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August 23, 2006

Flying the flag

Flagsengland1 One thing that puzzled me when I was back in the UK was the huge number of England flags still fluttering in the wind after the World Cup has long been done and dusted. I can't help feeling that whilst the St George cross appeared to have been reclaimed from the far right to become a symbol of national optimism, it has returned once again to be an uglier symbol of nationalistic defiance against the "tides" of unwelcome migrants that the media are constantly portraying as sweeping into the UK.

I was astonished that the government and media have managed to whip public hysteria up to the point where speaking Arabic in the queue for the London Eye or having a beard and wearing a jumper whilst waiting for a plane is enough for security staff and fellow passengers to blatantly discriminate against people on the basis of the colour of their skin.

Having grown up in London I am used to being surrounded by people of all colours, creeds and faiths, and it is one of the stranger things about living in Greece that, apart from the odd ex-pat like ourselves, the country is almost 99% homogenously Greek. Well, of course, like any island race (Britain included) it is kind of hard to prove that anyone on Crete is ethnically actually anything in particular, but there was a helping hand here in keeping the population ethnically similar. The Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 settled disputes between Turkey and Greece, and one of the provisions of the treaty was a population swap. Essentially all of the "Turkish" Muslims were moved from Crete to live in Turkey, and they were replaced by Greek Orthodox Christian émigrés who left Turkey to move to Greece.

Flagslebanon Back in the UK, the government are hell-bent on their official line that British foreign policy isn't a factor in radicalising and isolating young men in the Islamic community. I'd have loved to have seen them try to spin that line back in the time when young Catholic men from Northern Ireland were the bread'n'butter of British anti-terrorist squad work. And I wonder how that chimes with the fact that on this trip to the UK, for the first time ever, amidst a sea of St George crosses, I saw someone flying a Lebanese flag in their window.

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