“Integration is not a two-way street, but a slip road onto the motorway” Dame Louise Casey at a seminar in Brussels, 16 May 2018
In 2015, David Cameron commissioned a review of “opportunity and integration” in the UK from a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Dame Louise Casey. It was published on 16 December 2016. She had recently completed a report on the role of the Rotherham Council in dealing with sexual abuse. A one-woman antidote to the Sir Humphrey stereotype in Yes Minister, she told a disturbing story. The Louise Casey Review provided a powerful mixture of illuminating statistical data giving insights into inequalities and the impact of immigration on host communities. She revealed, as in her Rotherham Report, an official failure to confront acute problems concealed beneath the emollient rhetoric of multiculturalism. The language of her Integration Review shared the same refreshing directness and objectivity.
The Review drew criticism from both Left and Right despite the vast majority of it being an impressive collation of detailed empirical data about different ethnic groups, their demography, opportunities and attainments. Muslim communities expressed concerns at what they saw as an excessive focus on them. But in many instances there was little evidence that critics had read the Review in full. It was as if in a world of fake news public opinion had ceased to be interested in facts and could not countenance straight talking. David Cameron supported her conclusions but was soon to depart after the catastrophe of the Brexit referendum.
In this climate the Review was put in the “too-difficult-to-handle-at-the-moment” file by the government of Theresa May even though Dame Louise was asked by the Foreign Office to visit France, Spain, Italy and Germany to share her approach with government officials. Finally the Review re- emerged in etiolated form within an Integrated Communities Strategy Green Paper in March 2018 with a consultation period ending on 4 June. The Green Paper was on the whole a skilfully drafted mixture of aspiration plus motherhood and apple pie, with one or two of the Casey Review policy recommendations taken up. For example there was a strong emphasis on the integrative role of sport and the importance of English language teaching. Few of these good intentions were backed up by new money. Spending on English language teaching for immigrants, for example, had been cut by half since 2009, so a promised £50 million would only return provision to where it was a decade ago. This was the context in which the Las Casas Institute, Oxford,and St. Mary’s University, London, invited Dame Louise Casey to speak at COMECE in Brussels to EU officials, MEPs and NGOs on May 16.
COMECE is the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Union, 28 countries in all, though Sweden, Denmark and Finland share a representative (the UK sent two, one from Scotland and one from England and Wales). The secretariat monitors issues of interest to the Catholic Church arising in the EU, dialogues with its constituent bodies, and does research to inform the bishops’ conferences of contemporary moral issues emerging from EU’s political processes.
In her presentation Dame Louise emphasised that immigration and integration should not be conflated. She described how a young Muslim woman had casually introduced herself as ‘third-generation Pakistani’ and reflected how it would never have occurred to her to introduce herself as third-generation Irish. Her emphasis on gender discrimination came from solid and startling statistical data. For example 61% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are economically inactive compared with a national average of 26% and are twice as likely as their husbands to speak poor English.
Economic inequalities are revealed by employment figures. People from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black ethnic groups are three times more likely to be unemployed than people from white groups. 35% of young black men growing up in UK are unemployed. Disadvantage is not limited to the UK’s ethnic minorities. Only a third of children from poor white British families, indicated by being on free school meals, achieved 5 GCSEs or more compared to two thirds from better off families.
Her second telling phrase about Muslim communities was “first generation in every generation”. Traditional marriage patterns mean that there are very few mixed heritage marriages in Muslim communities because young brides are brought from the Asian sub-continent in arranged marriages. Overall British Muslims are younger in profile and much more religious than any other group in society.
Incoming communities during the last half century have settled in a dispersed and segregated way in the sense of discrete clusters in particular cities and parts of them. So some boroughs and wards have experienced considerable changes within a short space of time. For example in one ward in Sheffield there are some 6,000 Roma residents; but only 21% of their children were attending school. Given the age profiles of other immigrant populations, schools are first to experience changing demographic trends with sometimes sudden increases in children entering with negligible English and considerable impact on host communities.
