Muslim frustration has to be addressed

    The Guardian recently invited 103 young Muslims to discuss the
    main issues shaping their lives and futures. The group came from
    what the newspaper described as “humble backgrounds” but had risen
    via university education or personal enterprise to become members
    of the middle class. Among them were social workers, lawyers,
    nurses and entrepreneurs whose families had originally come from
    across the globe including Africa, Morocco and Bangladesh. Their
    ease with a “Britishness” that involved multiple identities was
    apparent. “I am absolutely British,” one participant said. “I am
    absolutely Pakistani. I am absolutely Muslim. I am all of
    those.”

    Their faith, it emerged, had given them a powerful social
    conscience, so many invested time in volunteering. Another
    recurring theme was that of poverty and a sense of frustration at
    their own communities’ apparent lack of ambition and low
    educational expectations. Muslims make up one in three of the
    ethnic minority population. Almost 40 per cent of British Muslims
    are leaving school with no qualifications.

    Appallingly, 68 per cent of Bangladeshi and Pakistani households
    are living below the poverty line while 18 per cent of male Muslims
    in England and Wales aged 16-25 – almost one in five – are
    unemployed compared with a national average of 13 per cent.

    One in three British Muslims in a Guardian/ICM poll said that
    they or their family had personally experienced hostility or abuse
    from non-Muslims because of their religion. In spite of the
    grimness of the statistics, there was a strong willingness to
    integrate more and most said they had close friendships among
    non-Muslims. As a sign of optimism, 44 per cent said they expected
    life to get better. The key question is – how? Greater investment
    in schools, more and better paid jobs would obviously help. But
    prejudice also has to be tackled far more vigorously. A report by
    the charity the Maternity Alliance reveals yet again the casual
    racism within the NHS inflicted upon Muslim women during pregnancy.
    Many women said they had experienced, “stereotypical and racist
    comments” during their maternity care.

    One lever for change may be the new Commission for Equality and
    Human Rights which, allegedly, should be equipped to challenge
    multiple discrimination in one agency. One measure of how seriously
    the government intends to tackle racism will be the scale of the
    resources the Commission is allocated. Following the lead of many
    British Muslims, one lives in hope.

     

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