Trevor Phillips had the following purposes in mind in writing Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence: to identify which cultural practices and attitudes of which of Britain’s minorities are especially detrimental to the body politic, and why; and then to propose, under what he calls “active integration,” a raft of new policies that he believes could encourage Britain’s minorities to discard the attitudes and practices that are problematic.
Born in Islington to working class immigrants from British Guiana shortly after their arrival in London, Phillips is a journalist and “quangocrat” (our word for public servants toiling in Britain’s non-governmental organizations) who has caught flak from the Left for having turned into a critic of multiculturalism. (The Leftwing Guardian newspaper now takes a dim view of him.) His resumé includes his leadership of the two NGOs expressly established to protect minorities from discrimination as well as to advance their interests. These two bodies are the erstwhile Commission for Racial Equality and its successor body since 2007, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission whose name reflects its widened brief that encompasses all minorities, including women.
People are quickly labelled racists for lodging the kinds of critiques that Phillips does, but he doesn’t seem to care. Among the country’s most economically disadvantaged groups are Britons of Afro-Caribbean heritage, and he laments the way in which many grow to maturity in today’s Britain. He says their lack of advancement is due less to bigotry and discrimination against them (which he claims have largely been conquered in the last few decades) than to baneful cultural influences, especially on young males. Rather than wanting to learn in school, these young people opt to emulate a gangsta lifestyle whereby they assume an attitude of defiance towards all authority figures, and value bling, rap, and dope above good exam grades. The result has been that all too many Britons of this ethnicity leave school without decent qualifications, rendering themselves unemployable save in the drug trade.
Problematic as this undoubtedly is, the lack of integration among Afro-Caribbeans is not the primary object of Phillips’ concerns. His policy proposals are directed toward how better to integrate the country’s rapidly growing Muslim community, who are largely of South Asian extraction. A worryingly large proportion of them, according to Phillips, retain or lately have acquired attitudes and practices that potentially constitute a grave threat to their compatriots. He remarks on the increasing hostility shown by radical Islamists in Britain toward any fellow Muslims who openly distance themselves from the beliefs and outer trappings of what Islamists consider demanded by their religion.
Because of their below-replacement rates of fertility, the UK and Europe have had to look beyond their shores for sources of labor, which has led to a demographic development in cities across Europe that Phillips calls “hyper-diversity.” He claims this hyper-diversity has proved resistant to the traditional, “organic” ways by which in the past countries like Britain have been able to integrate new arrivals, which relied on their willingness to adapt and adopt the culture of their host countries. When combined with reluctance in host countries to speak out against detrimental attitudes and practices of minorities, hyper-diversity produces segregation in enclaves that have become breeding grounds of home-grown jihadis who have launched devastating attacks in recent years.
Phillips believes that integrating the members of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities under conditions of hyper-diversity demands a new, more pro-active approach. His program of “active integration” has four policy planks:
First, all public bodies in Britain should be placed under a proposed new statutory, positive duty to promote integration. No longer would British factories be allowed to construct work teams according to nationality, as some lately have done. It would also require employees to converse only in English during working hours. And British schools would have to
demonstrate that they are making efforts to give their pupils a real experience of living in a diverse society, as would churches and other places of worship have to show that they too were making “real efforts to open their doors to believers and non-believers”.
Additionally, as part of the same duty, all public bodies in Britain would regularly have to document what steps they were taking to promote integration, and with what measure of success. “For example,” writes Phillips, “local authorities should publish annual data measures of residential segregation. Segregation might become a formal consideration in decisions about establishing new residential and commercial developments. Each school should also publish information about its ethnic and cultural composition.”
Publication of such data, contends Phillips, would promote integration, since parents of every ethnicity and religion would be keen to send their children to schools containing large numbers of high-achieving children of East Asian background. Whether the parents of these high-achieving children would be willing to send them to any schools but those that could best cater for them academically remains to be seen—especially were they able, as they increasingly are, to send their children to private, fee-paying schools, which are able to be academically selective.
The second policy Phillips advocates involves Britain’s creating a new NGO (again, we call them QUANGOs or Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organizations) to monitor progress in integrating its minorities, as well as to recommend new ways of doing so.
His third policy is related to civil liberties, and expressions of such politically incorrect views as those he has expressed. He calls for amending current law so that “only speech and gestures that directly encourage physical harm are subject to legal restriction.” Only after such a legal reform, argues Phillips, will Britain’s elites become willing to criticize minorities publicly.
The final policy proposal involves “the compilation, publication and analysis of relevant metrics for measuring progress in integrating minorities.” Doubtless this is a task with which his newly proposed QUANGO would happily busy itself.
By now I suspect metaphorical alarm bells will have begun to sound in the heads of not a few readers of Law and Liberty. However laudable its goal, and however aimed at genuine societal dangers, “active integration” is a statist’s dream. For all that his views may have evolved, Phillips remains a top-down statist. He clearly sees himself, and wishes to be seen by others, as a brave iconoclast, unafraid to challenge current shibboleths like multiculturalism. He is that—but he is also a Labor Party politician who would wish to envelop Britain’s businesses, schools, and churches in further regulative red tape. All this would do is emasculate still further what has already become a deeply hollowed out and very fragile civil society.
To his credit, Phillips includes in this volume comments by critics such as those by the sociologist of religion, Jon Gower Davies. He writes that Phillips “cannot resist reverting to loading the busy-body state” with duties. Davies, however, does share Phillips’ concerns. He writes of Islamists in Britain that “Their distance from or their antipathy to us is not because of what or who we are but because of what we are not – we are ‘not Muslim.’ ”
In my view, Davies is overly pessimistic about the prospects that, in time, Muslims resident in the West will become as peaceable and as well integrated as all other minorities, even if, as other minorities do, they often prefer to live among themselves because this makes for easier compliance with their religious obligations. Phillips has a hang-up about residential segregation by ethnicity and religion that, perhaps, says more about his personal aspirations than it does about the groups that go in for it (which practically all do).
There is in the end, beyond Phillips’ reflexive statism, a certain naivety about the realities of racial politics. (His knowledge of America reflects this naivety—he thinks Black Lives Matter is a grassroots phenomenon rather than a heavily manipulated one.)
The world is currently going through a painful period of adjusting to the realities and consequences of globalization. But however threatened Europe and America may currently be by jihadi terror, it is very hard indeed to believe, and there are no statistics which bear out, that any but a very small minority of their Muslims are in any way tempted to support, let alone perpetrate, such acts. For what it is worth, my recent experience of teaching at a university in South London that is attended by large numbers of Muslims suggests that they are getting along admirably well and harmoniously with their non-Muslim counterparts, and, for the most part, are exemplary in manners, loyalty to Britain, and conduct.
The true fate of the West rests on whether it can free itself from its current dependency for energy on Middle Eastern despotisms that survive through exporting grievance elsewhere. The minute the West is able to free itself from that dependency, there is likely to be a sea change on the part of Muslims in the West in terms of their willingness to assimilate as readily as other migrant minorities to it have. Until then, the West will remain at risk from what it has misguidedly wrought upon itself for reasons other than those against which Phillips misguidedly inveighs.