FITTING IN: More needs to be done to combat the view that multiculturalism is not working in Britain


NEW research released by The Guardian this week has revealed the shocking extent of racial bias in the UK.

In almost every aspect of everyday life, at work, in restaurants, bars, clubs, on the street, BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people have experienced discrimination.

According to the survey, almost half (43 per cent) of BAME people felt they had been unfairly overlooked for a work promotion, compared to 18 per cent of white people. Nearly four in 10 (38 per cent) also said they had been wrongly suspected of shoplifting in the last five years, compared to just 14 per cent of white people.

These figures are depressing. While on the whole, research into public attitudes shows that
Britain has become more comfortable with immigration and multiculturalism, this attitude shift is clearly not being felt by minorities in the UK.

The Guardian research also highlights the fact that Muslims living in Britain are more likely to have negative experiences than other religious groups. They are more likely than Christians, people with no religion, as well as those from other smaller religions, to be stopped by the police, left out of social functions at work or college, and to find that others do not seem to want to sit next to them on public transport.

These figures on unconscious bias reflect a hardening of attitudes towards Islam and Muslims in Britain which we have seen in our polling – we have tracked public attitudes to immigration and multiculturalism since 2011. It comes as little surprise from our findings that Muslims are among those most impacted by unconscious prejudice.

It has been revealed prejudice is most keenly felt by Muslim communities

We have found that over seven years, anxieties about immigration have been increasingly distilled, manifest as concerns about integration, with the spotlight on Muslims.

Our Fear and HOPE polls find that the majority of the British public see Muslims as distinctly different, with just 10 per cent saying they feel Muslims are similar to themselves.

Integration has become a concern around which many have hung broader resentment.

Narratives about Islam as a threat, or Muslims ‘taking over’ UK cities, have moved from the margin to mainstream thought.

In our July 2018 YouGov research of 10,383 people, a staggering 32 per cent believed that there are no-go areas in Britain where sharia law dominates and non-Muslims cannot enter. Almost half of all Leave voters (49 per cent) and Conservative voters (47 per cent) stated that this was true, while 28 per cent of respondents felt that Islamist terrorists reflect a widespread hostility to Britain among the Muslim community.

A view that ‘multiculturalism has failed’ resonates with a significant share of the population, too – 41 per cent of our March 2018 poll, and a massive 67 per cent of Tory Leave voters, believe that Britain’s multicultural society isn’t working and different communities generally live separate lives.

It’s true that our communities are not always as cohesive as we would hope, and issues around integration are some of the major challenges facing the social fabric of this nation.

However, integration is not only about people ‘fitting in’. It is about everyone in society having equal access to opportunities.

Shifting attitudes, challenging anti-Muslim prejudice and eliminating unconscious bias is key to this, to ensuring Britain thrives as an integrated society.

This research is upsetting, but it should also be a wake-up call for change.

Rosie Carter is a senior policy officer at advocacy group HOPE not Hate