Throughout history, the United Kingdom has been a refuge for large numbers of migrants Essay

Throughout history, the United Kingdom has been a refuge for large numbers of migrants. These immigrants were Christians of one denomination or another, and Jewish and Muslims migrants. In order to understand the reasons behind the growth of immigration to the UK, this assignment will investigate the issues and factors surrounding the migration and subsequent settlement of people from these three Semitic religions in the United Kingdom.

However in order to fully appreciate the impact of migration, this assignment will also examine the influence this has had on each religion, by illustrating the similarities and differences experienced by each religion and how this impacted on religious, social and cultural aspects of community life. “Since the shape of the community has been greatly affected by the pattern of migration” (Barton, 1986, p47) Christianity has long been the predominant religion of this country, however the religion has become more diverse over time.

One of the main reasons for this is due to the migration of people from different parts of the world, which has also resulted in different sects of Christianity being established in the UK. Many Eastern European Christians came to this country because they were anxious to escape the rigorous political stance of the church as well as the state, with which they disagreed (Every, 1978). Consequently, they left their homelands and migrated to other parts of the world.

However, this is not only the main factor that led to their migration, some migrated due to issues such as persecution or to seek political asylum, this occurred just after the Second World War (Every, 1978). As a result, there are now various types of churches and communities that have brought with them different cultural beliefs and practices of their faith. Thus, there are now Polish, German, Ukrainian and Russian Christian communities living in different parts of the UK.

It was during the early 1950’s and 1960’s that Britain was faced with an economic boom which demanded the import of labour, this new labour force predominantly came from the ex-colonies (Maqsood, 1994). In many respects, it could be argued that post war British industry acted as a magnet for people; especially for those who lived in developing countries. This can be seen as particularly the case with regards to Muslim migrants from parts of the Indian-subcontinent. (http://www. migrationwatch. o. uk).

Initially the first Muslim migrants to the UK were attracted by the prospect of well-paid work, and most of them were young unemployed men. Many of them considered themselves as visitors to Britain and always intended to return back to their own countries once they had earned enough money to provide for their families back home (Ballard 1994). However, this did not turn out to be the case as many immigrants decided to settle in the UK and were later joined by their wives and families.

One of the main reasons for this may be due to the threat of tighter immigration controls during the sixties, which resulted in the arrival of a larger number of women and children of immigrant workers. (http://www. migrtaionwatch. co. uk). This in turn promoted more people to enter the United Kingdom, before the doors were closed, as many men feared that they would be separated from their families.

What followed was the establishment of small Muslim communities, which were often found around inner city areas where housing was cheap and available, for example in Bradford, the incoming Muslim population tended to be concentrated in areas such as Little Horton and Lower Manningham etc. Later mosques were built as a means establishing their own community identity, as it could be argued that the most important thing to many practising Muslims is their faith, and the mosque is often said to be central to the life of a Muslim community (Cole, 2000).

This is also seen as one of the most important requirements for many Jewish people and Eastern European Christian migrants, thus it was particularity important that these migrants established there own place of worship in their new home, so as to develop community. The communities that developed were the building blocks from which a more integrated whole society based around religious belief was constructed within these areas. This enabled attitudes and skills to be harnessed in the safe context of religious communities.

As it could be argued that, the shared sense of belonging and identity is thus enhanced. Durkheim (1915, quoted in www. astoncharities. org. uk) found that “in traditional society the function of religion was seen to be for the legitimation for traditional social norms and the basis of solidarity. ” The earliest record of the settlement of the Jewish population in the United Kingdom was in Newcastle in the 1830’s. It is believed that they arrived from different parts of Eastern Europe to escape persecution in Russia and Poland (http://www. jewish. o. uk).

However, evidence suggests that there were already a significant number of Jewish people living in the UK prior to the 1830’s (Neuberger, 1996). Nevertheless, it is believed that one of the most significant waves of immigration is said to have been during the second world war, which was the time when many Jewish people were persecuted and killed in Germany by the Nazi regime “the holocaust” (Neusner, 1995). However, not all of the Jewish population came to this country due to issues such as persecution, some also came to seek employment.

A larger number of Jewish people were involved in trade, particularly as navel agents at the seaports or as city traders, and they travelled and settled in parts of Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool where they established and worked in the cotton and wool industries (Neusner, 1995). Even though initially life was a struggle for these immigrants, it could be argued that what kept the community and religion together was the family. “The concept of family solidarity has been one of the chief reasons behind the stability and survival of the Jewish community over the centuries” (quoted from http://www. amilyrestorationmagazine. org/tishreil/tishreio7. hltm).

One of the main similarities that these three immigrant communities have in common is the issue of migration, as many initially came to this country as merely visitors, however due to social, religious, and personal reasons they decided to stay in the United Kingdom. To begin with, life was difficult for Jewish and Muslim migrants as language was the main barrier to integration with the host community.

