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Vorschlag B - "What does it mean to be British?" by L. Rodgers


Hinweis: Die Prozentangaben in Klammern zeigen die Gewichtung der einzelnen Aufgaben.

  1. Outline the problem of defining “Britishness” as described in the text. (Material) (30 %)
  2. Relate Mogra’s attitude to Britishness (Material) to other views of Great Britain dealt with in class. (40 %)
  3. “[I am] Sick of being told the indigenous people [here: the white Anglo-Saxons] have to integrate. NONSENSE. If you wish to join an existing community it is your responsibility to integrate.” (from a comment on the BBC News online article “Viewpoints: What should be done about integration?”)
    Comment on the reader’s view, taking into account developments in the USA. (30 %) 


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The text “What does it mean to be British” by Lucy Rodgers deals with the difficulties to clearly define the term ‘Britishness’.

A conference of religious leaders of Islam and Muslims has tried to distinguish the problem. They have worked out that freedom of expression and respect for others are universally applicable core values (ll. 5-7). But as well, they see that it will take a very long time until a common purpose unites all British communities. Football, for example, seems to be a more uniting aspect than anything else (l. 13).

The text refers to many different approaches to the topic but is not able to provide a distinct solution.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, a US Muslim cited in the text, means that Britishness cannot simply be put on the communities. Nevertheless, for him, moral aspects and attitudes within the British population give hope that a common sense can be found and worked on. Mr Hanson points out that Britain even can teach other European countries and the USA how to include, engage and respect minorities and minority communities (ll.19f).

Furthermore the given text relates to Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, who is of the Muslim Council of Britain’s inter-faith relations committee. He supports the earlier mentioned aspect that there is no single definition of Britishness. For building a common identity one needs to identify what it is to be British (l. 22). General issues, like participation in the democratic system or being respectful and tolerant (ll. 26f) do form the basis for Britishness. Mr Mogra uses stereotypes about food to show that Britishness basically is a term that is influenced from many sides.

Additionally, we can read that all people in the country should be seen as citizens and not as representatives of different religious or ethnic groups. Therefore, everyone should be treated the same.

At the end of the text the author refers to the Bishop of London who says that the idea of Britishness should not just become a series of concepts (l. 42). If everyone accepts the different ideas no one would form ‘cartoon images’ of each other. A British identity would consist of the population’s many different identities. He comes to the conclusion that there are multiple reasons for the pride of Britishness but finally something needs to be found that in any way covers all people’s rights and development.

The text does not provide any clear answer to the question of what Britishness means. The only hint is to think in a very complex and detailed way.


In the given text Mr Mogra, being of the Muslim Council of Britain’s inter-faith relations committee, is referred to as a man who has obviously long and intensively thought about Britishness and its importance.

He points out that the first step in building the feeling of a common identity is to identify what Britishness means (ll. 21f). He assumes that every person has a different view but is sure there are common issues like respect for other people and the rule of law, freedom of expression and religious practice, participation in the democratic system and valuing education (ll. 25f). Being British means being tolerant and respectful towards others. At the same time, people should live their ability to accept and celebrate difference (ll. 27f).

Mr Mogra provides a stereotypical example of food: many white British people have adopted chicken tikka masala while at the same time Muslims like himself enjoy fish and chips. For me, this shows his attempt to underline the aspect that even simple things of life do help to build a bridge between the people and help to assimilate as many positive aspects of a country as possible.

Finally Mr Mogra points out that it is still a long way until the feeling of a united society will be reached. But nevertheless, he is a very optimistic man who is proud of being British and what it means (l. 38) although there is still much more focus on the Muslim community as Muslims and not as citizens. In his eyes, Great Britain, which he is very proud of, is the best country for Muslims to live in.

In English classes we have often talked about Great Britain being a multicultural society, which has been built and developed by people whose roots cannot only be found in GB itself. Think of the waves of immigrants having come to the country after the decline of the British Empire. Think of the many humans who came and settled there after the Second World War. The Caribbean as well as Asian countries as well as Poland for example, have enriched the United Kingdom with their people, their culture, language and, of course, cuisine. Over the last decades, asylum seekers longing for protection have immigrated and now try to contribute their best to the country.

Unfortunately, there is also another side of the coin. Next to legal immigration, which can be completed with granting British citizenship, there is also an estimated rather high number of illegal immigrants in the United Kingdom.

