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Carlos III: Monarchical devotion loses strength in the UK’s ‘little Pakistan’ | International

Basharat Shaheen’s first meeting with Queen Elizabeth II was through the stamps affixed to letters arriving in Pakistan. He sent them to his grandfather from Birmingham, where he worked in the textile mills. “It was hard, but in return her children were able to go to school and access social assistance.” Shaheen grew up hearing that Elizabeth II had “given everything” to the workers of the Commonwealth who, like her grandfather, were nurturing in successive waves the lack of labor in the then thriving English industry. That Elizabeth II was “the mother of all the poor.” The descendants of those first immigrants, however, live a very different reality from that of those workers of the Commonwealth. They were born in the UK, have had access to a good education and now many in the north face an uncertain future of work. His expectations and the relationship with the British monarchy are necessarily different. His connection with a royal house without the queen is not as intense and criticism linked to the colonial past emerges more easily.

Shaheen weaves her memories together in her second-hand traditional Pakistani clothing store, located in the little pakistan from Bradford, the city with the highest proportion of Pakistanis in the UK. Here, one in four people originate from the Indian subcontinent. This smiling man remembers that when the immigrants returned to visit and landed at the Islamabad airport, they were dressed in suits and ties. They talked about the houses they built in their new country and the opportunities offered by the old colonial power. He was brought to Bradford in the early eighties to marry a young woman from his family. At first he worked in a wool factory, at the foot of the machine from dawn to dusk. But the boom years evaporated with a savage deindustrialization that in the north sowed entire regions with labor corpses. Factories and mines were closed and production was relocated to countries with cheaper labor.

Bradford, like many other cities in Britain’s post-industrial belt, is failing to take off. It is also a city that the British associate with violence. In 2001 a series of far-right attacks and street battles caused the worst uprising in decades. At the epicenter of what those riots were, Jamil Ahmed, a former law student who clearly explains the change in mentality regarding his grandparents, dispatches behind a counter. “U.S [la reina] He didn’t invite us to come to work. We were already born with this privilege, we do not believe that it has given us anything. We feel that we have the same rights as the people here and when we are confronted with racism or nepotism, we protest. We can even be critical of the corona.” A survey published last year by YouGov indicated that 43% of Britons of ethnic origin considered the royal family to be racist, compared to 27% who thought it was not. Among the general population, 50% thought that he is not racist compared to 20% who believe that he is.

Ahmed thinks that there are fewer opportunities here than in other parts of the country, alluding to the abysmal economic divide between the north and the south that Boris Johnson promised to reduce, which decisively contributed to his electoral victory in 2019. “They do nothing but close businesses and there is no investment. Young people are becoming more and more apathetic. They feel they have no control over their life. That it is Isabel II or Carlos III is not going to bring them great changes ”. Ahmed speaks while dispatching exotic vegetables in Punjabi and assures that more and more customers are finding it difficult to pay for the shopping basket.

With 540,000 inhabitants, Bradford has recently been identified as the second city after Birmingham in which the energy crisis will have the greatest impact, due to low wages. Unemployment has fallen to 3.6%, the lowest level since 1974. The problem is that the rise in wages is lagging far behind soaring inflation, which is the biggest drop in income in 20 years. The Professor of Urban and Regional Economics at the University of Sheffield Philip McCann is clear that from a point of view of regional disparities, the United Kingdom is the “most unequal” country in Europe. “I do not have any doubt. The evidence is really overwhelming,” he notes.

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Downtown Bradford looks like a city in deconstruction. There are dozens of commercial premises closed with the sign for sale and for rent. There is no money to spend in stores and online commerce takes care of the rest. The councilor in charge of regeneration and transport, from the Labor Party, Alex Ross-Shaw, explains that in the next year and a half they will begin to crystallize millionaire projects for a new market, quality offices, pedestrianize the center and concert halls. The main problem, he admits, is still the lack of connection to a high-speed line. Bradford is a kind of railway dead end. “The government does not share our ambition and that affects productivity,” he says diplomatically. Maud Yossi, a Pakistani doctor and businessman, knows this labor market well. She arrived with her family as a refugee in the seventies and now tries to promote educational and development projects, but she does not hide her frustration. “Young people do not receive good professional training and have access to low-paid jobs. Investors don’t want to come. It is a vicious circle”.

While the big plans land, life, as in other urban centers in the United Kingdom, goes out and the neighborhoods of former immigrant workers languish. Many have found refuge in religion. There are mosques everywhere. In commercial premises, in alleys and in garages. More than a hundred, say the old people of the place.

At Bradford’s Great Mosque, the day after the Queen’s death, the imam interrupted the sermon: “British Muslims stand united with the British at this time of deep sorrow,” he said. It is an imposing building through which at two in the afternoon young people begin to parade to pray. In his office at the mosque, Liaqat Hussain, from the temple’s board of directors, with a long white beard and traditional Salwar Kameez (long shirt and matching trousers) maintains that the queen did an admirable job of trying to unite the different communities of the country.

The admiration professed by citizens of all kinds of ethnic origins is clearly seen these days in the faces of citizens who parade through the queen’s funeral chapel in Westminster Hall. Elizabeth II visited Bradford up to five times during her 70-year reign. After expanding in praise of the queen, Hussain expresses his objections. He speaks of “our jewel”, alluding to Koh-i-Noor, the great diamond of the queen’s crown originating from South India. “The Indians aspire to recognition for the economic destruction that the British Empire brought to them.” Hussain interrupts the conversation to hear the sweet voice of the muezzin calling for prayer. And he ends “because one thing is personal respect for the queen and another is these things that when she is not there, they will come out.”

In the University of Bradford cafeteria the multicultural diversity is also evident. Turbans, hijabs and all kinds of headdresses and clothing recall the different migratory floods. There is Javed Bashir, a community leader who has been working for years building bridges between the different groups in the city. Walking with him means continually stopping to say hello. They all seem to know him. He believes that Carlos III has “a deep knowledge of Islam”, according to his speeches, but he recalls the identity dilemmas of the descendants of those immigrants. How since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the permanent suspicion of Muslims has made them withdraw more and more into themselves and turn to religion. “Here you see more young people in mosques than in Pakistan. Their identity is increasingly Muslim rather than British.” Many others do feel British. “The question is whether they accept us as British. There are people here who have never set foot in Pakistan, but they are considered Pakistanis!” Bashir complains.

It’s the kind of dilemma faced by a group of kids rolling a joint in a city park built in the image and likeness of Lahore’s Mughal Garden at the foot of a palace with broken glass, which gives an idea of the wealth that one day was here. “It was cool. She brought our grandparents. If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be here”, they say when asked about the queen. As for the new king, they no longer have it so clear. “That guy looks thick.”

This post-industrial kingdom, diverse, torn by a lacerating inequality and willing to reopen the colonial wounds is the one that Carlos III inherits. Achieving modernization of the unifying work that his mother successfully carried out to the demands of the current United Kingdom is emerging as a great challenge for the new monarch.

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