As the Indian and English cricket teams clash today, it can once again be seen that the overwhelming majority of Indians who live in the UK, including Indians born in Britain, passionately support India over England! This has annoyed some British politicians, who have proposed the “Cricket team test” to test loyalty of immigrants. They have even linked this with terrorism and future civil war! Are they justified in their concern?
It was back in 1990 when former chairman of the British Conservative Party, Lord Tebbit, proposed the “Cricket Team Test”, also known as the “Tebbit Test.” According to Lord Tebbit, ethnic minorities living in Britain should support British teams over those of their country of origin. If they did not, this would pose a problem to British society. His comments were recalled time and time again when it was observed that the vast majority of immigrants from other countries, of which India and Pakistan were the foremost, strongly supported the cricket team of their country of origin over England. Furthermore was the fact that even the overwhelming majority of British-born Indians and Pakistanis passionately supported their country of origin as opposed to England.
It is another matter altogether that when English expatriates go and live in other countries (e.g. Australia, Spain or France) they still support the English cricket and football teams, and people like Tebbit do not see this as a problem, and furthermore if Aussies and Kiwis settle in England it is not considered a problem for them to support Australia or New Zealand – which shows the inherent subtle racism in all of this, whereby it is desirable for non-white immigrants to be subordinated, but at the same time unnecessary to see white people subordinated in this way.
With the recent terrorist attacks in London, and the ongoing debate over immigration and asylum, Tebbit has once again re-affirmed his views and has claimed that if his comments in 1990 had been acted upon then the terrorist attacks in July may have been prevented. The question that we must consider is what relevance or reality do Lord Tebbit’s comments have? Is Tebbit right in claiming that if his views were taken more seriously it may have prevented the 7/7 terrorist attacks?
Tebbit’s views may seem to hold some logic at first, but with a little reflection it can be easily seen that using the “Cricket Team Test” as an indication of whether a community will integrate is a poor idea. His comment that “had his message been heeded it might have stopped the London bombings” is almost laughable. Such ideas serve as red-herrings that prevent our society from genuinely being able to understand the causes of terrorism and how to prevent it. Tebbit also attacked multiculturalism, blaming it for “undermining British society”. In his interview he said: “If you have two cultures in one society then you have two societies. If you have two societies in the same place then you are going to have problems, like the kind we saw on July 7, sooner or later.”
The Hindu community of Britain provides an example that makes a mockery of Tebbit’s views. Most Hindus in the UK (though not all) are ethnic Indians, and come cricket time most of us do a good show of support for the country of our forefathers. Most of us do have a culture that is different in many ways compared with that of mainstream British society. But at the same time, we haven’t had major issues of integration with British society. When the bombs went off on 7/7 most of us felt just as outraged as anybody else.
What people like Tebbit fail to understand is that in the modern age people should have the outlook of being global citizens, and have an affinity for humanity at large compared with an overbearing allegiance to any country. People who think and act as global citizens may have certain loyalties and fondness for their country, or country of origin, or some other grouping of people such as those who share the same mother-tongue. But on the whole, their concern is for a wider sense of justice and for the well being of all. If people have this outlook, it doesn’t matter what cricket team they support, they are inevitably going to be good citizens of any democratic and open society. They will easily be able to live in harmony with other communities that live alongside them, and problems of integration would not arise even while having different cultures. People who think as global citizens will be an asset to whatever country they live in, regardless of what cricket team they support. By contrast a hooligan who is a staunch supporter of the English football team, but manifests this “love of the country” by rioting and who has been on the dole all his life is not an asset but a liability.
A person may have several dimensions to their identity. To us Hindus in Britain there is our religion, our country of origin, the language we speak, the country in which we live. Any one person may attach a greater or lesser importance to each of these. But to most Hindus these do not clash or create conflict, provided that in the forefront of our consciousness there is the universal outlook that our Sages taught us (Vasudaiva kutumbha – the entire world is one family).
Simplifying problems of integration and terrorism to something superficial a like the Cricket Team Test or blaming multiculturalism totally fails to explain why some communities have had problems getting along with British society while others haven’t. It obscures the underlying issue. The reason why many Muslims have had problems with integration is not because they have a different culture, but largely because of an outlook that makes them identify very strongly with other Muslims as a world-wide family, but at the same time see non-Muslims with distrust. It is the widespread perception of an eternal frontier between believers and non-believers, which feeds a persecution complex in impressionable youth. It is rooting out of this kind of attitude from young minds that would go a long way towards solving the problems of terrorism and inter-community relations, and indeed most conflicts that exist today in the world.
(This article was written in 2005)