Connecting Communities: The British Pakistani Community

The Connecting Communities Circles project of the Dialogue Society aims to build understanding of different ethnic communities on the local level, while establishing and strengthening connections between various ethnic groups in London (particularly in Islington and surrounding boroughs). The informal meetings consist of a series of discussions called ‘circles’. A panel of five guests belonging to a particular community are invited to talk about issues that relate to inner diversity, education and family of the community in the UK.

At our most recent Connecting Communities Circle we hosted members of the British Pakistani community. Unfortunately the circle took place a few days after the barbaric Woolwich attack which the Dialogue Society condemned in the strongest terms. Given the timing, the circle began with a discussion on how the attacks were perceived by society and the media and how resilient the Pakistani youth were against radicalisation. The need for solidarity in the society was also discussed, in the face of such potentially divisive incidents.

Unlike previous Connecting Communities Circles, on this occasion we spent more time discussing the Pakistani community in England at the present, rather than focusing on the historicity of the community, although we still discussed the context of migration and past experience of British Pakistanis. The focus then shifted to the lived experiences: the foremost headings in the discussion were family, community dialogue, British Muslim identity, the heterogeneity of the British Pakistani identity, and education.

The participants spent considerable time in an interactive conversation discussing the educational attainment of the British Pakistani community, the challenges in forming a British Muslim identity, how to establish a lasting intra-community dialogue, as well as dialogue between the Pakistani community and the larger society.

My personal impression from my observation of the perspectives voiced by our distinguished guests from the Pakistani community was how diverse and adaptive the British Pakistani community was, a very significant feature that fundamentally facilitates dialogue. I was under the impression that the Pakistani community in England is in no way isolated or separated from wider society, but engages with all segments of the social fabric and have been contributing to the British society since the earliest settlements in England till the present time.

Dr Omer Sener

Research Fellow, Dialogue Society London Branch

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