Racism, not radicalism

30th April 2004 at 01:00
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, is quite right in pointing out that multiculturalism promotes a sense of separatism and needs to be abandoned.

Britain is a multicultural society and should have the capacity to include, rather than exclude, cultural groups of people. Many schools take this approach in promoting pupils' cultural development.

Unfortunately the interests of black people and Asians are not well served by integration, since it damages their chances to promote or acquire marginal community leadership.

An example of this is the recent marginalisation of Muslims by asking mosques to give sermons against possible acts of terrorism. Although enthusiastically received by the media and government, it sends the wrong message and is not helpful in the process of including Muslims in the mainstream and in assuring that they are really considered "British" . It tends to suggest that Muslims in the UK, even those born and brought up here, are not independent individuals who are responsible for their own actions, but a communal group controlled by places of worship or community leaders.

Muslims are expected to react and respond to certain crimes differently - hence the need for collective apology and action by the whole Muslim community for the alleged misdeeds of some. Who apologises for the overflowing offenders' population at Feltham young offenders institution?

In pinpointing some Muslim youths, no account has been taken of the national picture where the provision for British youth has repeatedly failed to match their wider needs, interests and aspirations, causing significant disaffection and a proportionately high rate of crime among them.

The Muslim community, and not social scientists and welfare agencies, is expected to tackle problems related to British Muslim youths.

There seems to be a unilateral acceptance that where Muslims, over-represented in deprivation, are driven in undesirable directions it is because of the "identity crisis" or the radical persuasion; no account has been taken of the impact of the racist British institutions on the quality of their lives - if there is an alienation, it is because of this.

Husain Akhtar 26 Wellesley Road Harrow

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