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VARIOUS TEXTS: Tony Blair's Speech on Multiculturalism and Integration (8 Dec 06)

The Duty to Integrate: Shared British Values

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When I decided to make this speech about multiculturalism and integration, some people entirely reasonably said that integration or lack of it was not the problem. The 7/7 bombers were integrated at one level in terms of lifestyle and work. Others in many communities live lives very much separate and set in their own community and own culture, but are no threat to anyone.

But this is, in truth, not what I mean when I talk of integration. Integration, in this context, is not about culture or lifestyle. It is about values. It is about integrating at the point of shared, common unifying British values. It isn't about what defines us as people, but as citizens, the rights and duties that go with being a member of our society.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths have a perfect right to their own identity and religion, to practice their faith and to conform to their culture. This is what multicultural, multi-faith Britain is about. That is what is legitimately distinctive.

But when it comes to our essential values - belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage - then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common; it is what gives us the right to call ourselves British.

............... We must respect both our right to differ and the duty to express any difference in a way fully consistent with the values that bind us together.

So: how do we do this?
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Asserting the duty to integrate can also be done by way of practical and symbolic measures that underscore what that duty entails1. I want to set out six elements in policy to do this.

First, we need to use the grants we give to community racial and religious groups to promote integration as well as help distinctive cultural identity. In a sense, very good intentions got the better of us2. We wanted to be hospitable to new groups. We wanted, rightly, to extend a welcome and did so by offering public money to entrench their cultural presence. Money was too often freely awarded to groups that were tightly bonded around religious, racial or ethnic identities.

In the future, we will assess bids from groups of any ethnicity or any religious denomination, also against a test, where appropriate, of promoting community cohesion and integration.

Second, we stand emphatically at all times for equality of respect and treatment for all citizens. Sometimes the cultural practice of one group contradicts this. We need very clear rules for how we govern the public realm. A good example is forced marriage. There can be no defence of forced marriage on cultural or any other grounds. We set up the Forced Marriages Unit in 2005 and they now deal with 250-300 cases a year mainly relating to people of South Asian background. We have also changed immigration rules raising the age at which a person can obtain marriage entry clearance to come to the UK to 18. We consulted on whether a specific offence3 should be created, but, in the light of the responses received, chose not to pursue this. We will however return to the matter if necessary and will also consult on raising the age for entry clearance further, a point made strongly and well by Ann Cryer MP.

One of the most common concerns that has been raised with me, when meeting women from the Muslim communities, is their frustration at being debarred4 even from entering certain mosques.

Those that exclude the voice of women need to look again at their practices. I am not suggesting altering the law. But we have asked the Equal Opportunities Commission to produce a report by the spring of next year on how these concerns could be practically addressed, whilst of course recognising that in many religions the treatment of women differs from that of men.

Third, we must demand allegiance5 to the rule of law. Nobody can legitimately ask to stand outside the law of the nation. There is thus no question of the UK allowing the introduction of religious law in the UK. Parliament sets the law, interpreted by the courts.

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Fourth, there has been a lot of concern about a minority of visiting preachers. It would be preferable for British preachers to come out of the community rather than come in from abroad. Where they are recruited internationally, we will require entrants to have a proper command of English and meet the pre-entry qualification requirements.

.............. Fifth, we have a very established set of rights that constitute our citizenship. We should not be shy to teach them. That is why citizenship became part of the statutory national curriculum in secondary schools in 2002.

The national curriculum needs to stress integration rather than separation. The 1988 Education Reform Act states that religious education in all community schools should be broadly Christian in character but that it should include study of the other major religions. There is currently a voluntary agreement with faith schools on this basis.

Faith schools also naturally give religious instruction in their own faith. It is important that in doing so, they teach tolerance and respect for other faiths and the Education Department will discuss with the faith groups how this is achieved and implemented, according to new national guidelines. These will be based on the pioneering work done in this area by Charles Clarke when Education Secretary. As he said in his recent and excellent Royal Commonwealth Society lecture on Faith, such policies 'will rightly increasingly marginalize those very small numbers who want to teach religious education in a way which misleads and misrepresents other faiths.' We will also encourage all faith schools to construct a bridge to other cultures by twinning with schools from another faith.

There have been concerns about some Madrassahs6. The DfES7 is working to bring together a host of voluntary groups to form a National Centre for supplementary schools. It will recommend best practice to try to encourage tolerance and respect for other faiths by, for example, establishing links with other schools. There can be no excuse for Madrassahs not meeting their legal requirements and they will be enforced vigorously.

Sixth, we should share a common language. Equal opportunity for all groups requires that they be conversant in that common language. It is a matter both of cohesion and of justice that we should set the use of English as a condition of citizenship. In addition, for those who wish to take up residence permanently in the UK, we will include a requirement to pass an English test before such permanent residency is granted.

I do not in any of this, ignore the social and economic dimension to extremism. Deprivation8 is a bad thing in itself and it can create the conditions in which extreme ideologies of all kinds can flourish. But it cannot be permitted as an excuse.

The best way to deal with this is to do what, for a decade now, we have done: systematically to tackle disadvantage. The causes usually have nothing to do with ethnicity - they are low educational achievement and poor skills.
(abridged) 1223 words
Source: Number10.gov.uk


Annotations:
1. to entail - zur Folge haben
2. to get the better of sb - jdn. überwältigen
3. offence - Delikt, strafbare Handlung
4. to debar - ausschließen
5. allegiance - Loyalität, Treuepflicht
6. Madrassah - is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, whether secular or religious (of any religion). A typical Islamic school usually offers two courses of study: a hifz course; that is memorisation of the Qur'an (the person who commits the entire Qur'an to memory is called a hafiz); and an 'alim course leading the candidate to become an accepted scholar in the community.
7. DfES - Department for Education and Skills (Britain)
8. deprivation - Mangel, Entbehrung


Assignments:
1. Outline in your own words, what Blair means by 'integration'.
2. The 'duty to integrate' can be acvcomplished by six different measures. Which are these? Use your own words and try to be brief and concise.
3. Comment on one of these measures which you consider the most important one.
4. Except for Blair's measures to integrate people from different ethnic and religious groups, what other measure(s) can you think of to achieve Blair's aim?





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