Long Read: The Casey Review: it’s time to talk about othering

Dame Louise Casey was commissioned in 2015 by then Prime Minister, David Cameron, to conduct a review to consider what could be done to boost opportunity and integration in our most isolated and deprived communities. The review, informed by over 800 meetings and over 200 written submissions for evidence, criticises successive governments’ efforts to integrate ethnic and religious minorities in the UK and cautions of increasing levels of segregation and separation in a number of local areas. It calls for Government policy to move beyond ‘small scale’ projects which amount to ‘saris, samosas and steel drums for the already well intentioned’.

Key Findings
It is proposed that resolving problems of integration and eventually relieving pressure can only be achieved by ‘fully acknowledging what is happening’. The review then proceeds to highlight segregation in schools, English language barriers (especially concerning Muslim women) and conservative religious or cultural attitudes towards the role of women (‘regressive or harmful practices justified in the name of culture or religion’ must not be tolerated) as key barriers to integration. As a result, the review calls for government to take a more robust, focussed and smarter approach to integration. The report also proposes an ‘integration oath’ to encourage immigrants to embrace “British Values”. Since 2010, Casey claims cohesion policy has largely been ‘squeezed out’, with Government activity in this region falling ‘well below its stated ambition to do more than any other government before us to promote integration.’ With a total ‘churn’ of one million people entering and leaving the UK per annum, including a net figure of 333,000 remaining, the review cautions that even though these figures represent only 0.5% of the population, to many it can feel considerably greater than the statistics suggest. Over all it is argued that the ‘pace and scale of recent immigration’ is having an ‘unprecedented impact’ on communities and there is a desperate need to foster social cohesion at local community levels.

Driven by a want to address problems otherwise ‘ducked, swept under the carpet or allowed to fester’, the report acknowledges that ‘for some, the content of this review will be hard to read’ and ‘particularly [for] communities in which there are high concentrations of Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage’. It is clearly a product of a period where questions of Islam and immigration, liberalism, democracy and multiculturalism are dominating both the political debate and media rhetoric. The report, however, whilst reflective of the current mood – has perhaps missed an opportunity to offer progressive solutions to an age-old issue. History reveals Muslims are not unique in the sense of a minority group receiving popular and public scrutiny by the host nation and are simply the latest group of people over an extensive period of time to be portrayed as a monolithic minority bloc hostile to British values of sorts. In 1992 academics discussed societal conceptions of a formed ‘political blackness’ which was subsequently perceived as a cultural resistance to white hegemony (Hall, 1992). Earlier than that, scholars such as Daniel (1968) commented signs in shop windows in the 1950s and 1960s were as likely to say ‘No Irish’ as they were to say ‘No blacks’. Therefore, it is legitimate to question if minorities are subconsciously targeted and characterised throughout certain epochs in order to serve as a kind of potent symbol of binarism; an oppositional political, cultural ethnic and racial identity scrutinised and demonised by the home country so as to better understand itself and preserve its own identity, otherwise understood through the lens of identification through differentiation (Gillespie, 2007).

By focusing on Muslims, this report is limited to the “flavour of the day” so to speak, and whilst it raises significant issues it fails to sufficiently address the systematic shortfalls and ingrained cultural-barriers imposed upon immigrants which propel segregation and thwart integration. For example, it is a fact that Muslim women face the highest levels of workplace discrimination. Findings from a recent report by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK, evidenced that Muslim women face a triple penalty; impacting on their employment prospects. And whilst this fact is acknowledged by the Casey review, the report then proceeds to identify proficiency in English as the ‘strongest barrier’ to integration and economic success. Traditional family pressures, the role of mosques and limited English proficiency can indeed negatively impact Muslim women’s prospects and must be addressed. However, the review can be accused of side-stepping the ingrained mechanisms in place which prevent integration. It chooses to focus more on the weaknesses of migrant groups and centres less on issues such as the triple penalty, discrimination in the recruitment process and the impact of poverty which disproportionately affects the Muslim population.

The report also treats Muslim women as one homogenous group and so fails to engage with the nuances and complexities surrounding religion in relation to race, origin of birth, community and a multitude of other influencing factors. For example, a 2014 Joseph Rowntree Foundation report highlighted significant differences in economic inactivity rates for Muslim women from different ethnicities: Somali women, for instance, have an 87% labour market inactivity rate compared to 65% for Pakistani women. Trying to understand the differences between different groups of Muslims and offering positive examples of integration and labour market success would have been welcomed.

It must be noted that the report is, however, an important one in many ways. There are a number of key findings and valuable analyses which politicians should only ignore at their peril. The report evidences the existence of gender inequality especially within the labour market – which is unacceptable in modern Britain. The fact economic inactivity levels are particularly high among women from Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic groups, with 57.2% inactive in the labour market, is somewhat alarming and needs to be addressed. It is also concerning that women of all backgrounds are continuing to suffer barriers to economic independence. Domestic violence is also mentioned – and this is crucially important (p. 105). However, with 27.1% of women having experienced domestic abuse at one point since the age of 16, more than 1 in every 4 women (Domestic violence in England and Wales, Briefing Paper, 2016), more analysis of key drivers within the white community (domestic violence is primarily suffered by white women) would have been welcomed. Instead, the report chooses to focus on female genital mutilation. It is wholly unacceptable that FGM exists in the modern world, yet there is a feeling that victims of more prevalent and general forms of domestic violence may have felt somewhat overlooked and side-lined.

