CentrePiece Summer 2007Culture clashor culture club?The identity and attitudes ofimmigrants in BritainDoes Britain face a real threat from immigrantsand minorities – particularly Muslims – whorefuse to think of themselves as British?Alan Manning and Sanchari Roy haveanalysed data on the national identity andvalues of both immigrants and British-bornpeople – and they conclude that fears of a‘culture clash’ are seriously exaggerated.
CentrePiece Summer 2007M any people in people know so little about Muslims that Table 1 shows the proportions of Britain consider it is very hard to know how widespread British-born people of different religions, immigration to these feelings are. Our research uses who think of themselves as British. Of be one of the responses from the Labour Force Survey of those describing themselves as Christian, most important almost one million individuals to the 99.1% report themselves as British. But of issues facing question ‘What do you consider your those describing themselves as Muslim,the country today. Their concerns seem to national identity to be?’ as well as data on the proportion is slightly higher at 99.2%,be as much about the social impact of people’s views of their rights and exceeded only by those who are Jewish.immigration as its economic impact, which responsibilities from Home Office Percentages reporting a British identity areeconomists typically conclude are small. It Citizenship Surveys. The answers give little lower for Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus, butis not entirely clear what social support to the idea of a serious culture are above 95% for all groups. It is hard toconsequences of immigration are feared – clash within British society. look at these figures and see grounds forsometimes it is simply the dilution of concern. Of course, this does not mean‘traditional’ culture; sometimes it is a more The British-born that the Muslims see themselves as Britishmelodramatic fear that Britain is becoming Among those who were born in Britain, and not Muslim – it is just that they seea mix of mutually incompatible cultures, over 90% of all groups of whatever no conflict in being both.whose irreconcilable differences could end religion or ethnicity, think of themselves as Ethnicity has a somewhat larger effectin a serious ‘culture clash’. British. In particular, there is no evidence on British identity than religion, as can be Of course, these concerns are not that Muslims are less likely to think of seen from Table 2. All non-white ethnicnew. For example, in April 1990, Norman themselves as British than other groups. groups report lower levels of British(now Lord) Tebbit cited his infamous Our interest in this topic began with the identity, but this is probably because many‘cricket test’. The former cabinet minister responses of Muslims, but we came to the of them are second-generationtold the Los Angeles Times: ‘A large conclusion that it was unfair to single immigrants. If we look at young people,proportion of Britains Asian population them out for special attention as they do those from ethnic minorities whosefail to pass the cricket test. Which side do not stand out in any way. parents are British-born report the samethey cheer for? Its an interesting test. Areyou still harking back to where you camefrom or where you are?’ Table 1: Table 2: But the current concerns seem Percentage of British-born Percentage of British-bornheightened, largely because of fears about people reporting British people reporting Britishthe integration of Muslims into British as their national identity, as their national identity,culture. There is widespread belief that a by religion (controlling by ethnicity (controllinggrowing fraction of Muslims who live (and for ethnicity) for religion)in many cases were born) in Britain do notthink of themselves as British, have no Religion Percentage reporting Ethnicity Percentage reportingaspiration to do so and do not want their British identity British identitychildren to do so either. Instead, it is feared,they subscribe to some other identity, Christian 99.1% White 99.1%creating little enclaves that resemble, as far Buddhist 95.7% Mixed: White/Black Caribbean 97.6%as is possible, the countries from which Hindu 96.1% Mixed: White/Black African 95.3%they came or a model of the good society Jewish 99.6% Mixed: White/Asian 95.2%very different from what is generally Muslim 99.2% Mixed: Other 91.8%thought of as ‘Britain’. Sikh 95.6% Indian 94.2% Such fears tend to be magnified by Any other religion 97.0% Pakistani 93.4%the statements by some British Muslims, No religion 98.8% Bangladeshi 94.9%which appear explicitly to reject a British Total 99.0% Other Asian 90.5%identity and affirm another one. One of Black Caribbean 93.5%the July 7 bombers appeared in a video Black African 94.2%saying ‘your democratically elected Other Black 95.3%governments continuously perpetuate Chinese 91.9%atrocities against my people and your Other 79.4%support of them makes you directlyresponsible, just as I am directlyresponsible for protecting and avengingmy Muslim brothers and sisters’. Contrary to what many people seemThe use of the words ‘your’ and ‘my’clearly expressed the people with whom to believe, Britain is not rivenhe identified. The problem is that most British by a large-scale culture clash 9
