Suburbanize at our own peril

The East London borough of Barking and Dagenham is witnessing a frenzy of election campaigning. At stake is the rise of the BNP, the British Nationalist Party. In an area synonymous with immigrants, including many from Pakistan, the rise of a fascist party whose manifesto includes the promise to repatriate non-white immigrants; one would easily jump to conclude that immigration explains the BNP’s rise.

However, a recent study published by the Institute of Public Policy Research argues that exclusion and marginalization from wider society, rather than immigration explains the raise of the BNP. The paper argues that socially resilient towns, who are able to withstand changes due to immigration, unemployment or unexpected events display features evident in areas with high levels of interaction. There is great communication between members of the community or unlike each other ethnically, linguistically, religiously, economically etc.

Similar studies conducted on the basis of the 2008 United States election results finds that in states such as Kansas, Kentucky and Arkansas where community members were ethnically, financially and educationally similar were more conservative and unlikely to vote for a black presidential candidate. Members of such communities had little or no interaction with people dissimilar to themselves.

Individuals living in cities are more likely to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds and as a result tend to be more tolerant of alternative views which they may or may not themselves agree with. Those living in or raised in suburbs or homogonous communities display greater wariness and intolerance of people from alternative faiths, educational levels, financial background etc.

A vibrant, integrated society is important to build tolerance and community cohesion. It is important that the communication lines between different social groups remains open with no individual ethnic, religious or economic group given preference. The same argument may be extended to Pakistan today, and in many ways helps explain intolerance in our society.

Take Islamabad for example, considered as one of the more liberal cities on the one hand, while on the other it also has one of the highest concentrations of Madrassas for any urban centre in the country. These two worlds hardly ever meet. One would be hard pressed to find children from Islamabad’s Madrassas interacting with children beyond their compounds walls. Stereotypes are reinforced due to a lack of any interaction. Intolerance is built on heresy and speculation rather than first hand experience or fact.

The Red Mosque affair is an example of where the wider community remained oblivious to the concerns raised by members of their own community. In a visibly divided community it may as well have been a foreign invasion. The inhabitants of the Red Mosque and students of allied Madrassas may have been resident in Islamabad, however they could as well have been aliens, as they had never themselves nor had they any incentive to interact with their neighbours.

At present this trend is intensifying. Given the current security scenario, demand for housing and the proliferation of housing developments our cities are being extended to suburbs

As advertised these communities are gated and walled off to keep intruders out. The exclusiveness that they offer highlights the lack of interaction which would be required if one was to move there. Individuals are in effect able to isolate their lives and the upbringing of their children and marginalize those who they may ideologically disagree with or feel that their lack of economic or financial stature is dissimilar. The long run effect is not only to keep unwanted elements out, it also keeps residents in. Members of these communities seldom feel the need to interact with wider society.

We can draw some parallels between the rise of the BNP and increased conservatism in the US with Pakistan today. This marginalization process across urban centres will intensify intolerance in the future. Already the ghettoization of Karachi where prominent localities are synonymous with individual ethnic groups have witnessed untold violence. In Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the walled suburbs of Bharia Town and DHA keep riffraff out, but they also keep people in.

Today, with layers of security and walled communities separating one strata of society from another the seeds of future intolerance are being sown. We are creating an intolerant society forcing upon ourselves social exclusion and isolation. With communities homogenised they are more fearful of those who do not share their educational background, financial status or professional affiliation. Physical and mental walls must start coming down.

This post was submitted by Nadir El-Edroos.

6 thoughts on “Suburbanize at our own peril”

  1. nadir

    You are mingling social and political factors under this topic all together which is not justified properly .

    All big cities develop suburban areas which have low economical constraints and restrains on newly settled individuals and families as compare to living close to center of any cities.

    Modern trend is being seen as modern developers are providing better living conditions in form of colony life styles that is attracting people to move to suburbs but that trend is dominant for comparatively settled class.

    In developed countries people gather in suburb areas for economical reasons and who get economical stability move within cities.Good govt provide them all kind of civic facilities near to their living places and get maximum output in the shape of economical workforce near expensive cities.

