The 200-page Casey Review released this month which looked into ethnic and cultural “segregation”, mainly among Muslim communities in the UK, has touted the promotion of “British values” as the best solution to the perceived problems of segregation.
In July 2015, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Home Secretary, Theresa May, asked Dame Louise Casey to conduct a review “to consider what could be done to boost opportunity and integration in our most isolated and deprived communities.”
The review acknowledged the difficulty of defining integration when justifying why the report was undertaken. “Integration is a nebulous concept which resists a single definition or description. These vary with political and research focus, and often appear to refer to very separate processes and goals.”
Despite the difficulty of defining it, the review equates a “lack of integration” with poverty in the Muslim communities it studied, without looking at other causes of low socio-economic attainment. The rise of extremist views and hate crimes were also cited as justification for the report, but the onus still remained on the predominant victims of those hate crimes to rectify the problem.
Sabby Dhalu, Stand up to Racism Co-Convenor, pointed out that hate crimes against Muslims were a more pressing issue than a lack of Muslim integration: “The murders of Mohammed Saleem and Mushin Ahmed; and racist and Islamophobic attacks on Muslims did not happen because of a lack of integration or weakness in English language skills. Just like Stephen Lawrence’s murder had nothing to with integration, segregation and proficiency in English. These attacks took place because of racism and Islamophobia.”
Of the review’s 12 recommendations only one involved some kind of welfare reform for these disadvantaged communities. This is despite the report pointing out that “Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic populations and Muslim faith populations live disproportionately in the most deprived areas in England compared with other ethnic or faith groups.”
At least three recommendations referred to the promotion of British values and opportunities for “social mixing” for children from Muslim communities. The promotion of English language classes was also recommended, despite cuts in ESOL funding coming from the current Government.
The rest of the recommendations were vague, such as recommendation 3, which states: “Drawing on the most effective approaches, central government should work with local government to bring together and disseminate a toolkit of approaches which have seen success.”
The review made it clear which communities had the biggest “segregation” problem. These were the 42 wards in the country where people of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin formed over 50 percent of that ward’s population. On the other hand, economically deprived areas with a majority White population were seen as communities which were “falling behind”.
According to Gemma Catney, lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Liverpool, diversity, not segregation, has increased in the past ten years: “Take, say, a neighbour-hood which in 2001 was 80% white British and 20% Indian, and in 2011 was 25% white British, 25% Indian, 25% Pakistani and 25% black Caribbean. The 2011 neighbourhood should only be understood as more segregated if the proportion of white British is seen as the ‘gold standard’ of ethnic mixing”.
According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, actual segregation has decreased in the last ten years: “Neighbourhood residential integration is increasing: segregation, the extent to which an ethnic group is evenly spread across neighbourhoods, has decreased within most local authority districts of England and Wales, for all ethnic minority groups”.
But for the review, Muslims communities in the North of England face unique problems. They are being held back by “a sense of grievance and unfairness”. Issues of Islamophobia and discrimination were not seen as significant barriers to integration, nor was the Government’s Prevent Strategy. According to the review, these communities are also experiencing a “growth in regressive religious and cultural ideologies” which are affecting mainly women and children.
Former Communities Minister Sayeeda Warsi argued that many of Casey’s statistics were out of date. She accused Casey of confusing “race, ethnicity, origin and faith”. In response to Casey’s call for Muslim women to be “emancipated”, Warsi tweeted: “Highest rates of domestic abuse are experienced by women from White communities followed by Black Caribbean (14%) and Irish (12%)”
In its submission to the review, the Muslim Council of Britain stated: “The United Kingdom rightly has a model of integration that far outweighs the benefits of other models of integration in Europe. We would caution against coercive integration or enforced assimilation as witnessed in France which, as we can see, is further alienating minorities, not integrating them.
“There is no doubt that the lack of equal resources and treatment of all forms of bigotry plays a major role in Muslims feeling that their concerns are not taken seriously – a key driver to alienation.
“Issues such as grooming, FGM and forced marriages are ones that mainstream Muslim institutions would be happy and willing to speak out against. But to label them as specifically Muslim problems is just as bad as not doing anything about them because of excuses of political correctness. In all three cases, for example, Muslim institutions themselves can and have played their part in speaking out against these essentially cultural practises.”