The whole concept of what it means to be British has come into question in recent years, as immigration has increased and as the pillars of the old identity that united the kingdom — empire, monarchy, the Church of England — have been eroded.I found it fascinating to hear a former Islamist extremist say that he thinks Britain has tried too hard to accommodate immigrants and Britain needs to become more like the United States if it wants to avoid immigrant groups becoming alienated and radicalized. He says,
In America, there is more of an understanding that citizenship is based on allegiance and not on ethnicity … and it's allegiance to a set of principles, a set of values, what it means to be American.I am not sure that I entirely agree with his opinion - but of course I didn't grow up feeling that the society I was living in did not reflect my culture or values. (Nor have I lived for any extensive period of time in the UK in the last 20 years, so what do I know about Britain any more anyway?!) I suspect many Arab Americans who have had their identity and allegiance questioned in the years since 9/11 would disagree with him too.
The United States has certainly been dealing with the issue of immigrants for far longer than Britain has. But for all its experience with the issue, it is still one that the country struggles with.