Muslim women

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Photo: Representational Image/AFP

Louise Casey’s Integration report suggests that as a society we are more divided and segregated than ever, driven in part by high levels of inequality resulting in social isolation. Her figures show that 41%-51% of Black, Pakistani, Chinese and Bangladeshi families are on relative low income compared to the 19% of White households.  People from the formerly mentioned group are three times as likely to be unemployed; the figures for young black men for example are 35% compared to 15% for young white men.

With a particular focus on Muslims, the key findings of the report make it clear  that women in isolated communities are the most severely disadvantaged and negatively impacted especially in relation to their human rights, opportunities and economic wellbeing.  This has come as a result of the failure to tackle social and economic inequalities but also harmful cultural and religious practices that exist due to the misogyny and patriarchy identified in isolated communities. Part of the failure to tackle inequality and regressive practices has been because of the fear of statutory agencies and individuals being labelled racist, or culturally insensitive.

This comes as no surprise to Inspire given our work over the last nine years. We have been at the forefront of highlighting some of the issues raised in this report.  Some of these findings were also noted recently in August in the Women and Equalities Committee report into employment opportunities and also in the census figures behind David Cameron’s English language policy announced in January 2016.  While this report reconfirms some of these barriers to integration, it has been evident that both successive and current governments have not done enough to address integration and social cohesion. The Prime Minister herself on the steps of Downing Street made it clear that she would make Britain a country that works for everyone, and not just for the privileged few. As of yet, there has been no official statement from the Government about what it intends to do in light of Louise Casey’s findings.

Louise Casey has clearly identified the need for urgent action and a new integration strategy – one that is entirely separate from Government counter terrorism and counter extremism policies. For real change, an integration strategy must be one that is holistic and permeates through all aspects of government policy, for example housing, education, welfare, culture etc.

We are concerned that if we do not urgently address the barriers to integration, the isolation, separation and inequalities that currently exist, some communities will become more isolated, and divided helping to breed resentment.  This would provide fertile recruitment ground for both Islamist and Far Right extremists, neither of whom care about creating a unified and stronger Britain.  Together we need to create an inclusive country based on a common set of values, nurture a genuine culture of belonging and ensure that all our citizens believe they have an equal stake in our society. We hope the Government will lead in delivering a Britain that does indeed work for everyone.

Yasmin Weaver- Project Manager, Inspire

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Kalsoom is an organiser of the Bristol Big Sister's event taking place on Sunday 16th October 2016 at The Park Community Centre.

Kalsoom Bashir is the community co-chair of Building the Bridge, a partnership approach to increasing community cohesion and resilience, and reducing the risk of radicalisation; an organiser of the Big Sister’s conference in Bristol and a director of Inspire, a non-governmental advocacy organisation working to counter extremism and gender inequality.

Here are Kalsoom’s top-five Bristol favourites:

The Downs

“I live close to the Downs and being able to head out for a walk towards the Sea Walls and marvelling at the view every time I see it makes me feel like the luckiest person ever. I love seeing the joggers, children playing and learning to ride their bikes, dog walkers and kite flyers. It’s fantastic. The trees look amazing in the autumn.”

The parks

Clifton slider – worn smooth by generations of Bristol bottoms

“Having had four children, the parks were a lifesaver no matter what the weather. St Andrew’s Park with the paddling pool, Redland Green with the sandpit, Eastville Park and the ducks, Cotham Park’s play area, the sliding rocks in Clifton, Leigh Woods, Ashton Court and of course Bristol Zoo.”

The harbourside

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“On a nice day – and even on not such a nice day – there is nothing like walking down to the harbourside enjoying the view and marvelling at the ss Great Britain. The Watershed is a great place to sit and meet friends and I will always have lunch at Falafel King.”

St Mark’s Road 

“Food is important and this is the best place to go when I need to stock up on herbs, spices and ingredients for home cooking. As well as Pakistani food, I love Turkish, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine so this is the place to shop, and I am always guaranteed a warm welcome in Sweet Mart.”

Redland Library 

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“I love reading and am not able to walk past my local library without just a quick browse to see if anything on the shelves catches my eye. I love the fact that it’s well used by people of all ages and is always full. Long may it remain so.”

 

SOCIAL MEDIA