A senior representative of the Muslim Council of Britain has said that white British people have a responsibility to integrate more to prevent communities becoming ghettoised.
His comments come in response to an official report warning that many of Britain’s towns and cities have been transformed “out of all recognition” by mass immigration.
The report, by the government’s community cohesion tsar Dame Louise Casey, warned that parts of British towns had been turned into ghettoes which successive governments have ignored “for fear of being branded racist or Islamophobic”, and which are creating “escalating divisions and tensions”.
But Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, has struck back, writing for The Guardian that Casey is wrong to blame Muslim communities. Instead, he said white flight and economic inequality were greater problems – and that white people ought to do more to tackle them.
“Her focus is primarily on Muslims: she does not provide any solutions for African Caribbean, Roma or Traveller communities, with no acknowledgement of Scotland and Northern Ireland’s history of integration challenges – from which we must learn,” he said of Casey’s report.
He added: “Worryingly, Casey often conflates Muslim with Asian communities, giving the false impression that all regressive cultural practices are based on the Islamic faith despite clear evidence to the contrary. While the report does recognise the huge levels of socio-economic deprivation, low educational attainment and discrimination some Muslims face, none of her recommendations tackle structural inequality.”
He asks: “Why does Casey say so little on how to tackle the fact that white British and Irish ethnic groups ‘are least likely to have ethnically mixed social networks’ – one of the key signs of integration.
“And why is there so little discussion about what to do about ‘white flight’ from the inner cities as one of the drivers of further segregation.”
Versi argues that more should be done to highlight the “extensive and positive contribution of migrants”, insisting that the focus on “migrant communities, and those of some Muslims in particular” – not the actions of those Muslims themselves – are the “real barriers to integration”.
He slams Casey in particular for “sensationalising” the rise in the number of British mosques (Casey says their growth in recent years has been “exponential”), while “underplaying the growth of the far right”.
And he criticises her for apparently claiming that “Christmas is a problem for Muslim communities”. However, although Casey did criticise local councils for “over worrying” about causing offence to minority groups through the celebration of Christmas, during a speech to council leaders, the issue doesn’t appear in her final report. Casey made it clear during her speech that such attitudes among council staff led directly to the abuse suffered by 1,400 girls in Rotherham.
“The council and police were in denial about what was happening in their town,” Casey said in her speech. “That was a tragic failure on so many levels, not least for the victims who weren’t heard or whose abuse could have been prevented.”
Versi isn’t the only prominent Muslim to have slammed the report. Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation think-tank, condemned it as “inflammatory, divisive, pandering to the agenda of the far-Right”.
He said: “We are saddened that once again British Muslims have become a political football which is bashed from time to time without any regard for the impact this has on individuals who are then subjected to threats and violence.”