Anti-Social Behaviour, and the marginalisation of ‘invisible’ socially disadvantaged groups

Local Authorities should be aware that a balance should be struck between the policing of Anti-Social Behaviour, and the marginalisation of ‘invisible’ socially disadvantaged groups.

The term anti-social behaviour (ASB) is defined as the behaviour that causes “harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household” (Criminal Justice Act, 1998). Concerns of ASB are likely to be higher in urban areas. In the UK, a lot of media attention focussed on ASB issues. A high number of people living in London are known to suffer from ASB. UK legislation gives vague indications of what makes someone’s behaviour anti-social. Examples of ASB can constitute interpersonal ASB, racist behaviour, verbal abuse, neighbours problems, gender discrimination, drug use or vandalism (Bannister & O’Sullivan, 2013). This essay deals with two issues of ASB such as gender discrimination and drug use, with minority groups within a certain community, with ethnic identity and culture, with women in the Muslim socio-cultural context, with the concepts of community development and community of practice, with the notion of power from Ghazali and Bourdieu’s perspective in relation to minority groups.

The title assumes that there is a relationship between antisocial behaviour and social disadvantage. Social disadvantaged areas are always characterised by social challenges including high unemployment rates, low income levels, high residential mobility and low social capital (Purandare, 2013). Neighbourhood characteristics have an indirect influence on antisocial behaviour. Due to the poverty in these neighbourhoods, parents are engaged in other activities and therefore are not able to adequately supervise their children’s growth and development. In addition, social disadvantaged neighbourhoods expose children to abuse and neglect from their parents (Scaramella, Conger, Spoth & Simons, 2003). The neglect that the children receive from their parents may make them associate more strongly with their peers. This makes the children to be very vulnerable to the negative influence of their peers.

Over recent generations, women’s lives did change dramatically in the UK. Women play a significant role in economic, politic as well as public life. Women make a crucial contribution to UK economy, as 46.4% have employment according to Labour Market Statistics (2011). There are also women (28%) who combine paid work with family responsibilities as Labour Force Survey (2010) has stated. Still, gender discrimination is a major issue in the UK as well, a significant problem which is considered as an act of treating in a different manner the opposite sex only because the other belongs to that sex. Most of the women are discriminated at the work place and there are reasons leading to gender discrimination at work such as fear of sharing power with the other gender, complex of superiority and ignorance of the other’s values, historic patterns of the prejudice that women should stay at home and take care of the children and tensions that women are not at all equal to men. In addition, women find it difficult to rise through the corporate ladder and some of them are systematically underpaid (Livanos, Yalkin & Nunez, 2009 p. 815).

According to Kirby & Edmondson (2012 p. 96), UK citizens have been more concerned about antisocial behaviour over the past few decades. The concern has been mainly due to the fact that fragmented communities and the changes that come with these societies may generate some uncertainty making individuals to be intolerant to disorder. There is therefore a need for solutions to be developed so that anti-social behaviour among the minority and discriminated groups is eliminated.

Solutions should be considered to gender discrimination leading to a better relationship between men and women at working places taking into account implementation of laws worldwide at the government level (Kanellopoulos & Mavromaras, 2002), children’s education on the effects of discrimination, removal of the ideology of superiority as every citizen should respect other groups’ colour, sex, nationality and religion, in addition to development of training programs helping employees work irrespective of the gender, nationality or religion, transparency of job vacancies which should be open for both men and women or eradication of gender stereotypes and promotion of gender equality. The 7th periodic report in the UK on both legislative and administrative measures enables the UK government’s approach advance gender equality eliminating discrimination. UK approach deals with discrimination as well as advancing gender equality, as articles from the Convention (CEDAW) state that discrimination should be eliminated, there are obligations to eliminate discrimination and special measures should be adopted to accelerate equality (Livanos, Yalkin & Nunez, 2009).