Whilst inter-minority issues such as FGM serve as barriers to integration the evidence suggests structural and cultural forces pose serious and significant barriers to integration. Focusing on the cultural, at a time when racial prejudice is on the rise (as evidenced by a 2013 NATCEN report), a conversation must be had about ‘Othering’ which, it is suggested, is ingrained in our social fabric (Phiri, 2015). Even today English football fans continue to chant anthems which reference the Second World War such as the infamous “Ten German Bombers”. It is surprising, then, that Othering is consistently overlooked in political discourse at the highest levels including in the Casey report and, perhaps, it is time a conversation is had about this issue.

The literature on Othering is vast and extensive. The likes of Steedman (1995) explored Otherness as a way of espousing nationalist sentiment, Rabinowitz (2001) looked at it in relation to conflict (Rabinowitz, 2001), and Bishop and Jworski (2003) through the lens of the logic of the mass media. This literature is not just theoretically informed but experimental research surrounding the self and social identity exists and there are clear links to what Gecas (1982) identified as a ‘self-esteem motive’. The reason why it is important to highlight this point is because Casey’s review can be seen to fit into this prevailing and historical narrative of Otherness. Now, more than ever, it is a time to be self-reflexive and self-critical, yet Casey’s report can be accused of falling into the trap of pointing the finger. Had the report been commissioned in 1995 when black people received similar levels of negative attention, albeit different, it would not be surprising if Muslims went unmentioned despite comprising around 2.5% of the population, more than double the amount of Muslims inhabiting the UK just 20 years prior (Kettani, 2010). After all, the 1970s and 80s and 90s are littered with studies of news outlets and dominant discourse outlining the ways in which black people were labelled as thief’s (Hall et al. 1978) and the embodiment of street violence (Holland 1981) in a period which saw the criminalization of a colour (Sumner 1982; Tumber 1982; Joshua et al. 1983; Burgess 1985). The work of Mercer (1994) and Hall (1997), for example, demonstrated that the notion of “blackness” frequently embodied different meanings so as to play on ideas of cultural difference. In accordance with this discourse, the likes of Enoch Powell (i.e. Rivers of Blood speech) and the Immigration and Repatriation Policy Committee consistently put forward serious proposals for the forced repatriation of 100,000 New Commonwealth immigrants each year from Britain during the 1980s.

In this moment, many have argued it is now the turn of the Muslims who have been identified and caricatured as a threat to the aforementioned values which underscore British identity. A study by Moore, Mason and Lewis (2008), located at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, found that around 66% of media coverage of Muslims focused on Muslims as a threat (in relation to terrorism), a problem (in terms of differences in values) or both (Muslim extremism in general) (2008, p. 3). During this period, stories centring on religious and cultural differences between Islam and Britain or the West increased to the extent that they formed 22% of coverage whilst reports about attacks on or problems facing Muslims steadily declined as a proportion of coverage (Ibid.,). This form of coverage has the potential to mislead public perceptions and foster uncertainty about peoples own society. It is unsurprising, then, that a recent Ipsos Mori study, The Perils of Perception (2016), revealed that the British public completely overestimate the numbers of Muslims in Britain. The average respondent surveyed thought that 1 in 6, or approximately 15% of Britons, are Muslim when there are in fact fewer than 1 in 20 (under 5%). The findings also revealed that Britons thought Muslims would form 20% of our population by 2020, yet experts at Pew Research Centre have projected just a 1% increase to 6%.

These gross misperceptions can foster hate, drive division and thwart integration as exemplified by a Home Office report, Hate Crime, England and Wales, 2015/16. According to the report, there were 3,886 such crimes logged in July 2015, and 5,468 in the month of July 2016 following the EU referendum. Any democratic society must hold to account those in power and influence, and the role and responsibility of our media must be questioned. Despite the complexities surrounding media-influence, Happer and Philo (2013) produced empirical evidence to highlight the media can play a central role in shaping public opinion. For example, their work on disability demonstrated a relationship between negative media coverage of people on disability benefit and hardening public attitudes towards them. It not just the rhetoric of mainstream media which must be scrutinized when discussing issues of integration but so to must our politicians. A number of British politicians were condemned by a UN committee, Elimination of Racial Discrimination, for their “Anti-immigrant” rhetoric during the EU referendum. With some 55,000 people reporting race-hate crime or religious hate crime between 2015 and 2016 (Home Office, 2016), our media and politicians – and their contribution to society – will be central to tackling the question of integration.

Here, it is proposed that the issue of Othering is worryingly absent in the integration clash royale hack 2017 ios debate despite the vast body of academic literature which exists on the topic. There is no doubting that some individuals or communities (albeit a minority) are “self-harming” in the sense that conservative cultural practices, for instance, can hinder a members capacity to integrate into society at large, but barriers to integration are still much deeper and more complex than swearing Oaths. The report, therefore, is significantly limited in that it chooses to predominantly focus on the actions of minority groups and more specifically British Muslims. It pays little heed to address social-structural mechanisms (like the triple penalty) which reinforce marginalisation and fails to acknowledge positive forms of integration entirely.

As a result, Casey has missed an opportunity to advance the debate which is essential if we are to formulate tangible solutions. We believe it is plausible that phenomenological exigencies such as Othering exist. This is a reductive worldview and places those of “different social categories” at the margins of society and Casey’s report can be accused of fitting into this narrative. Perhaps it is now time to advance the conversation. By taking a reflexive approach, through the lens of Othering, the conversation will, at a minimum, help us to more clearly understand ourselves as a society. The end goal is to work towards a more unified Britain and we can only achieve this by embarking upon a more comprehensive conversation which is as equally inward looking as it is outward.