Survey reveals worrying prospects for Britain's Muslim community

Tuesday 17th February 2015 11:52 EST

According to a survey by the British Social Attitudes (BSA), there is a significant change of attitude amongst Britons towards the Muslims residing in Britain. In 2003, 48% believed that Muslim population will essentially weaken Britain's national identity, and by 2013, that has gone up to 62%.

The Daily Telegraph reported that a report from the Muslim Council of Britain this week may intensify those concerns. Based on the census data, it set out how immigration and high birth rate have helped Britain's Muslim population to swell to 2.7mn, around a third of them are under 15. There are 8 English councils, where Muslims make up more than 20% of the population. Tower Hamlets top the list with 34.5% in London. While Tower Hamlets population has grown over 19% since 2011, it is far slower that the UK growth of 75% and London's figure 35%.

For obvious reasons, almost every political conversation about British Muslims touches on the subject of “integration,” and how they and their socially conservative values fit into an increasingly liberal society. But many people worry that Muslims are failing to integrate, living in clusters or ghettos, leading totally separate lives from the British, in their own insular communities.

James Kirkup Daily Telegraph article asks “are British Muslims are becoming concentrated in particular areas, or are they spreading out and mingling with others? Confusingly the answer is both!”

According to an index of dissimilarity (a measure of integration), by Manchester University's Centre on Dynamics of Ethnicity, Muslims fell from 56% to 54%, whereas Sikhs were a little less integrated (61%) and Hindus, slightly more (52%). The situation is improving but only very slightly.

The reasons why ethnic and religious groups spread out are not clear, but most people think the strongest motivations are education and employment.

Education and jobs amongst Muslims

The Association of Muslim Schools say there are dedicated 156 Muslim schools in the UK, most of them privately funded. Census shows 8.1% of all school age children are Muslims, but then again distribution of that population is what counts, and Muslim children are often concentrated in particular areas. For eg, in Tower Hamlets, 66% of school-age children are Muslims. In Birmingham several council wards have 60% school children who are Muslims.

Mathew Taylor, former adviser to Tony Blair worries that Muslim schools tend to be 'monocultural' and work against integration.

An article published by the Curriculum Journal last year, reportedly suggested that many Muslim pupils in Britain do worse than their peers because of overcrowding house, absence of parental English language skills in some Muslim communities, less parental engagement with mainstream schools, low teacher expectations, curricular removal of Islam from school learning environment, racism and anti-Muslim prejudice. However, the proportion of Muslims with no qualifications has fallen from 39% to 26%. but it still remains above the population as a whole, where the figure is 23%.

The MCB has suggested that Muslims with degrees has increased from 20% to 24% over 10 years, though the percentage is low compared to the standards of British adults with degrees that has gone up by to 27.2% from 19.8%. Other religious groups also outperform British Muslims. 30,.1% Sikhs have degrees and 44.6% of Hindus have degrees.

However, it is believed that Muslim underperformance at higher education is partly down to gender. Discriminations, as women are given less chances to be educated (2 girls to every 3 boys). Equalising that requires educating another 50,000 Muslim women in universities. However, when British Muslims do go to universities, some suggest they are tend to attend best colleges. But Oxbridge and Russell Group have been criticised for admitting lower percentage of minority students.

Amongst professions such as company executives, lawyers, doctors- Muslims are only slightly under represented, but lower down the scale, the gaps widen. While only 20% of UK workforce does 'lower managerial, administrative and professional' jobs, the figure is only 10% amongst Muslims. Meanwhile 21.3% of British Muslims have never worked, compared to 4.3% of the rest of Britons.

The outcome is that Muslims in Britain remain poorer, sicker, less likely to own their own homes and have financial independence. They tend to live in bad areas, and as Britain gets richer they slip down the chart.

Muslim prisoners double to record high

The number of Muslims in jails has hit an all time high, an increase by 4%, with one in 7 prisoners in England and Wales being a Muslim. In some of the jails they make up more than one third of the population. In Whitemoor top security prison in Cambridgeshire, 40% of inmates are Muslims. They make up four in ten of the 460 inmates and there has been tensions with non Muslim prisoners, leading to creation of a faith forum there, to promote better understandings.

Ministry of Justice figures show the number of Muslim prisoners almost doubled from 6571 to 12255 in a decade, from 2004-14. Overall Muslims are 14.4% of the prison population, but reports between 2011-14 suggest that they could be about one in 5 of inmates in top security jails. Figures suggest there were 680 Muslims out of 3231 prisoners in five top security prisons.

