The statisticians are at it again. Trying to connect A-B but, just for fun, popping into every shop along the way. Sketching trends with a pencil as there is insufficient data to ink them in. Reading significance into very little. Missing the point.
A new survey by the University of East London has produced a map portraying religious segregation in the capital, which concludes that religion is a bigger dividing factor in the city than racial differences. Only 3% of Londoners live in an area which may be deemed racially segregated, while up to 25% dwell in religious ‘enclaves’. A poke around in the nitty-gritty of this report, which sees measures of economic and social well-being thrown into the equation, shows that many of those living in these religious quarters are prospering under such conditions – only one community is suffering any degree of deprivation, namely the Muslim community.
A more general approach to the data which the university has assembled cuts through the stats to the core of the matter. The fact is that there is an increasing number of Muslims living in the capital (607,000 at the 2001 census), and that many of them live in an area which is traditionally socially deprived, the East End (at the time of the same census, something like 36.4% of the inhabitants of Tower Hamlets were Muslim). Finchley and Golders Green have for many years been recognised as quintessentially Jewish areas (one main reason for this being the need to live within an eruv), whilst parts of Wembley and Southall are home to most of the Sikh and Hindu communities: this is old news. But both sets of immigrant communities started their London life in the East End, firstly the Jews, before and during World War 2, and then in the post-war years it was the turn of the Pakistanis and Indians. It is perhaps the only area of London in which refugees/immigrants can either afford to live or find ready accommodation, and thus gives the largely false impression that the most recent wave of new Londoners have chosen to bunch together.
Londonist does not like the term segregation. London is one of the most ghetto-free and friendly cities on the planet, and surveys such as this prove little and help matters even less. Post 7/7, the Muslim community in the capital has made a big effort to integrate even further. And there are some ‘surveys’ which by their very sensationalist nature serve to reinforce whatever it was they were trying to prove – a community which believes it is segregated will act ever increasingly so. As the Bishop of London has pointed out:
"If you exile religious communities to the margins, then they will start to speak the words of fire among consenting adults, and the threat to public order and the public arena, I think, will grow and grow."
Besides, it is almost impossible to quantify London as it is constantly changing. What Londoners should be concluding from the above is that there is a degree of economic disparity in the capital, and that the newest-comers (who are currently and coincidentally mostly Muslim) often start off in bunched up together in the East End. Oh, and also that there are far too many statistical surveys.
Image courtesy of gwire’s flickr stream.