Huddersfield isn’t what it used to be

I recently read an article about the town of Huddersfield. It is close to Bradford, which is where, when I was 12, my mother bought the corner shop with an off-licence and post office on Huddersfield Road. I lived there until I was 16.

After reading the article below, I understand why my brother recently moved from the area of Bradford where he had lived, to an area of almost open country. It was interesting to read in the article, confirmation of how Muslims view non-Muslims with regard to selling them drugs.

I was born and raised in Huddersfield. It’s the town I lived in for the first 18 years of my life, and it’s a place that’s still close to my heart. […] So, when the police shooting of a 28-year-old man, rumoured to be a gangster, made national headlines I decided it was time to return to my hometown and start asking some questions.

[…] I found out that British Pakistanis are significantly overrepresented when it comes to convictions for intent to supply class A drugs in Yorkshire and Humber. Why was this happening in my community […]
Trying to answer these questions would lead me to confront the painful truth that my once sleepy, northern hometown now seemed to be a hotbed of violence, gangs and drug dealing.

It was hard to get an idea of what Yassar was really like just from talking to people who knew him […] They tended to speak about him in quite a general way, telling me things like Yassar was “the nicest guy” who would “buy your shopping for you.” Any further questions would often result in silence or people asking me not to quote them.

Soon after returning to my hometown, I began hanging out on Blacker Road – the street I lived on for the first 16 years of my life. Birkby is an area that has a large Pakistani population, and Blacker Road is the busiest part of the neighbourhood.
[…] I had my notepad in hand, so it was only a matter of time before people would ask, “What are you doing back?” My response, and particularly the name “Yassar Yaqub”, were like kryptonite.

Over and over again, people I knew and trusted would explain that they “wouldn’t want to be seen” to say anything. Words like “rumour”, “stories” and “snitch” would come up. When I’d ask for an explanation, the conversation would stand still. I could see fear in their eyes. Some people even said I should be careful about what I was getting myself into.

[…] Over the following weeks and months, I saw more police tape in Huddersfield than I’ve ever seen in London. Each incident would follow the same pattern: families stranded outside because their street was cordoned off; locals reluctantly telling me they’d heard gunshots, seen blood on the floor or witnessed a masked man speeding off into the distance. Once again, people were afraid to talk for fear of retribution. The words “young”, “Pakistani” and “man” kept coming up, as well as suggestions that the violence was the result of some kind of drug turf war.
“It’s getting out of control – you can’t pop down to the shop without a bulletproof vest anymore,” one woman said to me, as I stood there, staring in shock at what I was hearing.
If shooting and stabbings really were the new normal, this wasn’t the West Yorkshire I remembered. But was I just being nostalgic about my childhood?

[…] I was shocked to discover how much violence had occurred in the area I’d grown up in

[…] As the scale of the violence across Huddersfield started to sink in, it became clear that Yassar’s death was part of a bigger story.
[…] I saw first-hand the role young British Pakistani men were playing in the West Yorkshire heroin trade. According to one source, it was quite common for dealers to go straight from selling drugs, over to their local mosque, then back out on the street after prayer to carry on their business. I even heard anecdotes about wholesale heroin prices going up around the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as dealers put their business on ice.

One of the worst things I heard was that some people justified selling drugs because their customers weren’t Muslim. “In the Hadith [a major source of religious law and moral guidance for Muslims] it pretty much says that if they’re not Muslim you don’t have to respect them,” a dealer, who knew Yassar, told me. “You don’t have to do for them as you do for your brothers and sisters ‘cos they’re people not of God.”
When I asked the people I met about the morality of dealing drugs, over and over again I heard the same pathetic excuse: “They’re going to buy it from somewhere so it might as well be me.” Their lack of empathy made me sick.

[…] A Freedom of Information (FOI) request revealed that while British Pakistanis make up just 5% of the urban population of Yorkshire and Humber (according to the most recent census in 2011), in 2016/2017 they accounted for 27% of convictions for possession with intent to supply class A drugs. Of course, the majority of convictions in that 12-month period were among the white British community but that is expected, given that white British people make up the vast majority of the population of the area.

[…] Tanvir told me the first generation of immigrants “are ashamed of younger people” who are involved in drug dealing and criminality.

[…] I’m aware that those with an agenda will delight in adding drug dealing to the list of wrongdoing and could use it to stoke racist sentiments against my community. But that should not stop us from talking, asking questions and looking for solutions.

[…] If any good can come from what happened, it is the acceptance that the only way forward is through talking. Those conversations can be painful. They can be riddled with shame. But, if things are going to change, these conversations need to happen.

The worst part for me is that I knew this area and remember it and its people from a time before the “influx”. A time when crime of any kind was almost unknown.

They might have been working class, but they were, on the whole, decent and solid. I knew them because they came into the shop. If there’d been any crime, we would certainly have known because the customers talked and gossiped.

Seems the changes have been significant and the “influx” has done the area no favours.