We need to accept there is a problem

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The Independent Online

British Asians are the only people who should not be surprised (although some will feign outrage) about this latest evidence showing increasing drug use among their young.

British Asians are the only people who should not be surprised (although some will feign outrage) about this latest evidence showing increasing drug use among their young.

We have long sensed that the principles underpinning our lives - hard work, patience, faith, conformity and obedience to laws - are increasingly meaningless to many of our children. They grew up in the merciless hedonism and permeating self-indulgence of the Nineties. They think their parents belong to another, embarrassing planet.

In that sense they are no different from any other group except there has been this huge mythology that strong family values and unyielding, overinfluential religious and community leaders were strong enough to keep out the problems that afflict mainstream society. And whenever reality has stood in front of them, most of the older members of the communities have reacted like the three monkeys, as if the only way of seeing evil off is not to see, hear or discuss it.

It is true that the most rebellious among our young are still afraid of social or family disapproval and that statistically, fewer of them are sexually promiscuous or into drinking or even drug taking than is the norm in British society. But some of this disparity is due to the way the problems are successfully kept hidden by the communities. I have met people who are involved in bringing in drugs from the Sub-continentwho cannot see that their own children then help themselves to some of the bounty.

There is a serious lack of proper awareness of how to detect drug use and this means that addicted youngsters are taken to religious leaders for exorcism or declared mad by their families.

The children of rich Asians pick up the habit in public schools where drugs are rife and again the parents do little except react with hysteria or use whatever resources they have in keeping the news away from their people. The young people are married off too soon, or sent off to Bangladesh, India or Pakistan - where drugs are just as easy to find. Very few parents consider proper drug rehabilitation partly because, scandalously, the agencies involved have not found ways of accessing the Asian community but also because Asians fear any official intervention would lead to exposure and shame.

Racism and under-education have led far too many children of poor Asians falling into drug dealing and hard drug taking. In the East End of London, in Yorkshire and Lancashire you can see many of these young people passed out in piss-ridden corridors of housing estates. When you talk to families you realise the hardships of life faced by many immigrants meant that they have not been able to give up enough time to parent the children, especially the boys. Working 16 hours a day in a restaurant leaves little scope for child rearing. This is well captured in Jawaid Akhtar's excellent oral history book, Destiny.

What we now need to do as a community is to accept that we have this problem. That drugs are not a Western evil - after all the hookah has been a part of south-eastern recreation for hundreds of years. That we should care a little less about what people will think of us and more about how best to help our children so lost at the moment in the world of illicit drugs. That most of our community leaders have done little except to alienate and demonise our children. And that if we want to change this and be true to our image of good family people, we must listen and speak more to those who never asked to be born here.