Moreover, according to The UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), evidence is provided in relation to drug policies and practice. However, drug policy needs to ensure that drug use will not harm children and young people. UKDPC introduces the nature of drug use and drug issues in the UK, offers a different perspective on drug policy and assesses the findings in order to make specific recommendations on the way drug policy could evolve over the years to come. Drug use is a current issue in our society (Young, Sweeting & West, 2008 p. 204). There are also recreational drugs and the major change that man can perceive today is their effect on society as well as the high frequency of their use.

Addicts have mainly the same motives that cause addiction, and a large period of use will cause harm to their personalities. Theories arising from social work enable practitioners dealing with this issue to develop further understanding of human growth and development connecting psychology and substance misuse, addiction being perceived as a regressive act returning the drug addict to an infantile state where the child feels protected by his parents. Therefore, substances are used in order to blot out both psychological and social problems (Gossop, 2003).

In order to develop their drug use habit, addicts must dispose of large amounts of money on a daily basis. As an example of a street drug, heroin causes physical dependence and addiction. Even simple daily tasks become impossible for a drug addict without the drug that creates dependence. Many crimes related to cocaine addicts include theft, burglary, fencing, and prostitution. In most of the cases, addicts are likely to commit crimes including robbery or breaking and entering.

Alcohol and violent crime are also associated with drug use. Therefore, a drug user can commit violent crimes if the addict does not dispose of the money to procure drugs. This is especially true for men and happens mainly in public places thereby causing disturbance to others (Lightowlers, 2011 p. 192). Drugs are increasingly associated with crime and disease, and the number of drug users increases considerably which does harm to any society. Drugs or even alcohol remains a priority problem, being perceived as ASB. Furthermore, the heroin addicts make use of opiates for calming effects, the amphetamines which are a self-esteem enhancer. It is difficult for the substance addicts to cope with their emotions or verbalise their feelings (Strand, 2000). Alcohol and drug use is related to increased levels of aggression and reduced self control. Alcohol may at times influence perceptions and impair individual judgement (Marteau, 2008 p. 12).

Both gender discrimination and drug use are considered examples of ASB. The ‘minority and marginalized people’ often experience ASB in some form. In spite of common media and political considerations, young people are not considered the only perpetrators even if there are many youth problems in each community. Nevertheless, the main feature of ASB may be considered a person’s lack of consideration towards the others which involves malicious intent (Kirby & Edmondson, 2012). For instance, Bangladeshi women are likely to receive abuse for being Muslim or for being just women. All in all, people experiencing ASB are targeted as minority or marginalized persons. That is why, local authorities should be aware that a balance should exist between the policing of ASB, and the marginalisation of ‘invisible’ socially disadvantaged groups.

British government policy related to minority groups offered weak protection against racial discrimination. The targeting of minority groups was part of immigration policy in the UK, even if they were Jews, blacks, Asians or even asylum seekers. Recently policy was “re-racialised” as new EU citizens coming from the developing world is searching for work (Sales, 2007, p. 158). Craig (2007) stated that immigrants were characterised as ‘cunning’, ‘loathsome’ and ‘unprincipled’ by the British whereas British state policy in relation to migrants and minorities showed a “long pedigree of racism”. The Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 in the UK required public authorities to ensure race equality strategies. The DWP’s Race Equality strategy document was committed itself to evaluating possible differential impact in relation to both services and policies and to prioritising monitoring as well as evaluating the possible scale of the impact. The Commission for Racial Equality’s final report in 2007 has identified lesser progress across all the UK as for the implementation of race equality strategies.According to Law (2002), minority issues are related to a series of topics such as immigration as well as related debates over illegal entry and fraudulent activities, issues of confinement and control, as minority groups are perceived as a threat to society, culture and nation; in addition to cultural differences, often related to social problems, such as inner city decline, unemployment, as well as other issues associated with inter-ethnic tension, violence and discrimination. As for minority groups within a specific community, this essay focuses on Muslims in relation to gender discrimination issues as well as cultural and ethnic identity. The main conflicts for Muslims are not present within intra-psychic domain, but they lie within the intra-familial, social as well as religious domains. Problems may arise in interpreting values when dealing with the opposite gender. The gender roles dictated by culture are emphasized as well as the languages which do not have the same social and political status. Therefore, the use of language depends on the power of gender-making in Arabic countries (Tomescu & Trofin, 2014 p. 1245). Women are grouped into two major classes: on the one hand illiterate women who express their inner self by using folktales, songs, and gossips, and on the other hand semi-literate and literate women who use code-switching for expression. The choice of address terms and directives in the Muslim socio-cultural context are major factors in determining politeness, as well as social status and age. Gender-role socialization is also underlined, as women make use of a whole range of politeness strategies and techniques to deal with politeness in the workplace, which is traditionally dominated by men (Livanos, Yalkin & Nunez, 2008). Code-switching is also a significant element, as it is a language governed by rules, being more associated with women than men. Women using code-switching are in search for prestige, a higher social status, being in an asymmetrical type of relationship with other women. Thus, code-switching is an empowering linguistic device for women. Women use code-switching to create lively conversations and to manipulate values such as education, politeness in contexts, prestige, and ethnic identity.  Ethnicity which is a major issue in London boroughs is characterised by diversity. Over half of the residents are Black while 45% are White. Muslim residents are more than 10% of the population. Religion is of utmost importance, as Christians are the majority whereas Muslims tend to remain a minority group (Tomescu & Trofin, 2014).

