The Casey report into extremism is a barrier to opportunity and integration, says PAUL SCARROTT
IN THE wake of Dame Louise Casey’s report the Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has said that all public office-holders should swear an oath of allegiance to “British values” like equality and tolerance.
Perhaps he could make a start by condemning the Tory MP who filibustered a domestic violence Bill recently and apologise for the Tory Party’s delivery of record high levels of poverty in working households as recently revealed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Javid has also said that he will outline new policies next spring after studying the report. The construction of government policy based on its findings will lead to more division, not less.
The Casey Report’s unrelenting focus on Muslims only makes sense if it is recognised as not being primarily about opportunity and integration, but as an attempt to shore up the Tory government’s Prevent and “extremism” agenda.
Casey argues that “there is strong evidence in overseas contexts that the drivers of extremism correlate to political and social exclusion and marginalisation.
“Tackling extremism requires promoting inclusion and opportunity, as well as tackling divides on ethnic and religious fault lines.”
But the Casey Report has a fatal flaw.
It serves to endorse the view that the victims of social exclusion and marginalisation are to blame for their plight rather than the government.
Casey refuses to deal with the overwhelming cause of division in today’s Britain: economic inequality and the barriers it creates to social mobility.
Nor does she address key obstacles to the participation in society of the Muslim community and other ethnic minorities.
She asserts: “In this country we take poverty, social exclusion, social justice and social mobility seriously and we do so across political divides.
“Creating a just, fair society where everyone can prosper and get on is a cornerstone of Britain’s values.” But it rings hollow.
The Dublin Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (May 2015) says that “the UK is now the most unequal country in Europe, in terms of wages and income distribution.”
The report’s discussion of integration is very much a one-way street.
It lacks a serious analysis of the positives that Muslims bring to British society.
Casey chooses to focus almost exclusively on the “regressive” features of Islam and gives credibility to the myth that Muslims are the major barrier to the achievement of “one nation” by accusing them of self-segregation and cultural backwardness.
Casey reheats the cynical phrases we have heard so many times before — that her report will be “hard to read” for Muslim communities, but that it was necessary to deal with “uncomfortable” problems. This is code for Muslims are the problem. No other community is dealt with in this way.
The report also echoes David Cameron’s inaccurate stereotype of the “traditional submissiveness of Muslim women.”
Casey talks about the “abuse and unequal treatment of women enacted in the name of cultural or religious values.”
The voices of Muslim women — doctors, teachers, carers, students and others — are missing from the report.
Also absent is the response of the Muslim women who derided David Cameron across social media with the message that “Muslim women are not a problem that needs solving.”
Like Cameron, Casey refuses to accept that racist discrimination is an enormous barrier to the participation of Muslim women in society.
Casey is at pains to find evidence of widening segregation by ethnicity and faith: particularly of Muslims.
But she then trips herself up by citing contradictory evidence or applying criteria to Muslims that are not used for the rest of society: “As the diversity of the nation has increased another dynamic is also clear — people from minority groups have become both more dispersed and in some cases more concentrated and segregated.”
In short, segregation has decreased.
To justify the idea that segregation has increased Casey is forced to twist the interpretation of statistics to fit the preconceptions of the report’s progenitor.
For example: “The school-age population is even more segregated when compared to residential patterns of living” could have been put as residential segregation is even lower than school segregation.
Or better yet, the report could have acknowledged a more accurate analysis of falling segregation in schools.
As Simon Burgess puts it: “For all ethnic groups, segregation fell in far more places than it rose.
“This varies from it falling for 59 per cent of white British students to falling for 75 per cent of Pakistani students. Also for all groups, the changes take the benign form: falls where it was high, any rises where it was low.”
On the educational divide Casey would have done well to reflect upon a recent analysis by Reclaiming Schools highlighting growing barriers due to class, such as the fact that private-school pupils are 100 times more likely to get into Oxbridge than pupils who qualify for free school meals from state schools: “This cannot be put down to a lack of ambition, since 21 per cent of young people living in disadvantaged areas applied for one of the ‘top’ universities but only one in 10 of them got a place.
“This compared with nearly half of applicants from the most affluent fifth of neighbourhoods.”
Casey might also have considered the evidence for the decrease in segregation around marriage and sexual relationships, as well as in the workplace.
A further problem with the report is the negative connotation given to concentrations of some people but not to others.
It says “people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnicity tend to live in more residentially segregated communities than other ethnic minority groups,” but does not refer to wards which are almost entirely white and Christian as being an issue of concern.
It is time we had serious action by government to reverse the gross levels of inequality and discrimination in our society.
We could start by acknowledging that the real growth of division and parallel lives has been at the top of society between the 0.1 per cent (among the better off white population) and the rest.
That change has caused much more damage to every community in Britain than any other factor. Its absence from the report is damning.
A report which was serious about addressing opportunity and integration would start with insisting on the long overdue full implementation of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry in every institution.
It would demand a commitment for state-led investment in communities that have been deindustrialised and isolated from globalisation.
It would say we need a government which stands up to racism rather than one which scapegoats communities for problems that originate in 10 Downing Street.
It would denounce the myth that Muslims are not part of the modern world.
Paul Scarrott is a longstanding anti-racist campaigner with Unite Against Fascism and member of the Labour Party.