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1 (20%) 1 vote

Trevor Phillips is  one of those yesterday’s men who continue to harp on tired themes, and ought to put up the evidence or shut up. His latest contribution to the national conversation is an article in the Sunday Times (15 March) repeating his 2005 mantra of self-segregating Muslims.  He states that  the inner cities are becoming less integrated. The reality is that the level of geographical dispersion within the Bangladeshi and Pakistani ethnic categories has increased in the last 10 years – according to expert statistical analysis of 2011 Census data carried out at the University of Manchester [1].

Then, seemingly echoing UKIP leader Farage’s view of a now ‘colour blind’ Britain, he observes that  ‘in 2015, non-white school leavers are more likely than their white peers to head for university.’ Sure, but why is it that there are proportionally fewer BME students in the prestigious Russell Group establishments? He cites a University of Bristol study on ‘high flying minorities’, but makes no reference to the Boliver research pointing out race inequalities in higher education.

He also goes on to comment on  ‘the unfolding tragedy of the street grooming of children by largely Pakistani Muslim gangs in several British cities’. Why the reference to Muslim in this context?  This is repeating the crass Times headline [4th March]: ‘Muslim sex grooming: call for national debate, hundreds of young girls abused over 15 years in Oxford’. As noted by the MCB the following day,  it is nothing short of  ‘incendiary’ to suggest the Muslim faith had anything to do with such vulgar crime and abuse without providing the evidence.

Further in his Sunday Times submission Trevor Phillips’ charge sheet includes a reference to the ‘schools in Birmingham [that] had been taken over by a small religiously motivated clique — the so-called Trojan Horse scandal — [which] shows that children’s education is at risk of being sacrificed on the altar of religious orthodoxy’.  The reality is that the schools in question were outstanding in terms of educational achievement, the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter was a forgery and the saga was connected to Michael Gove’s Eurabia fantasy. What Phillips presumably means by his ringing phrase, ‘sacrificed on the alter of religious orthodoxy’ was the wish of parents in state schools where a majority of pupils were Muslim was to take account of their religious values, such as on mixed swimming and sports while fasting in Ramadan.

He makes this damaging insinuation: ‘We learn from his former head teacher that Jihadi John had attended a school where more than 70% of the pupils were, like him, Muslims. It is not Islamophobic to wonder if such a closed community might have nurtured a fatally narrow world-view.’

It is mischevious to wonder in this  manner in the pages of a broadsheet. Will it be a surprise if readers associate state schools with large Muslim populations with societal danger? Is this  not the pathway to demonisation? Phillips is refering to the discredited ‘escalator theory’ of violent extremism:  that ‘religious orthodoxy’ leads to criminality. It is as sound as suggesting that Kim Philby and the other Cambridge spies succumbed to the Stalinist ideology because of having been educated at Westminster and Trinity College!

Trevor Phillips is reluctant to face up to race inqualites in society, both colour prejudice and its other manifestation, cultural prejudice or Islamophobia. He believes that there is white flight from inner cities with ethnic populations because ‘they want homes with gardens and better schools’!  We would all love to live in pleasant suburbia, but as pointed out by a Runnymede Report, ‘housing inequality for the Black group has worsened between 2001 and 2011’ [2]. He also makes the vacuous remark, ‘if African Caribbeans are statistically more likely to commit some kinds of crime than other people, as indeed they are — we are especially proficient at murdering other African Caribbeans, for example — it might make some sense to understand why, so we can stop it happening’. The way to stop it happening is by giving BMEs a fair chance in life from the outset – and tackling racial and religious discrimination in the criminal  justice system.

Phillips’ finger-wagging at Muslims pre-dates 7/7. In 2004 he advised, ‘Muslims who wish to live under a system of sharia law should leave Britain…We have one set of laws … and that’s the end of the story. If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else.’  So a race relations guru using the language of deportation!

At around the same time  he also expressed his disquiet about Muslims having ‘supra-national loyalties’ i.e. a sense of solidarity with co-religionists elsewhere in the world. Yet hyphenated identities do not mean disloyalty. Around 80 percent of British Muslims today indicate their main national identity to be British.

Trevor Phillips is quite happy for arrangements for one section of the population  – he was in favour of singling out Black youth for  ‘special booster classes because they were underachieving’ (The Times,  March 2005).  However when one particular religious community seeks to address educational underachievement and exclusions through greater involvement in school governorship and leadership, or through establishing its faith schools, this becomes something undesirable. Rather than calling for a level playing field, he sets a higher bar  for Muslims to clear.

The Phillips problem lies in his unwillingness to accept multiple identities and his fundamentalist belief in  assimilation. Yet for many in society today, hyphenated identities (to use Professor Modood’s phrase) are commonplace.  Society has changed in the last few decades and diversity and plurality are here to stay. The Treasury’s endorsement of the sukuk bond, the introduction of shariah-compliant financial instruments, the halal meat supply chain, prayer rooms in hospitals…. are evidence of  the accomodation being reached in practice. Trevor Phillips is both out of touch and a touch arrogant.

 [1] Ludi Simpson, More Segregation or more mixing? Dynamics of Diversity: Evidence from the 2011 Census, University of Manchester & Joseph Rowntree Foundation, December 2012

[2] Nissa Finney and Kitty Lymperopoulou (Runnymede Report), Local Ethnic Inequalities: EthnicDifferences in Education, Employment, Health and Housing in Districts of England and Wales, 2001-2011. The University of Manchester in Association with The Runnymede Trust

 

 

 

 

 

 

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