Monday, May 20th 2019
Britain’s communities are living a series of parallel lives because of segregation on ethnic lines, according to a report into last summer’s race riots.
The Times newspaper today said the report criticised a lack of honesty in the debate over race.
It warned that segregation and the lack of contact between racial communities can fuel ignorance which turns to fear if exploited by extremists.
Ted Cantle, the author of the report, as chairman of the Community Cohesion Review Team, was charged with analysing the causes of disturbances across the north of England last year.
He visited the scenes of riots in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford as well as touring Southall, West London, Birmingham, Leicester and Sheffield.
The riots injured more than 100 people and caused millions of pounds worth of damage.
Mr Cantle, the former chief executive of Nottingham Council, called for a national debate on a shared British identity.
The report highlighted separate education, communal and voluntary organisations, employment, places of worship and cultural activities.
It said: “Whilst the physical segregation of housing estates and inner city areas came as no surprise, the team was particularly struck by the depth of polarisation in our towns and cities.
“The extent to which this physical division was compounded by so many other aspects of our daily lives was very evident.”
It added: “This means that many communities operate on the basis of a series of parallel lives.”
On the issue of honesty in the race debate, it said: “The failure to communicate is compounded by the lack of honest and robust debate as people tiptoe around the sensitive issue of race, religion and culture.”
Details of the report come after Home Secretary David Blunkett infuriated race campaigners by saying immigrants had a duty to ensure their children and grandchildren grew up with a British identity.
Prime Minister Tony Blair last night backed the controversial comments – even though they were also championed by the British National Party.
On the eve of the race riot report, Downing Street said Mr Blunkett was “perfectly right” to open up a debate about immigration and naturalisation.
The far-right BNP earlier said they would be using the Home Secretary’s comments for their electoral campaigning literature, confirming concerns from senior black and Asian figures that he was playing into the hands of racists.
Mr Blunkett also held open the prospect of compulsory English lessons for new migrants and said practices such as forced marriage and female circumcision should be rejected as “unacceptable” when he spoke out on Sunday.
Shahid Malik, a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee and the Commission for Racial Equality, has said he would be seeking a meeting with Mr Blunkett to clarify his “disturbing” remarks.
Rhiad Ahmad, deputy mayor of riot-hit Oldham, said Mr Blunkett’s comments would “play into the hands” of the BNP.
Mohammed Sarwar, the Labour MP for Glasgow Govan, said Mr Blunkett could have chosen his words “a bit more carefully”.
And Transport and General Workers Union general secretary Bill Morris said: “For the moment I say to our Home Secretary, ‘please just calm down, you’ve got a lot of friends, don’t make any enemies’.”
Further parts of the report, highlighted in The Guardian newspaper, addressed the issue of single faith schools.
It said: “A significant problem is posed by existing and future mono-cultural schools, which can add to separation of communities.”
The emphasis of faith schools should be changed so that all schools promote and foster an understanding of other cultures.
Both independent and state sector faith schools should open a minimum of 25% of places to other or non-faith students.
The report criticises the police for constantly cutting community policing initiatives and for tolerating virtual no-go areas in respect of tackling drugs.
It claims women and girls in ethnic minority communities suffer discrimination.
Mr Cantle said the communities in the three towns were living “parallel lives” which were easily exploited.
“I was aware of course that people live in separate areas, for quite legitimate reasons,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“But when separation, physical separation of housing is compounded by a complete lack of contact through education, through social and cultural networks, through any other contact at all, then it does become a complete and absolute separation, parallel lives, no contact with one community to another.
“That obviously gives the opportunity to lead to fear and ignorance of each other’s communities which can be easily exploited.”
Mr Cantle said the review team was not just concerned about faith-based schools but monocultural schools – all white, for example – and there were things that Government could do to overcome that separation.
He said the reports recommended there should be a limit to the number of pupils from any one faith in any new or existing faith school.
“This is about changing the white community as well as the black and Asian community,” Mr Cantle added.
He said there were 67 recommendations covering housing, political leadership, education, youth and leisure facilities.
“We’re suggesting we do need a much more open national debate to discuss the sorts of values in a multicultural society, we’ve never really had an open honest debate about it.”
He said there was a lot of anxiety about discussing these issues openly among people his team spoke to in the three towns.
“We then need to establish the clear principles of a diverse community, and that does mean that the white community has to embrace multicultural society.”
The changes had to be embraced by the black and Asian communities as well.
Commenting on Mr Blunkett’s controversial remarks about ethnic minorities earlier this week, shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin told Today: “What we want to have in Britain is a diverse, open, tolerant, liberal society.
“But if we’re going to have that, and if we’re going to ally it to harmony, then we need an element of unity, in the sense that we need a common allegiance.
“I think it’s reasonable that when people come to the UK and seek naturalisation, to become UK citizens as happened in my own family, they should feel allegiance to the state.
“We need to have every tolerance for other languages, other ways of behaving in society as well.”
Mr Letwin added it was unfortunate that the far-right BNP had championed Mr Blunkett’s remarks.
“It’s not my natural position to defend him, but I have to say David Blunkett is not an extremist, he is trying to build, as I am trying to build, a society which is open and diverse, and a society which is harmonious.