One of the legacies of Saddam Hussein is that there is an Iraqi diaspora community in cities across the world; walking in Dearborn, Michigan, you can get authentic Iraqi kabab (with nasal condiments), in Fairfield Sydney I have had excellent tabsi beytinjaan and in Dubai, al-Samad restaurant serves the most delectable Iraqi dishes known to man.
One thing I have noticed, is how the Iraqi communities differ so much. We see a microcosmic example of this in London, where it seems that the spectrum between religious conservatism and secular liberalism is played out geographically, stretching north to south along west-London.
The size, though, of what is largely a conservative community is similar to the pattern we see in Dearborn, but is completely different to the Iraqi community in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which is far less so. Which begs the question: Why? Perhaps the first generation Iraqis that stayed in the Middle East didn’t have the same fear of assimilation (and loss of cultural identity) as those in the west did, which manifested itself in the latter clinging to their stylised identities in quite dramatic fashion.
If this is the case, what now? Do second generation Iraqis assimilate and and become British? Are we a unique blend that calls itself British Iraqi? How do we draw the line between keeping our Iraqi identities and being swamped by our Britishness? I for one, do not think that clinging to an archaic and debilitating conservatism that stifles our participation in society is the way to go. We are fortunate in that modern-day British society doesn’t expect everyone to be homogeneous, and to some degree or another tolerates differences. How though, do we as second generation Iraqis, ensure that our participation in this society is one that doesn’t dilute our Iraqiness to a degree that we run the risk of losing an integral part of our identity? It is a fine line.
I would love to hear everyone’s take on this, is London’s Iraqi community far more conservative than the rest? If so, why? And is this necessarily a bad thing? Or is it a means of ensuring that our Iraqi identity isn’t lost? Are their better ways of guarding our Iraqiness?