Stevew Gillian, Secretary of the Prison Officers Association said, “The most powerful gangs are Muslim gangs and people want to be associated with them. They are being bulied or threatened to join it and it is a growing problem in priosons.”

Reasons for the rise in number of Muslims in prison? Muslim community is proportionally younger than other groups, with a large number of young people in the key offending age groups

Official figures show that all black and minority ethnic groups received a larger proportion of immediate custodial sentences than whites and average they were longer than those given to whites between 2008-12.

The numbers of people from Asian ethnic background given indeterminate sentences for public protection or a life sentence also rose from 564 to 789 in the four years to 2012.

Sadiq Khan, the Shadow Justice Secretary said, “The further increase in the number of Muslims in prison should be a concern to all of us. In 2010, the chief inspector of prisons called on the government to put in place a dedicated strategy to deal with rising number of Muslim men in prison, yet they've done nothing. Any part of the society that is over-represented in our jails is a worry.

“We need to get to the bottom of why certain communities are over represented in prison and do something about it.”

How does this affect Britain?

Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion in 2013 reported, based on social attitudes data gathered through interviews with hundred of Muslims, it was discovered that they were indeed more socially conservative than Britons on gender roles in homes, divorce, premarital sex, abortion, homosexuality and same sex marriage- making them old fashioned and illberal. This worries people as much as the attitudes of poor and badly educated non-Muslims do.

Mr Kirkup suggests while commentators argue that integration is the biggest question, claiming more should be done to make Muslims “accept British values”, perhaps one should take an economic perspective, 'accepting that a better aim is making them better off'.


Home Secretary meets faith leaders in East London mosque

The government is working towards protecting the safety and security of people of all faiths and backgrounds, and confront the extremists who seek to create division between communities, the Home Secretary Theresa May told faith leaders in east London.

During a visit to the Al Madina Mosque in Barking, the Home Secretary met a group of representatives from the area’s Muslim, Jewish and Sikh communities, as well as police officers and local councillors.

She listened as they expressed their fears and concerns in the wake of the events in Paris last month and reassured them that protective security measures at certain sites – such as mosques and synagogues – have been stepped up, including increased police patrols.

She also met students who attend the mosque’s madrassa and teenagers involved in the innovative Young Leaders’ Programme at the Active Change Foundation in nearby Waltham Forest, which encourages young people to become role models in their community.


Young Muslims clear on their identity and role in Britain

On Monday 19th January at Portcullis house, MADE in Europe, the UK’s first Muslim youth campaigns charity was hosted by the Secretary of State, the Rt. Hon Edward Davey MP and the UK Government Department for Energy and Climate Change in an interactive session with Muslim faith schools around environment, the challenges we face going forward on climate change, as well as a competition to design an environmental system that can be implemented in Muslim faith schools. At a time where faith and identity are being questioned and a talking point for the Government and media, over 100 young British Muslim schools presented ideas and practical solutions for the betterment of our next generations.

MADE has campaigned on global poverty and social injustice issues alongside mosques, schools and student societies across the UK. The charity’s accomplishments include setting up first of their kind global citizenship curricula at Muslim schools, the first delegation of Muslim schoolchildren to meet the Prime Minister, and faith-inspired campaigns such as the ‘Green Up My Community’ campaign helping mosques to promote environmentally friendly practices.

Shazia Saleem, young entrepreneur and founder of ‘iEat foods’ who spoke about being a good citizen with ethical values at the event combined with an interactive presentation by the UK Government Department for Energy Climate Change left the young children inspired and ready to play their part for change.

Three schools Al Azhar Girls Academy who designed a water saving system, King Fahad Academy who pitched the idea of a poly tunnel and water filtration system, and Al Sadiq Al Zahra school’s 3 systems in 1 energy saving measures were shortlisted to present their unique ideas of how they would contribute towards energy and climate change positively in their schools. After three impressive presentations the Secretary of State selected Al Sadiq Al Zahra School as the winner of the competition for the idea of ‘AquAeriSol’ (combining three different elements to produce energy). The project will be implemented by the school through a £500 award kindly sponsored by iEat foods.

The winning school children stated: “Hearing people like the Rt. Hon Edward Davey MP and members of the DECC team speaking on protecting our environment enlightened us to take their experiences, learn from them and implement them in a small way in our homes and schools”.

Head of Development Education of MADE and chair for the event, Monowara Gani commented: “There is an important role that you and I have as British Muslims – which is to be stewards of the earth and take care of the planet. This is why we are here today – to look at the beautiful teachings within Islam to inspire us to take action and make personal changes that contribute to a world that is greener and cleaner.”

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