Thursday, March 04, 2010

Britain's class system - alive and well

I must say, studying law in London with "Oxbridge" students has opened my eyes to the often stated fact that Britain is a society deeply divided upon class lines. Oxbridge is the term given to students who have graduated from Oxford or Cambridge and who usually come from a public school background. Public school in England is what people in other countries would call private schools, the most notable of these public schools being Eton. If you'd like to know what these schools are like, just watch a Harry Potter film, because that is almost the kind of environment those children are raised in. The only difference is that the *muggles* (people who do not understand or practice magic) in the film are really just the ordinary people who have to work for a living, unlike those special ones who understand magic.

It is remarkable for me that some people look you up and down before speaking to you, or that they would look the other way or purposely ignore someone not of their "class" even though they are standing next to them. I know now more than before that their smiles are fake, their compliments a lie and their generosity is non-existent. These are the people who will grow to fill the ranks of British government, industry and the defence establishment. There are rich foreigners who are allowed to the fringe of their social circles, and these are foolish enough from what I can see to really think they are being accepted as equals. I have never been prouder of being a Muslim, of being an Arab and of my working class clothes, background and struggle to be where I am today. In fact I revel in being as natural and common as possible around these ice cold automatons and I never, ever apologise or make myself defensive of my religion or background.

I made it very clear my deep amusement when the class elected to have a moment of silence for remembrance day, Arab would stay silent whilst Britain supports Israel and helped occupy Iraq? On another day I found out that the Islamic society of the university had its prayer facilities shut down and they were offered smaller facilities that were inadequate. The Friday prayers as a protest were held in the square in front of the university. I noticed how these well heeled arrogant nincompoops looked with utter disgust at these bearded, working class, brown Muslims, and I took off my shoes and went to sit right there with everybody else. There was a bemused look of horror by many as we got up to do our prayers. I don't think I could have lived with myself if I just hid inside or, even worse, stood there with those same English upper class nits whom I resented, whilst they looked with disgust at my people...I'm an Arab and a Muslim, it isn't my problem if some people are stupid enough to think that is an insult.


Anonymous said...

Amazing how the west civilization is still suffering from racism. No matter how progress they make, they can never get over this.

At least now I know why every Brit I met here in the Middle East despises and loathe the UK with passion !

nice post !

Anonymous said...

well........don't we do the same thing in our homelands? turn our noses up to people we consider as being of lower prestige that ourselves? this might be a condition of our human nature and npt something specific to the West.

To be honest Maysa I found that the UK has it's flaws but actually it has it's upsides too when it comes to racism and social/cultural/ethnic segregation, I have not yet seen another European country where you would easily and with no fuss find a veiled woman working behind the till of a shop or behind the counter of a bank (by veiled I mean head scarf) that would almost never happen in mainland Europe. yes they do turn their nose up sometimes at the "other" but who doesn't.......don't get me wrong I am not trying to give them excuses or defend their cause I have a lot of issues with the British society but I don't think loathing the other is a pure British trait

Maysaloon said...

True that this is not a pure British trait, but I think in sheer haughtiness, arrogance and post-imperial delusions of grandeur, the English upper classes are an example par excellence. The new-rich elites in our home countries are just cheap imitations. It is one thing to be resented by the real deal, perhaps even more degrading to be insulted by the imitation!

Anonymous said...

hehehehe i like what you say about the imitation, it's true our new riches are made in Taiwan versions of the real thing. Maybe in that case it's as you say residues of their colonial past and what are we eating up those residues and making new bread out of it.....enough bread to last a lifetime

Lirun said...

why arent u studying/living in syria.