Sunday, October 22, 2006

4 Big reasons to be skeptical of the Lancaster University report on White/Muslim relations

The Guardian reports a University of Lancaster study into attitudes towards other races among 15 year olds in Burnley and Blackburn but then proceeds to generalise this result to the entire population of the United Kingdom by arguing that these results "turn on its head the current debate about integration".

1. It isn't "the first of its kind comparing levels of intolerance in different communities"

The same paper reported a study by the Pew Global Attitudes Project which found that white Britons had the most positive attitudes to Muslims in Europe, with 63% looking on them favourably, but that British Muslims were the most negatively disposed towards the white population in all Europe; a "significant majority viewed western populations as selfish, arrogant, greedy and immoral" among a litany of other crimes. These findings are in direct contradiction to the Lancaster University study if it is generalised to the entire population.

2. The sample size is pretty small

This study's results are, I believe, statistically sound enough but, when combined with a narrow geographical focus and age range, this sample size (435) makes the study a suspect candidate to make grand generalisations about 'fault' for difficulties with integration from.

3. It focusses on teenagers

This study's sample is made up of Year 10s, 15 year olds, and attempts to get at their parents attitudes through their responses to the survey. Why 15 year olds are particularly crucial to integration is unclear. Surely this means that, if we believe the Pew survey that the Muslim population are less positive about other cultures, such attitudes must build up later? Possibly from around 18 once they are in university or work. This doesn't mean that white "attitudes are more of a barrier to integration than those of Muslims".

This might be interesting if it resulted in a concrete case that faith schools were not a problem for integration. Unfortunately having a Muslim school implies having a particularly white dominated school; there are only so many Muslims to go around. This study describes the attitudes in white dominated schools as very problematic. Therefore, even by this study's own logic and results faith schools endanger integration.

4. It was conducted in Burnley and Blackburn

These areas are not remotely representative of most of Britain. In fact it is very plausible that in an area which has seen serious disturbances like Burnley's race riots white attitudes will be more confrontational and Muslim attitudes more conciliatory. After all, whites are still in a massive majority in this country and hold all the cards in open confrontation. One would expect that Muslims, even if a more radicalised population in general, would change those attitudes quite quite quickly if the white population started to look really angry; self preservation usually trumps radicalism.

This does not imply that white attitudes are more of a problem. Across the country Burnleys are being created, formerly peaceful Windsor looks like a decent candidate for the next one. When Muslim radicalisation plays its part in creating an angry white population that anger may well scare the Muslim population into wanting to engage with the white community but this hardly suggests that white attitudes are, right now, more of a problem.

Burnley is likely to be very unrepresentative and this study's authors and interpreters at the Guardian should really be more careful in their generalisations from it.


edmund said...

i agree with nearly all your points but where is the evidence faith schools are a problem? it seemed to come out of nowhere in the general context

edmund said...

i also think "whites" is a farily meaninfless term here, arabs are whites after all, if one isn't to call the miniryt indian or sub-consintn or pakistani/Bangladeshis it strime me the term you are looking for is "christian" yes they won't all be belivers but I'm sure the same's true of the "muslim" minority

tired and emotional said...

The reports conclusions are predictable. Never have university professors knowingly undersold the equality, justice and multicultural agenda of the left. Of course, poor whites (the most despised of all social groups) were to be blamed as the biggest barrier to integration. It’s interesting that the researchers go so far as to smear them as white supremacists though.

That said, some of the report’s findings regarding the acceptance of liberal values amongst 15-year old Muslim children were a big surprise to me. The results were a lot better than I expected on the face of it. Although I would be interest

The fact that tolerance for other people’s views is reported as more important among the children of an immigrant group than it is among the group that has lost out the most from their arrival was less of a surprise. Also, tolerance of others seems to follow socio-economic group more than ethnic or religious. School C was better than school A (perhaps reflecting its mixed nature) but worse than School B (which was mostly Muslim and richer than either A or C.

I wonder whether the 15-year olds of school A who answered that they believe one race to be superior to another were in fact talking about cultures – not races. It would be interesting to know what it was about ‘whites’ they felt to be superior to Muslims or Pakistanis or whatever.

If they answer things like, because they came to us not the other way round, they smell of curry, or wear tents, or take all the houses, or don’t speak English etc etc – then these are cultural factors, not racial…

You can’t then make a case for whites being a barrier to integration because they don’t like other races… when actually they just don’t like other cultures and don’t want them imposed. Of course, the report betrays itself by then saying that one way round this is to lead the children away from ‘nationalistic’ viewpoints and ‘down more eclectic paths’. This is just more multicultural relativism from educational practioners who can afford to be part of white flight bullying those who cannot.

The whole thing reminds me of the EU report into intolerance and racial attacks EU-wide. The press release the EU put out said the stats showed far right white skinheads were responsible for the majority of violent anti-semitic attacks… what report actually showed was that Muslims were in fact responsible for the majority of violent anti-semitic attacks but that conclusion was deemed to be ‘wrong’ so it was not the one released to the general public.

tired and emotional said...

And here's the missing bit for anyone who cares...

That said, some of the report’s findings regarding the acceptance of liberal values amongst 15-year old Muslim children were a big surprise to me. The results were a lot better than I expected on the face of it. Although I would be interested to see what the responses would be if those highly religiously aware pupils were asked what should happen if a liberal view contradicted an Islamic tenet… would they follow their imam’s teaching even if that meant that abandoning the liberal view? Given the centrality of the mosque and the importance of the imam in the study...