Undoubtedly, the people living in Great Britain do have different views on what is British for them. We have learned about rugby and football matches, when the players hear the Scottish or Welsh anthems, but the English just ‘God Save the Queen’. This may not show any clear kind of British identity.

On the contrary, it seems to become clear that ethnic identity plays a more and more important role. You can find hundreds of different ethnicities represented in Britain. They all contribute parts of their life style, language, or religion to British life, which is, at least sometimes, not really that different. These new British have done their bit to British life and attitudes. Just take the Notting Hill Carnival, being a very popular, well-attended street festival, which was originally started by Caribbean immigrants. On the other hand, families whose roots lie in Asian countries do clearly show different attitudes towards life in general. Pakistani or Bangladeshi families are often below the national average referring to education. They more focus on religious matters and rarely completely assimilate to British culture. But all in all, most people of Indian origin and even those with their roots in Pakistan or Bangladesh have been able to forge a hybrid identity as British Asians with which they feel comfortable.

To come to a conclusion, one cannot easily state what being British means. For some Britons, it is just living in the UK. Others may find their personal definition in melting their roots into what GB provides in social and political life. Others feel that the concern for Britishness is just something encouraged in official circles. The latter ones could be supported by the fact that there is not even a British national day. National identity is a feeling rather than an opinion which can be expressed in so many diverse forms.

The British population is heterogeneous and composed of different ethnic groups with different backgrounds so that a definition can hardly be clearly worked out. As long as no one is excluded from society and is given the chance to feel at home in Britain there is a common ground to live on.


In today’s time words like integration, acceptance, responsibility or tolerance are often used. Does everyone really know which connotation lies in these terms?

People from many different countries all over the world migrate to in their eyes safer places. They leave their home countries, face the dangers of long lasting journeys to far-away places, often separated from their families, not knowing where and when everything will end. Finally they end up in areas where the inhabitants do not speak their language, and know only few things about the newcomers’ home countries, culture and fears. Often enough these migrants are not welcome. Thus, representatives of two different worlds clash with each other. Opinions about the newly arrived and vice versa about the native people differ.

In the following I would like to work out how it may be possible to live peacefully together and what integration means for the different people in the same places. Who is the one who needs to integrate? Is it really possible to clearly answer such a question?

The given quotation states the view that those joining an existing community are the ones who need to integrate. I would like to say that this is very one-sided. How can anyone integrate into a community if they are not given the possibility to because this community is separating itself from others? Immigrants must definitely have the chance to become part of the new home town and must get access to society without any restriction. Here I think of language courses first of all, next to job offers, taking actively part in the social life, and providing places in kindergartens, for example. Appropriate language courses help the people to get along in everyday life, to communicate with authorities, to clear questions about school, or to get into contact with other people. This helps to open doors for the further life in the new place. When the new residents are taught about political and cultural as well as religious aspects they might avoid mistakes which could lead to debates about almost everything.

Of course, integration is not a one way street. The above mentioned measures will never work if the immigrants do not show the will to integrate. They need to make the first step towards the new communities - they need to be willing to accept the circumstances and the people in the new places. If they are completely not ready to give but just want to take, this may end in a disaster.

In spite of all the necessary limitations for both sides, the immigrants should not be forced to give up their religious or cultural identity. They need to have enough space to freely practice their belief but without interfering into different ones. My own view of this is that nothing should be imposed upon anyone. The laws provide enough freedom for both immigrants and inhabitants to live and develop.

Let us now look at the USA and the latest developments there. I must admit that integration has not really worked out completely. As an example, we can see large communities of Mexican born people who live independently from any other group. They run shops, work in offices, attend school without feeling and having the necessity of learning the English language. Those who cross the border, no matter if legally or not, just join places where people of the same origin already live and go on living their life. Thus they could even hide from police. They have formed an own society existing parallel to the American one.

If the American society was more open to new people and provided better opportunities for taking part in all spheres of life, if towns and cities were more attractive and open-minded to aliens, immigrants could contribute more to this multicultural country. They would easily melt into other groups of people and this way the often emphasized salad bowl would be enriched by new ingredients.

What conclusion can be drawn from all this? Integration can just work if both sides see each other as partners creating life within society. If everyone accepts the different characteristics of all people involved, if everyone is willing to try hard to tolerate, to learn and teach at the same time, to help and to open themselves, every existing community will succeed in providing good conditions for a humane life. 

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