A report by UK's parliamentary committee tackles the issue of non-integration in the country's Muslim communities.
Immigrants into the UK should swear an oath of allegiance and be made to learn English, concluded the Parliament's new group on social integration, which has representatives from all parties.
Their statement comes on the heels of a review, released in December 2016, which was headed by Dame Louise Casey, a British government official working in social welfare. That report took 18 months to complete and found that many communities in the UK were significantly impacted by the "unprecedented pace and scale of recent immigration."
According to Dame Casey's review, some parts of Birmingham, Blackburn, Burnley and Bradford are now up to 85% Muslim, many of whom hold "very socially conservative views" with regards to women's rights and homosexuality.
As per the report, these Muslim communities do not identify as being British but rather with the global Islamic 'Ummah' (community). This tendency may help foster extremist views within some areas.
"British Muslims are increasingly identifying with a global Muslim ‘Ummah’. This rise in religiosity and less integrated, more regressive and socially conservative versions of Islam is being felt in communities but not discussed openly, other than by Islamophobic hate mongers on the Far Right.
"This in turn helps to feed a grievance narrative promoted by extremist groups who want to drive a wedge between British Muslims and the rest of British society. So we need a more honest conversation about all this in the mainstream, in a way that helps bind people back together again, not drive them apart," states the study.
The review also pointed out that this kind of self-imposed segregation starts from a young age, with 511 schools having more than half the students of Pakistani or Bangladeshi background. There has also been a noticeable increase in unregistered schools and homeschooling in Muslim communities.
Dame Louise Casey's solutions to this involve promoting integration in schools, pointing out that "more weight should be attached to British values" when creating the curriculum. These values should actually be communicated from the moment of arrival when migrants should be made to take an "oath of integration with British values and society".
Most importantly, however, the report recommended that immigrants need to learn English, especially as Muslim and Hindu women tend to know it far less than the men – in fact, they are half as likely.
The lessons would be paid for by the government and would help "tackle cultural barriers born out of segregation".
This sentiment was echoed by the parliamentary committee on social segregation which stated that speaking English is “the key to full participation in our society and economy” and a “prerequisite for meaningful engagement with most British people”.
“The APPG believes that all immigrants should be expected to have either learned English before coming to the UK or be enrolled in compulsory ESOL [English for Speakers of Other Languages] classes upon arrival,” proposed the committee.
Overall, the net of about 330,000 people immigrate into the UK every year, but the turnover is much larger since about a million arrive or leave altogether.
Some other specific recommendations from the parliamentary committee on social integration were to give more authority to make immigration-related decisions to regional governments and how to better spread migrant flows around the country.
Despite our romanticized vision of social media as a global town square overflowing with diversity, the reality is that each user’s experience is hyper-filtered.
Are you living a segregated digital life? If you're on major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the answer is probably yes.
A new report from the MIT Media Lab’s Electome project shows just how segregated we have become on platforms like Twitter. Utilizing the complete data set from Twitter, the report illustrates the clustering nature of both Clinton and Trump supporters -- with Trump supporters being more isolated from a diverse set of opinions. While no definitive conclusions were drawn as to why Clinton and Trump supporters tended to form distinct clusters, the impact of the clustering is more clear -- the user’s information flow is altered towards less diversity of opinions. We are digitally segregated.
There may be many reasons why we either are, or choose to be, segregated on Twitter. Our ability to be connected to diverse perspectives doesn’t mean we will be exposed to diverse opinions. Speaking to VICE News about the report, MIT Media Lab data journalist John West, who worked on the study, stated that, “All of this paints a bleak picture of online political discourse. It is one balkanized by ideology and issue-interest, with little potential for information flow between the online cocoons.”
How can we understand other people when we are not interacting with other people? Social media, as we have been told, was supposed to bring us together not create online cocoons.
In 2013, former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo waxed poetic to the Brookings Institution about Twitter as a global town square. Costolo set up an analogy with the Greek Agora. “You came and talked about what was going on in your part of the village, and I came and talked about what was going on in mine, and the politician was there, and we listened to the issues of the day, and a musician was there and a preacher was there, etcetera, and it was multidirectional and it was unfiltered, and it was inside out, meaning the news was coming from the people it was happening to, not some observer.”
Giving an optimistic gloss of social media’s ability to eliminate time and distance, Costolo stated that, “along comes a service like Twitter that has the elimination of time and distance built into it, but also brings back all those capabilities of the Agora. It’s inside out again, it’s coming from the participants.”
Here is the problem: the platforms we utilize for our modern day Agora have shareholders. We are expecting a public town square, but experiencing a publicly traded company. In a town square, you are walking into an environment. On social media, an environment is created for you. The business model for major social media companies, which is based on data monetization and ads instead of a monthly fee, may run counter to your own desire for diverse opinions.
“Ad-based businesses distort our online interactions,” wrote tech sociologist Zeynep Tufekci in her New York Times op-ed “Mark Zuckerberg, Let Me Pay for Facebook.” “People flock to Internet platforms because they help us connect with one another or the world’s bounty of information — a crucial, valuable function. Yet ad-based financing means that the companies have an interest in manipulating our attention on behalf of advertisers, instead of letting us connect as we wish. Many users think their feed shows everything that their friends post. It doesn’t.”
Our potential exposure to diversity doesn’t equate to actual exposure to diversity.
This was the experience of Eli Pariser, whose 2011 TED talk “Beware online filter bubbles” seems extremely prescient. “I'm progressive, politically… but I've always gone out of my way to meet conservatives. I like hearing what they're thinking about; I like seeing what they link to; I like learning a thing or two. And so I was surprised when I noticed one day that the conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed. And what it turned out was going on was that Facebook was looking at which links I clicked on, and it was noticing that, actually, I was clicking more on my liberal friends' links than on my conservative friends' links. And without consulting me about it, it had edited them out. They disappeared.”
There is a wide gulf between the potential for social media platforms to expose us to diverse opinions, and the reality and running of publicly traded companies. What if showing you diverse opinions would be bad for business?
Instead of trying to change social media companies towards the town square ideal, we need to come to terms that we are not in a public space. Social media is not a town square, and it never will be.