The much awaited Casey Review published on Monday 5th December has already been dubbed by some as ‘white-washing’ whilst others have praised it ‘excellent.’ Whichever way it went, it was always bound to ignite passionate debate; for it would ask difficult questions and that reviews of this kind are seldom completely free of political or ideological bias, even if unconscious. Not least, too, this was always going to be a subjective review; its one lady and her teams’ perspective and intellectual proficiency to cut through the complexities of society using interview technique (even if over 800 interviews and written submissions were conducted). Already, the battle lines between the left and right media have been drawn, which will taint or exonerate the Review as appropriate. Here are a few take outs.
Many of the diversifying trends that Casey identifies are actually being faced by countries globally and are not specific to the UK – reflecting the impact of new technologies, globalisation and immigration policies in support of such things like the post-colonial, post-war transition. Some of it is natural to how human societies have always developed culturally since the semi-permanent village of the late Stone Age. The composition of the UK’s Anglo-Saxon-Celt history is itself a good example. And the fact that British society is becoming more secular is hardly new insight.
Some of the trends that Casey focuses on do seem somewhat outdated perception or they lack rigorous demographic segmentation. For example, it is well known that the third generation Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants are less interested to go back to their ancestral origins to find a spouse compared to earlier generations. But the lack of segmentation means that the transitory, intergenerational nature of social attitudes aren’t reflected, giving erroneous conclusions like, as Casey stated, a ‘first generation in every generation’ phenomenon.’ Yet we know when it comes to understanding social attitudes demographic segmentation is king.
Sometimes, the lack of segmentation can be at least partially offset by a rigorously-thought-out structure. But, that’s not quite there in parts of the Review either. Discussions on immigration aren’t broken out into different periods, for example. It is somewhat sloppy to lump the post enlarged-EU migration with the post-war migration from South Asia in the same breath. Yet we know, they bring different challenges and are borne out of different political environments, all of which require different policy treatments. One cannot help notice, too, the pattern repeated in many sections of the Review that seems to cleverly leave the reader with the impression that it’s a case of the ‘trouble with Muslim communities,’ whilst wrapping it up with some broader observations.
The language used at times is also quite loose; in one place somewhat lazily suggesting ‘too many cases…’ and not substantiating it with any quantitative study. And generally, the problem statement has not been properly scoped out at the beginning, so from the outset you don’t actually know what was in or out of scope. On that note, one other glaringly obvious omission is the lack of review on working-class white communities. This is a segment of our society that, as the Brexit vote has indicated, feels hugely marginalised, which, quite frankly, is to be expected due to the known socio-economic and structural impacts of post-industrial conditions. But, as yet they’ve not yet been addressed by any political party, surprisingly.
Whilst these aren’t the only weaknesses in Casey’s Review, it would be wrong to dismiss it entirely, however. The tendency to go with the flow of the left media in its ideological tussle with the right is one that requires temperance, and originality to come forward with compelling policies and narratives. If we claim that it’s about Muslim communities, and that faith (Islam, iman, ihsan) is meant to be important, then surely it’s also a chance to own the centre ground of that space through an understanding of wisdoms that Islam itself offers?
Hence, it’s worth reading the Review dispassionately, to see that it does highlight many useful matter-of-fact stats about our communities and things that do need to be discussed in a mature erudite way and policies formed. Fears about immigration that some have, for example – how do we reconcile this with being descendents of immigrants ourselves, the Prophetic example of having self-less tolerance and in light of Brexit? The Review also highlights pockets of comparatively low levels of educational attainment and employment. Here, what more can we do to support and nurture our young to aspire and achieve more? Do we, for example, have role models and mentoring programmes in place? The fact that hate crime has increased 19% on last year is another good callout in the Review. But how do we engage this space for ourselves? Is it a question of simply reporting to MEND and Tell MAMA and thinking that our job is done? What about reaching out to those who might hate us in a way that tries to win their hearts and minds? What lessons are there for us when we learn that the Prophet was someone in whose presence even his enemies felt more secure? And, there are as yet difficult discussions on approaches to sexuality, honour-based crimes, clothing, access to female education, etiquette of speaking English when around others, the role of our mosques and institutes etc. that Muslim communities do need to take a more institutional approach to.
Casey also makes some good recommendations about the need for additional funding, using data in promoting integration and finding best practices, as well as developing approaches for overcoming cultural barriers to employment etc. These are reasonable recommendations that if implemented properly will help with a more successful integration and well-being of communities.
Whilst this Review will be debated intensely, the real challenge is of course translating the recommendations into the right mix of policy interventions that can effectively address problems in the way that they need to rather than the way they ought to. It’s a subtle point. But getting it right is important. It could be the difference between a more cohesive UK that flourishes and becomes an example to the world – commanding moral authority, versus a UK that withdraws into the narcissistic appeal of the human psyche.