British-Pakistanis are struggling with their dual identities. First generation migrants who grew up in different conditions have tried to lead an isolated lifestyle in the UK. Many parents have aimed to raise their children in the same manner, taking a narrow view of their children’s involvement in British life, which can conflict with some of their parents’ religious and cultural values. As a result, a great number of young Pakistanis are struggling to reconcile their British identity with an identity that their parents are trying to uphold.
British-Pakistani youth we interviewed said that they are leading double lives, whereby they adhere to cultural/religious norms in the home and community, but lead western lifestyles outside the home. A conflict of interest has occurred in regards to integration where some elements of British life conflict values of the Pakistani community. The conflict of interest is dominant in the older generation who first migrated to the UK in the 1960’s and 70’s. The older generation became insular due to the lack of proficiency in English while their cultural upbringing in Pakistan led to a rejection of British values and lifestyle.
The older generation of Pakistanis became indifferent in developing their British identity. The younger generation of Pakistanis have acclimatised to British life and their development in society is active. Recent events around the issue of Pakistani grooming gangs and threats from terrorism have created a backlash against their religious and cultural identity. This has led to the questioning of British identity and whether young Pakistanis fit into the British life.
The participants strongly argue that identity is subject to many influences. In the case of young British Pakistanis, they are not only influenced by the elders of their community, but by the association of their faith, wider-society, peers and politics. It is evident that young Pakistanis are not willing to forsake their religious identity as Muslims in order to foster a wholly British identity. Therefore, the task ahead is to promote normalisation over assimilation as Pakistanis can capitalise on their Muslim identities, work with British society and the state to make a positive impact. Participants want to celebrate differences within Britain to foster relations with non Pakistani/Muslim communities. By doing so, this will allow for greater integration by the Pakistani community. The participants feel there is plenty of opportunity to build bridges with other communities in order to be inclusive, due to Britain’s freedom of religion, tolerance and being an accepting society.