The United States and Britain are united in having political leaders who have insulted and mocked immigrants for electoral purposes. President Trump’s anti-immigrant tirades are well known, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain has voiced similar sentiments, including comparing Muslim women who wear face veils to “bank robbers” and “letter boxes.”
A few days earlier, Tell MAMA, a group that monitors anti-Muslim activity, revealed that anti-Muslim incidents rose by 375 percent in the week after Mr. Johnson’s comments. For those of us who grew up in the ’80s, the current climate brings back painful memories of a Britain we had hoped was long gone.
In the mid-1980s, I was a bored and dissatisfied British Pakistani teenager living in the gritty, unloved town of Luton, 30 miles north of London. My father had left Pakistan in the early 1960s. When my mother, my siblings and I joined him a decade later, he was working on the production line of an auto plant.
Britain in the 1970s was an uncomfortable time to be in an ethnic minority group. The far-right National Front party, whose manifesto called for the repatriation of “colored immigrants” and “their descendants and dependents” were fighting in elections and marching in cities and towns across the country.