White middle-class political correctness has impeded attempts to create racial harmony in Bradford, the scene of mainland Britain's worst rioting in 20 years, the city's council leader said.
As Lord Ouseley's report into Bradford's race relations accused the city's politicians of "kowtowing" to community leaders to "keep the peace", Margaret Eaton said her council's failure to question Pakistani families' detrimental practice of taking children out of schools for long visits to Pakistan was a typical example of white councillors' trepidation.
"People have been afraid to even signal up something, to say, 'Can we talk about it?'" Ms Eaton said. "That's not saying the practice is wrong. The things we have been encouraged not to talk about ... are perceived as a criticism of a culture when they were an attempt to take education forward."
Lord Ouseley, who also concluded that parental prejudice was being fed through into Bradford's youth, offered far more description than prescription in his report, which left a painful sense that the city had been through this process of self-analysis too many times before. The report, Community Pride not Prejudice, was a withering attack on the institutional "fear" of tackling race issues and the segregation preventing children from understanding other races.
It introduced two principal new recommendations: that the city's schools need a programme of citizenship education to enhance racial understanding, and the city should have a Centre for Diversity Living and Learning (based on the successful Australian model), providing advice for all victims of harassment and discrimination.
But otherwise its observations – especially its familiar theme on the disenfranchisement of Asian youths – were painfully reminiscent of the discredited report on the 1995 Bradford riots, which its only Asian contributor refused to sign, claiming it lacked concrete proposals and timescales.
The report, which is to be used in a three-year implementation plan, also carried curious echoes of Ray Honeyford, a Manningham headteacher whose statements on multi-racial education earned him the sack in 1985.
Mr Honeyford said then that Asian parents' habit of sending their children abroad for long periods of term time had "obvious harmful consequences" and insisted that standards were "bound to decline" in schools for which English, the "medium of instruction", was a second language". That is similar to the findings of Lord Ouseley and comments by Ms Eaton yesterday that English was "the language of success". She admitted the £100m spent on language development in the past 10 years had failed.
Lord Ouseley clearly believes that his submissions can succeed where others have failed only if Bradford's younger generation have the will to make them work.
He has striven to involve young Asian girls, whom Asian culture has made the most excluded of all from Bradford's development, by including on his panel three teenagers from the Muslim Belle Vue girls' school in Manningham.
But there was a notable absence of teenagers or young adults on the predominantly white, middle-class, male top table of 11 (with two Asians, including Lord Ouseley) and remarkably few in the audience of 300, when the report was presented yesterday. The culturally exclusive membership of the board of Bradford Vision, the multi-agency organisation that commissioned the report, also came under scrutiny. Recruitment to its board was still under review, its chief executive said.
Nazia Shah, of the Manningham and Girlington youth partnership, a group praised by Lord Ouseley, pleaded for young people to be involved in decision-making. "Bradford is always in the process of being reviewed. It needs young people up there leading it."
But there is clearly much more than white prejudice holding them back. Schoolgirls in the audience from Bradford's (predominantly Asian) Grove school spoke about their frustrated desires for multi-racial education, thwarted by parents who "through fear, not racism" sent them to Muslim schools. The name badges of the two 15-year-old girls were removed by their headteacher, for fear of "telephone calls" from those in their community who disprove of such candour in young girls.
"Ethnic minorities do not get access to the top jobs and we can do. We must to be a part in leading things for the community," said one of the pupils.
Involving in the process the teenage boys responsible for Saturday night's violence will be even harder, considering the distance between them and the more conservative community leaders such as Ayub Laher of the Council of Mosques. Mr Laher said the report, like the 1995 Commission report, was too "politically correct" and did not tackle the issue of the 15 per cent male Muslim underclass that was out of control. "What are they doing out on the streets at 8pm at night? Many of them need a father figure. Who are they listening to?" Mr Laher asked.
He admits it will certainly not be the community elders like him. "They are a mystery to me," he admitted. "All they want is their money, their drug money. In Pakistan they would be shot for what they have done. They don't know what deprivation is like."
As if Bradford were not grappling with enough proposed solutions, Ann Cryer, MP for nearby Keighley, suggested limiting the number of people arriving in the country for arranged marriages who cannot speak English. Ms Cryer said she was seeking support from Asian parents to consider, when arranging the marriage of their child, to look to young British Muslims.
Mohammed Ajeeb, a former lord mayor of Bradford, retorted: "To say people from Pakistan and Bangladesh don't have language skills and this is holding the community back is ridiculous. At least one person will speak English in the couple."
Ms Cryer said: "I'm going to be right in the firing line for this but, as Herman Ouseley says, there are going to be a lot of debates to have."Reuse content