Key Findings

NOT ALL MUSLIMS ARE STEREOTYPES

Failure to understand diversity among Muslims leads to ill-thought out government policy

‘The New Muslims’ report finds that dominant perception of Muslims are damaging as they do not take into account the vast complexities and differences in British Muslim identities. This report examines the wide range of Muslim identities in the UK through looking at a number of factors, including changing demographics, Muslims in the army, Muslims in the media, the unique histories of different Muslim groups in the UK, and youth culture. It makes recommendations based on the failure of policy to reflect the lived experiences of British Muslims.

This report is published weeks after the Home Office has been accused of using racial profiling in Stop and Search and the ‘Go Home’ campaign, and during a time when the Government will be revisiting its approach to integration and security after the murder of Lee Rigby in May 2013

The report is accompanied by a film called ‘Muslim Multicultures’ and a series of recorded conversations which explore the challenges currently facing Muslims in Britain. Participants include Rushanara Ali MP, Humza Yousaf MEP, Yasir Mizra of the Guardian and the graffiti artist Mohammad Ali.

Key Findings

  • By analysing the ONS 2011 Census, it has been found that the Muslim population increased from 1.2m to 2.7m between 2001-2011, with the group’s share of the population increasing from 3% to 4.8%. The Muslim population is relatively evenly spread through England and Wales.
  • There has been a decrease in Muslim segregation, through the spreading out from the biggest Muslim concentrations (e.g. Tower Hamlets) towards neighbouring areas (e.g. Barking and Dagenham)
  • Statistics published by the Ministry of Defence in 2012 showed that 650 Muslims serving in the UK armed services. Of these 550 are in the British army, constituting 0.5% of the total.
  • Muslim citizenship in the UK is under threat. Since 2003, 21 British nationals who have had their citizenship removed, and all but one or two are Muslim. Sixteen of these were under the current government and at least five were British-born, with one man having lived in the UK for almost 50 years.
  • There is a need for an urgent review about funding for voluntary and ethnic minority and faith groups. There is a lack of needs-based funding for Muslim women’s organisations in a time where issues like marital breakdown are on the rise. This lack of funding forces Muslim women’s organisations to work within restrictive frameworks that may not be best suited to the communities they serve.
  • Debates on integration of schooling must factor in experiences of anti-Muslim racism, the importance of Muslim group solidarity as a potentially positive feature of school life and be aware of the ways in which international and national events shape local Muslim experiences within schools
  • It was found that youth services served a clear purpose as young Somali men expressed desire to not engage in activities associated with risk, e.g. gangs, fighting, drug dealing. However, government funding agendas are stemmed from young Somali men being politically designated as ‘high risk’. As a result youth services have negative connotations. In order for these spaces to effectively provide a safe and secure environment for marginalized young people, a move away from negatively loaded ‘risk prevention’ agendas by the government will be necessary.
  • Dominant views of Muslim identity can be challenged and expanded by including Muslim voices in the media. Unity FM, a community radio stations for the Muslim community in Birmingham, provides a space for diverse Muslim voices and messages to come together and change limited notions of community.
Additional Information

‘The New Muslims’ is produced by the Runnymede Trust, University of Manchester and ESRC.  The collection emerged from a workshop on ‘The New Muslims’ and a panel on the ‘The Muslim Question’ held at the University of Manchester in 2013.

The report is edited by Claire Alexander from the University of Manchester whose main publications include The Art of Being Black (1996) and The Asian Gang (2000), Victoria Redclift (University of Manchester) and Ajmal Hussain (University of Manchester). Contributors include Yunis Alam a novelist, short-story writer and literary editor based at the University of Bradford, Abdoolkarim Vakil from Kings College London and Vron Ware from the Centre for Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) and the Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance (CCIG) at the Open University, she is the author of Out of Whiteness (2002) and Who Cares about Britishness (2007).

Quotes

Rob Berkeley, the Director of Runnymede said: “Through this publication we hope in some small way to counter the dominant understandings of British Muslim identities where these are based on falsehoods and generalizations, and to highlight the complexities, nuances and diversity of identities among Muslims in Britain. We do this as part of our ongoing project to ensure that our public policy debates and public discussions are based on robust, evidence-based analysis rather than sensationalist, knee-jerk responses.”

AbdoolKarim Vakil, Kings College London, as quoted in the Muslim Multicultures film: “If we stop talking about the Muslim question, Muslims will not suffer any less…Muslims are exceptionalised in a number of ways; they are made to account for their presence, made to explain their identity, their faith to account for themselves in relation to what are dominant values in society”

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