I recently recived an “add” on Twitter and also on my blog from a user called Dil Nawaz who runs an account called “Bradistan Calling”. Upon forther searching, I found a couple of other blogs containing the word “Bradistan”. Up until now, I have dismissed the word (a nickname for the city of Bradford) as either a term of derision or mockery personally and at first I felt offended by its usage and also that someone would add me to something containing that name. Were they mocking me? Were they accepting me? Were they trying to change my views? This is in no means a rant about Dil or the name of his blog. In fact, it is an exercise in perspective and interpretation.
It is true that we do have a large minority Islamic community, mainly from the Indian sub-continent, Pakistan in particular. The name is an obvious reference to this for sure. A lot of people not from the area, mainly see Bradford as a city which is steeped in racial tension as this is how the media has portrayed us ever since the infamous Bradford Riots of 2001. I have grown tired of the endless stream of documentaries about racial and cultural divides in the UK, which have continuously seemed to use Bradford as an easy target. I was approached myself by one such production company a while ago now and questioned about my views as a Bradfordian and whilst I admitted freely that I had been surrounded by certain views in my younger days (on which I will not comment), over the years I have grown more tolerant of others at which point the producer of the show actually uttered the words “Tolerant … hmmm .. perhaps that is not quite what we were looking for” at which point I said my goodbyes and didn’t look back. As it happens, the programme in question turned out to be a bit more “tolerant” than I thought it would be.
Anyway, I digress. What a lot of people who live outside of the city (and admittedly some who live in the city) do not realise is that Bradford is a unique melting pot of culture. We are a city which was built by people from all over the world. Apart from the aforementioned and perhaps more obvious Muslim contingent, there are many different nationalities around these parts.
My Grandmother came to Bradford from Austria, I had a Hungarian uncle by marriage, I am a member of the Polish Parish Club where I have a few Polish and Anglo-Polish friends with one long standing friend of mine being of Welsh-Scottish heritage who was raised amongst Bradford’s West Indian community. My wife is from Irish Catholic descent. The venue where I put events on is owned by a Sikh family and managed by a family from Northern Irish Protestant descent. I often buy German and Polish Sausage and Ukrainian bread from an Austrian delicatessan in the market. We also have fairly sizeable Chinese and African student communities. All of these nationalities and more have communities in Bradford and most have had for many decades, living mainly peacefully side by side with the mainly working class white population. As local businessman John Pennington said “it is a unique mix, which you can only truly understand if you are from Bradford”.
It both saddens me and makes me smile when I see programmes on the TV from places elsewhere in the country which have up until quite recently predominantly consisted of the indigenous white British population. It would seem that the influx of Eastern European people in the last few years has ruffled feathers up and down the country whereas here in Bradford, we are more used to it.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not totally naive to be unaware of some of the underlying culture clash problems and there is resentment present in some areas of the community. However, this resentment, whilst often quite bitter, is in my opinion in very much the minority and also emanates from people who don’t always take the time to look at the facts or the bigger picture. There is always propaganda and urban myth which come from the extreme corners of any area of society, which people sometimes blindly accept. Certain newspapers and publications have done nothing to appease this for sure and it is easy to get sucked into it. I am not saying it is ideal for everybody but what I am saying is that Bradford is a damned sight better than people give it credit for.
And so to the name “Bradistan”. Well the name Bradford is derived from the two words “Broad” and “Ford”. The suffix “istan” is of Arabic origin and simply means “place of”. So, in referring to the city as Bradistan you could say that it is “a place of broad” or “a broad place”, where the word broad could (and ideally should) refer to mind, background, culture or attitudes.
So I bid salutations to my fellow Bradfordians, whatever religious or cultural background you come from.
“This is not the valley of the damned!”