Creating Hope For Young Muslims

04 Nov 2002

The Muslim Council of Britain welcomes the publication today of two studies on British Muslims. ‘The Situation of Muslims in the UK’ published by the Open Society Institute (OSI) provides an expert assessment of the concerns of British Muslims and recommendations that will serve as a bench-mark to measure institutional change, not just within government, but within community bodies and mosques as well. The survey commissioned by the MCB-affiliate, the Islamic Society of Britain to coincide with the launch of Islam Awareness Week, is also timely in its findings on how British Muslims are perceived today by society at large.

`With its own commitment to constructive engagement with mainstream society, the MCB is heartened by this survey’s finding that 84% believe that it is possible for Britain’s Muslims and people of other faiths to `live peacefully together at close quarters’. Interestingly, the younger respondents were more positive, holding out a message of hope for community relations in our country,’ said Mr Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the MCB.

Young Muslims deserve a better deal both at the mosque and at school. The former are often failing: `Muslim children who complete their religious education in the mosque sector …often lack knowledge about the history and traditions of Islam – knowledge that would provide them with the tools to fully engage with their religion’. The OSI report argues for the integration of religious education into the schooling process – suggesting for example that Arabic could be offered as a modern language option alongside modern European languages. This would ensure a better balance in the overall educational burden placed on Muslim pupils and contribute towards improving achievement levels.

Both studies endorse the MCB’s persistent campaign that the reality of religious discrimination is acknowledged and legislation introduced to limit this blight. Fifty-six per cent of the mainly non-Muslim respondents of the survey agreed that Muslims often suffered from unfair discrimination. While the MCB fully supports the recommendation of the OSI that it is not enough just to have legislation to prohibit religious discrimination in employment – other important areas where discrimination is experienced include allocation of housing or access to goods and services – it is also pressing for a new law to tackle vilification of religion and religious sanctities. The MCB, alongside with the Forum Against Islamophobia and Racism (FAIR) and the Association of Muslim Lawyers, gave evidence recently to the Lords Select Committee on Religious Offences on these vital issues that shape the social climate for years to come.

The OSI report validates the work put in by the MCB and its affiliates in the campaign for the inclusion of the religion question in the 2001 Census. Without adequate baseline statistics, policy options targeted to support Muslim communities cannot be developed. For example the census results will provide a basis for monitoring fair employment practices, particularly in the public sector, and the provision of services such as health care.