The following is what I responded with to the government’s recent consultation on what it is calling “integration”. Much has been written about this, including this article, and this advice summary. This is not to copy but to provide food for thought when carrying out the consultation.
Carry out the consultation by clicking “Respond online” here before 11:45pm on 5th June: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/integrated-communities-strategy-green-paper
We define integrated communities as communities where people – whatever their background – live, work, learn and socialise together, based on shared rights, responsibilities and opportunities. Do you agree with our definition?
I disagree with the term ‘integrated communities’ – why not just ‘community’?
I also disagree with the definitions – people in the same community might live together, and work together – but they do not HAVE to learn and socialise together. Imposing this on people is too restrictive and unnecessary.
You should allow people in communities themselves to define the level at which they wish to ‘integrate’ into society, instead of imposing the defined rules of what constitutes ‘integration’. Communities develop in a plethora of different ways – some different to others – so all cannot be shoehorned into developing in a ‘government approved’ way.
We believe that the varied nature and scale of integration challenges means that tailored local plans and interventions are needed to tackle the issues specific to particular places. Do you agree?
No – there is no need for the government to dictate to local communities how they should tackle the challenges of their community. There is not a major problem with how communities are currently running – British people have successfully integrated already. The data presented in the introduction is contradictory – at first highlighting how well British people have successfully integrated and then going on to say that there is a problem with integration.
Do you have any examples of successful approaches to encourage integration that you wish to highlight, particularly approaches which have been subject to evaluation?
Allowing Muslims, Jews, black and other ethnic minority communities to be at the forefront of deciding how to tackle any issues in their community – not using them as a pawn and dictating to them how much of their religion they can practise, and which bits of their faith the government decides are not ‘in line with British Values’.
The Green Paper proposes that we need to build the capacity of our leaders to promote and achieve integration outcomes. Do you agree?
It is impossible for the leaders to achieve the integration outcomes that are being proposed, because the proposed ‘outcomes’ are unacceptable aims in the first place.
To highlight this, the paper says in this section:
“In too many communities we see services organised and delivered in ways which lead to them serving people of a single ethnic or religious group. In part, this is as a consequence of residential segregation…..”
“…This can lead to local services being dominated by one ethnic or religious group, which can feel exclusionary rather than inclusive.”
With regards to the first statement quoted above, communities will inevitably cater for the majority of the ethnic population which attends to its services – as that is where there is a greater demand.
For example, would a church which has a predominantly Black African congregation and following – who practise a certain branch of Catholicism – suddenly need to change their church services just because 2 white Catholics decide to attend the same church regularly? No, they should be allowed to also practise their branch of Catholicism, but to demand the entire church changes their services for these 2 individuals is ridiculous.
The second statement above can be seen as an incredibly racist statement to make – how do ethnic minorities feel going into predominantly ‘white’ areas of the country – which far outweigh the number of ethnic minority areas in Britain! The fact that the ethnic minority areas are seen as the ‘problem which needs challenging’ is really a statement which has white supremacist undertones to it.
People should be allowed to live wherever they wish to live, and if they feel more comfortable living with people of the same ethnicity, then they should be entitled to do so. To prevent this will actually lead to a more segmented society – the very thing you are trying to prevent.
The Green Paper proposes measures to support recent migrants so that they have the information they need to integrate into society and understand British values and their rights and responsibilities. Do you agree with this approach?
They need to improve their knowledge of their rights and responsibilities whilst in Britain, and English language – these measures are OK. However forcing them to understand ‘British values’ is not necessary – because these values are vague, subjective and open to scrutiny by the general members of the public. They also do not need to take part in the ‘citizenship ceremony’ which seems quite tokenistic – as proof of their allegiance to Britain is seen not from one statement, but from their actions over a period of time (e.g. lack of criminal convictions).
The Controlling Migration Fund was constructed to deal with the short-term migration pressures and associated costs that local authorities can encounter. Do you think it adequately achieves this objective?
No because migrants still face significant difficulties that are not fully addressed – e.g. lack of adequate housing, English language facilities and job opportunities.
The Green Paper proposes measures to ensure that all children and young people are prepared for life in modern Britain and have the opportunity for meaningful social mixing with those from different backgrounds. Do you agree with this approach?
No because it involves imposing ‘British values’ on every single child and making this a marking criteria for a child’s successful development – despite the fact that the values are subjective in the first place, and divisive in their nature and practical implementation. This cannot be allowed to go ahead.
The papers also propose regulating home schooling with such values, which is impossible to clearly implement with the values having such a subjective nature.
Some schools will naturally have a higher proportion of children from an ethnic minority – this should be allowed and not seen as a ‘problem’.
The Green Paper sets out proposals to support parents with their choice of out-of-school education settings. Do you agree with this approach?
The papers propose regulating home schooling with British Values, which is impossible to clearly implement with the values having such a subjective nature.
The Green Paper proposes a number of measures to improve the offer for people to learn English. Do you agree with this approach?
Yes, it is important for people to be able to speak English in Britain
Do you have any other suggestions on how we can improve the offer for people to learn English?
Improving TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) opportunities to British nationals in the UK, by increasing funding in this area and training for more higher paid job opportunities. With this, you can offer them paid internships with jobs at the end for taking up the English language course.
