To have children is a human choice

Baroness Flather’s comments on immigrants reasons for having large families is typical of the cynical humanist view that reduces all things to material interests.

It was no surprise to me after reading Baroness Flather’s comments that I found her to be an avid supporter of the British Humanist Association. Despite their self-proclaimed standing as representatives of human interests such people often forget what it is to be human in the first place.

To suggest as Baroness Flather has done that Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are only interested in having large families so they end up getting a bigger house or extra welfare payments is grotesque and down-right insulting. Many things in life are undoubtedly driven by material interests but the bringing of children into the world is of entirely different reasons.

There are undoubtedly a range of emotions involved in bringing a major dimension of the human project to fruition and essentially the choice is a human one. So why so many children or at least more than an average British household? Tradition and faith has much to do with it. With the majority of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis being of the Muslim faith a large family is seen as a blessing and not as the Baroness would see it as a burden.

The Arabic term for grandmother Jaddah means wealthy. The wealth is implied through the ‘fulfillment’ of life that is brought about when spending an old age amongst the youthful vigor of children and grandchildren. A far cry from the Baroness’ ideal of every old person having a pension, as if it is the only barometer of an acceptable existence in old age.

What good is a weekly payment when you are bereft of the companionship of those you sacrificed so much to nurture yet are shunned to be handled at your most vulnerable by strangers?. Where is the humanity in that?

As far as Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and for that matter many others would see it the lot of the elderly in this country is nothing short of disgraceful.

The Baroness also deemed it reasonable to label those who choose to bring many children into the world as uneducated. Perhaps it’s a comparison relative to her own situation where as an immigrant she has managed to make a career as a barrister and acquire a title of privilege. No doubt impressive achievements but if the Baroness sees herself fit look down in disdain at her fellow immigrants from her high perch perhaps she should look closer at the achievements of some of those she so readily takes aim at.

Case study my own mother. Married at sixteen, emigrated to Britain at seventeen. In the intervening thirty years she has endured the tragic loss of her eldest son through drowning and the death of a husband her partner of twenty five years. All the while she has brought up a family of six children and took care of her elderly father in law and her disabled at birth sister in law.

Tomorrow her youngest two daughters set out to study pharmacy at university following in the footsteps of the eldest four who are now either studying at good institutions or in full time employment after graduation.

If motherhood was seen as an exam then it would be no exaggeration to say she passed with flying colours. Yet she is not alone in her achievements and many others parents from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities have fulfilled their responsibilities to those they brought into the world and in extension to society.

Such responsibilities are only fulfilled through love, sacrifice and a selfless attitude that women like the Baroness might want to take heed of. Her education, titles and material success pale into insignificance to such human qualities.


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