The point Dame Louise emphasised here is that there is nothing new about immigration, nor, as she didn’t say but clearly recognised, anything new about alarm in host communities during the period before new arrivals successfully integrate. Net immigration is not a very helpful figure for gauging the likely impact of immigration as there is a “churn”, coming and going, of – in 2015 – a million people, giving a net figure of 333,000. This tells you nothing about how many are arriving, where they come from or where they are settling. To allay alarm in host communities there was an urgent need for creative policies for integration, flexible enough to cater for the diversity of groups and locations involved and their different needs. Or in the words of Pope Francis, policies “that placed the human person at the heart of Europe”.
The reciprocal obligation between immigrant and host community that Pope Francis talks about is for the host community to welcome and allow immigrants into the inside lane on the motorway. The obligation on the immigrant community is to join the flow and direction of travel of the traffic. Not a perfect metaphor, not one that all will agree with, but one that clearly defines, for debate about policy making, the nature of the reciprocity at play in what it one of the major ethical and political questions facing Europe.
As I got out of Liverpool Street station in London a few days later, about ten young black men, violinists, were playing classical music, surrounded by a sizeable crowd of appreciative onlookers. I had been talking that day in Peterborough to a young Muslim woman, born in Lahore, wearing a hijab and fasting for Ramadan. She brimmed with self-confidence and the wisdom of someone many years older, and had just applied from St. John Fisher, a Catholic School, to LSE to study philosophy and politics in London. If that isn’t entering the motorway in top gear, I don’t know what is.
On 21 March 1960, a crowd of about 3,000 black South Africans gathered outside a police station in the township of Sharpeville, south of Soweto. They had come to protest against the pass laws and pass book which severely, and humiliatingly, restricted their freedom of movement. After a scuffle broke out and stones were thrown, the police opened fire, killing 69 people and wounding some 180 others. Amongst the dead were children and people shot in the back.
Sharpeville was a turning point in international reaction to apartheid and led to South Africa’s expulsion from the Commonwealth a year later. But now try this: Sharpeville was a deliberate provocation by the Pan African Congress (PAC) who organised the demonstration and who cared nothing for the possible bloodshed. The 300 or so police were defending the fence around the police station and had every right to uphold law and order and protect themselves. They did their best to minimise civilian casualties in self-defence. The South African State had every right to defend its citizens and its integrity against unruly threatening demonstrators.
I’ve elaborated somewhat to capture the key themes of the oft-repeated refrain. But, yes, if you find it convincing, you’d believe anything. And the apartheid regime was not believed.
There are reasons not to compare Sharpeville with the killing of some 58 Palestinians and the wounding of over one thousand protesting at the border fence separating Gaza from Israel on Monday 14 May. The circumstances were different: a conscript army did the killing not the police; the soldiers were on the receiving end of Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices; the fence was a protective border and not a police perimeter, and, probably, a handful of armed men were using the mayhem as cover. But, like Sharpeville, the vast majority of protesters were unarmed civilians brought to their emotional limits by restriction of their freedom, humiliation, deprivation, and lack of control over their lives. Yet the killings in Gaza will not be a turning point in international relations with Israel.
And there are other differences between the Sharpeville and Gaza massacres: the PAC bore little resemblance to Hamas, and the Gaza protests had been ongoing since the end of March involving tens of thousands of people. But this does not make the Israeli State’s explanation for the 14 May killings more credible. The bombastic response, appeals to self-defence, protecting sovereignty and citizens, seems like the last gasps of a quest for legitimacy in a body politic where the oxygen of moral concern has run out.
This should not frame Israel as a solitary moral pariah from the rest of the international community. The refrain is far too common for that. The USA has just appointed a “penitent” exponent of torture as the head of the CIA. Its political leadership cannot really be said to lie because, like Netanyahu, Sisi, Putin, and Erdogan it seems to have lost any firm grasp on the concept of truth. Does anybody care anymore when accounts of the causes of events occupy the realm of fantasy?
