Some of the sharpest social tensions are between ethnic and religious minorities
A new report published by Hope Not Hate, focusing on the socio-political attitudes of British minorities, provides much food for thought over how we should view community relations in modern-day Britain.
The survey found that twice as many ‘BAME’ people agree (40%) than disagree (21%) that there is more tension between Britain’s different minority communities, when compared with tensions between white and non-white groups.
While it may be an uncomfortable truth for those who are intent on framing Britain through a white versus “BAME” prism, the reality is that some of the sharpest social tensions are between ethnic and religious minorities.
These social tensions make a mockery of the term ‘BAME’ — an acronym which is no longer fit-for-purpose when one considers the social, economic, and religio-cultural complexities of modern-day Britain.
In a multi-ethnic, religiously diverse society such as ours, a degree of conflict is inevitable. And encouraging ethnic and religious groups to ‘mind their own’ and hide in their segregated silos would be hugely counterproductive — for a lack of intergroup contact breeds feelings of anxiety and suspicion of ‘outgroupers’. Both the 2001 Cantle and 2016 Casey reports correctly identified segregation as a fundamental problem from a social cohesion perspective.
Social integration holds the key here. This is demonstrated by my PhD research, and also by the findings of my new report for the Henry Jackson Society which found that better-integrated British Muslims not only held more favourable views on non-Muslims, but were also less likely to support antisemitic conspiracy theories, when compared with poorly-integrated co-religionists.
It is therefore time for mainstream politicians and policymakers to stop viewing community tensions in simplistic ‘white v BAME’ terms. Local community cohesion plans need to reflect the reality on the ground. The most problematic social tensions in West London, may be different to those in inner-city Birmingham. And some of these tensions will not involve white British people.
The UK Government does not only need to bring social integration higher up its domestic agenda. It also needs to work closely with local voluntary organisations and interfaith community groups, to help develop enduring bonds of social trust and mutual respect in Britain’s urban diverse communities. And it also has to be aware of the potentially destabilising impact of geopolitical tensions in both the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, on both interethnic and interfaith relations in the British context.
Creating a more socially cohesive Britain in the post-Brexit, post-Covid world, should be a political priority. Whether that is reflected in meaningful policy action, remains to be seen.