So, the independent review, commissioned by former British Prime Minister David Cameron and conducted by Dame Louise Casey, dropped yesterday and, like a new DJ Khaled album, it has caused a stir – particularly amongst Muslims.
The review has generated discussion and debate on social integration in the U.K. and how significantly isolated some communities appear to be. What struck me most is how the report holds certain faith groups and communities responsible for division in U.K. society. With the report’s inclusion of statistics such as: “Blackburn, Birmingham, Burnley and Bradford includ[e] wards with between 70% and 85% Muslim population” as a point of interest, it is clear what line of thought it wishes to encourage.
It would be interesting to see similar figures on what percentage of the White population in Britain were integrated. Just as the report conjures images of ghetto-ised Bangladeshi’s spending their daily lives without any non-Bengali interaction I am reminded of Miriam Margoyles’ comment on first meeting pop star Will.i.am. She said she was “fascinated” to meet him, because he was Black.
With the report’s inclusion of statistics such as: ‘Blackburn, Birmingham, Burnley and Bradford includ[e] wards with between 70% and 85% Muslim population’ as a point of interest, it is clear what line of thought it wishes to encourage.
Many people will, at this point, try to explain away her gaffe by attributing it to her advanced age, her eccentricity etc. and yet the same allowances are not afforded in this report. It seems almost patronising to have to point out that the issue of people choosing not to mix with others of a different racial, ethnic, or religious background cannot be relegated to any one particular reason.
Unsurprisingly, Muslims appear to, yet again, emerge as the villain to this tale. Just as Muslims are continually expected to apologise for the actions of ISIS – the review now suggests that Muslim men, in particular, are the cause of a lot of community ills. In what she calls a “first generation in every generation phenomenon,” Casey points to: “Muslim” men choosing to marry women from their home country as a “bar” to integration and that Government has to end the “misogyny and patriarchy” in some Muslim communities.
Yet again, the term “Muslim” is confused here with one or more ethnic identities and the report’s conclusion misses out entirely the experience of ethnically White British Muslims who have no other “home country” from which they can summon a wife!
Similarly, the focus on a particular demographic of men as being misogynistic is redundant and, somewhat, baffling in light of the now President-elect Donald Trump’s remarks on how men should grab women “by the p***y.” Unless, of course, this means that we should also associate his opinion with all American Christian men?
Whilst discussing on my social media pages, it was raised a number of times how ethnicity is used as a measure in some cases, but not in others. Examples of why, for example, in the case of the Rotherham traffickers news outlets repeatedly pointed out that the perpetrators were of Muslim Pakistani heritage. Yet, whilst the number of white male paedophiles in show business being exposed is alarmingly increasing, these identifiers are rarely highlighted as being the cause.
It seems almost patronising to have to point out that the issue of people choosing not to mix with others of a different racial, ethnic, or religious background cannot be relegated to any one particular reason.
The issue of integration is something that has always been heavily discussed, and yet still remains incredibly vague. Casey suggests immigrants should take an “integration oath” and that schoolchildren should be taught “British values.” I have yet to hear a definitive answer on what “British values” actually are – although Lord Norman Tebbit, an ex-Conservative party chairman, suggested that British Asians’ loyalty could be measured by who they supported in international cricket matches! Or perhaps we should rely on the British citizenship test to help us measure up… I dare you to try answering some of the test questions yourself. Ultimately, as the definition of British values becomes increasingly vague, it is hard to see how these measures will benefit at all.
The review has come under fire from organisations such as Stand Up To Racism that have stated the report gave no recommendations on how to reduce Islamophobic attacks or institutional racism. Sabby Dalu, Stand Up To Racism Co-Convenor said: “The murders of Mohammed Saleem and Mushin Ahmed…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.”
It is important to note that Dame Casey, in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, pointed out how U.K. Muslims are being somewhat “pushed away.” The report also highlights a growing sense of grievance amongst British Muslims when expected to apologise for or bear the burden of terrorist attacks. Casey was quite clear that this is “wrong” and likened the association to herself being blamed for attacks perpetrated by the IRA.
Nevertheless it is the repeated omission of nuance in the report that could cause the most damage. Abdul Azim, editor of On Religion magazine, said that: “ a community is an imagined social construct…making a link between those who engage in [harmful] practice[s] and those who share the identity of those who practice it (whether on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or culture) is never helpful.”
It’s interesting to see how discussion on this report has led to an exploration of Muslim identity and highlights how heterogeneously Muslims in the U.K .view themselves. Islam, as a religion, fits into existent cultures which is why you can find people from every country in the world who can simultaneously identify with the religion of Islam as well as their own individual cultural identity. The reports lumping together of all U.K. Muslims into one entity with a single set of cultural norms is ridiculous. It is a subject that needs further examination and clarification by British Muslims – perhaps now more than ever, as others race to do it for us.
In summary, as Baroness Warsi concluded so succinctly, the Casey review has: “some good bits, a few bad bits and lots of confused bits.”