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BREXIT Episode Three - Us and Them

Episode Three - Us and Them

When I was planning this assignment, I connected with a guy called John, who works in Bradford as a Drugs Rehabilitation Officer. John grew up as a white christian, but converted to Islam twenty two years ago. He very kindly organised for me to join him at friday prayers at his mosque. Most of the people I met there were first generation immigrants, who had come over with their parents from Pakistan in the 1960’s. Their children see themselves as British, but they themselves still feel Pakistani. It is an interesting fact that whilst immigration was a key factor in the Brexit vote, many Asians voted to leave, despite being migrants.

Imam, Moulana Adeel at the Bayt Al Qaim Mosque
Bayt Al Qaim Mosque

Throughout civilization, we have formed tribes - it is the nature of homo sapiens. It’s called the ‘Us and Them’ syndrome. In good times when people have money and food is plentiful, ‘us and them’ goes unnoticed. But when life gets tough and poverty strikes, people go back to their tribes and reject ‘the others’. A number or people mentioned ‘us and them’ to me. A few spoke of tribes.

But in my time here, I have also seen endless examples of community integration, the sharing of cultures and ideas - friendships and marriages. So for all the fact that for some, immigration has become a headache, for many it has enriched their lives.

MC Grime rapper Leejay and his friends all grew up together in the same street. Colour is a filter that some have, others don’t. Leejay, who grew up and went to school with people from all ethnicities and religions, has no filter. To him, his fellow rapper CY isn’t half Asian, he’s just his mate. He and his friends seemed colour blind.

‘I believe in what I do, I have faith that I will make it, and I will never stop creating’

MC Grime rapper Leejay

On a freezing cold Saturday afternoon, they all got together to film the video for Leejay’s new song. They had such energy and motivation, such intelligence and humility. People came out from their houses to shake their hands. Watching them, I was struck about this thing we call the ‘human condition’ - despite all the odds being stacked against them in the lottery of life, they were also blind to their lack of opportunity because as Leejay said, ‘I believe in what I do, I have faith that I will make it, and I will never stop creating’. I loved these guys!

John converted to Islam twenty two years ago. His ancestry, is as he describes, ¼ Arab, ¾ English. His wife Khadija is an Eritrean asylum seeker. She has serious heart condition and was about to be conscripted into the Eritrean army, where she would have received no medical support. She would have died.

Khadija

Whilst John works to help those afflicted by drugs, he also spends all his free time photographing notable projects around Bradford. John says ‘I have always felt like an outsider. So I am drawn to people on the margins… and because photography is a mirror, it perhaps also helps me understand my place in the world’.

‘I have always felt like an outsider. So I am drawn to people on the margins… and because photography is a mirror, it perhaps also helps me understand my place in the world’.

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© Martin Middlebrook | All Rights Reserved

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