Integration for all

30th Dec 2016

When seeking to carry out a review into opportunity and integration in Britain, Louise Casey, of Irish Catholic descent, could have given us great insights into cross-sections of British society and how different ethnic and faith groups interact. She instead decided to focus almost entirely on one community, deciding it needed “emancipation”. It isn’t difficult to guess why Muslims were going to be at the top of the list of problem communities since they have long been the tried and tested scapegoat for most of the ills of British society.

In her review published this month, Casey claimed that governments have failed for more than a decade to ensure that social integration in the UK has kept up with the “unprecedented pace and scale of immigration” and have allowed some local communities to become increasingly divided.

Casey claimed ministerial attempts to boost the integration of ethnic minorities amounted to little more than “saris, samosas and steel drums for the already well-intentioned”. The problem has “not been a lack of knowledge but a failure of collective, consistent and persistent will to do something about it or give it the priority it deserves at both a national and local level.”

Sweeping generalisations aside, it is her controversial recommendations and singling out of Muslims which has provoked so much biting criticism. Her recommendations included a call for immigrants to be encouraged to embrace British values by taking an “integration oath” as well as securing “women’s emancipation in communities where they are being held back by regressive cultural practices”. She claims fears of being labeled racist have been preventing society from challenging sexist, misogynistic and patriarchal behaviour in some minority communities.” There is no denying the existence of forced marriages, female genital mutilation and honour killings, but they need to be put into perspective and treated for what they are: cultural practices that have nothing to do with religion.

Casey rightfully acknowledged the evidence that black and minority ethnic communities are still suffering from discrimination and disadvantage, both in the criminal justice system and in the workplace. She also referred to the difficulties of being a Muslim in 21st-century Britain and the vicious circle that seemed to exist whereby Muslims feel they are being blamed for terrorism, extremism and everything else that is going wrong in the world. “In turn, that’s causing some to withdraw into their own communities, leading to suspicion, mistrust, and hostility on all sides, and exacerbating disadvantage,” she said.

But her overall approach lays the burden of responsibility on Muslims. She claims that tough questions on social integration are being ignored. As with other government policies towards Muslims, integration is not viewed as a two-way process. Nor is there much reference from Casey to Britain’s other deep fault lines of division: class, education, postcode, wealth, gender and age. There are many social diseases and inequalities ravaging this country, but Casey has chosen to direct the microscope onto Muslims only, scapegoating them as a problem community while pretending other deeper divisions don’t exist.

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