Source: The Guardian
By Anthony Heath
Our research shows a strong inclination of first and second generation Britons to feel and act ‘British’
Fri 10 Aug 2012
There are three words MP Aidan Burley must want to forget: “leftie multicultural crap.” But it seems the rest of us can’t because we were in the throes of a British triumph, and even the cynics were filled with pride. As quickly as one of the Mary Poppins falling from the sky could say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious the outpouring from Downing Street came – “we do not agree”, “Burley has behaved in a manner which is offensive and foolish”, “Burley was completely wrong, an idiotic thing to say” – followed by voice after voice condemning him from every corner of our multicultural society.
But, was it not David Cameron who declared the failure of multiculturalism in the UK just last year in his speech at a security conference in Munich? No wonder he was so quick to distance himself from Burley – reopening this debate just as a multicultural triumph falls his way could be just a little uncomfortable.
And perhaps rightly so: a new report stands alongside the wave of British people rejecting Burley’s views, showing a rather different take on multiculturalism in the UK. Using the 2010 Ethnic Minority British Election Survey (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council) which questioned members of the UK’s five main minority groups – Indian (Hindu, Sikh and Muslim), Pakistani, Bangladeshi, black Caribbean and black African (Muslim and Christian) – it examines the alleged aspects of multiculturalism’s “failure”. These being: one, that multiculturalism has encouraged exclusion rather than inclusion, by siphoning minority communities away from the mainstream, and condemning them to live parallel lives. Two, that by living parallel lives minorities preserve their ethnic behaviours and values that run counter to broader society. And three, these separate communities provide fertile soil for radicalisation.
The report reveals that while some first generation minorities do tend to marry and mix within their own ethnic communities, they also mix within neighbourhoods and workplaces, showing a definite willingness to integrate. The second generation – those educated and raised here in Britain – show a further 27% shift towards integration, with greater social and workplace mixing, and a significant increase in marriages across community divides. Results show black groups especially have “little or no problem” contemplating marriage with white people. The notion that even the most inward looking minority is entrenched in a parallel society is a gross overstatement.
Data from the 2007 England and Wales citizenship survey reinforces these findings, showing 85% of white British people agreed to “fairly or very strongly feeling that they belong to Britain”, where 89% of both Indian and Pakistani, 87% of Bangladeshi and 84% of both black African and black Caribbean agreed. Worrying statistics?
Nor is there evidence to support claims that ethnic communities behave in ways that run counter to broader society’s values. The new report finds that all groups of ethnic minorities support the maintenance of their own ethnic customs and traditions, but they also show equally striking support for mixing and integrating: with positive feelings about the cultures of both origin and destination countries. The 2007 citizenship survey, meanwhile, reveals that the great majority of ethnic minorities and white British people feel “one can belong to Britain and maintain a separate/religious identity”.
Traditional gender roles in some minority communities are often spoken of as evidence of their parallel lives. The new report does find some support for this, but even in the first generation such attitudes are a minority preserve; indeed, the support is in line with the 14% of white British people who also favour the patriarchal model. It also shows that only one fifth of Muslims would support a proposal of sharia law in Britain. Yes, critics may worry it is this high, and we can’t deny that some support for separatism does exist, but similarly we can’t deny that some white British people support ethnic exclusionism. From these results it would seem the characterisation of minorities as living separate lives, rejecting British values and integration into British society is, to put it mildly, a slur on those British citizens.
And what of radicalisation? The debate is one where politicians focus their attention on Muslims – yes, the 7/7 bombings by home-grown Islamists were serious cause for concern. But this report shows that Muslims are no more willing to support violent protest, and are no more likely to reject integration into British society or a British identity, than any other group, including whites. It is in fact black groups, especially those of black Caribbean origin, who feel the most alienated and disaffected in British society; not Muslims. The other distinguishing characteristic of people who might be prepared to support violent protest – other than the experience of discrimination which is the number one contributor – is that they are young and male; a profile that almost certainly fits white British protesters too.
As we British fans fill those Olympic seats and cheer Team GB, it matters not whether those athletes are first generation, second generation, mixed race, or white. We support every one of them with pride and patriotic emotion. And each athlete is equally as proud to carry the union flag and sing the national anthem as any of their team-mates. As our Olympics ceremony told the world, we have a modern history – an inclusive one – which we are proud of. Perhaps we could say Britain is in fact a rather successful multicultural society.