Immigrant. A word that will instantly provoke one strong reaction or another from most people. But how harmonious are we as a society?
The recent Casey report went into a lot of detail about various problems different groups of immigrants have when trying to integrate. But if you heard about this report from most media outlets, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was all about the negatives of Muslim culture and immigration. As Casey herself has tried to point out whenever she is able to get in front of a microphone, this is a misrepresentation of the point she was trying to make. Yes she does discuss, in quite a lot of detail, the various problems there are in certain specific Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslim communities, mostly in the north and the midlands, but that is not the primary focus of her report and those problems are not exclusive to Muslim communities.
Her intended point is that monoculturalism is a problem in this country. A lot of immigrant communities, mostly because of prejudice they experienced in the 70s and 80s, all end up living in the same area. This is how you end up with areas like Southall in London, the eastern suburbs of Birmingham, and Highfields in Leicester. Families took root, setting up businesses and schools there, building a little haven for themselves in these areas. Similarly, white and indigenous populations like to stick together too.
But there are ways we can try to deal with monoculturalism.
First, we need to seriously look at whether in what is now a largely secular country we still need faith schools. I’m not talking about any specific faith either. Shouldn’t all children, regardless of background, be getting the same secular education? I’m not saying that children of religious backgrounds shouldn’t get religious education, but surely the place for that is their place of worship after school or on weekends, not in the classroom.
Finally, let’s look for examples of real integration and praise them rather than demonising groups of people. The first place I can think of is Leicester city centre. Lots of shops owned by lots of different groups of immigrants from all over the world as well as the standard British city centre fare. When you walk down the street, you hear lots of different languages and accents, see lots of different skin colours and people waring different religious symbols, all going about their day not causing anyone any harm at all.
Another area more local to us that I can think of where this has worked well is the centre of Southampton. Brits, Polish, Somali, Afghan and lots of other immigrant groups all coexisting quite happily together.
The Casey report makes many good points that are worth taking into account. It is not a criticism of Islam, or even a criticism of immigrant populations. It is a criticism of what has gone wrong with our society. It is a criticism of all of us in this country: the refusal of some British natives to look beyond the language someone speaks at home or even out on the street, the religion they choose to follow, where they come from or even the color of their skin.
The most important thing to remember is that there are examples of good integration in this country in certain areas. Most immigrants I have met in my lifetime are proud to be British. I can think of quite a few who are almost more British than I am as far as their values are concerned. The worst thing we can do as a society is to demonise immigrants. By doing that, we are ensuring they will never properly integrate because we will have made them feel unwanted in a country that they are proud to call home.