EXCLUSIVE: A Yorkshire city risks becoming a front line in the global clash between the West and Islam, a report has warned.
Bradford has slipped into a political vacuum where debate on community cohesion is stifled, allowing "fascism and Islamism" to thrive, according to academic Dr Alan Carling.
He says the city is in danger of becoming "a patchwork quilt of rival ethnic fiefdoms" that makes it a "fault line" in the clash between cultures.
The former chairman of the Bradford University Programme for a Peaceful City group said politicians, charities and academics who remained silent risked helping extremist groups split the city.
But he said if the divisions were confronted now, Bradford could become a worldwide example on how two cultures could coexist.
Dr Carling, writing in the March edition of the Urban Spaces journal, said: "In the post-9/11 world, Bradford looks like one of the fault lines in a supposed global confrontation between 'Islam' and 'the West'.
"The scale and nature of the challenges faced by the district make it one of the key places in Britain, and possibly in Europe, in which the relationships between populations of Muslim and non-Muslim background in the West are likely to be worked out in the future, either for good or for ill."
He said "white flight" from Bradford's inner-city wards showed clear evidence of an increase in segregation in the city since 1991. Statistical analysis shows that about 75 per cent of Muslims would now need to move to white neighbourhoods to get an equal distribution of ethnic communities in each.
While 20.5 per cent of residents in the city were Muslim in 2001, the Bradford Health Academy predicts that figure will rise to 28 per cent by 2011. A recent study by Leeds University suggests the proportion of minorities will reach 38.2 per cent by 2030, including 31.9 per cent from south Asia.
"It would be astonishing if a cultural shift of this potential magnitude were to take place without some friction and challenges of adjustment," said Dr Carling.
He believes the dominance of Pakistani Muslims in the city has meant that instead of its becoming a multicultural community, as in London where no minority dominates, Bradford has become bi-cultural.
Because of the Pakistani population's desire to create "ethnic colonies", he said, the best Bradford could hope for in the long term was accommodation rather than integration.
But he said the "unpalatable truth" was that up to 18,000 citizens of Bradford had voted for the BNP – they "have chosen over the last few years to step across the line that has defined the boundary of reputable politics ever since the defeat of the Nazis 60 years ago".
Likewise, the popularity of jihadi Islamic groups in the city was further promoting polarisation.
"The presence of these authoritarian groups carry especial dangers in places like Bradford," Dr Carling said. "Their messages are likely to find some resonance within existing attitudes and social conditions. In addition, there is a particular danger these two political currents will feed off each other."
He said that while there were many charities, individuals and agencies committed to countering polarisation in Bradford, there was a worry they were not yet operating on sufficient scale or with sufficient support from the public at large.
Dr Carling said: "A political vacuum exists where the public debate should be in Bradford about the realisation of a shared future. We have more to gain by opening out the debates on these issues than by closing them down.
"The risks of speech are outweighed by the dangers of silence, because the main effect of silence is to lend aid and comfort to the forces from the extremes."
Last night the leader of Bradford Council, Kris Hopkins, said: "There is no political vacuum on the issue of community cohesion.
"This is a core issue for the council and its partners which will be evidenced very clearly in the new Sustainable Community Strategy for the area and evidenced by the actions taken by the council and its partners in putting cohesion issues centre- stage."
Main findings of the report
Bradford is in a political vacuum where debate on community cohesion is stifled;
Silence risks helping extremist groups to split the city;
75 per cent of Muslims would need to move to white neighbourhoods to get an equal race distribution;
20.5 per cent of residents were Muslim in 2001 – rising to 28 per cent by 2011;
18,000 citizens of Bradford have voted for the BNP.