This week saw the publication of Dame Louise Casey’s review into integration and community cohesion in the UK. Her 199-page report, commissioned by David Cameron when he was Prime Minister, has been widely praised. Former Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, Trevor Phillips, who has himself done a radical volte face on such issues, declared that “Casey speaks sense”. Allison Pearson in the Daily Telegraph commented: “Over the years it’s been amazing to watch the ethical knots enlightened people tie themselves in as they seek to justify appallingly sexist, misogynist or simply illegal behaviour, just so no one can accuse them of racism … any qualms about such charming imported customs mark you out as ‘Islamophobia’, a word that turns oppressors into victims.” Daily Mail reported that Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid, who was brought up as a Muslim, told the House of Commons that:
“Many of the findings ring true to me personally. I have seen for myself the enormous contributions immigrants and their families make to British life, all without giving up their unique cultural identities. But I have also seen with my own eyes the other side of the equation. For too long, too many people in this country have been living parallel lives, refusing to integrate and failing to embrace the shared values that make Britain great.”
The report’s diagnosis of the problem in many, though not all, respects mirrors what Barnabas Fund has been saying – and often been criticised for saying – for more than 20 years. In this regard the report reflects at least a partial sea change from the political culture which claimed that all religions and cultures are equally valid and refused to look at them critically. However, that sea change raises the very real question of: “What measure do we judge cultural and religious practices against?”
It is on that score that the Casey review falls down – and falls down badly. In fact, we have very real concerns that some of the solutions Casey proposes risk being almost as intolerant as some of the problems she is seeking to address. They may also undermine some of the UK’s historic freedoms, such as freedom of religion, which have developed over many centuries and spread across the world. We will address these in a more detailed comment next week.