Urban space as well as public spaces is usually considered ‘risk averse’. Many ASB issues are associated with the individualism of urban living. In dealing with ASB in urban areas as well as in London communities, authorities should pay more attention to this form of violence in the communities where minority and marginalised groups live (Lugo, 2008 p. 230). There have been identified a number of significant problem areas of crime in London areas. Violent crime represents an important issue to be addressed, as this type of crime is usually committed by young people. Most of the suspects are likely to be 15 to 19 years old. As for acquisitive crime, personal robbery remains a youth-focused problem. The theft of motor vehicles represents a major problem because of a large increase in this type of offences. Therefore, there is a high rate of anti-social behaviour. Alcohol and drugs thus represented a priority problem. People having drug issues are more likely to commit particular crimes including drug offence, robbery as well as burglary (Jones & Jones, 2000).

Due to changes in the socio-economic environment in UK and other parts of the world, citizens based social work play a role in ensuring that antisocial behaviour is stopped in the society (Van Ewijk, 2009 p. 167). As far as community as a whole is concerned, the anti-oppressive theory and practice are of utmost importance, as both theory and practice recognises oppression in communities, societies as well as cultures, eliminating the pressure and the oppression too. The anti-oppressive practice (AOP) implies diverse practice approaches like anti-racist, radical as well as structural frameworks. The anti-discriminatory practice (ADP) is meant to reduce the discrimination faced by individuals from organizations or institutions as well as other individuals covering areas such as race, gender, age or social class (Dominelli, 2003).

The oppressive activity within society is against social justice denying individual human rights developed by the modern day society. Fighting for the human rights is a step forward which cannot be denied by the actions of individuals, groups of people or states. Such rights will always include the individual right to both life and property, the right to express oneself, the right to security from discrimination as well as the right to feel protected from physical or mental harm irrespective of gender, age or ethnic group.

People living in different communities should be aware of the community value which is an expression of both hopes and desires such as acceptance, love and tolerance. Each individual should be included within the community and be accepted by the others belonging to that community. In order to make a thorough analysis of the community values, we should take into account two concepts: community development and community of practice (Van Ewijk, 2009).

Community development may be a long journey in order to bring marginalised communities on the right path. Apart from supporting the minority groups, communities should also play a role in ensuring that ex-convicts are integrated into the society. This will help in reducing instances when such people continue to engage in their past activities (Senior, 2013 p. 251). This journey requires by all means motivation and capacity that these communities are likely devoid of. This problem solving approach can help solve the issue of antisocial behaviour in the communities and also help in handling community concerns (McKenna & Culshaw, 2009 p. 75). It may be a slow process in uniting people, identifying common values, developing skills, bringing confidence and understanding as well as fighting against ASB. Community development must lead to building a proper infrastructure with both human and social capital as well as organisational capacity. The participants involved in community development are the following: government, citizens, support workers within community as well as health workers. Communities should do their best in their process of transformation and change.  However, there are vulnerable communities that need both support and solidarity from people and organisations in order to fight against injustice, inequality and ASB (Senior, 2013).