The Green Paper proposes measures to ensure that people, particularly those living in residentially segregated communities, have opportunities to come together with people from different backgrounds and play a part in civic life. Do you agree with this approach?
The way this question is phrased, is not how it is reflected in the paper. The paper starts by stating how it is a fundamental right for people to choose where to live, but then goes on to state government objectives of effectively controlling social housing and limiting people’s choice of residence.
It is near impossible to control where people live, and how much they wish to partake in daily activities with other ethnicities, except by infringing on their human rights. Instead of ‘forcing’ people to do this –the government should instead look at using media (including documentaries) to normalise ethnic diversity and social cohesion – then the people will follow and perceptions will be changed. The proposed approach in the paper is too forceful and will likely lead to social tension. It lacks thought and proper planning.
The Green Paper proposes measures to provide tailored support to people, especially those who may not currently be active in the labour market, to build their confidence and skills to take up employment. Do you agree with this approach?
The paper states it wishes:
“…to help prepare people from ethnic minorities for work.”
This over-focus on ethnic minorities being unemployed is worrying. The paper doesn’t appreciate the fact that people can and should be allowed to choose to be so-called “economically inactive” whilst doing something just as or even more fulfilling and important, such as looking after their families or volunteering – there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Going ahead with the proposed approach will result in such individuals being seen as doing something ‘wrong’ by not turning over a profit for someone else – which risks their mental health and wellbeing. This part of the paper is therefore unnecessary, even worrying for its “ethnic minority” stereotypes.
The Green Paper proposes measures to encourage integration and resist divisive views or actions. Do you agree with this approach?
This is the most worrying part of the entire paper. It has three areas that are worrying:
- “Methods used to Empower women and girls”
- “Suggested Approach to Tackling Extremism”
- “Interfering with Religious Rights”
With regards to the first point, this is a thinly veiled attempt at restricting religious freedom and is deeply islamophobic. The government is essentially interfering with Islamic practices and defining how the religion should be practised – by banning the Islamic nikahs which are not carried out alongside civil marriages. It is unacceptable to force this on people – they should be allowed to choose to practise their religion how they wish. Non-Muslims also choose to cohabit – why then are they not subject to scrutiny and potential reforms to protect non-Muslim cohabiting women from abuse and financial despair? This proposal needs to be scrapped.
With regards to the second point, the government’s approach to tackling “extremism” has failed tremendously. Prevent needs to be scrapped, however this is not seen in the current proposed paper – why? This needs to be included.
Also, where is the evidence for its need to ‘improve understanding overseas influences’ of extremism? It is automatically assumed here that this is a causative factor in extremist behaviour, but no evidence is proposed to support this. The entire domain of so-called “extremism” rather is a highly controversial one, effectively meaning lawful opinions and tastes that the government does not like. It should not be the business of the government to police people’s opinions especially since there is absolutely no empirical evidence to correlate this to crime.
Money should instead be spent on more effective methods of tackling actual crimes – which will inevitably need to include a public consultation with high profile religious and non religious figures who can give their expert advice on the best methods to tackle illegal behaviour (whilst maintaining social cohesion), and not the proposed ideas from officials which seem to have no empirical basis.
The paper states:
“…it is important to recognise that the freedom to practise religion needs to be balanced against the rights and freedoms of others. Striking the right balance can be challenging, especially as social norms change.”
This is a problematic statement which suggests government approaches to limit freedom of religion where it deems necessary, in the spirit of promoting ‘social cohesion’. Such drastic measures cannot simply be swept into the proposal without proper scrutiny, therefore they need to be scrapped.
The Green Paper proposes measures to address practices which can impact on the rights of women. Do you agree with this approach?
This is a thinly veiled attempt at restricting religious freedom and is deeply islamophobic. The government is essentially interfering with Islamic practices and defining how the religion should be practised – by banning the Islamic nikahs which are not carried out alongside civil marriages. It is unacceptable to force this on people – they should be allowed to choose to practise their religion how they wish. Non-Muslims also choose to cohabit – why then are they not subject to scrutiny and potential reforms to protect non-Muslim cohabiting women from abuse and financial despair, despite being more common amongst them?
Indeed throughout the paper it presumes white cultural norms as the universal basis of what constitutes a potential infringement on someone’s “rights”. In the absence of an objective, legal example of rights being actually transgressed, one person’s interpretation or cultural norms and mores should not be used to impose on another. This proposal needs to be scrapped.
The Green Paper proposes core integration measures for national and local government to focus on. Do you agree these are the right measures?
There is no clear litmus test for ‘integrating communities’ to decide when communities are or aren’t fully integrated – which is where this proposal is flawed, as it is completely subjective.
Considering the measures proposed by the paper, they are inadequate because they are overly focused on English language outcomes, as opposed to all the proposed changes the proposal seeks to make.
The other areas of the proposal are not quantitatively or qualitatively measurable and vague answers are given in the table in this section such as “Evaluation data and the adaptation of existing data sources – where appropriate”. Therefore the proposal needs to be scrapped as it cannot realistically be implemented and assessed using reliable, measurable, quantitative or qualitative data collection methods and outcome measures, which can help ascertain its level of effectiveness across the range of different areas it seeks to make changes in.
- Also read:
The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.