In their 1963 book Beyond the Melting Pot Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Nathan Glazer cautioned Americans that ethnicity is a stubborn thing and that integration between people of different origins was going to be far from smooth or automatic.
The government’s newly released Casey Review into integration and diversity seems to reinforce what Moynihan and Glazer warned about all those decades ago. Indeed, the Casey Review would seem to suggest that if anything things are going backwards on the integration front.
This is bad news for Britain’s Jews. In recent years, the rise of both the racist far right and violent Islamist factions have served as a reminder of what is at stake if the process of integration goes wrong.
Days before the government released its review into integration an ICM poll exploring British Muslim public opinion was published by the think tank Policy Exchange.
The findings from that polling reiterates many of the points hinted at in the Casey Review. It gives a snapshot of a Britain where many Muslims seem to experience a certain ambivalence about their position in this country.
On the one hand most British Muslims express a strong sense of attachment to the UK and say that they feel free to practice their religion here.
And yet at the same time the polling for both Policy Exchange and the Casey Review acknowledge a growing sense of grievance among some British Muslims, as well as a sense of their community–and Muslims worldwide–being under threat from persecution.
As the Casey Review indicates, parts of Britain are becoming increasingly segregated along religious, ethnic and sectarian lines. In that atmosphere it is unsurprising that community relations may become fraught at times.
For instance, the government’s own review recognised that during events such as the Israel-Gaza conflict there has been a spike in anti-Semitic attacks.
There is no doubt that when communities become insular and cut off from one another it becomes easier for extremists to promote hostility and feverish resentments. The Molenbeek neighbourhood of Brussels that served as an important recruiting ground and centre of operations for ISIS serves as the most dangerous example of where this can lead.
Britain now risks having its own Molenbeeks in the form of marginalised neighbourhoods and communities partially cut off from mainstream British life.
The Casey Review acknowledges that in the most recent census Blackburn, Birmingham, Burnley and Bradford all had wards where the Muslim population was between 70-85 percent. Equally, there are large parts of rural Britain where ethnic minorities appear entirely absent.
For many people, the experience of living in modern Britain is hardly one of diversity, but rather that of informal segregation. Under such circumstances it’s all too possible for people in different communities to start imaging all sorts of sinister things about one another.
One troubling incarnation of this appeared in the polling for Policy Exchange which suggested the prevalence of conspiracy theories within Muslim communities, some of which take on anti-Semitic dimensions. The polling gave the example of the favourite subject for conspiracies; the 9/11 attacks.
According to that survey 7 percent of British Muslims believe that Jews were behind the attacks on the World Trade Centre. But then, no less shocking was the finding that 31 percent claimed to believe that the American government was actually responsible for these atrocities against its own people.
In all, only 4 percent agreed that al-Qaeda actually bore responsibility for the attacks. The anti-Semitism apparent here should not surprise anyone given the attitudes that came to light in an ICM poll from 2015. That polling for Channel 4 threw up findings showing that 48 percent of Muslims polled said that Jews have too much power in the business world, 39 percent said Jews have too much power over the media and 26 percent said Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.
At the same time, the belief held by so many that the US government engineered 9/11 makes the work of extremist recruiters so much easier, given that Islamist ideology places the mendacity of America at the heart of its anti-Western worldview.
What is almost unfathomable is that the vast majority of British Muslims in the poll were prepared to exonerate al-Qaeda and Bin Laden and instead place the blame for 9/11 elsewhere. It appears indicative of an attitude that refuses to accept wrongdoing on the part of even the extremists within the Islamic faith, instead framing the West as responsible for all that is bad in the world and of colluding with Israel and the Jews to persecute Muslims.
This, of course, is the very message that extremist clerics use when seeking radicalise those they believe to be susceptible.
What both the Casey Review and the latest ICM polling indicate is that Britain still lacks a viable strategy for integration. Given that we have also just had the publication of stats showing record levels of immigration into the UK, it is quite concievable that the current problem of a fractured Britain will only continue to worsen.
The government’s continuing failure to implement integration effectively will mean more opportunities for extremists to promote their ideology and more fuel for those seeking to stoke an anti-immigrant backlash.