haste, and there are a few errors. See the Comments page for corrections. They don't affect the point of substance that it is absurd to describe South Asians in Britain as 'disenfranchised'. But as it happens, the main suspects at present are not South Asians at all, but Arabs from comfortable backgrounds (doctors, etc.). Fortunately they also seem to have been wildly incompetent. Let's hope it stays that way.

Added on 6 July: According to the latest reports, 5 of the 8 key suspects are Arabs, and 3 are Indian Muslims (from Bangalore).