Consequently, they may have tended to feel cut off from the new world around them. As a result, it is no wonder that Muslim and Jewish immigrants initially tended to cling to their own community, as a refuge to the unknown (Unterman, 1996). However, over time, this seems to have become less of a barrier, as gradually people have learnt to adapt to the British way of life and adopted the language of the host community, although it seems they still appear to retain their own religious characteristics and customs.

Another similar experience faced by Jewish and Muslim migrants was that these penniless immigrants all tended to be crowded into the cheapest form of housing which tended to be within easy reach of established Jewish and Muslim communities, this was usually around the inner city areas. For example, in Manchester the Jewish community lived in areas such as Red Bank, Cheetham Hill, Strangeways and Lower Broughton (Manchester Jewish museum guide). The migrants brought diverse skills, experience and know how to the UK, and helped to regenerate these previously run-down areas.

All three Semitic religions that settled in this country, all felt the need to ensure the continuity of their faith. This is why communities established their own places of worship, and schools so that their children could learn their mother tongue and their faith. These places of worship served the community, as meeting places in which social, religious and cultural needs were met and strengthened within their immediate community (Hadwen, 2001).

Another problem faced by Jewish and Muslim immigrants was maintaining their own religious dietary requirements, within this new community. Muslims can only eat halal food and similarly Jewish people only eat kosher food, this led to the development of food shops that served the needs of the new immigrants, however this was a slow development process (Tames, 1982). Although Eastern European Christians are obviously not British, the way in which they dress, and their social habits and beliefs tended to mirror those of the host community to some extent.

Whereas Muslim immigrants are visually different due to their dark skin and dress code, as well as having customs and social habits that are radically different to that of the host community. However, it could be also agued that Eastern European Christians also had many similar experiences to that of Jewish and Muslim immigrants. For example, German, Polish and Russian speaking migrants would have also experienced language problems. Political and social differences may have also conflicted with the political and social structure of the host community.

This tended to cause extreme forms of racism and friction amongst members of the community who were new to, or unwilling to accept these new communities (Ballard, 1994). In many respects this initially lead to race attacks on the Muslim community, however the problem does not stop there, as the media also seemed to reinforce many of the stereotypical views and negative projections of Islam, which all seem to contribute to the problems of prejudice and discrimination which face the Muslim community living in the uk. Islam is held up as monolithic, and the things that a few Muslims do are used to justify attacking the religion” (Neuberger, page 232). This is one of the real issues that face Muslims in the twentieth century, which is often referred to as Islamphobia, the dread or hatered of Muslims (Hadwen, 2002). In some respects, it could be argued the Jews also suffered a similar type of discrimination.

It is apparent that throughout history Jewish people have suffered persecution and discrimination, which is referred to as anti-Semitism. Unterman, 1996). A recent report in the news (April 2002) revealed that anti-Semitism still remains a major problem that faces the Jewish community in the UK. In some respects, the Jewish community feel that anti-Semitism is getting worse due to the current situation in Israel (News Article: April 2002, “We’re British, and we’re Jewish and we’re uneasy, http://news. bcc. co. uk) So does this mean Jewish and Muslims immigrants will never be fully accepted by the host community?

Well this is something that needs to be addressed and what better way but by educating people to understand and appreciate other religions that live in their community. Consequently, many migrants initially found it quiet difficult to integrate into the mainstream British culture. While at the same time the host community didn’t make it any easier for them, as many people were unwilling to open their arms to such newcomers, this in many respects was due to racism that is embedded in the political and cultural structures of British society (Raza, 1993, p4).

This was one of the main problems faced by the Muslim and Jewish communities within this country, as many of their belief and practices are misunderstood. Whereas Eastern European Christians were not faced with this problem, as many of their basic beliefs are similar to that of the host community, even though these did vary slightly. The role of women and the family are important feature of religions as well as community life. It is apparent that religions all over the world, on the whole, offer equal opportunities to women and Judaism is no exception. Neuberger, 1996)

For example, Judaism regards the role of men and women as equals with shared responsibilities. The role of women and family life in Judaism is central to the practice of their faith, for example many of their religious festival are conducted at home as a family unit where women have distinct responsibilities such as bringing in the Sabbath by saying prayers and lighting candles (Woodhead, 2002). However, the role of women within the religious community does vary if we look at the difference between the two main branches of Judaism, orthodox and progressive Judaism.

This is a similar situation in Christianity, with regards to the different denominations with Christianity. The importance of the family unit and women’s role within it are said to be central to the preservation of the religion. The family is the microcosm of society (Woodhead, 2002, p200) In summarising, many of the initial experiences of the migrants served to strengthen and contributed to the establishment of their religious believes and practice, in a community where they did not seem to be any significant religious presence apart from Christianity.

Each religion has clearly had different experiences during their migration to the United Kingdom, however overtime they have now become a part of a larger community identify. Even though a strong sense of religious community identify is still apparent in some respects. Religion still remains a powerful boundary marker between communities. This should not be perceived as a negative problem, but should be seen as the way in which particular groups feel the need to hold on to their religious identify. What has changed is that in many ways the host community has began to accept the religious practice and beliefs of these migrants.