    Pakistan's problems had become quite different during zia regimes even from other third world countries.In poor countries suburbs are meant for low income and poor class and govt least bothers to provide them civic infrastructures and due to sheer negligence of even law enforcing agencies, many criminal networks get their strength from frustrated youth raising from these neglected areas.

    Pakistan's suburbs area along with criminal trends have developed pressure pockets of many religious hubs that roots go directly to extremism.Gathering youth of poor and remote areas where religion and religious beliefs are still a dominating factor is part of agendas of those hubs by giving them some kind of Islamic name for fooling the general public.

    Lal mosque case is another unique entity in strengthening such religious movement in one of modern city of Pakistan.

    It is actually under control of ISI Islamabad network which handles its inhabitants as grooming of experimental rats.Zia, musharf,Gen aslam, hameed gul,sh rasheed ijazulhaq, ch shujjat and many more all know this secret but pose to be innocent guys of Pakistan.

    Pakistan army has also unique feature that it always prefer its under ground movements, criminal activities or developing of any anti political moves, they prefer to concentrate all these activties near their GHQ and ISI HQS.

    That is why our elected prime ministers all time murdered and hanged thers.

    Since Musharraf regime this area and its surrounding have been hit by almost 400 planted and suicidal blasts and nobody knows its clues.

    Lal mosque throughout run its business under ISI officers and khwaja kahild was one of its witness.

    Black water and Dyne corps are spreading its network from center of this city.

    First time VIPs of army and their family members(prade lane incident) were targeted just half kilometer from GHQ.

    Even GHQ was not spared in this game of power tactics.

    So I think you are handling different situations under one topic.

  2. I think I will agree with the author about keeping communication channels opened between all different sectors of the society primarily the religious and liberals. The debate should be rational and dynamic to ensure a vibrant cultural society.

  3. Yasir

    In last 10 years our society has become highly polarized and divided into serious blocks depending mostly on financial status.

    Rich become more richer and working middle class has lowered its standard of living due to high inflation rare.Some got short cuts to raise their financial status in little time due to their links with ruling class ,sharply affecting the normal growth of constructive society.

    If some efficiency was left then this gap was filled by religious groups ,dars or tableeghi jammat like culture which is ensuing the another hypocrite set up in our surrounding.

    The dangerous trend is seen that no body is accommodating each other with patience and openmindedness.

    Spread of colony life styles is gaining popularity in urban setups due to security risks but it is start of divided society.

    People while moving nearby to such societies or living outside such closed and secured community are developing hatred feelings as they are more vulnerable o social evils and terrorism attacks then those colony life residents.

    So more the time is passed in such insecure environment as we are facing for last 10 years there would be more communication gaps as no one is interested in crossing the limits of secure life styles to disturb like setup.

    Cultural and social gatherings have also been reduced to minimum which surely can bring the different classes in same platform to enjoy and celebrate national , cultural and religious events altogether but terrorism eclipse has darkened our all beautiful colors of life and this simple theory is not coming in our miltiary heads that war like situation destroys the culture and harmony of any state.

    1. Pakistani officials specially in uniform and interior ministry are posing such scenes that is helping western forces to project factors of terrorism which has now become byproduct of war on terror for last 7 years.

      It is not joke is being done with Pakistan on the name of bhutto 's murder investigations for last 3 years.

      Whole investigation has been stuck on two points.

      Who washed the crime scene?

      why rehman malik and babar awan run away with backup vehicle.

      Now all who were actually responsible of these two acts including nadeem Ijaz, malik and babar all are working on high posts of Pakistan.This quiz can be solved even school going student.

      but our all time high profile investigation has been stuck on these points .

      Along with this war is going on our waziristan valley for last many years and our fearless characters of talibans are busy in following activities as custodian of Islam

      Taliban cut off hands of three ‘thieves’ in Orakzai
      http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=201

      So there is no harm if you foresee future of Pakistan in this report.

      Three Weeks in a Hopeless Land

      I returned to a place I saw liberated in 2001. Now the Taliban are back, and the only thing that has improved is the cell-phone reception.
      http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/05/04/

      War activities would corrode our all fertile land and industrial growth , waste resources on buying arms and fulfilling defense deals and will leave the mark of frustration to its real working class.

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