It has been a source of great annoyance to successive governments that the latest generations of Muslims are still not trying hard enough to be proper Britons. As it isn’t happening organically they bash at us like someone with a spoon trying to mix a stubborn lump of hot chocolate powder into a mug of milk. The “Integrated Communities Strategy green paper” contains the government’s latest plans to break us up and melt us down or, as they like to put it, “help us get over our segregation problem”.
The roots of the policies relating to Muslims are a coming together of the “proposed regulation of out-of-school education settings” or the Madrassa Bill as we knew it; the Islamophobic Cameron government commissioned Casey Review; Ofsted’s frustration at having its punching arm tied when dealing with Muslims[i]; the government’s countless messy attempts to criminalise innocently orthodox Islām and the thinking behind the Muslim-focused Extremism Commission.
The paper begins with the sort of fair description an unbiased observer of Britain might make:
“Migrant contribution has enriched this country, from those who arrived from the Commonwealth, helping rebuild our post-war economy and becoming the backbone of the NHS, to the entrepreneurs, sporting heroes, scientists, pillars of our professions and public life and stars of stage and screen who are making their mark. Whether we are celebrating as a nation, such as during the London 2012 Olympics or the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, or seeking support following last year’s terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower tragedy, we have seen people from all backgrounds coming together. It is therefore no surprise that 85% of people report feeling a strong sense of belonging to Britain and 81% say their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together.”
Britain sounds great. The paper could have ended there. Instead it is a dizzying thing to behold; flip-flopping between celebrating our diverse ways and complaining that we are the problem for being different.
British Values, it says “allow us to enjoy our individual freedoms, to lead varied lives in diverse communities”. “The UK has always been a rich tapestry of diverse communities,” says the Secretary of State in his foreword to a paper that goes on to say there are, in Britain, “a worrying number of communities, divided along race, faith or socio-economic lines.” In other words, Britain is a fabulously rich tapestry of worryingly divided excellent diversity.
I’m being a little facetious here because they are trying to be manipulative. It is a myth that Britain has ever been a fully interwoven tapestry or that any human settlements at any time ever have been. Britain has always been a patchwork of different communities, interconnected but never entirely intermingled. Clustering of people happens organically for many benign reasons. It is utterly normal, and has not been considered a major problem until it was said to be a part of the ‘Muslim Problem’.
The reason the government elite are obsessing over diverse communities above divided communities, which sounds a subtle difference, is that they believe if we Muslims had been better dispersed – if each community was more representative of the national figures e.g. Muslims were around 5% of any given community – we would have been humbled and overwhelmed by the ways of the truer Brit majority. Had we submitted ourselves to continual scrutiny by white British neighbours we might have been prevented from getting as far beyond the pale as they consider we are. So now we must be dispersed to be policed by a population now primed and eager to phone Prevent if they see us being Islamic.
I cannot help feeling cynical about a government which continues to do so much to institutionalise suspicion of Muslims, driving a wedge between the Muslim community and the rest of Britain with Prevent and now an Extremism Commission, and then wring their hands over increasing “residential segregation”. I sense some sincerity in the paper as though it was initially written by reasonable people who want to help us to greater happiness as they see it. Some of the community projects to cure whites of racism sound very positive but then white supremacy took the lead once more as they wove in the Casey Review for the Muslim-relevant parts. Casey’s anti-coexistence quotes are highlighted throughout which I would summarise as:
“We have been stupid to put up with your foreign nonsense for all these years, well no more.”
The paper states it is a problem that “60% of minority ethnic pupils were in schools where minority ethnic pupils are in the majority. This reduces opportunities for young people to form lasting relationships with those from other backgrounds and can restrict pupils’ outlook and education.” I stand by my earlier reason for why they believe we must be at all times a minority but can they really be so ignorant of the real priorities for the minority child? E.g. growing up feeling safe and accepted as normal.
It is said that “Research by the Social Integration Commission demonstrates that when people meet and mix under the right circumstances, trust grows and prejudice declines.” No doubt this is true. There is also no doubt the government will be unable to ensure all the large scale rapid mixing they propose in their “bold and ambitious vision for integrated communities” will be under those “right circumstances”. They want to sell us “Contact theory” when contact reality for a Muslim child in a minority situation could again mean having their head stamped on by an Islamophobic gang,[ii] or being tied up in the playground and whipped during a mock slave auction.[iii] Either of these could more severely restrict a Muslim child’s outlook on life in Britain, though it would prepare them well for being 76% less likely to have a job because they are Muslim. Of course the government argue it is because non-Muslims rarely get the chance for contact with Muslims that we have fewer job offers but they really should have thought of that before infecting the nation with Prevent funded Islamophobia. It’s like covering us in jam and then saying it’s our duty to socialise with a swarm of angry bees.
The accompanying Equality Statement suggested there were seven barriers to the integration of would be Britons; we “must try harder” in list form. Curiously, neither racism nor Islamophobia made the list when they should surely have been the top reasons why we prefer to live around those who non-violently accept our religion or skin colour.
