Speaking at the Communities and Local Government Committee today, Dame Louise Casey made the case for the findings of her review into opportunity and integration which took over 14 months to complete.
Speaking with a sense of purpose, Casey suggested that “integration was not a two way street”, and that in fact she saw it much like a motorway moving in a specific direction with smaller feeder routes joining the main motorway. She said that whilst some accommodation needed to be made by drivers in the middle of the road, significant adjustments had to be made by the cars joining the motorway and therefore integration was not a ‘two way street’. This was further explained by her belief that new communities needed basic support in understanding the normative customs of the country and they required basic items of information such as when to put out bins, how to queue and how to be courteous to one another. She made these responses to questions put to her at the Committee by Bethnal Green and Bow MP, Rushnara Ali.
There were a number of areas that also highlighted the difficult nature of the work undertaken by Casey. She highlighted deep generational and gender based divides in faith communities and in particular singled out the Glasgow mosque for issues. She also added that her report had made clear that British Muslim women of Pakistani heritage were significantly disadvantaged and whilst deprivation and other issues played a role, she could not rule out that misogyny and gender based prejudices had held some of these women back. She added,
“My job is to hold a mirror up and report on things, whether some like it or not.”
Another area that came under her spotlight was the issue of conservative religiousity. This she regarded as sometimes being a cover for actions that went against equalities and her comments highlighted her desire to reduce the space for religious conservatism when it impacted on the lives of others within public institutions.
Furthermore, Casey also highlighted how far right and Islamist extremism were areas of threat to integration and cohesion. The latter fed the narratives of the former, though she also stated that whilst local authorities were able to challenge and tackle far right narratives and groups, they were ill-equipped and sometimes unable to speak out against Islamist narratives.
Speaking on her comments, the Director of Faith Matters, Fiyaz Mughal Said:
“Dame Louise Casey’s comments will no doubt, continue to promote debate and discussion on issues of integration and if there is one thing that comes across, it is that a real and tangible integration strategy is needed, instead of the tea, samosa and steel band narrative that has been pushed around for so long.
“What is also a fact, is that Casey and her team worked long and hard taking evidence from hundreds of sources for the review. It cannot simply be dismissed and there are some serious issues that need to be discussed. Gender targeted barriers within some faith institutions, values that are so far from the norm of society and which are dressed up as religious conservatism need to be tackled. Furthermore, we have to seriously listen to her advice on integration being a concept where new and settled communities have to accommodate more to normative values of wider society.
“These are all challenging concepts where work will be required. Like it or not, Casey has brought a much needed debate on integration that no other Government touched. If it helps to ensure gender equality in core faith institutions such as in governance, then I warmly welcome these debates.”