First Generation Muslim Immigration and Society Setting the Scene

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Here and there one would see an African, Asian or Caribbean man working alongside everyone

If we were to wander through any British industrial city in 1949, several things would strike our eyes. Many buildings and whole industrial areas had been destroyed by enemy bombing in the recent war. Ex-soldiers with missing limbs and other injuries sustained during the war would be doing whatever work they could. There would be a bustle of optimistic activity, as Britain tried to re-build its infra-structure and develop a sense of having a future towards which we could all work. There would be a good number of prams and small children around as testimony to better days ahead but a noticeable lack of working men; the war had taken a terrible toll. Here and there one would see an African, Asian or Caribbean man working alongside everyone else "helping to re-build the motherland". Patriotism was a powerful reality, the Empire had stood together against a common enemy and "being British" bound together millions of men, women and children around the world.

It was the spirit of being part of the Empire that lay behind the British Nationality Act 1948. It was this Act that a decade later would pave the way for Britain becoming a country of citizens from many cultures, religions and ethnicities. This was at the beginning of the period of "withdrawal from Empire". The 1948 Act recognised that all who owed allegiance to the Crown, even though they were Commonwealth citizens, had the right of free entry into Britain and the right to take up employment here.