Comment: Change the focus

Branding Bradford a ‘divided city’ misses the point – we must tackle general deprivation, regardless of background – writes Ansar Ali

Ten years on from July 2001 when racial tensions erupted into the Bradford riots and the media appears almost obsessed with it being a ‘divided city’. The perception is fuelled by official reports such as the Cantle Review containing the unhelpfully coined phrase ‘parallel lives’ to describe Bradford.

Ansar Ali

I know Bradford well; I have lived here since I was four. There are areas where similar communities live and support each other, creating a critical mass that supports facilities such as mosques. But I do not accept that there is almost no interaction between Bradford’s different communities. I certainly do not accept that there is large-scale polarisation.

People in this ‘divided city’ from minority backgrounds visit the city centre for shopping or entertainment, to use public services and facilities. When they do, they interact with people from different backgrounds.

The debate couched in these terms distracts attention away from the real issue: Bradford has a significant population, both white and non-white, severely affected by deprivation. According to the Index of Multiple Deprivation for 2010, Bradford is the 26th most deprived local authority district out of 326 in England. Unemployment, generally among youths, is too high. Educational attainment remains poor, despite some improvement. And the city is in desperate need of more good quality housing; the number of letters that I receive from councillors and MPs pleading the case of their constituents on that front is staggering.

I am not saying that these social and economic conditions are what caused the disturbances, but they do blight the lives of our communities from all races. We need to focus on meeting these significant challenges that Bradford faces and not be distracted by a single event that occurred 10 years ago and may or may not happen again.

Ansar Ali is chief executive of Manningham Housing Association.

This article is reproduced courtesy of Inside Housing.

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