In Mirpur (i.e a city in Pakistan where most of the Bradford Muslim population comes from) today are
hundreds of homes built by families who have now lived in Britain for three generations. These houses,
set against the general poverty of rural Pakistani Kashmir, are grand in both scale and ambition. It is
not uncommon to find five- or even ten-roomed houses in Mirpur which are owned by families living in
cramped Victorian-era homes here. The reason Bradford's Mirpuris lavish so much of their hard-won
savings on homes in Pakistan when they could be spending the money on better and bigger homes here offers
some kind of insight into the social dynamics that drive this immigrant community.
Abdul Bary Malik says making an impression back 'home' is what counts for many people. 'You see these
houses all over the place,' he told me over lunch at his home in Low Moor, a suburb of Bradford.
'Sometimes they are locked up or relatives are living in them. They are houses, but they are not
really homes. The families that own them are not going to live there. The whole point of these
mansions is to show the people back home how rich you are. The same people who have Pajeros and
Shogun jeeps in the garage in Mirpur are driving around in old Toyota Corollas here.'
In a supreme irony, the family elders who are so keen to display to their relatives back in Pakistan the
accoutrements of a life in the West are precisely the same men who have remained suspicious of Western
values in their day-to-day lives here in Britain. In Bradford's Mirpuri community the wealth that has
come with immigration has been used to cement kinship ties with the old country rather than foster new
cross-cultural relationships in Britain. Bradford's Mirpuri community lives in a time warp in which its
communal clock chimes with the practices of rural Pakistan and not with twenty-first-century Europe.
According to Malik, Bradford's Mirpuris adhere to practices which have long ago been abandoned even in
much of Pakistan. ‚I go there every couple of years. I can see how people are moving on. It's only here
that we are still stuck in the sixties and seventies,' he says. 'Take something as simple as food.
More and more families have stopped using ghee in their cooking [because they know it's not healthy],
but here it's still very common for the women to use ghee.'
All immigrants, especially the elderly, look back with a fondness for the land of their forefathers,
but few have managed to replicate its mores and habits quite as comprehensively as Bradford's Mirpuris.
Two factors account for this - religion and marriage.
Source: George Alagiah: A Home from Home - From Immigration Boy to English Man, Abacus Books, London 2007, pp. 177-179
Bradford - a town in West Yorkshire with the largest Muslim community in England
accoutrements - Ausstattung
suspicious of - skeptisch ...
kinship ties - Verwanschaftsbande
ghee - Butterschmalz
mores and habits - Sitten und Gebräuche
to account for - verantwortlich sein für
1. Why is it that quite a few Pakistani families living modestly in Bradford own larhe houses in
their mother country?
2. Why are ties between British Muslims and their relatives in Pakistan so close?
3. Bradford's Muslims seem to live in a world of their own, i.e. little integration into the British
society has taken place. What do you think are the reasons for their situation?