“It was evening. Rays of light filtered through the trees and the clouds were lifted by the helicopter. It was a pretty light. I saw the soldier wearing an odd bandana with a white skeleton face printed on it, and I took the photo. At the moment I didn’t find it particularly extraordinary or shocking. The soldier wasn’t posing, ”photographer Sanogo added. ”Eerie photo of French soldier in Mali upsets military officials
‘I feel like a stranger where I live’
As new figures show ‘white flight’ from cities is rising, one Londoner writes a provocative personal piece about how immigration has drastically changed the borough where she has lived for 17 years
Mass immigration is making reluctant racists of us all.
“When you go swimming, it’s much healthier to keep your whole body completely covered, you know.” The Muslim lady behind the counter in my local pharmacy has recently started giving me advice like this. It’s kindly meant and I’m always glad to hear her views because she is one of the few people in west London where I live who talks to me.
The streets around Acton, which has been my home since 1996, have taken on a new identity. Most of the shops are now owned by Muslims and even the fish and chip shop and Indian takeaway are Halal. It seems that almost overnight it’s changed from Acton Vale into Acton Veil.
Of the 8.17 million people in London, one million are Muslim, with the majority of them young families. That is not, in reality, a great number. But because so many Muslims increasingly insist on emphasising their separateness, it feels as if they have taken over; my female neighbours flap past in full niqab, some so heavily veiled that I can’t see their eyes. I’ve made an effort to communicate by smiling deliberately at the ones I thought I was seeing out and about regularly, but this didn’t lead to conversation because they never look me in the face. [..]
I suspect that many white people in London and the Home Counties now move house on the basis of ethnicity, especially if they have children. Estate agents don’t advertise this self-segregation, of course. Instead there are polite codes for that kind of thing, such as the mention of “a good school”, which I believe is code for “mainly white English”. Not surprising when you learn that nearly one million pupils do not have English as a first language.
I, too, have decided to leave my area, following in the footsteps of so many of my neighbours. I don’t really want to go. I worked long and hard to get to London, to find a good job and buy a home and I’d like to stay here. But I’m a stranger on these streets and all the “good” areas, with safe streets, nice housing and pleasant cafés, are beyond my reach. I see London turning into a place almost exclusively for poor immigrants and the very rich.
It’s sad that I am moving not for a positive reason, but to escape something. I wonder whether I’ll tell the truth, if I’m asked. I can’t pretend that I’m worried about local schools, so perhaps I’ll say it’s for the chance of a conversation over the garden fence. But really I no longer need an excuse: mass immigration is making reluctant racists of us all.
Jane Kelly is consulting editor of the ‘Salisbury Review’