6 SEPTEMBER 1975, Page 13

Immigrant Britons

Dual loyalties

David M. Jacobs

With increasing numbers of immigrants of different religious and ethnic backgrounds in this country, the problem of dual loyalty is becoming ever more pertinent. Once used as a 'charge' against Jews, dual loyalty is a natural and valuable ingredient in modern multiracial societies. It does not merely mean political loyalty, but also concerns loyalty to religion, language and folk mores. In discussing this subject it might be as well to start by looking at an aspect of the problem not often considered in this context. This is the varied loyalties of the indigenous population. By indigenous I take those groups that had become established by the end of the eleventh century. The oldest groups are those which might be called the British proper; that is, the descendents of the Celtic tribes who had become established here in the last centuries of the first millennium BC. These groups fell under Roman occupation and were then attacked and invaded by the English in the fifth century, who were in their turn invaded by the Danes in the ninth, and finally conquered by the Normans in the eleventh. This is quite an amalgam of peoples. Before considering the problems of more recent immigrants it is important to realise that a large part of the loyalties and passions that existed in this island over a thousand years ago still exist in a modified form today.

In Wales, Plaid Cymru aside, there exists a strong nationalist pride and sentiment. It should not be forgotten that the slight derogatory term for Englishman, 'Sassenach' means Saxon, a word that brings back memories of the wars of the fifth and sixth centuries. There is now also a strong attempt to revive the language which had been slowly dying. Whereas Wales represents a mixture of several British tribes, there is one area of modern Britain which contains the descendents of one specific tribe. Cornwall is all that is left of the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, and although the English may regard Cornwall as part of England, and in spite of the fact that its independence was destroyed at the battle of Hingston Down as long ago as 838, the Cornish when they travel to Devon still say they are 'going to England.' Although the Cornish language died out two hundred years ago there is still a very small group of people who study it out of nationalist pride.

The fierce national pride of the Irish and the Scots is too well known to need any discussion here. The English themselves have become fused into a homogeneous group. Here and there a family will be proud of its Norman descent, but the terrible wars fought between the English and the Danes have now been forgotten. Although a large part of Eastern England was once Danish, all -that is left are some place names, a few dialect words, and for the very observant, the faces of the people, who no longer have any memory of their Scandinavian origins.

It was rnto this world that the later immigrants came, Flemings then Huguenots. The Huguenots, even after 400 years, still keep their aristocratic French names, and remember their ancestry with pride. The next immigrants to come here were the Jews, a people that has suffered more than any other from the 'charge' of dual loyalty.

A Jewish community had existed in this country since the early Middle Ages, but had been expelled by Edward 1 in 1290. The community was not re-established here until 1656. But before examining the position of the Jews in England, it is worthwhile looking at the special case of the Jews generally.

Until the eighteenth century, the Jews were a pariah people in Europe, living in their own quarters of the great cities, or in Eastern Europe, their own villages, and always subject to expulsion at the whim of the local ruler. They had their own culture, language and civilisation as well as their religion. There was no question of dual loyalty; they were clearly a completely separate people. The eighteenth century was the age of enlightenment, and people began to develop a feeling of tolerance towards such strangers as the Jews then were. Within the Jewish community itself a new spirit began to emerge. This was the Haskalah movement (the word itself is, in fact, the Hebrew for 'enlightenment'), which spread out from Central Europe and was large instigated by Moses Mendelssohn, the grandfather of the composer Felix. The movement taught the Jews to take part in the cultural life of Europe and to use the European languages. As a result of this the Jew added a new identity to his Jewish one, namely that of his host country, and the problem of dual loyalty emerged.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century a further complication appeared. This was Jewish nationalism, popularly known as Zionism, and which triumphed in the middle of this century. The success of the Zionist movement finally removed the homelessness of the Jewish people, and has given a new self-respect and self-confidence to Jews everywhere.

Although there has been a Jewish community in this country since the mid-seventeenth century the bulk of the community came here between 1882 and 1914, that is after the struggle for full emancipation had been won. The average Jew in this country is brought up as a citizen of Britain and sharing its culture. However he does not ignore his ancestral culture, and among other things will send his children to Hebrew classes. At the same time he feels an identity with the State of Israel, and with the Jewish people around the world. This sense of identity is not just sentimental, but results in practical political and financial help to fellow Jews in difficulty everywhere. At the present moment, for instance, the community is particularly concerned about the position of the Jews in the Soviet Union.

Since tne end of the last war the new immigrants have been more exotic, and have not yet had a chance to fully integrate. By integrate I do not mean conform. It is vitally important for the health of the community as a whole that they preserve their culture and second loyalty. The Indians, Pakistanis and Bengalis have the colourful dress of their womenfolk to preserve. Then there are their languages, which are helped to some extent by the BBC, who make regular broadcasts in one of them. The Pakistanis and Bengalis share with the Turkish Cypriots a common religion. On this question of religion one section of the Indian population—the Sikhs—has run into trouble. Although the turban of the Sikh is not strictly part of his religion, but part of traditional custom, if a better understanding of dual loyalty existed amongst government officials and town councillors, then much unpleasantness might have been avoided concerning crash helmets and jobs which required the wearing of uniforms. There are many smaller groups, such as the Poles — who have taught their children, born in this country, to be bilingual in both English and Polish.

Dual loyalty requires a person to be loyal to the country of his legal nationality, and to immerse himself in its language, culture and traditions. At the same time he should remain loyal to his ancestral culture and traditions. While loyal to Great Britain he should be deeply concerned with happenings in Israel, India, Pakistan, Cyprus or Bangladesh. While supporting Great Britain or the country of his ethnic origin, democratic considerations leave him open to criticise the policies of either government.

We now come to the difficult problem of conflict of loyalties. If the two countries concerned should clash, then the individual is rather in the situation of a child whose parents fall out or divorce. This is a sad situation which the individual has to solve in his own way according to his particular situation. It is something which I am glad to say has not happened to any of the groups mentioned, and seems unlikely to happen.

Dual loyalty then should not be regarded as a 'charge', but as an 'honourable duty'.