Wednesday, April 16 2014

Comment

British Social Attitudes Survey 2012

The Guardian, The Independent and BBC News have all covered the release of data from the British Social Attitudes Survey 2012.

The survey questions attitudes among the British public on issues ranging from identity, religion, personal relationships, Gender role, welfare, public spending and same sex relationships.

In the findings for the 2012 survey are interesting trends in relation to religious identity and trust in institutions compared to the landscape of 1983.

The BSA 2012 finds that in 1983, “around two in three people (68 per cent) considered themselves to belong to one religion or another; in 2012, only around half (52 per cent) do so…this decline is in practice a decline in attachment to Anglicanism.

“In 1983 two in five people (40 per cent) said they were Anglican, and the Church of England could still reasonably lay claim to being England's national church. But now only 20 per cent do so. In contrast, the proportion saying they belong to a religion other than Christianity has tripled from two to six per cent. Britain's religious landscape has not only become smaller but also more diverse.”


On the topic of political affiliation, the BSA survey finds that “Back in 1983, 72 per cent identified with one of these parties, while 87 per cent said they supported any political party, including the then Liberal/SDP Alliance. Now less than two-thirds (63 per cent) identify with one of the two traditional class parties, and around three-quarters (76 per cent) claim an adherence to any political party.”

On the subject of trust in public officials, the survey reveals that “Back in 1986, only 38 per cent said that they trusted governments "to place the needs of the nation above the interests of their own political party". By 2000, this had more than halved to just 16 per cent.

“While a degree of scepticism towards politicians might be thought healthy, those who govern Britain today have an uphill struggle to persuade the public that their hearts are in the right place.”


The survey also tracks a decline in attitudes concerning ‘the duty to vote’:

“Back in 1987, that year's British Election Study found that 76 per cent believed that "it's everyone's duty to vote". When we revisited the issue in 1991 only 68 per cent were of that view, falling to just 56 per cent by 2008. The figure has recovered somewhat in recent years and when we last asked the question in 2011, 62 per cent thought everyone had a duty to vote.”

On interest in political and current affairs, the survey shows that “In 1986, 29 per cent said that they had "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of interest in politics and the figure has remained at or around 30 per cent most years since then, and now stands at 36 per cent.

“People are more likely now than in the 1980s to have signed a petition or contacted their MP, no doubt at least partly reflecting the increasing ease with which it is possible to do these things via social media. And, although a majority doubt their ability to influence what politicians do, they are no more likely to feel this now than they were in the 1980s - indeed, if anything, the opposite is the case. In 1986, for instance, 71 per cent agreed that "people like me have no say in what the government does"; now that figure is down to 59 per cent.”


On the trust the average citizen displays towards the British press, the survey shows, “Only 27 per cent think newspapers are well run compared with 53 per cent 30 years ago, a trend that might have been exacerbated by the phone hacking scandal that forced the closure of the News of the World in 2011, but which clearly began before then.”

The BSA 2012 survey can be found here.

Academics and faith leaders on the consequences of scrapping the Census

The Financial Times (£) today publishes a letter signed by a number of academics and faith leaders criticising the Government’s proposals, expected to be announced later this month, to scrap the national census and replace it with alternative methods of gathering data on the UK population.

The letter, signed by members of Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities, as well as leading academics, states:

“The proposals to replace the traditional decennial census will adversely affect voluntary sector organisations involved in advocacy and representation work on behalf of Britain's minority ethnic and faith communities. At present we can draw maps at electoral ward and sub-ward level to identify pockets of deprivation or ill health and so provide an evidence base for policy interventions. The alternative proposed...will lack reliability and geographical detail.”

You can read the letter here.

Last Updated on Friday, 06 September 2013 13:25

Murdoch claims Muslims 'find it hardest' to integrate

Rupert Murdoch took to twitter to comment on the outgoing chief rabbis' interview in The Times newspaper (£) on Monday tweeting "societies have to integrate. Muslims find it hardest."

In his last interview before leaving his post as chief rabbi after 22 years, Sacks told The Times newspaper that multiculturalism had "had its day" and "the real danger in a multicultural society is that every ethnic group and religious group becomes a pressure group, putting our people's interest instead of the national interest".


Lord Sacks also offered advice to Muslims on how best to integrate by learning from the Jewish example, saying,

"The lessons are - number one, you don't try to impose your views on the majority population. Number two, you have to be what I call bilingual, you know you are Jewish and you're English… because it forces you to realize that actually society and life is complicated. It mustn't and can't be simplified. Number three, there are times when it's uncomfortable, when you realize there is such a thing as anti-Semitism. [Being] a minority isn't always fun."

Commenting on Lords Sacks' reflections, Murdoch tweeted, "Good for UK Chief Rabbi Sacks! 'Let's put multiculturalism behind us'. Societies have to integrate. Muslims find it hardest."

Murdoch's views are not surprising given stories that have been published in titles owned by News International which perpetuate the myth that Muslims are poorly integrated in Britain.

In the Gallup Coexist Index 2009, which analysed Muslim integration in Britain, France and Germany, British Muslims' loyalty to national identity and trust in national public institutions were found to score higher than the rest of the population and contrasted sharply with images often presented of Muslims as separatist and disloyal.

