Perspectives on Community Cohesion in Bradford: A comparative analysis of two neighbourhoods | Racism

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This research was carried out by Just West Yorkshire in late 2008. It conducted three focus groups and a range of individual interviews in West Bowling, Holme Wood and with stakeholder practitioners in Bradford and West Yorkshire. The main conclusions from the research are summarised followed by key recommendations.
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   PERSPECTIVES ON COMMUNITY COHESION IN BRADFORD: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF TWO NEIGHBOURHOODS A REPORT PRODUCED BY JUST WEST YORKSHIRE  Authors: Ratna Lachman and Alyas Karmani 1  CONTENTS Acknowledgements Executive Summary 4 Introduction 6 Structure of the Report 6  The Environmental Context 7 West Bowling Focus Group Responses 16 Holme Wood Focus Group Responses 20 Stakeholder Focus Group Responses 28 Conclusion 35 2   3 Acknowledgements  JUST West Yorkshire would like to thank those who participated in the focus groups. Their frankness and candour around the issue of Community Cohesion have been critical in presenting the thorny issues that accompany the practical application of this policy. We are also grateful to our interviewers Bonnie Berkowitz, Kamran Mohammed and Huw Illingworth for facilitating the focus group sessions and working with participants to elicit the range of responses that have been crucial in framing this research. Last but not least, we are indebted to Alyas Karmani for leading the stakeholder interviews, and making a critical contribution to the framework and structure of the final report.  This report is published by Just West Yorkshire with financial support from Oxfam GB. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect Oxfam’s views. For more information about Oxfam’s work to end poverty in the UK, go to www.oxfam.org.uk/uk.   4   EXECUTIVE SUMMARY  This research was carried out by Just West Yorkshire in late 2008. It conducted three focus groups and a range of individual interviews in West Bowling, Holme Wood and with stakeholder practitioners in Bradford and West Yorkshire. The main conclusions from the research are summarised below, followed by key recommendations.  The community cohesion policy as it is currently configured has proved to be a very malleable concept; the construction of the terminology premised around the paradigm of a white ‘us’ and a BME ‘them’ has served to undermine the vision of an inclusive society which the policy was designed to create.  The research provides clear evidence that for white communities interviewed for this study, the government’s definition of Cohesion, has become the prism through which their views on asylum, migration, terrorism and extremism are refracted. The xenophobia and racism both implicit and explicit in the views exhibited by significant members of this group, as evidenced in this research, provides incontrovertible proof of the dangers inherent in the current application of the policy, which locates responsibility for good community relations on BME communities. Furthermore, Labour’s insistence on equating the notion of parallel and segregated lives exclusively with the lived experiences of BME communities, represents a blind-spot in public policy terms. The reality is that there are estates like Holme Wood across the length and breadth of England where geographical isolation of White communities is even more profound than in BME communities, and their attendant worldviews marked by insularity and parochialism.  The impact of this partial application of the Cohesion policy has meant that the policy has not elicited the critical buy-in from the very communities at which the strategy is targeted. As evidenced in the section on the environmental context, the research clearly highlighted that the conflation of the terminology of Community Cohesion with the Prevent, Contest and War on Terror policies has created a schism between BME and particularly Muslim communities who consider these approaches as unfairly targeting them. Interview participants have highlighted how the failure to “take firm action on the racism of the far right” is evidence of an inherent racial bias in the government’s approach to BME communities.  The unequivocal message from the research, particularly from practitioners in the stakeholder group, was that the government’s over-reliance on community cohesion as the principal public policy tool in relation to BME communities was doomed to failure. Instead the vision
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