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Expert Comment: The government’s latest report on Integration raises more questions than it answers

0006 Dr Salman Al-Azami Wednesday 7 December 2016

The government’s latest report on integration by Dame Louise Casey has raised some legitimate concerns, but blaming Muslims for segregation and misogyny is a step too far and will do nothing to bring communities together.

I am not too sure what this report wants to achieve, and one of its recommendations that immigrants should be asked to take an oath of integration seems to be a very simplistic solution, which will have no effect whatsoever. How will the government ensure that the oath is not violated?

When it comes to British values, I always feel perplexed by what it actually means. According to Ofsted, 'fundamental British values' are democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and tolerance. These are universal human values, and are not uniquely British. Perhaps some of these values should be taught to right wing politicians and media outlets who constantly infringe upon Muslim women’s ‘individual liberty’ on clothing and show ‘intolerance’ towards immigrants and ethnic minorities.

Once again, Muslim women have been an overarching factor and Dame Casey finds “..far too many women suffering the effects of misogyny and domestic abuse” in the Muslim community. There is no doubt that some Muslim men do like to control the women in their house, which is driven more from the culture they come from than any religious teaching, but is misogyny a Muslim monopoly?

Gender inequality is present in many other ethnic and religious groups in different shapes and forms, and this includes the White British population too. I find this consistent message of Muslim women’s victimhood to be extremely patronising to the Muslim women themselves as most of the time they are not asked how oppressed they feel. In fact a recent academic study reveals that ‘Muslim girls are academically outperforming their male counterparts’ and many Muslim women feel that they are victims of discrimination and poverty rather than domestic abuse by their male family members.

Another major issue that keeps appearing in the media and is highlighted in this report is that segregation is only the fault of Muslims. It is not helpful that Louise Casey chose to avoid the ‘white flight’ problem with many white people moving away when ethnic minorities start to move into their area. Has anyone questioned why they are moving?

Are the Muslims deliberately driving them away, or the white people prefer to live among the whites? If there is no evidence of the former and the latter is true, then who is to be blamed for lack of integration? I wrote a piece a few years ago where I highlighted how I struggled to integrate with my neighbours in a white area in Chigwell, Essex despite trying my best to be friendly with them. In fact, the host community has more responsibility to welcome ethnic minorities, and if that is done, integration would be much more successful. I strongly believe that the government and those who write reports like these need to have a holistic picture of the situation rather than scapegoating Muslims, as this report has once again given ammunition to politicians like Nigel Farage and tabloids like The Daily Mail to legitimise their fear mongering of Muslims.

In the ‘post truth’ world that we live in, reports like these are not helpful to create community cohesion or integration, but rather they will reinforce the hatred, bigotry and xenophobia that have been unleashed in recent times. The tone and language of this report will, therefore, raise more questions than answers and will further divide communities.

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