According to Ledwith (2011), community development is highlighted in relation to the political context. The author’s approach on community development is centred on Freirean pedagogy underlining people’s account as well as the analysis of structural conditions. Moreover, collective action is seen as a tool in order to achieve social change. Critical pedagogy interweaves with ideas of social movement and participatory democracy.  Power is associated with processes of dominance and liberation. Margaret Ledwith also discusses the role of intellectuals in relation to radical community development praxis. Ledwith’s work on community development is a source of inspiration for the individualised social work practice while offering to social workers a tool to the neoliberal environment. This work on community development is inspiring to professionals working with disadvantaged and marginalised people belonging to a certain community.

As for the concept of power in relation to religion and ethnic identity, Ghazali (c. 1056-1111) stated that the originator of the world is powerful. The concept of power as intentional overcomes the idea that the world has a cause. The definition of power does not refer to the intention to act, but the intention by which the act comes about. Power is of major importance in the Arabic world. This concept is seen as an intention proving that everything is caused by the divine power. Power, as conceived by Ghazali, refers to the intention according to which, what was intended comes about. Religion influences the mentality of each community or minority group making the members of a community fight blindly for their beliefs leading to ASB issues that may often occur within a minority group defending its religious ideas and culture.

In addition, culture offers to all the members of a community a guide with all life circumstances. Every community has a different way of life and the notion of culture refers to a global way of living, characteristic to any society. Culture is the configuration of learned behaviour and its results, while the component elements are shared between the members of a given society.

As for the Muslim culture, it was tightly connected to the concept of collectivism. Even if the participants possessed demographically varied backgrounds as well as different philosophy in Islam, the Muslim culture was closely related to a collectivistic orientation, which referred to certain subcategories (Baier, 2014 p. 103). The collectivistic nature of Muslim culture made reference to subcategories coming from the participant’s discourses underlining the importance of family, judgemental attitudes, topics on shame and other taboo subjects, which were related to the repression of sexuality. As far as Muslim religion is concerned, it is related to the main category of the individualism. All participants stated that Muslim religion allowed more individualism, which consisted of autonomy, self-expression and open minded character, which was equivalent with positive attitudes towards topics such as sexuality. As for the Muslim cultural compatibility, it was presented in relation to the collectivism. However, the Muslim religious awareness was linked to the category of individualism and to subcategories such as autonomy (Sartawi & Sammut, 2012 p. 561).

Acquiring culture and learning for the minority or marginalised groups is of utmost importance in the community development. That is why the community of practice concept should be considered.  The notion of ‘community of practice’ was originally developed and used in a theory of learning. Lave & Wenger (1991) initiated the concept to investigate apprenticeship as a learning theory. The term itself refers to the community which “acts as a living curriculum for the apprentice” (Lave and Wenger, 1991, p. 26). In other words, it has been developed as a model to observe how apprentices acquire established practices in particular work contexts. Once the term comes to practice, Wenger and the anthropologist Lave found that these communities can exist everywhere; that is, not only in formal settings or workplaces, but also in informal contexts. The theorists define the communities of practice as groups of people who share a passion for something they do and learn how to perform it better while they interact regularly (Lave & Wenger, 1991). In their social theory of learning, they describe the social process of the individuals’ interaction within the group as an act of learning and knowing where four elements are involved: meaning, practice, community and identity. That is, over the course of working on a shared task, they establish new practices and styles which characterises them as a distinct community of practice.

