UK riots blamed on ethnic division
LONDON, England -- Ethnic polarisation fuelled by a lack of debate has been blamed for playing a key factor in the racial riots that broke out in northern England during the summer, a report has found.
A government-ordered report written by Ted Cantle, chairman of the Community Cohesion Review Team, said most of the white communities were living parallel, quite separate, lives from minority Asian and black groups.
Violence and anger broke out over three nights in July in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham, towns that are mainly populated by Asians from Pakistan and Bangladesh. Racial extremists had attempted to take advantage of the situation.
About 100 people were arrested, more were injured, among them police officers, and millions of pounds worth of damage was caused.
The report, widely leaked in the UK's media on Tuesday, warned that further unrest could break out.
Cantle wrote that segregation -- manifested in separate schools, communal and voluntary organisations, employment, places of worship and cultural activities -- as well as a lack of contact between races "fuels fear and suspicion that is easily exploited by extremists."
"Whilst the physical segregation of housing estates and inner city areas came as no surprise, the team was particularly struck by the depth of polarisation in our towns and cities," the report said.
"The extent to which this physical division was compounded by so many other aspects of our daily lives was very evident."
It added: "This means that many communities operate on the basis of a series of parallel lives."
The report also pointed to a lack of understanding between the two communities based on a "lack of honest debate."
"The failure to communicate is compounded by the lack of honest and robust debate as people tiptoe around the sensitive issue of race, religion and culture."
The report also blamed an absence of positive leadership on both sides of the racial divide for leading to extremist party political support.
Cantle, the former chief executive of Nottingham Council, called for a national debate on a shared British identity.
The findings will increase the row recently sparked by comments made by the UK Home Secretary (Interior Minister) David Blunkett urging ethnic minorities to learn the English language, scrap traditions like arranged marriages and embrace a "sense of belonging."
Blunkett pledged to push through legislation next year which will require those seeking British citizenship to learn some English. Cantle, who toured the three towns, as well as other ethnically mixed areas -- Southall in west London, Birmingham, Leicester and Sheffield -- backed Blunkett's views on language and a respect for the law.
He also encouraged religious schools to allow a quarter of its students to come from other faiths.
Ethnic minorities make up about 5 percent of Britain's population of nearly 60 million.
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