The Casey Review was announced in an anti-extremism speech made by David Cameron, and if one wants to understand its conclusions one has first to grasp the context. The review is into “opportunity and integration”, but one could be forgiven, given some of the commentary about it, for thinking that it is into Islam and terror. Furthermore, one might choose to believe that Islamist violence is at the end of a continuum which begins with immigrants from Pakistan who don’t speak English, have reactionary views about women, mutilate their daughters’ genitals, force them into marriage, murder them if they marry the wrong man (as they themselves see it), abuse white girls, hate gay people, hate Jews and Christians even more, and end up detonating bombs and murdering innocents – having first done a bit of hate preaching in Urdu and video-making on the side.
If only the threat were so simple. Some of the most prominent Islamist terrorists have been white British converts: Samantha Lewthwaite, Nicky Reilly, Thomas Evans, Matthew Newton and, up to a point, Richard Reid. Others have been black and British: Brian Young, Germaine Lindsay, Michael Adebolajo, Michael Adebowale. Dhiren Barot, one of Al Qaeda’s main operatives in Britain before the Iraq War, is a convert from Hinduism. The defiance of expectation goes on. For example, the attitude towards women of some Islamist extremists are relatively relaxed. The marriage of Mohammed Sidique Khan to a woman from outside the inward-looking world of his Barelvi background helped to set him on the path that led to the 7/7 atrocity. Some speak English as well as you or I do: “You taught me language, and my profit on ‘t/ Is I know how to curse”.
Furthermore, some Islamist terrorists are not social conservatives, but simply rapists and murderers. A man who rapes an under-age Yazidi girl is not a social conservative. And most Muslim social conservatives are not extremists, let alone terrorists – however reactionary their views about women may be. Yes, Islamist ideology is the indispensible element in Islamist terror: the Charlie Hebdo murders and attacks on Belgium have helped to disprove the claim that “it is all about foreign policy”. And, yes, many British Islamist terrorists are from a Kashmiri/Pakistani background. But they are not always lethally-trained operatives, regardless of their origins. Most have unhappy if not chaotic family backgrounds. Many have previous criminal convictions. Few have been raised thoroughly in the traditional, classical Islam. Some have more than a passing resemblance to the four bunglers in Four Lions.
If this detour into the story of Islamist terror in Britain is a bit on the long side, I can only say that the context in which Casey was commissioned takes one there. She appreciates the potential for confusion herself. Much of her review isn’t about Muslims at all. But as she writes in its introduction: “I know that putting some communities under the spotlight – particularly communities in which there are high concentrations of Muslims of Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage – will add to the pressure that they already feel”. This presages the focus of some of her recommendations. When she says that Government should “step up safeguarding arrangements for children who are removed from mainstream education,” she is clearly referring, at least in part, to madrassas. When she mulls an “Oath of Integration”, her mind is clearly turning to those whose terrorist crimes bust the social contract.
When she writes that some children’s education is “marked by segregation”, she cannot but have brooded over one of its most spectacular manifestations: the Trojan Horse affair (which took place not in faith schools, but in secular ones). Casey’s language in the report itself, and especially in some of the interviews that preceded it, is blunt and direct, at least by the standard of Whitehall. She isn’t afraid of saying that the Government which commissioned her report blundered on integration, or of criticising politicians, bishops and the police for political correctness. This explains why the Home Office didn’t care for it. Theresa May is no longer at the department, but her influence is greater than ever. Downing Street will not have liked Casey’s implicit criticism of her tenure, though delay didn’t stop Casey’s message from getting out: “anti-extremism tsar fights bid to gag her,” the Sunday Times reported in October.
Ministers are keeping their response low-key. Sajid Javid has said that he will study the review “closely”. Over in London’s City Hall, Sadiq Khan has tweeted: “more discussion & debate on social integration is welcome. Now is the time to build bridges not walls”. In other words, he has said nothing much at all. “She cannot be dismissed as a priggish, over-privileged public schoolboy who is preaching at the rest of us,” Andrew Gimson wrote in a profile of Casey on this site earlier this year. “There is nothing in the slightest bit priggish about her: in her way, she is a bit of a roaring girl, foul-mouthed and irrepressible and generous.” The politicians seem to be embarrassed by her focus on Muslims, and candid way of going about it. A more telling response would be: haven’t we heard most of all this before?
Promoting English, emancipating marginalised women, more mixing between pupils, more British values in schools – the list of recommendations in familiar. (What is a British value, by the way? Isn’t what is distinct about Britain not our values, but our institutions?) This is not to say that they’re any the worse for that. But how can we have confidence that they will be implemented when, on the one hand, the review slams separatist education and, on the other, teachers who were barred from teaching after the Trojan horse affair are now free to teach again? The range of issues on which Casey touches need not so much new policies for implementation, but for our established institutions to work – politicians who will control our borders; police chiefs and commissioners who aren’t politically correct; human rights abuses curbed (which will be harder now that May has done a reverse ferret on the ECHR). But it may be that simply by banging on about integration, Casey has furthered its cause just a little bit.