Another strong reason for not talking about Sharpeville in the same breath as Gaza is that accusations of antisemitism will not be long in coming. Yet who benefits from such conflation of condemnation of the actions of the Israeli State with antisemitism? Not the thousands of Jews in Israel and around the world who deplore how the moral core of the Zionist vision is being hollowed out by Israel’s contemporary politicians. Not those who care about the rich spirituality of Judaism bequeathed to Christianity and Islam, and see it being overlain by a preoccupation with the Israel-Palestine conflict in the public life of Boards of Jewish Deputies and comparable bodies in Europe.
To continue the comparison – which is admittedly anathema to the Israeli government: did young black radicals under apartheid also fail to distinguish between government and people? Yes, sometimes. There was some excuse. During the worst years of the 1980s, apartheid South Africa relied on a conscript army and on retaining the popular vote. So does the Israeli government. When bad things happened you would hear people telling for example how “the Boers had killed a child in Soweto”, but you would also hear in more reflective moments “the System” being blamed.
Sharpeville galvanised international reaction to apartheid, and led to South Africa’s expulsion from the Commonwealth a year later. The Gaza massacre has resulted merely in widespread “concern”, a call by the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (IOC) for a protection force for the Palestinian territories, and a UN Human Rights Council investigation already discounted by the Israeli government. Sound and fury signifying not a great deal.
This will not be a turning point in resolving the conflict. There will be no new exclusion, no sanctions imposed, no initiative by the Israeli government to calm the situation, no attempt to negotiate seriously. On the contrary, with the opposite of restraint being modelled by the White House, the situation will get worse.
The Jesuit liberation theologian, Jon Sobrino, called El Salvador in the 1980s “a Crucified People”. The description fits the Palestinian people in their homeland today. Avraham Shalom, who was head of the Israeli secret service, Shin Bet, in the 1980s, ended an interview in the remarkable 2012 film, The Gatekeepers, by saying sadly that he had warned occupation “would make us cruel”. The now routine authorisation for live ammunition fire on protesters by the Israeli Defence Forces starkly bears out his warning.
During his recent visit to Poland, Cardinal Vincent Nichols spoke of the Church in a secular and multi-faith world needing “to reach out and construct a dialogue on arguments about society’s Common Good”. Wise counsel. That dialogue is currently not led by bishops, imams, rabbis and priests, religious leadership, but takes place in the adversarial context of the court room. By default it falls to the judiciary to shape these arguments while interpreting law and legislation. A good example is Lord Justice Singh’s recent ruling on the Cab-Rank policy of the Inner North London Senior Coroner for burials.
“What on its face looks like a general policy which applies to everyone equally may in fact have an unequal impact on a minority”, he pointed out. “In other words”, Lord Justice Singh continued, “to treat everyone in the same way is not necessarily to treat them equally. Uniformity is not the same thing as equality”.
His ruling in the High Court was the outcome of a dispute between the coroner, reacting to what she saw as bullying, and Muslim, Orthodox and Haredi Jewish communities. These communities sought burial in the shortest time possible, ideally within 24 hours, out of respect for the dead, k’vod hamet. Stamford Hill, in Hackney where I live is home for some 25,000 Haredi Jews. Muslims share this burial tradition and were delighted at the ruling. A third of the population of Tower Hamlets are Muslims of Bangladeshi origin, numbering some 82,000.
I first encountered the forensic legal style of Rabinder Singh in 2002 when, as a QC in Matrix Chambers, he was acting in the High Court for CND, challenging the legality of going to war with Iraq without a second UN resolution. In a public talk he demonstrated the way in which Chapter One of the UN Charter, “Purposes and Principles”, provided a key to interpreting the Articles on war and military intervention. It was a master-class in constructing reasoned advocacy. It had a compelling logic. He lost the case.
