Tuesday, June 28 2016

Government's new integration strategy

The Government’s long-awaited Integration Strategy was finally published on Tuesday.

Communities and Local Government Secretary, Ed Pickles, announced the launch of the policy paper guiding the Coalition’s approach to integration saying:
"We are rightly proud of our strong history of successful integration and the benefits that it's brought. Britain is a place where the vast majority of people from all walks of life get on well with each other. Events such as the Royal Wedding and the Big Lunch show that community spirit is thriving. I welcome the contribution of everyone but those who advocate separate lives are wrong. It is time to concentrate on the things that unite the British people."

The policy paper lists five key factors which it qualifies as contributing to integration:
Common ground
Social mobility
Participation and empowerment
Tackling intolerance and extremism
The publication of the strategy was covered in all the major newspapers. The Guardian headlined with the idea of ‘The Big Lunch’ and The Daily Telegraph with the expectation that immigrants should speak English and ‘champion British culture’. The Daily Mail meanwhile sees the strategy as a ‘pledge to end [an] era of multiculturalism’, whilst The Express similarly describes the strategy as bringing ‘down the curtain on state-sponsored multiculturalism’.

On the strategy, The Guardian states that “There is no wholesale rejection of multiculturalism and no mention of dropping Whitehall diversity targets.

“The strategy does say that in the past integration challenges have been met with legal rights and obligations around equalities, discrimination and hate crime and that this approach has not solved the problem and may, in some cases, have exacerbated it by singling out specific groups for special treatment.”

The Guardian also cites the comments of the Runnymede Trust on the strategy which describe it as "dangerous and ill-advised reversion to assimilationist policy". Its director, Dr Rob Berkeley, said it subsumed all the differences of ethnicity and heritage into a majoritarian "mainstream".

"The secretary of state appears to have completely misunderstood the problems we face in building a successful multi-ethnic society, and the solutions proposed as a result simply miss the point. This government has sought to make fairness its catchword; this strategy does nothing to turn such rhetoric into reality," he said.”

The Strategy refers several times to the issues of faith including interfaith and faith-based hate crimes. It states government support for a “community-led initiative to improve the reporting of anti-Muslim hate crime and the support offered to victims of such crimes, building on the work of the Community Security Trust (CST) on reporting of antisemitic hate crime. This builds on work in many local areas to improve reporting and monitoring of hate crime. “
On the issue of anti-Muslim hate crimes, it states that the government is taking steps to establish “a working group on anti-Muslim hate crime, made up of senior civil servants, academics and members of the British Muslim community, to review and recommend responses to anti-Muslim hate crime.”
It will be interesting to see who is placed on this working group. The government has tended to co-opt and arbitrarily selected individuals and groups from within the Muslim community who often do not possess the expertise, nor do they represent the community or carry the community credentials which lend them legitimacy. Moreover, this tendency extends to the appointment often of docile figures who can be relied on not to criticise government policy when criticism is due.
The full strategy is available to read here.

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