Teach our children to respect other cultures

Earlier than most people realise, children become aware of and intrigued by the difference in the way people look and behave.

Research has confirmed that children as young as six months old notice differences in race and family composition.

Now, as our nation grows increasingly diverse and our world is defined as a global community due to the digital age, it is vital that we learn to live respectfully together and benefit from one another’s wisdom and experiences.

However, sometimes fear and differences in race, culture and an alien language prevent people from talking to each other and moving forward together. But it doesn’t have to be like that.
I have recently returned from my first trip to India (my parents’ country of birth) and I was struck by the huge volume of mosques and heritage dating back from the Mughal Empire.

There was a strong Muslim influence. Yet in the midst of political upheaval, they were worshipping next to practising Hindus and Sikhs with no hostility and in-fact considerable mutual respect and tolerance.

Much-needed migration from the sub-continent to Britain happened a lifetime ago and we became a multi-cultural society. However, trepidation among the diverse communities should not still be prevalent four generations later.

While my generation is, at large, still struggling against a deep-rooted mentality that segregation is normal and acceptable, it is vital that we teach our children differently. They must be taught to open their minds to the different cultures in the UK and the world, to ensure a richer life and an altogether better world.

My thoughts come at a time when the Government is being urged to tackle segregation in UK schools. More than a quarter of all state primary schools across England and four-in-10 state secondary schools are ethnically segregated.

I, myself, grew up as a minority. In fact, I was the only Asian child at my first school in Luton.
However, I subsequently managed to get selected to a grammar school (and although still the only Asian pupil) I mixed with a whole host of different children from different socio-economic backgrounds.

Subconsciously, this had a positive impact and, rather than continuing with my parents’ mindset and thus a blinkered outlook, I was able to open my mind, learn from others and intensify my ambition to better myself. I became educated in the wider sense; it instilled a sense of confidence and a purpose that I could get along in this new and exciting world.

Schools play a vital role in building bridges between ethnic groups as it allows children to mix and learn from each other.

They are our best chance for inclusion and developing a sense of community and purpose. We know that contact between groups improves tolerance and breaks down prejudice – and will even contribute to tackling extremism.

All schools must promote social integration/cohesion and the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for different faiths and beliefs.
The responsibility, however, cannot solely lie with our academic institutions.

As parents, we all want what’s best for our children and, in today’s interconnected global world, one of the greatest gifts we can give them is to prepare them to thrive in the new world marketplace.

We must inspire our children to be curious about the world and to become globally aware. Not just for community cohesion but also for economic cohesion/progress.

We must teach our children to appreciate, communicate and interact with people across different cultures and in other countries.

Cultural exposure doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It needs to be incorporated into an individual’s lifestyle, mindset and belief system.

Make exposing your children to other cultures an aspect of everyday life; the rich excitement of new cultures, the smells and tastes of foods, the colours and drama of art, the shapes of stories, and rhythms of music.

These fulfilling sensory encounters teach children that the new and different can be wonderful and progressive, rather than scary and strange.

Realise the importance of placing yourself as a powerful role model.

Children become culturally sensitive and respectful when they see adults who are culturally sensitive and respectful, and who take a stand against bias, racism or insensitivity.

By taking a proactive role in enhancing your child’s cultural awareness, you can teach your child to understand and deal with the challenges of a changing world.

We need our children to grow – not be diminished, fearful and closed but valued, open-hearted and open-minded in a world where success comes as a result of ambition and a sense of purpose, regardless of ethnicity.
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WaterWorld Chairman honoured at Pakistani Achievement Awards

Mo Chaudry, entrepreneur, philanthropist and campaigner was awarded the ‘Star of Pakistan’ at this year’s Pakistani Achievement Awards.
It is the second year of the awards (sponsored by Danmirr Consultants, UK Time London and the Sunstar Group) which were held at the Park Lane Hilton on Saturday 10th July.

Mo Chaudry receiving the Star of Pakistan award

“It was a great honour to receive this award from my peers. My greatest wish is that I can be a positive role model for the next generation and encourage them to live fruitful and progressive lives, and to contribute to society in a meaningful way,” said Mr Chaudry, who is the Chairman of WaterWorld (the UK’s largest and most successful aqua based theme park) and M.I.C Group.

The awards recognise individuals and enterprises of Pakistani origin for their excellence and positive contributions to the image of Pakistan and who act as best example of Britishness. It is a major event in the Pakistan calendar.

The star of Pakistan award is Pakistan’s highest civil award. Mr Chaudry was awarded the “star” honor for his contribution to British Society, in promoting positive community cohesion, and his many business and charitable dealings in Pakistan and the UK.

The awards were presented by Mr Wajid Shamsul Hasan (The High Commissioner of Pakistan) who commented that: “Mr Chaudry is a fine example of a British Pakistani, who it truly self made and a fantastic example to all, with a huge amount of motivation and hard work that anything is possible.

Mo Chaudry proudly displaying the Star of Pakistan award at his Waterworld Aqua Park

We are proud to be honouring him with the “Star of Pakistan”, it is truly deserved!”

The event was attended by 550 VIPs including stars of film and TV, business tycoons and high achievers in their fields. Two of last year’s ‘star award’ winners were Amir Khan (Boxing) and James Khan (Dragons’ Den).

Asian Millionaire puts arranged marriage on the Election agenda

Mo Chaudry

Mo Chaudry, Asian entrepreneur and star of Channel 4 TV’s ‘Secret Millionaire’, is determined to put arranged marriage on the General Election agenda.

Mr Chaudry, who owns the famous Waterworld attraction at Stoke-on-Trent, has been at the forefront of the campaign to criminalise arranged marriage in the UK for several years.
Speaking after David Cameron visited a Staffordshire brewery on Tuesday Mr Chaudry said: “Mr Cameron denounced the practice; in which girls and boys are forced into marrying someone they do not want to, when we discussed the problem two years ago. He told me that a Conservative government would consider making forced marriages a criminal offence.”
Tory legislation, proposed at the time, would include making would-be brides and grooms come to Britain to get married. Also, their partners in the UK would have to be at least 21 years of age.
British nationals travelling abroad to marry will have to register in the UK beforehand if they want their marriage recognised for immigration purposes.
300 cases are reported annually to the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit but the true figure is likely to be very much higher.
“It seems utterly bizarre, and frankly unacceptable, that this goes on in Britain – but it does,” said Mr Chaudry.
The Forced Marriages Act already allows for civil actions, but it is unlikely that a high proportion of victims press criminal charges against their own parents. For this reason it is important to give the courts the power to prosecute.
“Forced marriages need to be criminalised. It is a very sensitive and real issue within communities. It is not something we can brush under the carpet. The ideal end product would be to get legislation to make it a criminal offence to force a bride or groom into an arranged marriage. And we need to make sure that statutory bodies like the police act on that legislation,” said Mr Chaudry.