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Last Friday our nation took a historic stride forward, exiting the supranational hegemony of the European Union and setting us on the path of the sovereign nation that we have always deserved to be.
I know a lot of our compatriots understandably feared taking this step into (what they perceive to be) the unknown. It is nevertheless important that those of us who proudly voted for Brexit take heed of their concerns, and begin the necessary healing process.
I understand what it is like to take such a momentous step in freeing oneself from the shackles of oppressive structures. A few years ago, after a long process of reflection, fraught with uncertainty and trepidation, I decided to take leave from the Islamic heritage in which I was raised, and to fully embrace the modern, secular British identity I had been yearning for.
My reasons for doing this were undoubtedly complex, ranging from my own questioning of some of the practices tolerated within Islam, a growing scepticism about the religion’s approach to life in the 21st century and with the community’s concerning tendency to detach itself from British civil society. I knew what I was running away from, but what was I heading into?
With hindsight, it was no mere coincidence that this momentous occasion in my life aligned with the referendum in June 2016. Indeed, the courage with which the British people put a definitive end to their experience in the European project no doubt served as an inspiration to me in my efforts to free myself from the stranglehold of Islam on my life, and to fully embrace the British experience. It was to figures like Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and Maajid Nawaz from the Quilliam think tank that I turned, people who showed me the rightful place that people of ethnic minority backgrounds can hold in a proud, strong and independent Britain.
Statistics have shown that the youth demographic voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining inside the European Union: and yet my fellow young Britons have nothing to fear from a sovereign, independent United Kingdom. Rather to the contrary, as we take our first steps out of this European vassalage, one can already feel this flowering sense of national pride, albeit with a distinctly 21st century flavour. A pride in this great country which welcomes people from all over the world, where conditions are ripe for a turbo-charged knowledge-based economy, where Britain stands tall, and reassumes its rightful position as a leader among the nations.
All the doom and gloom on the part of the Remoaners, who believe that the knee-jerk use of the ‘racism card’ is the trump card for all sensible, reasonable debate, masks the unavoidable reality that it was precisely this “multicultural” Britain which voted to leave the (overwhelmingly white, liberal) European Union and to embrace all of the possibilities that the global marketplace offers.
What is a greater cause of optimism than to know that the industrious Bangladeshis or Nigerians seeking to come to contribute to our economy will henceforth be judged on their true merits on an equal playing field, rather than facing unfair competition against French or German gap year students?
Brexit was, of course, not just about trade, not just about protecting our industries, but also, and perhaps most importantly, about protecting this British identity, forged over a thousand years in the cauldron of constitutional precedent, from the Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights, it is precisely this tradition of tolerance, open-mindedness and the rule of law which the fonctionnaire class in Brussels sought to overturn.
As a Brit of Bangladeshi descent, I have no compunction proclaiming that I would rather live under a sovereign government, Her Majesty’s Government, with an unbeatable Conservative majority, empowered to succeed in the global market, than a European citizen subject to the rules and diktats of a parliament completely alien to me and my peers.
The genius of the United Kingdom lies precisely in that firm sense of sovereignty: having faith in our own multi-racial identity, having faith in our own independence, and having faith in the nation that is nothing but the aggregate of a great people striving for great things.