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UK continues to struggle with integration

By James Skinner | | Updated: 2016-12-16 15:46

The recently released Casey Report has raised serious questions in Britain about how the increasingly diverse country is managing its fast-changing demographics and ensuring social stability.

The report makes interesting, but at times depressing reading. What is perhaps most striking about it is its similarity to previous reports–– highlighting the same problems, urging similar solutions, and warning of dangers if the issues aren’t tackled.

Many in Britain’s political establishment often talk with pride of the country’s openness and tolerance, and the strengths it derives from its diversity.

Yet in recent years, public concern over high levels of immigration and worries about the apparent isolation of some communities, have combined with evidence of differing socioeconomic outcomes for different groups.

Three issues have been repeatedly highlighted by government reports over the past 15 years: the apparent isolation of many British Muslims, the lack of a strategy to integrate immigrants into British society and the need to promote a common set of values.

Yet little progress appears to have been made on any of these issues, and with the current public anxiety about the future direction of the country, it seems a good time to ask why.

The riots that took place in several of England’s northern towns in 2001, involving white and - largely Muslim - Asian youths, sparked a flurry of national soul-searching. The government’s Cantle Report which was later released on the background to the riots, famously claimed different communities in the city were leading “parallel lives”.

In Louise Casey’s report, she repeatedly highlights the stark differences between British Muslims and the non-Muslim majority. Casey is particularly concerned about the plight of some Muslim women living in areas with high Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage Britons. The report highlights low levels of female employment and in some cases a total lack of personal freedom due to the conservative attitudes prevalent in these communities.

As with past government reports, local officials come in for strong criticism for their failure to address these issues, in particular for not wanting to be seen as “racist”. Previous reports have recommended everything from ensuring that schools do not become “ghettoized” to funding for interfaith dialogue. Yet the situation appears largely unchanged.

However, one thing that has changed over the past 10 years is the size of the community, as Casey herself makes clear, and much of it is concentrated in some key British cities (2001-2011 saw a 72% increase in the number of Muslims in Britain). Perhaps this explains the lack of action - the problem is now simply too big for a government to really tackle without risking social unrest, or at the least, the loss of votes in important constituencies.

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