The Executive Director and Senior Analyst of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, Dalia Mogahed, in an article for the Guardian Comment is Free wrote at the time:

"While Muslims in three European countries are indeed highly religious and socially conservative, this neither leads to a sympathy for terrorist acts, a desire to isolate nor a lack of national loyalty."

She added: "...while the discourse continues to obsess over the moral conservatism of Muslim communities, British Muslims strongly identify with their nation and are eager to contribute to the national good."

These findings are reinforced up by a 2011 study by Manchester University which analysed the data from almost 25,000 respondents from the 2005 and 2007 Citizenship Surveys run by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The results showed that "multiculturalism is associated with strengthening the ties between different ethnic groups."

Dr Laia Bécares, who led the research team, said the results revealed that "neighbourhoods with higher ethnic diversity are associated with higher rates of social cohesion, respect for ethnic differences, and neighbours of different backgrounds getting on well together."

More recent analysis includes the YouGov poll for Demos which revealed that 83% of Muslims agreed with the statement, 'I am proud to be a British citizen' compared to 79% among the general populace. And in analysis of the Census 2011 data by the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at Manchester University, researchers concluded that "Muslims are more likely to identify with a British only national identity than Christians and Jews, the latter two more likely to identify with an English only identity."

The myth that British Muslims are not trying or are unsuccessful at integrating was dispelled by the former Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillips, who said in 2011 that British Muslims were "doing their damnedest to integrate".

He said, "Muslim communities in this country are doing their damnedest to try to come to terms with their neighbours to try to integrate and they're doing their best to try to develop an idea of Islam that is compatible with living in a modern liberal democracy."

 

Leo McKinstry on the 'social costs' of immigration

Leo McKinstry, columnist for the Daily Express, returns to his pet topic on immigration, Muslims and multiculturalism with a comment piece in today's paper.

McKinstry, in his column opining 'Mass immigration is destroying the fabric of society' writes:

"In addition, there are the other social costs that arise from immigration such as the growth of political extremism and misogyny, the spread of Sharia law, the prevalence of gang violence in the inner cities and the erosion of democracy through ballot-box fraud by self-styled community leaders."

It is not difficult to see the inference to Muslims in his criticism of the 'social costs' to 'immigration'. Whether in the direct reference to 'sharia law' or the more implicit suggestion of 'political extremism and misogyny' and ' ballot-box fraud by self-styled community leaders'.

The suggestion that 'immigration' is responsible for these social ills squarely place them at the foot of ethnic communities. As though political extremism in the form of the English Defence League or British National Party were of no great significance because these are not the product of 'immigrant' cultures.

Or the idea that misogyny is something one only encounters in non-White cultures. The derision of BBC journalist John Inverdale's remark that French tennis player Marion Bartoli was 'no looker' and the BBC's apology is just one recent example of sexism in our public culture. Are these condescending remarks lesser offences because they were uttered by white British males and therefore not the same class of 'misogyny'?

The 'spread of Sharia law' as indicative of 'immigration' is another canard and betrays the principle of equality that it represents. Would any regard the Beth Din courts used by Jewish litigants preferring religious arbitration an example of 'the social cost of immigration'? Why are Sharia councils used by Muslims availing themselves of the same right to arbitration regarded as culturally inferior and a 'social cost'?

As for the 'erosion of democracy through ballot box fraud by self styled community leaders', one has to take a closer look at practices that have eroded confidence in the democratic process.

There has been much discussion in media and politics in recent days following the announcement of the Coalition's introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists to 'clean up' politics. The PM's election strategist, Lynton Crosby, has come in for particular criticism for his proximity to big business amid allegations of lobbying on their behalf to deter unfavourable policies.

The Coalition's foot dragging on the promise to fulfil a manifesto pledge to tackle 'sleazy lobbying practices', including the number of parliamentary passes made available to officers linked to corporate clients, has attracted widespread criticism for its effect on the democratic process and transparency. But it's unlikely that this 'erosion of democracy' is of much concern to McKinstry. Ballot box fraud is a serious issue and deserving of investigation and prosecution. But it is no less a threat to confidence in our political process than lobbying. It is shameful that McKinstry seeks to racialise this debate by making immigrants the scapegoats and ignoring practices that are far more pervasive and damaging to the functioning of our democracy.

Gove makes room for Islam in revised history curriculum

Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has announced that the new national curriculum will now include a module on the history of Islam.

The absence of Islam in school teaching on history invited considerable criticism when the curriculum was put out for consultation. But Aleia Abbas, columnist for the Asian Image newspaper, notes that revisions to the draft mean that a module on the history of Islam will now be incorporated.

“This is good news for all of us that wish Islam to be portrayed in the way it should be, the contribution for example that Islam made to the fields of mathematics, astronomy and medicine”,
she writes.

The Muslim Council of Britain, which spearheaded a campaign urging Muslims to take part in the consultation, said at the time that “British Muslim children will see no place for themselves in their country's history, creating the risk of alienation.”

“At the same time non-Muslim children will grow up believing that Muslims have contributed nothing of value to Britain”.


Good to see the Department for Education set out the teaching of an ‘inclusive history’ in British schools.

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