Social integration will be one of the great challenges of the next twenty years. If the United Kingdom is to make a serious attempt at greater inclusion, serious thought has to be given to creating the conditions which allow people of all faiths and cultures to co-exist. This applies mainly, but not exclusively, to the Muslim and Asian communities. To take one example: following the bomb attacks of 7 July 2005 television audiences in Pakistan were shocked by the news reports from the northern towns where the bombers lived. To them these were not ‘Islamic communities’ living within the mainstream of British life but the result of social and economic exclusion.
The problem cannot be addressed in isolation. There is linkage with the wider world where the perception is that Islam is under sustained attack by the western Christian world. Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan, rendition flights, Guantanamo Bay, wrongful arrests and police harassment are all seen an assault on Islamic values and encourage the sterner elements of fundamentalism to flourish, to the detriment of moderates. At the same time Islamic religious and community leaders have a role to play. While it is one thing to support the concept of the ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims, young people have to be given the freedom and opportunity to integrate into British society. For 18 year olds of all backgrounds this is both a challenge and an opportunity.