185. In 2003, the Bangladeshi Youth League published
a reflection on the issue of identity within the Bangladeshi community:
"Who am I? Many Bangladeshi youths are faced
with this identity crisis. We are not fully accepted as being
British even though we were born in Britain. Nor are we fully
accepted as being Bangladeshi even though we have the same skin
colour and can speak the same mother tongue language, which is
"If the first generation were asked 'What is
your nationality?' they would probably say with no hesitation
that they are 100% Bangladeshi. If the same question were asked
to the second generation there would probably be a sense of confusion
running through their minds. When they finally answer the question
there is a doubt in their answer. The second generation have not
fully accepted the term British or Bangladeshi in their identity.
"It is evident that they have no fixed identity,
their identity is constantly floating, being defined, modified
and redefined in society. There is a culture clash emerging in
the Bangladeshi communities. The traditional culture and behaviour
of the first generation are only marginally changed in many aspects
of their social life. In comparison the second generation are
faced daily with the question of identity, if they don't make
certain changes in their cultural identity, appearance and their
traditional views they find it hard to fit into British society."
186. There is much evidence that these uncertainties
in Muslim communities about identity are widespread, particularly,
but not only, among young people. For example, a Minority Rights
Group International report notes a variety of attitudes among
British Muslims and observes that for some young Muslims Britishness
"is frequently described in terms of citizenship, rather
than an emotional and cultural bond shared with the rest of the
Dr Khanum told us that many young Bangladeshi women identified
themselves as Muslim: this had been a surprise to her as their
parents identified themselves as Bangladeshi.
187. Sticking together noted that while some
young people in Luton did not identify with being British or English,
they did feel they had a Luton identity.
A Best Value Performance Indicator survey of residents of Luton
had shown that of those who described themselves as white 57.8%
belonged to Luton, while for Black and minority ethnic (BME) communities
the figure was 79.6%. When asked if they felt they belonged to
England the figures were 85.4% of whites and 75.1% of BME respondents,
and if they belonged to Britain 80.5% and 75.1% respectively.
188. Not all young Muslims were concerned by uncertainties
over their identity. Dr Khanum quoted some young people as saying:
""Why do you bother about identity? We
have multiple identity and according to mood and circumstance
we call ourselves Bangladeshi, British, Muslim or Lutonian or
189. We were struck during our visit to France by
the way in which the widely understood concept of the French citizen
and their rights and duties was a starting point for discussion
of these issues (although we were not able to assess how valuable
this will prove to be). We did not detect similar certainty in
the Netherlands. We are sure it does not exist in the United Kingdom.
The Cantle report called for a clearer idea of what it means to
be British: the first two of the 67 recommendations in the report
"The rightsand in particularthe responsibilities
of citizenship need to be more clearly established [...] This
should then be formalised into a form of statement of allegiance.
"However, this should follow an honest and open
national debate, led by Government and heavily influenced by younger
people. We believe that this should be initiated very quickly
and lead directly to a programme of action."
190. We asked the Minister of State whether there
should be such a debate. She said:
"In terms of opportunities for everyone and
mutual expectations, it is very much the agenda that we talk about
across government, whether it is opportunity, security, rights
and responsibilities, that sense of mutual inter-dependence.
That is not necessarily just about Britishness; that is about
the core values that are the glue that holds us together. [...]
I think there is a need for a great debate about what those mutual
inter-dependencies are, and the relationship between rights and
responsibilities and opportunities in this country. I think there
is a need to re-establish some norms of behaviour, what I would
call the essential standards of decency, but I do not think there
is necessarily a need for a great debate about Britishness.
191. There is perhaps a danger, however, that if
the alienation from the wider society is too great, a small number
of people will be drawn to extremist interpretations of their
faith. The development of a deeper faith amongst young British
Muslims should be entirely compatible with a secure and comfortable
192. It is important to stress that this is not
a debate for Muslims alone, nor, indeed, for other minority communities.
Part of the problem is the racism and rejection which is experienced
from some parts of the majority community in which unjustified
fear, suspicion and simple lack of understanding play a large
part. An inclusive British identity for the 21st century can only
be created by the full participation of all parts of society.
193. Questions of identity may be inextricably
linked with the reasons which may lead a small number of well-educated
and apparently integrated young British people to turn to terrorism.
No one should be forced to choose between being British and being
Muslim and we do not believe the two are in any way incompatible.
The relationship between rights and responsibilities and opportunities
in this country cannot be separated from the concept of Britishness.
These issues were raised by the Cantle Report in 2001. They have
not lost their relevance today, and we endorse the Cantle Report's
conclusion that a wider debate, in which young people must play
a leading role, about a modern British identity should be developed.
Foreign ministers of religion
194. The issue of foreign-born imams, who might espouse
extremist positions and who would be unlikely to have much understanding
of the host countrythus increasing segregationwas raised with
us more than once in France and the Netherlands. We have only
anecdotal and media evidence to suggest that this is a significant
problem in this country. The Minister told us about the progress
of, and consultation on, regulations to ensure ministers of religion
from abroad have a knowledge of English and of British life:
"There are two stages. We have brought in the
first stage and now they [foreign ministers of religion] have
to show they can use spoken English to Level 4 in the International
English Language Testing system, which is described as a limited
user. Over the next two years that will be raised to Level 6,
so people will have to be more proficient in English when they
first come in. We are just about to launch a second stage of
consultation with faith communities on taking some further measures
to try and ensure ministers of religion from abroad can play a
full role in the community. That means non-spoken language, it
includes things like civic knowledge, engagement in communities,
pre-entry qualifications, and we want to explore with the faith
communities what ought to be the range of skills and abilities
that people who want to come into this country as ministers of
religion should possess."
We note that the Government has no plans to follow
the Dutch example of providing funding to the Muslim community
for education of local-born imams.
195. We welcome the Government's efforts so far
to ensure that foreign ministers of religion have the language
skills and knowledge of this country to make a contribution to
communities here. The success of these efforts should be kept
under review and, if necessary, ideas from other countries should