Les Back: So those boundaries are much more permeable?

M Y Alam: They’re not physical boundaries are they? I mean, there’s no actual gates for each group to pass through. Having said that a few years ago it was very difficult for some white people to even walk up Oak Lane, which is the beginning of a largely Pakistani area. But the people who were doing the barring of these permeable boundaries were of a minority group: young, Pakistani men. But that’s not all, some of these idiots were just that: idiots who messed anybody around – young, old, black, white, Asian, male, female. That kind of thing leads me to suggest race or ethnicity was one factor, not the be all and end all – it wasn’t that these young Pakistani men hated white people – they hated everyone. I think some of those people have problems that they need to deal with. Partly, it’s just a male thing about territory and violence. Shit, even I’m scared of going up Oak Lane sometimes. There is something definitely wrong with the generation. Maybe it’s got more to do with consumer culture than it has with radical Islam or anything else you know. It’s just a strange sort of juxtaposition that young Pakistani men find themselves in because here they are surrounded in a society that still says consume, eat, enjoy, buy, spend, consume and there’s a shortfall towards meeting those pressures. If you can’t achieve the ends, then you find different ways of achieving them, and one of the means is criminality or just different kinds of deviance from the norm. So you go through illegal, unacceptable or simply deviant means to reach the ends which are still the same.  Because you see these guys on the street and they look at you like I said, as if they have a problem with you. Look at them when they’re with their mothers or fathers and they’re like pussycats. And I say young Pakistani men purposefully because there’s an interesting thing going on there in terms of aligning Muslim with Pakistani, both of which are further aligned with badness. Truth is, this is much more complicated than religion, ethnicity, class and whatever else we can dream up. There are many more markers involved here, it’s just a question if people can be arsed to think and look closer.

Les Back: That’s a good place to end.

Click here for details of Kilo

Les Back conducted this interview for Street Signs, a publication out of Goldsmiths College Centre for Urban and Community Research. For more details of the centre, click here.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7