Britain risks ‘sleepwalking into catastrophe’ and a wave of racial unrest unless it addresses concerns over immigration, the former head of the equalities watchdog has warned.

In a devastating analysis, Trevor Phillips insisted the failure to allay fears about the rapidly changing face of the UK is fuelling growing community tensions.

He called anti-immigrant sentiment a ‘smouldering’ tinderbox that could ignite at any time, stoked by people who had felt unable to speak out for fear of being branded ‘white racists’.

The former chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission accused senior figures of a ‘deafening silence’ when confronted with issues linked to race, ethnicity and culture.

Mr Phillips, 62, said the ‘dangerously misguided’ liberal elite were unwilling to acknowledge that some communities resist integration and a minority are ‘actively opposed’ to British values and behaviour.

His analysis came two months after he expressed concern at the chasm between British Muslims and their compatriots on issues such as marriage, segregation, freedom of speech and violence in defence of religion.

Mr Phillips said: ‘Britain is changing at an extraordinary pace. In a country used to stability and gradual change, frictions generated by our increasing diversity threaten tranquillity.’

His 61-page essay warns that these tensions ‘threaten to erupt at any time.’

He said there was ‘no shortage of public condemnation of racism’ in Britain. But he warned of public unease over ‘the appearance of non-English names above shopfronts; the odd decision to provide only halal meat in some schools; evidence of corruption in municipal politics dominated by one ethnic group’.

He added: ‘Rome may not yet be in flames, but I think I can smell smouldering whilst we hum to the music of liberal self-delusion.’

Mr Phillips, whose essay Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence was published by think-tank Civitas, was a central figure in the retreat from multiculturalism–the Left-wing doctrine adopted by Tony Blair.

He warned: ‘Squeamishness about addressing diversity risks allowing our country to sleepwalk to a catastrophe that will set community against community . . . and undermine the democracy that has served this country so well for so long.’

A spokesman for the Government said attempts are being made to ‘integrate communities round a common set of values’.

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