A week or so ago, he was deploying his insights on an important question of religious freedom and discrimination against religious minorities. His ruling is important, not simply because those grieving were particularly liable to experience additional distress from the Coroner’s insistence that they wait in line, but because it provides a simple, but often ignored, insight into equal rights. A religious identity can require accommodation: tolerance of occasional exceptions to a general rule, and sometimes special provisions, just as one based on sexual orientation (think of the legislation on civil partnerships). The simple fact is that everyone waiting to bury a loved one will be distressed by delay, but Muslims and Jews will also experience delay as a painful frustration of their religious duty.
But not all religious freedom cases can be dispatched so clearly and vigorously. It seems a big jump to move from the solemn context of accommodating different religious interpretations of respect for the dead, and the funeral needs of religious communities, to a bakery in Belfast and a dispute over a cake.
Judges of the Supreme Court are not in the habit of sitting in Northern Ireland. But the bakery dispute has passed up the court system and, because of the importance of the legal principles involved, and the complexity of devolution, demands this level of attention. The case pits a bakery with committed Christian owners against a campaigning gay minority. In 2014 the respondent, Mr. Gareth Lee, ordered a cake with the message “Support Gay Marriage” on it - gay marriage was unlawful in Northern Ireland. Mr Lee was at the time associated with QueerSpace, a Northern Ireland LGBT organisation; the cake was for an International Day against Homophobia.
Mr. Lee wanted to buy his cake from Ashers bakery, was refused, and claimed discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation under the 2006 Equality Act. He twice won his case in lower courts. The Supreme Court is now being asked to decide whether the lower courts’ decisions that Mr. Lee was discriminated against under the Act is correct. Or whether the appellant, a Christian baker, is within his rights to refuse to put words on a cake which contradict his own conscientiously held religious beliefs, whether his right to religious freedom permits a refusal to sell a cake carrying such a message.
Equality law aims to protect people from discrimination on grounds of sex, race, religion and sexual orientation. Its protection would, theoretically, apply to a Christian customer whose order to create a cake with “Reject Gay Marriage” on it was refused by a gay baker because they were Christian Two of the identity categories protected in the Act have come into conflict. Which prevails? The rights of the gay customer, i.e. sexual orientation, or the rights of the baker, religion? We won’t know the answer for many months.
Not being a lawyer, I am susceptible to simple ways of looking at such disputes. Do Lord Justice Singh’s words on “unequal impact” help? Is the human dignity of the gay litigant adversely affected by this particular refusal of service? It could be. It depends on whether the man or the message was being denied. But not remotely to the degree a gay couple might feel on being refused a double room in commercial accommodation, a similar recent case. The cake was essentially a campaign tool and the commercial transaction was to buy it for an event in County Down.
The words requested on the cake, the words of the respondent, are an unusual form of utterance. But the baker was being obliged to utter them, or risk a fine. Is being obliged to utter a slogan you are conscientiously and religiously opposed to on pain of civil liability, compelled speech or expression in legal terms, very distressing? I would have thought so.
Amongst its important functions, the law plays an important role in defining ethical behaviour both by the State and by individuals. By applying the law in actual cases, the judiciary today defines the legal and ethical demands of living in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society. In this situation there is a danger that campaigning organisations will use the judicial process for gaining publicity rather than clarifying complex legal issues, or, indeed, representing the position of their wider communities and leaders.
This becomes more serious when, beyond presenting generalities, religious leaders seem to have partially vacated the space and provide decreasing guidance in the public domain when ethical issues have a political dimension. Have there been pastoral letters on the application of Christian values to immigration occasioned by the Windrush scandal, in other words taking advantage of a time when the public might be paying attention to an ethical argument? Yet, the Church has an outstanding record on the matter.
Why does it take a thoughtful Judge to offer instructive pointers to thinking about problems arising from claims involving religious freedom. If Faith and Reason are, as Pope Benedict underlined, allies not enemies for Christians, where is the reasoning about the big contested issues of the day, immigration and religious freedom? And when the argument about gay marriage has been/is conducted largely as a conversation about human rights and human dignity why do bishops not engage on this ground? For example, by making the kind of basic distinctions about equality that Lord Singh makes and applying them.