The Casey review has revealed a ‘worrying’ lack of integration
Eastern Eye Staff
White Britons must play a role in creating a more cohesive society, community leaders have said in response to a hard-hitting government report about immigration which focused on south Asians in the UK.
Some ethnic groups were “worryingly” segregated and government failure to tackle social and economic isolation, particularly among Muslims, was playing into the hands of extremists, said Dame Lousie Casey in her findings.
In the study, which was published on Monday (5), senior civil servant Casey highlighted “uncomfortable truths” about the impact of large-scale immigration, focusing particularly on discrimination against Pakistani and Bangladeshi women.
Casey said people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin were more likely to live in segregated communities when compared to other ethnic minority groups, as she pointed to areas where up to 85 percent of residents were Muslim.
However, those working within the south Asian community have said it is the responsibility of everyone in society to tackle the issue and the onus should not rest solely on ethnic minorities.
Before the report was published, Casey visited the headquarters of Muslim Women’s Network UK, chaired by Shaista Gohir, which offers specialised help and support to women on issues from domestic violence and mental health to abortion.
Gohir said: “Integration is a two-way process. Very little, if any, attention is given to the role played by white families in also creating segregated communities.
“They moved out of these particular areas after the arrival of ethnic minorities – not due to racism, but because they were economically able to afford to move up the housing ladder and perhaps also felt more comfortable living with people of similar background to themselves.
“Segregation cannot be prevented or reversed unless white families are also willing to have Muslim neighbours.”
The report was commissioned in 2015 by then prime minister David Cameron to investigate integration and opportunity in isolated and deprived communities.
Writing in Eastern Eye this week, Sunder Katwala, the director of independent thinktank British Future, said: “I hope that in our response to this report, we set aside a sense of ‘them and us,’ from any side, and focus instead on what we all need to do together – government and citizens alike – for a stronger society in which we all have a stake.”
Casey acknowledged that her findings would put further pressure on Britain’s 2.8 million Muslims, amid concerns about rising Islamophobia.
But in a foreword to the report, she warned: “A failure to talk about all this only leaves the ground open for the far-right on one side and Islamist extremists on the other.
“Every person, in every community, in every part of Britain, should feel part of our nation and have every opportunity to succeed in it. There can be no exceptions to that by gender, colour or creed.”
Katwala added that the review had a heavy focus on British Muslim communities, which was a view echoed by Simon Woolley, the director and one of the founders of pressure group Operation Black Vote and a former commissioner for race on the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Woolley said he was concerned about the negative rhetoric surrounding the Muslim community which could result in becoming a toxic breeding ground for extremist recruiters.
“This often narrow focus on all Muslim communities in this climate can only have one major outcome – a continuing narrative that Muslims, on the whole, are a major problem within our society, and some of their practices are against British values,” Woolley said.
“The dishonesty of many reports like this is to purport to talk about the lack of Muslim integration, but really seek crude and often dishonest answers as to why a relatively miniscule number of Muslims would seek to fight in jihadist wars, and even contemplate causing harm on our own shores too.”
Casey warned that many people in segregated areas did not have the same opportunities as others across Britain, often because they did not speak English, and also because cultural and religious practices held them back.
This was particularly true of women, and Casey cautioned that domestic abuse, female genital mutilation and forced marriage remained “all too prevalent” in some communities.
One of her key recommendations was to provide more English classes for isolated groups.
Gohir responded by saying that inequalities caused by cultural abuses against Muslim women were given far more attention than hate crime and discrimination they faced when accessing services and employment.
“This not only applies to decision makers nationally, but also some secular women’s groups, who are very vocal on issues such as forced marriage, honour-based violence, and FGM while remaining silent on the rising levels of Islamophobia against the same Muslim women,” she added.
Barry Gardiner, Labour MP for Brent North in London, which has a large Gujarati Hindu population, praised Casey’s “courageous” 200-page investigation for delving into hard-hitting issues.
He said she had done the community a favour by having the guts to raise these issues.
“I don’t want to be lots of little societies that feel like we have different ways of dealing with these issues. We are a liberal Western democracy and I want to stay that way as a whole society,” he said.
“It is about ensuring that everybody in society has the same right to the same life chances and the same opportunities and they are not pigeon-holed by their own community into a role they are trapped in, don’t want to be in and can’t get out of.”
Gardiner added that he thought it was “retrograde” when second and third-generation immigrants went back to their country of origin to find a spouse from there.
The report also said immigrants should take an oath of integration with British values and society on arrival in the country, rather than waiting until their final citizenship test.
Casey urged the promotion of British laws, history and values within the core school curriculum to build “integration, tolerance, citizenship and resilience”. She also called for greater mixing among young people through activities such as sport, and efforts to raise employment levels among marginalised groups.
Communities minister Sajid Javid said the report was a “valuable contribution”.
“We need to take a serious look at the facts and must not shy away from the challenges we face,” Javid said.