... there is a deep resentment to immigration, as well as scepticism towards multiculturalism. There is a widespread fear of the ‘Other’, particularly Muslims, and there is an appetite for a new right-wing political party that has none of the fascist trappings of the British National Party or the violence of the English Defence League.
Searchlight Education Trust (SET) admit that the content of their report Fear and Hate: The New Politics of Identity, which will be published on Monday night, does not make happy reading. However it is necessary from time to time to have research that deeply challenges established ideologies and the structures and models of activity associated with those ideologies. I believe this work provides us with just such a challenge.
The executive summary, posted online tonight, certainly sets the cat among the pigeons. At one level it would seem to give encouragement to the likes of the English Defence League (EDL) and the British national Party (BNP), that there is more support for their ideas than in their sobre moments they ever dared hope for. It certainly has the EDL already crowing on their forums that they were right all along -- though most of them seem only to have read the Observer's version which says "Huge numbers of Britons would support an anti-immigration English nationalist party if it was not associated with violence and fascist imagery", and which ommits the finding of the report that the violence of the EDL is an obstacle. ( Searchlight poll finds huge support for far right 'if they gave up violence' in Sunday's Observer.
The Observer has some statistics from the actual report that suggest that politicians as well as community cohesion professionals and religious leaders need to take this very seriously:
According to the survey, 39% of Asian Britons, 34% of white Britons and 21% of black Britons wanted all immigration into the UK to be stopped permanently, or at least until the economy improved. And 43% of Asian Britons, 63% of white Britons and 17% of black Britons agreed with the statement that "immigration into Britain has been a bad thing for the country". Just over half of respondents – 52% – agreed with the proposition that "Muslims create problems in the UK".
This is cannot easily be dismissed as racism, even though I am of the view that racism is a universal phenomenon, not just a white issue. And so the summary can state: "Black and Asian minority groups share many other groups’ opinions on a range of issues, including the national and personal impact of immigration." The crude analysis of issues based on of the traditional far right, and most recently the BNP, doesn't cut it, but nor I am convinced does the establised anti-racist lobby. It is clear that we need a deeper analysis, which Searchlight proposes as "a new politics of identity, culture, and nation."
There was much anger and puzzlement among many I know and respect at David Cameron's "multiculturalism has failed" speech in Munich three weeks ago, but I have been of the mind that we cannot easily dismiss it. Its timing was abysmal as far as we in Luton were concerned in that it offered support to the EDL in their demonstration here that day, yet the issues are complex and the speech needed dissecting. In many ways Cameron was saying what many in who were polled, and we are led to believe the nation, do believe. Yet I am not sure his analysis was as good as this (probably because the funding for governement sponsored research on cohesion has been cut).
I am not going to dissect the report tonight. This is the agenda for a lot of work in the years ahead and there is time for that. I want to respond briefly to the challenge that the reports summary leaves us with:
... The future is unwritten and it is all to play for. The Fear and Hope survey clearly shows that the new centreground voter is receptive to messages of openness, acceptance and pluralism – but they also need social and economic reassurance. If we can understand the new politics of identity then we can win them over. If we fail to do so then we risk their fear turning to hate. That is the challenge we all face.
The place of faith-based peacemaking is I believe crucial in this. First because understanding of the place of religion must be central to analysis of the identity construct of many for whom religion is a mark of belonging, not just of belief and faith. And secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the approach that we need is at the heart of my work, and what I all to rarely now write about on this blog. Honour, respect, forgiveness, humility - and an openess to friendship. Themes based in the teaching of Jesus, who was known as Prince of Peace.