Recently I flew back from the USA and sat next to a man in his mid-thirties. The flight was

long, and we started a conversation. It transpired that he holds a senior position in a large

pharmaceutical firm based in Switzerland, and is highly qualified in both pharmacy and

information technology. He told me something about his own personal history. He was born

in England as a member of a family which had migrated from Pakistan, and he had spent

part of his childhood in a Yorkshire mill town. There were many migrants and descendants

of migrants resident in the town, mostly of Pakistani and Muslim background, together

with other mill workers, mainly with long Yorkshire ancestries. I was sorry to hear that his

memories of schooling included incidents of racism, which still pained him. His father, a

shopkeeper, managed eventually to move the family to another area, and the incidence

of racism at least declined. When I asked him his views about his own identity, he found

the question difficult. He felt Pakistani until he went to visit relatives in Pakistan, and then

realised that his own culture was in many ways different from theirs. However, he disliked

labels such as ‘British-Muslim’ or ‘British-Pakistani’, which he felt trapped him within a

particular identity; in his view his identity felt different according to the context in which he

happened to be at the time. Currently living in Switzerland, but with most family members

in the UK, he felt primarily British; he is a British citizen. In other contexts, he felt more

of a hybrid identity, combining elements of British and Pakistani culture. In all contexts,

his Muslim identity was important, exemplified by the fact that he chose the halal food

alternative offered by the airline; his own view was that it was perfectly possible to live as a

Muslim within democratic societies.