THE BLOG

Diversity Is London's Greatest Strength, Not Its Weakness

24/03/2017 17:04 GMT | Updated 24/03/2017 17:04 GMT
Songquan Deng via Getty Images

There was something strangely inevitable about the events on Wednesday. Multiple attacks in Paris over the last few years and the shocking act of terror in Brussels airport exactly a year ago have made the concept of a terrorist attack in our capital seem not unimaginable. The attacker ploughing into victims is eerily similar to the attacks in Germany not so long ago. London has been strangely blessed over the last decade or so; no doubt excellent preventative policing and intelligence services have helped dramatically in keeping us safer.

Terrorism seeks to be a divider, to magnify what makes us different and minimise the many core things that bring us together. No one appears to love division and hatred more than resident fear monger Katie Hopkins, who keenly jumped onto the American Trump supporting "news station" Fox News to say something predictably ignorant. She imagines in her far-right fantasy that we are a "nation of ghettos" and that London is merely an "enclave of individuals" rather than a unified city. She wailed in a fake frenzied hysteria that "liberals believe that multiculturalism means we all die together".

In a similar line of thinking (I say thinking, but let's not give these people too much credit) Donald Trump Jr jumped at the chance to have a bash at Muslim London Mayor Sadiq Khan, misquoting him as having said that terrorist attacks are merely "part and parcel of living in a big city". The full quote was in fact: "It is a reality I'm afraid that London, New York, other major cities around the world have got to be prepared for these sorts of things. It means being vigilant, having a police force that is in touch with communities, it means the security services being ready, but also it means exchanging ideas and best practice". It reads in full like a fairly well rounded, well thought-out response, but I suppose the chance to smear a high profile Muslim and to cause further division was too good an opportunity to miss. Perhaps Donald Trump Jr was merely presenting the alternative facts?

There are people who are thirsting and drooling at the mouth to say that diversity and our differences do us harm and that a city like London must inevitably be subject to such horror because we are all too eager to embrace those who are different to us; those of a different colour, different religion, different culture. Isis prey on the anxieties of disenfranchised Muslims to turn them against others and in a similar fashion the likes of Hopkins feed the anxieties of British citizens to turn them against Muslims. Islamic extremists (who pervert the faith of Islam) and those on the hard right have an awful lot in common.

But diversity is London's source of strength, not its weakness. The population of London is 45% white British. A further 15% are from other white nationalities. An estimated 3.1 million people living in London are born outside the UK, from India, Poland and Pakistan just to name a few. This melting pot is a key part of London's success; the London technology sector in particular is testament to this. Ismael Ahmed is the Somali born founder of WorldRemit, or there's Kuwaiti- born Mutaz Qubbaj who is of Jordanian and Palestinian origin and was educated at MIT, who won the start-up competition at St James' Palace in 2015. The think tank Oxford Migration Observatory has found that opposition to immigration is significantly weaker in London, precisely because the majority of its citizens are able to get on with another. London is a medley of contrasting buildings where no two iconic structures look the same; the skyline mimics the city's own diversity. The decaying landmark the Palace of Westminster can coexist in harmony easily with the gleaming new Qatari-built structure The Shard. The Londoner mentality of accepting, embracing and absorbing others into the fabric of London culture has probably made it harder for Isis turn our own citizens against us, rather than helped them.

There are and sadly probably always will be people who will use such tragedies as a platform to launch their hateful views. The diversity of perspectives makes our capital city richer, not poorer. The continual contribution and addition to London's culture, that living breathing creature that is constantly evolving, makes us who we are. The answer to the hatred and division we saw this week cannot possibly be more hate and division. Surely love and unity can be the only antidote. That, and a strong cup of tea.