Les Back: What do you think about the way Bradford has been written about as a segregated city?

M Y Alam: Those lines of division – those boundaries, people go on about them but I don’t know whether they exist or not. Sure there are some areas that are predominantly populated with white people, and there are some that are predominately populated with non-white people. But this whole idea, this whole notion of no-man’s lands, no-go areas as they’re called, is a bit silly, really. I mean I think there might be some truth to it all, but if they do exist, then they’re due to these self appointed little police forces – there aren’t too many of them but these things do get blown out of proportion. What pissed me off about that whole discourse of segregation and fragmentation was that it was just simplistic beyond belief: it’s intellectual junkfood – it might taste pretty good but too much of that shit’s bad for you. Even now some Home Office report has come out saying some of Bradford’s Muslim communities are self segregated, they’re in self seclusion zones. People don’t actually work like that, people don’t think like that and they don’t live their lives like that. It just so happens that there’s a combination of factors and one end consequence is that people decide to stick together or move away in order to stick together. People go on about it as if it’s only along ethnic lines that this happens but that’s bollocks. Bradford’s no more segregated than any other place, and again going back to the thing about class and especially wealth: there’s real segregation for you. You don’t see the people living up in the rich end of town coming down and mixing with the people who live in the council estates or whatever. Why are they segregated? They’re segregated because it’s a money thing, some have self-segregated because they’ve got more money and can afford to move out into places where there are loads of other rich self-segregationists. That’s all it is, it’s just the way people live and have lived for centuries – how come you never see a member of the Royal family shacked up in some shithole? Because that’s not the way people live, but the way people are asked to live, forced to live and some cases, actually choose to live.

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