The Louise Casey review of the state of integration within communities in the United Kingdom may well be launched soon and in the coming months. The Government’s Integration Czar, she has taken a measured, yet honest view based on hard evidence of what is impacting on communities in the United Kingdom.
Some of the focus of the report will be on barriers to employment and cultural practices that hold back women from employment. Evidence over the last decade has shown that Pakistani and Bangladeshi women do suffer significant barriers to employment, yet anyone who knows Dame Louise Casey will know that she will not pull any punches on forensically looking at areas that may also be sensitive and she is right in doing so. Cultural and gender identified roles do not have a part to play in modern society and neither should religion be used to hold back the social, mental and emotional development of women within communities.
The review will also look at areas of extremism and immigration and changes at local levels in communities. Casey’s work has extended over a year now and was first initiated by the previous Prime Minister. With decades of experience on working on anti-social behaviour and child safeguarding, she is best placed to have led this work and to have some honest discussions about immigration when the report is launched. Granted these discussions will not be easy, but they have to happen if we are to reduce barriers between communities and to take the oxygen out of extremist groups using this topic to recruit predominantly vulnerable young men.
There are findings which will shape how this Government moves ahead on extremism in the future. Islamist groups who continue to build barriers between statutory agencies, including the Government, will be highlighted. The narrative of ‘them and us’ which has gone unchallenged for far too long, may well be highlighted and if so, it is essential so that young people are not fed half-truths and downright lies that the Government ‘spies’ on Muslims because they are Muslims. This simply exacerbates fractures in communities and ensures that Muslims never reach their full earning or social potential as they withdraw into a world of conspiracy theories.
Equally, by looking at issues like immigration, we hope that the Casey review will be able to start a discussion which means that extremist far right groups can have the oxygen on which they fuel their activities, taken away from them.
We need a new momentum in the coming Parliament, one which is realistic around integration and extremism and there are links across these areas. Those who suggest that they are not, are deluding themselves.
What we also need is less of a focus on supporting integration by the ‘kumbaya politics’ of interfaith work that is promoted by some organisations and with pictures and soundbites doing nothing more than feeding the egos of the leaders of some interfaith groups. We need substantive hard discussions if we are to fill the real vaccum that has developed around integration for some communities.