In addition, Wenger (1998) also explains the relationship between community and practice and the role of the latter in the coherence of the former by identifying three main dimensions: mutual engagement, a joint enterprise, and a shared repertoire. The integration of these three characteristics promotes the community coherence. Therefore, practice involves the participants’ regular mutual engagements on tasks with a shared negotiated endeavour which over time and action results in a cooperative relationship among the participants within the group (Wenger, 1998).

The community of practice concept has started to be used by many sociologists as well as linguists for different analytical goals. Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (1992) have developed the community of practice concept influentially to be employed in the field of language and gender. This makes it possible to investigate the phenomena through practices that are established in relation to the group. A community of practice has been defined as an aggregate of people coming together as for mutual engagement in a specific endeavour. “Ways of doing things, ways of talking, beliefs, values, power relations-in short, practices-emerge in the course of this mutual endeavour” (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet, 1992, p. 464).

As explained above, community of practice refers to a group of people with a shared knowledge and understanding who come together in an enterprise during which different practices are established. This means that each individual is supposed to belong to a community of practice and he/she can be a member of different communities of practice at the same time. In Wenger’s perspective, community of practice can emerge and develop out of both formal and informal endeavours in which members can be ‘core’ or ‘peripheral’, depending on the degree of integration of those members within the group.

The core membership is usually connected with small distinctive groups whereas the peripheral membership is associated with larger groups. Community of practice also has different sizes and characteristics. For example, a community of practice can be a family, a certain group of people, an ethnic minority or even an institution. In general, because humans are social in nature, they intend to place and organise themselves within the social world in order to interact, engage, and achieve a variety of tasks. This membership can also shape the individual’s identity within the group. Eckert and McConnell-Ginet (1992) point out that “individuals participate in multiple communities of practice and their individual identity is based on the multiplicity of this participation” (Eckert and McConnell-Ginet, 1992, p. 93).

Language is the tool measuring the level of development of a certain community. According to Bourdieu’s theory, language is more than just a method of communication; it is also a mechanism of power.  In other words, the language a community uses represents their relational position in a field or social space. Therefore, linguistic interactions are manifestations of the participants’ social positions and this determines who should be listened to, interrupted, questioned or lectured. In Bourdieu’s theory of practice, the participants’ reproduction of different forms of behaviour, which constitute instances of interaction in social practice, will be in line with the predisposition of their ‘habitus’, which is defined as “the dispositions generate practices, perceptions and attitudes which are ‘regular’ without being consciously co-ordinated or governed by any ‘rule’” (Bourdieu, 1991, p.12).

In summary, community development can help in building healthier communities devoid of antisocial behaviours. The success and efficiency of the initiatives will depend on the efforts that have been put to try and integrate people together so that long-term relationships can be nurtured and built among the community members. However, there are many challenges that community development initiatives may encounter. First, there are many reforms touching on the minority and disadvantaged members of the society. However, most of these reforms are not achieving their objectives because of the fact that the reforms have not been well integrated with community development initiatives (Petersen, Baillie & Bhana, 2012 p. 420). The communities within which such reforms are undertaken are not involved in the design of the reforms (Cormick, 2010 p. 230). In addition, the government does not have a clear guideline on community development in governance and provision of public services. This has resulted in insufficient resource provision by the government to support community development initiatives (Jennings, 2009 p. 39). As a recommendation, there is need for recognition of the efforts being done by social workers in community development. This will lead to allocation of more resources for community development and allowing community development to ensure sustainable empowerment of the communities ((Cormick, 2010).

To conclude, this essay presented arguments in favour to the statement that local authorities should be aware that a balance should be established between the policing of ASB and the marginalisation of socially disadvantaged groups. This essay considered issues such as racism and gender discrimination, dealt with a variety of concepts including ‘power’, ‘community development’, ‘anti-social behaviour’ as well as ‘community of practice’, addressed issues related to gender, ethnicity and culture and presented philosophical concepts from Ghazali and Bourdieu’s perspective. Further discussion should be linked to challenges that the government faces in adopting new policies concerning ASB and minority groups. Still, there will always remain disadvantaged groups such as minority groups, in our case the Muslim minority.

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