CentrePiece Summer 2007levels of British identity as the whitepopulation. There is no evidence that There is, however, one group thatstands out as having an extremely low level Muslims are less likely toof British identity – Catholics fromNorthern Ireland. From our research, it think of themselves as Britishappears that any identity conflict amongBritish-born Muslims is an order of than other groupsmagnitude smaller than that amongCatholics from Northern Ireland.ImmigrantsSo far, we have focused on people born in immigrant groups than others, but not inBritain, but what about immigrants? The the way that might be expected. Forfraction of immigrants who identify example, Muslims are not less likely to feelthemselves as British varies a lot by country British than those from other backgrounds,of birth. But there is a simple explanation and immigrants from Pakistan andfor most of this variation – how long Bangladesh assimilate into a British identityimmigrants have been in the country? much faster than the average, while those The longer Figure 1 shows that new immigrants from Western Europe and the United immigrants remainalmost never think of themselves as British, States do so more slowly, with Italians and in Britain, the morebut the longer they remain in the country Irish standing out as the groups that likely they are tothe more likely they are to do so. This assimilate least into a British identity. think of themselvesprocess of assimilation is faster for some We also find evidence that immigrants as BritishFigure 1:Immigrants’ views of their national identityand years since arrival 100% Malta 80% Cyprus Hong Kong UgandaPercentage reporting British identity Pakistan Egypt Bangaldesh Jamaica 60% India Canada 40% Iran Australia Turkey Poland USA Ireland Somalia China Italy 20% Japan France Slovakia 0 0 10 20 30 40 Average years since arrival10
CentrePiece Summer 2007from poorer and less democratic countries here are very similar to those on national evidence from the 2003 British Socialassimilate faster into a British identity. Part identity: immigrants are very slightly less Attitudes Survey, which asked respondentsbut not all of this can be explained by a likely to have views on rights and to say whether they agreed or disagreedgreater tendency to take up citizenship. responsibilities that the popular consensus with the statement ‘Muslims are more holds to be ‘desirable’. loyal to Muslims than to Britain’. Of theRights and responsibilities But the differences are much smaller non-Muslim respondents, only 9%This last finding might lead one to argue than the differences among the British- disagreed with a further 25% neitherthat whether people think of themselves born population of different ages and with agreeing nor disagreeing. But among theas British is not a meaningful indicator of different levels of education. What’s more, Muslim respondents (who we mightwhether they feel they belong, nor of their the immigrant groups who emerge as expect to be better-informed on theintegration into British life and values. having different values from the British- subject) 45% disagreed, a significantThere is little concern about the fact that born population are not the ones that difference.Italians rarely seem to come to think of have become the focus of most public The survey also found that 62% ofthemselves as British because it is felt that concern. Muslims, for example, do not non-Muslim respondents thought thatItalians have similar views on the way in have significantly different values. there was a fairly or very serious conflictwhich society should be run. These findings strongly suggest that, between Muslims and non-Muslims in So it is conceivable that those born in contrary to what many people seem to Britain, compared with 27% of Muslims.Britain call themselves British because that believe, Britain is not riven by large-scale A broader question about conflictsis what their passports say they are but culture clash. This is not to deny the between Muslims and non-Muslims in thethat they espouse a variety of diverse existence of some people who are world as a whole found 85% of non-values. To examine the values that may lie prepared to use violence to further their Muslims saying they thought that therebehind notions of British identity, we also agenda, but our evidence suggests that was a fairly or very serious conflict,conducted an analysis of people’s views on these are a tiny minority. compared with only 67% of Muslims.rights and responsibilities. Our findings Our conclusion is supported by In presenting our research findings at various universities, we have been surprised by how many people react by Immigrants from saying our results are all wrong and that they ‘know’ that there is a serious culture poorer and less clash. We should be seriously concerned that they maintain this stance even when democratic faced with evidence against it. While there may not be much of a problem with countries immigrants and minorities in Britain not thinking of themselves as British, there assimilate faster may be a bigger problem in the refusal of the indigenous white population to see into a British these groups as British. identity This article summarises ‘Culture Clash or Culture Club? The Identity and Attitudes of Immigrants in Britain’ by Alan Manning and Sanchari Roy, CEP Discussion Paper No. 790 (http://cep.lse.ac.uk/pubs/download/ dp0790.pdf). Alan Manning is professor of economics at LSE and director of CEP’s research programme on labour markets. Sanchari Roy is a PhD student and research assistant at LSE. 11