The paper requires a good amount of reading between the lines. Where it talks of “out of school settings” read madrassas. For home schooling which can “risk exposing children to harmful views and practices” read “we presume Muslims are teaching their kids misogyny and decapitation role-play.” For “improve our understanding of the ways in which overseas inﬂuences can undermine attitudes to rights and freedoms in the UK” read “we want to ban foreign funding of Muslim organisations.” For “take forward a programme of work to determine what changes to housing policy and practice would help in addressing residential segregation;” read “Force Muslims to live where they don’t fit in because we have a theory…”
They would do well to learn from the case of Bijan Ebrahimi who was racial abused by more than a few of his white neighbours for a decade before action was taken, after he had been beaten to death and set on fire, to understand where housing services could have improved his life expectancy. The Council’s “Learning Review” states that “Throughout Bijan Ebrahimi’s life in Bristol, he lived in areas with relatively low Black and minority ethnic populations. As such, local experience indicates that he was at increased risk of suffering racist prejudice and behaviour.” It continues “Many in Mr Ebrahimi’s position would have been likely to develop coping mechanisms to deal with such behaviour that might have included not drawing attention to themselves, ignoring comments made to them and moving away as opportunities arose.”[iv] The council all but declared his was a death by integration.
Under the heading “Rights and Freedoms” the green paper moves to restrict our marriages. Civil marriage law is so disliked in the UK that of 19 million families 3.3 million are not legally married, a figure that has doubled since 1996.[v] You may well be wondering what this has to do with integration. When non-Muslims do it of course it is assumed to be a decision between two consenting adults. When Muslims do it, it is assumed to be between an aggressively patriarchal man and a woman with no “agency”; the will or ability to make her own choices. While acknowledging that in some of the Muslim countries that type of relationship is more common than in the UK it must also be acknowledged that it does exist in abundance among non-Muslims here too. (Almost two women are killed per week by their current or former intimate partner in England alone, and on average 232 are raped everyday.) The government are not proposing to remove every non-Muslim’s freedom of choice to save those non-Muslim women, but they think it is OK to deal with us simplistically with a broad brush, an easy thing to take our freedom of choice away while they can carry on cohabiting. Surely, if people are not getting civil marriages then a less foolish way to address that would be to make it more appealing rather than create new laws to selectively force one minority.
Perhaps the worst double-speak in the green paper is in the section written by or for Ofsted, related to the St Stephen’s Primary School Hijab ban:
“Pupils have the right to manifest a religion or belief, but not necessarily at all times, in all places or in a particular manner.”
We have the right but it is not a right we really “have”.
“Where a school has good reason for restricting an individual’s freedoms, for example, for the promotion of cohesion, the restriction of an individual’s rights to manifest their religion or belief may be justified.”
They will restrict our freedom in any way they see fit using the undefined blank cheque phrase “promotion of cohesion”.
“A school must carefully consider the balance of the rights of individual pupils against the best interests of the school community as a whole.”
The interests of the majority trump Muslims’ freedom to be different, despite that differences such as wearing a headscarf are utterly benign and not proven to be problematic, unless they count “RICU told Aunty Sara to say it is so” as proof.
“When determining their policies, we expect school leaders to consider carefully reasonable requests to accommodate religious or other beliefs but to weigh this against the objectives of creating a unified school ethos.”
They will go through the pretence of a consultation before restricting our freedoms. Schools have already been warned they will be downgraded by Ofsted if they are swayed by parental wishes.[vi]
“It is for the school to make the final decision and we will not tolerate undue pressure or harassment of school leaders who, having considered requests and consulted on their policies, determine policies that reﬂects their individual school’s ethos and values.”
Because they went through the pretence of a consultation they will forbid any further democratic discussion. They will say that like Theresa May ruling the country on the votes of only 20% of the population, it’s just a minority of extremists who should be ignored. This suspension of democracy is, of course, embarrassing but must be seen as a price worth paying where Muslims make up the majority of parents. This is a perfect example of why they fear allowing a minority to be the majority in an area. We must be broken up to keep us as a minority to allow the non-Muslim majority to always have the deciding vote on matters that restrict us because, of course, we won’t usually vote for our own oppression.
“We will not tolerate” is a telling phrase to find in a consultation paper about integration, but then of course this is more a consultation in the hope people can suggest more ways to help us through positive oppression, not less. I expect helpful suggestions like banning all halāl meat in order to help us integrate by no longer having a reason to cluster near halāl butchers.
Muslims should keep in mind that diversity is very new for Europe and no one asked for it. They accidentally brought it on themselves by bringing most of the wealth of the world here during empire days, and in case that wasn’t enough motivation to paddle across the Med they’ve recently been using drones to bomb anything of value they left behind. It’s very clear that the Tories don’t want diversity but have resigned themselves to some of it under duress. So they want to carefully manage it and have it very much on their terms and not really very diverse at all. They claim to offer freedom because that sounds like a proper thing to do but as we know it’s only freedom to choose between practicing a non-Muslim’s interpretation of Islam or being called an extremist. They claim they want us to integrate while at the same time making everyone hate our religion; a bit like Ryan Air saying they really want us to take their flight but then making it all but impossible to bring our baggage.
Sadly as much as they are stuck with us we are stuck with them so even if only to annoy them we should actually do everything we can to be accepted here, but on our terms. We should be the best neighbours and work colleagues; we should be courteous and trustworthy in business and we should obey the law of the land as of course we already try to do because it’s the sunnah. We should be duly circumspect when they offer to help us fix a problem only they say we have. And we should make damn sure we tell them what Islam is, not let them tell us.
“Dame Louise Casey noted the recognition from some Muslims of the need for a clearer interpretation of Islam for life in the UK. Work is underway by senior Muslim clerics to set up a national council to issue religious rulings that embed Islam in a 21st-century British context.”
If you read that passage and your hairs are not standing on end you really need to wake up and smell the creamer.