Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Whose responsibility?

Ken Livingston and the Muslim Council of Britain have published a report on Muslims in London. It highlights the "significant under-representation" of Muslim communities in all spheres of public life.

For example, there is just one Muslim MP representing a London constituency, when proportionally one could expect six. Also, there are only 63 Muslim councillors, where proportionally there should be 169. There are other significant comparisons: 42 percent of 16-to-24-year-old Muslims are economically active, compared with 60 percent average across other groups. Only 15 percent of Muslim women aged 25+ work full time compared with 37 percent of women in the general population. Muslims have the lowest rates of employment and economic activity and the highest unemployment rate of all London's faith groups. In addition, the number of "faith hate" crimes in London in 2005/6 was 87% higher than the year before.

What is the reason for this sorry record? According to the Mayor for all Londoners, Ken Livingston, it is "serious discrimination and prejudice". He doesn't mention on whose part, but I think it goes without saying. Muhammad Abdul Bari, general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain delivers the shopping list: "Muslims in London face several barriers to employment, including educational underachievement, discrimination, lack of affordable and appropriate childcare, lack of suitable training, travel costs and housing costs."

Nowhere does anyone say a word about the responsibilities of the subjects of this survey. Whose fault is educational underachievement, or lack of suitable training? These days, the only way to avoid a training course in the UK is to leave the country. But even if you moved to another part of Europe, the figures wouldn't change that much. The impression is the same everywhere: of a group of people who contribute little relative to their size, but demand an awful lot.

Yes, there is prejudice, just as there was/is towards the Chinese or Indians, but that is only half the story. The other half consists of what that group do for themselves. Do they place education above all and insist on effort from their children? Do they accept the 'system' and make the best of it? Or do they stick stubbornly to whatever they were brought up to or has recently been imported from Saudi Arabia? (Is it Tesco that keeps Muslim women in their homes?) Do they expect everyone else to adapt to them and support them?

Ken Livingston is merely being consistent, so it is a waste of time expecting anything different from him. There was the usual rhetorical flourish and, strangely, a simile that just keeps popping out of his mouth. He

accused the media of running a "totally one-sided" debate.

It reflected the Nazi propaganda of the 1930s when Jews were blamed for their own and society's ills, he said.
We're Nazis. The Muslims are today's Jews. It's all down to the media. Book me a seat on the Hindenburg.

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