Thursday, October 12, 2006

Spread of race ghettos fuels gang warfare in London

Shiv Malik:

AN east London teenager who became a drug dealer and a knife-wielding member of a street gang lays the blame on the transformation of his neighbourhood into an ethnic minority “ghetto” where turf warfare flourishes.

“I fell in with the wrong crowd,” said Syed Miah, 19, who regrets his life of crime. “Before, it was mixed and you would get to know other people, but now no one meets anyone. You grow up with this mentality that ‘we’re Bangladeshis, whites are whites and blacks are blacks’.”

Miah became a full-time gangster when he was expelled from school for holding a knife to his teacher’s throat. He says he eventually earned up to £960 a week dealing heroin before being sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Miah’s account of the failure of multiculturalism encapsulates the growing debate over how ethnic minorities should be integrated into society. At last week’s Conservative conference, David Cameron, the party leader, warned that in some cities “we have allowed ghettos to develop — whole neighbourhoods cut off from the rest of society”.

He spoke of “parallel lives”, citing “communities where people from different backgrounds never meet, never talk, never go into each other’s homes”.

There are ethnic gang fights in Manchester and Birmingham and last week they spread to Windsor, where rioting erupted around an Asian-owned dairy and nearby prayer centre.

Last weekend, Stevens Nyembo-Ya-Muteba, 40, a maths and finance student, was stabbed to death in his block of flats in Hackney, east London. It later emerged he and his wife Veronique, who came to Britain 10 years ago as refugees from the Congo, had asked the authorities to improve security on their building because they were worried about loitering youths.

Nowhere is the ethnic basis of gangs more evident than in London, where the cultural patchwork is the most complicated in Britain. According to new figures, in the borough of Brent there is an 85% chance that any two people chosen at random would belong to different ethnic groups.

Bangladeshis, Somalis, Pakistanis, Afro–Caribbeans and Turks have all formed their own gangs who are as likely to fight each other as they are to attack or be attacked by white thugs.

Last year Lee Jasper, a policing adviser to Ken Livingstone, the London mayor, warned that one south London gang, the Muslim Boys, was the “most serious criminal threat” the black community had ever faced. It was accused of shooting a man, execution-style, after he refused to convert to Islam, and has been implicated in dozens of other muggings and attempted murders.

Tower Hamlets, Miah’s home borough, is one of the most ethnically diverse in Britain, with whites comprising just 51% of the population. It has been portrayed in books such as Brick Lane by Monica Ali as an area where there is tension, but communities manage to coexist.

However, there is now strong evidence of the extent of segregation in the area. A recent report by Bristol University found 40% of Bangladeshi children went to schools where at least 90% of the pupils were Bangladeshi, while 60% of whites attended overwhelmingly white schools. The report described education in Tower Hamlets as “highly segregated”.

English 'a foreign language in London's schools'


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