Bhangra and chicken tandoori may be British obsessions. But equally, Sikhs are top of the table when it comes to feeling British, says a new report whose authors have questioned efforts by successive UK governments to promote ‘Britishness’ among immigrants.
A massive 62% of Sikhs, followed by 57% of Muslims and 54% of Hindus describe their only national identity as British, according to an analysis of Britain’s 2011 Census. The figure is just 15% for Christians.
Unlike Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus, Christians (65%) and Jews (54%) say they feel English rather than British, say researchers at the Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity at Manchester University.
This is in keeping with findings that show that in England, three-fifths of the population do not really identify with a British national identity, and only see themselves as English.
In contrast, ethnic minority groups are much more likely to describe themselves as British. Most Bangladeshis (72%), Pakistanis (63%) and Indians (58%) say they are British. But White British (72%) and Mixed (47%) ethnic groups say see themselves as English.
In other words, Whites living in the region of England, who are the overwhelming majority, see themselves as English. But ethnic and religious minorities in the same region see themselves as British. The two identities are confusing tourists and policymakers.
“What is the purpose of placing so much emphasis on encouraging ethnic minorities and new migrants to the UK to accept ‘British’ life and ‘British’ values? Increasing aspirations of Britishness amongst ethnic minorities might only have led to the creation of new minority forms of identity,” the authors say.
The authors believe this may have something to do with the whole process by which a migrant becomes a citizen. They also believe the findings are at odds with the British government’s plans to promote mainstream British values.
“If you believe what you read in the newspapers, Muslims are less likely to feel British than anyone else. In fact, the opposite is true,” said Dr Stephen Jivraj, who led the study.
“Our findings are at odds with the present and previous governments’ emphasis on encouraging ethnic minorities and new migrants to accept ‘British’ life and ‘British’ values.”