BISHOPS and clergy have given a cautious welcome to a strongly worded government review of the integration of minority communities into British society.
Dame Louise Casey, an experienced civil servant, published The Casey review: A review into opportunity and integration, on Monday. She concludes that work needs to be done to “repair the sometimes fraying fabric of our nation”.
The unprecedented scale of immigration and demographic change in recent decades has led to segregation and division in some deprived communities in the UK, the review states.
“Problems of social exclusion have persisted for some ethnic-minority groups, and poorer white British communities in some areas are falling further behind,” Dame Louise writes in her introduction.
Dame Louise picks out the uneven spread of immigrants as a cause of problems. For example, half of all ethnic-minority citizens live in London, Manchester, and Birmingham. Half of ethnic-minority students attend schools with a majority of non-white pupils. This is particularly marked for Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, the report says.
In one state school visited by Dame Louise’s research team, “pupils believed the population of Britain to be between 50 per cent and 90 per cent Asian, such had been their experience up to that point.”
The concentration of minorities in certain areas is associated with lower social mobility, fewer job opportunities, and less trust in British culture.
While polling suggests that 89 per cent of people think that their community is cohesive, other surveys suggest that about six in ten believe the settlement of migrants in the UK to be a bad thing overall.
Dame Louise’s report focuses repeatedly on British Muslims, and Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants. She quotes research which suggests that 55 per cent of people consider Islam to be incompatible with British values; 46 per cent of British Muslims feel that that prejudice makes following their faith difficult in the UK.
“I know that, for some, the content of this review will be hard to read,” Dame Louise writes. “I know that putting some communities under the spotlight will add to the pressure that they already feel. But too many leaders have chosen to take the easier path when confronted with these issues in the past.”
Among her recommendations are as increasing government funding for English classes; teaching on British laws, values, and history in school; and an “oath of integration” to be taken by immigrants on their arrival.
The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Toby Howarth, said this week that, while he quibbled with some of Dame Louise’s conclusions, the review “rings true” and “needed to be said”.
Bishop Howarth, previously the Archbishop of Canterbury’s interfaith adviser, said that it was indisputable that some minority communities had not integrated as well as they might.
“The answer is partly because they haven’t been allowed to — by prejudice, economic injustice, or bad schools,” he said. There was, though, a more complex issue: “Some people don’t want to integrate.” Minority groups considered British culture to be “corrupt”, and obsessed with binge drinking and loose sexual morals.
Restoring funding for English lessons was a good start, as well as ensuring that tax revenue from migrant communities was reinvested in local public services, he suggested.
But, ultimately, the Government needed to also play its part in setting clear boundaries — for instance, explaining where wearing a niqab was inappropriate, and upholding the minimum requirements for Muslim school curriculums.
The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, agreed that much of Dame Louise’s analysis rang true. “These [facts] are fairly stark, and it is important that we take them on board,” he said on Wednesday.
The existence of isolation and segregation in some communities did not prove that minorities were at fault, he said. The church schools in his diocese were very popular with Muslims parents.
He argued for more state involvement. For instance, churches in his diocese running English classes for isolated Asian women could not hire enough professional teachers to meet demand because government funding was so limited.
The Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills, interfaith adviser for the diocese of St Albans, considered the Casey review to be flawed. “They seem to be placing blame at the feet of Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities and making sweeping statements without looking at us as citizens, and the world as a whole,” she said.
Given time, migrants would settle into their new homes — indeed, the review itself noted how second and third-generation Pakistani immigrants now resented the more recent arrival of Roma communities.
“We need to calm down and stop scapegoating people. Eventually it does even out.”
In a letter to The Times on Wednesday, the C of E's chief education officer, the Revd Nigel Genders, responded to criticism in a column by Rachel Sylvester of faith schools, which drew upon the Casey review.
"Our schools are popular with families of all faiths and no faith," Mr Genders wrote. "Attainment at Key Stage 2 and GCSE shows that our schools perform better than non-church schools." More than half did not use faith criteria in admissions anyway, he noted.
The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, welcomed the review in parliament, praising it for being "frank and open-eyed". However, he questioned why Dame Louise had not attached more value to interfaith initiatives such as Near Neighbours as a "starting point" to promote social mixing and mutual understanding.
Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, warned that anecdotes about some Muslim women feeling isolated and trapped should not be extrapolated to the entire community.
While she agreed that more should be done to challenge patriarchal cultural abuse of women in Muslim communities, she questioned why attention was only ever on honour killings and FGM, and not the "rising levels of Islamophobia against the same Muslim women".
We belong in Britain, Muslims affirm. MORE than half of British Muslims want to “integrate fully” with non-Muslims in all aspects of life, a study, believed to be the most extensive of its kind, suggests, writes Joe Evans.
The report of a survey of 3000 Muslims by the Policy Exchange think tank, in partnership with ICM, Unsettled Belonging, suggests that the concerns of those questioned were in accordance with the general population, and were not shaped by their faith.
In total, 53 per cent of respondents said that they wanted to “‘fully integrate with non-Muslims in all aspects of life”, while 93 per cent said that they felt a “fair” or “very strong” attachment to Britain. The NHS, unemployment, and immigration topped the list of key priorities.
Britain is also a tolerant place to worship, the report suggests: 91 per cent of respondents said that they were able to follow Islam “entirely freely”.
On education, 69 per cent of respondents said that they would favour a common national curriculum aimed at enhancing community cohesion. Just over half agreed that, given the choice, they would prefer to send their children to a school with “strong Muslim values”.
More than half (53 per cent) said that perceived threats, humiliation, and fear that their culture would be dominated by another were important factors in radicalisation: more than half specifically said that “Western military intervention” was a significant factor.
The report suggests that Muslims support government attempts to combat radicalisation, including the heavily criticised Prevent agenda. Portrayals of anti-radicalisation campaigns as being rejected by the Muslim community “widely misrepresent the views of British Muslims”. Muslims, the report says, are more likely to completely condemn acts of terrorism than the general population.
On the other hand, 31 per cent of respondents said that they believed that the United States government was responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
The Muslims questioned were uncomfortable with organisations assumed to speak on their behalf. The Muslim Council of Britain, for example, enjoyed support from just nine per cent.
The foreword to the report, written by the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood, emphasises that most British Muslims want to fully integrate with society.
He also warns that the Government should be wary of listening to groups who enjoy the support of only a small percentage of the Muslim community, and that British Muslims are being held back by a readiness to believe in “conspiracy theories and the mentality of victimhood”.