Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Young, Muslim and British

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Young, Muslim and British

Young, Muslim and British: The Guardian is a very interesting Special Report on young British Muslims. Some, small, research, debates, articles and so on. A lot of them is linked in the posts below, all of them are listed in this post.

Yes the whole issue is placed here, but remember: all credits go the Guardian and their respondents.

So sit down, relax, take a cup of coffee or tear, take some time and read it!

Special report Young, Muslim and British
 Guardian Unlimited

 The idea was a bold gamble but
within minutes, the calm murmur of eight simultaneous conversations on different
themes in a hall in London last week indicated that it was, in some way, paying
off: young British Muslims were talking and we were listening.

We weren’t sure of the questions, we certainly didn’t expect easy answers, but
we had two objectives. We wanted to catch a glimpse – to eavesdrop – on how a
set of issues are being debated within a new generation of British Muslims, and
then, through our reporting, we wanted a non-Muslim readership to hear voices
rarely heard. So the Guardian played honest broker, inviting as wide a range of
young Muslims with a potential to shape their community’s future as we could

The 103 British Muslims who joined us last week could be described as amongst
the success stories of two decades of integration: from mostly humble
backgrounds, they have got to university, or are working in jobs as diverse as
accountants, pharmacists, social workers, journalists, civil servants, lawyers,
nurses and entrepreneurs. Alongside their academic and career achievements, they
have drawn from their faith a powerful social conscience; the majority of our
participants devote a considerable amount of their time to volunteering in
community organisations and political campaigns.

This is a pivotal generation; they have the skills and education which many
of their parents lacked to make their experience heard. And that experience will
increasingly be one which will have international resonance: the two
civilisations of Islam and the west are not abstract concepts to them, but the
influences they daily negotiate in their own lives. How they vote, how they
dress, how they pray, whom they befriend and whom they marry; all are influenced
by the accommodation they find between the two, at a time when internationally,
the two are being set in violent opposition.

They open a new chapter in Britain’s complex history of race and
multiculturalism: how we negotiate a faith-based political identity. On this,
there are no inspirations we can borrow from abroad as we did a generation ago
with the US’s civil rights movement. This phase of how to accommodate diversity
and equality within a western democracy is a chapter which has to be written in
Europe, as one of the five invited panellists, the Swiss-born philosopher Tariq
Ramadan, made clear in the final plenary of our debate.

As the conversations got under way, two features of this gathering were
immediately striking. The first was its diversity: the astonishing range of
background, from west Africa to the Middle East, Pakistan and Bangladesh, from
Morocco to Turkish Cyprus, and English converts. Just as striking – though its
significance much harder to read – was the variety in how women dressed; from
the carefully pinned hijab to the long hair and the braided extensions, from
long skirts to jeans.

The second feature was the appetite for debate. It needed no prompting, rather
the reverse: the difficulty was in ensuring that everyone had their say. The
unmistakable impression is that this is a generation which relishes the heavy
responsibility they bear. Some perceive the international resonances of what
they are developing – others do not. What they are all acutely aware of is its
implications within Britain; it is the quest for justice for a marginalised,
misrepresented, impoverished, and increasingly beleaguered community that spurs
them on.

Our participants are well aware that they are the products of a polarised
generation. For every person in the room that evening, there are thousands of
other young Muslims who are trapped in low skilled jobs or are unemployed. We
now know (the statistics have only begun to reflect a breakdown according to
faith) that 36% of British Muslims are leaving school with no qualifications,
while a fifth of 16- to 24-year-old Muslims in Britain are unemployed. Forty per
cent of British Muslims are in low skill jobs and nearly 70% of Bangladeshi and
Pakistani children live in poverty. A British Muslim generation is coming of age
– a third of the community is under 15 – with the experience of deprivation.

That poverty haunted the debate, and what cropped up on many of the tables was a
sense of frustration at what participants perceive as the failures of their own
community. Sometimes harshly self-critical, they talked of low educational
expectations, a lack of ambition and, most importantly, a failure to pull
together to improve their lot; unfavourable comparisons were drawn with Jewish
and Indian minorities.

Insecure, lacking self-confidence, haunted by failure and by personal
experiences of deprivation, racism and, since 9/11, oppressive anti-terrorist
measures and increasing Islamophobia: these are some of the elements which give
such compelling force to the common identity this generation finds in being
Muslim and the increasing confidence with which they assert it as a political

While "we are Muslims" may offer a place of belonging in an inhospitable
country, it is a place riven with conflict. Because defining what it is to be a
Muslim is a near impossible task, reverberating around the entire Muslim world;
the question of what is the true faith is convulsing the faithful everywhere.

The participants wrestled with the definition of the "keystone issues" on which
to unite: Palestine, Iraq and "Muslim values" came one reply. Of all the debates,
the one attempting to define Muslim values – whether there could be a "British
Islam" – was the most circular, repeatedly snagging on the issue of whether
Islam can adapt, or is unchanging in all times and places. The intensity of the
struggle within Islam internationally bears heavily on this generation in

As if all of this were not already complicated enough, this generation is being
called to explain their faith to a secular society which has long since lost all
interest in God, angels, prophets and holy books. What does it mean to "put God
first in everything", as one participant described British Muslims’ distinctive
contribution to British society? Frequently, issues that the vast majority of
Muslims have little interest in debating, such as homosexuality and abortion (
such is the consensus, there is nothing to debate) or the role of women (why do
they keep asking us about this? they complain) are settled by faith – which only
deepens incomprehension among non-Muslims. From there, it’s a short step to
outright hostility. You could put a devout Muslim and a devout Christian
together and, while they might not agree, they could understand much of what the
other had to say, but to the broad swath of the secular British, the gulf of
incomprehension is gaping – and the onus is all upon the faithful to explain

This pivotal generation is already defying many of the experts. They are not
conforming to the theories of secularisation common for 20 years; they are
perhaps even more devout than their parents, and are certainly more assertive of
their faith and its requirements. According to our poll, half of British Muslims
pray five times a day every day, while 80% pray at least once a day; even
allowing for some religious guilt inflating the figures, the evidence is of a
level of religious practice which is higher than any other community in the UK.
The poll showed that they want public accommodation of their faith – time to
pray where they work and sharia courts in Britain for civil cases (as long as
the penalties do not contravene criminal law). They are not showing much sign of
conforming to earlier patterns of migration and cultural assimilation, while the
"war on terror" is radicalising them into a wide range of political activity –
from human rights campaigning to radical jihadism.

Who knows how this chapter will take shape; as one participant said, we have the
title – British Muslims – but beyond, there are only blank pages.

Guardian/ICM poll

British Muslims want Islamic law and prayers at work

Muslims in Britain want greater recognition of their faith with the
introduction of Islamic law for civil cases and time off for prayers during
the working day, but are equally committed to greater participation in
British life.

Optimistic, integrated and devout

Faith, friends, love and law; what integration means (pdf)

30.11.04: Guardian/ICM Poll results in full (pdf)



33% of the British Muslim population is under 16

36% of British Muslims are leaving school with no qualifications.

18% of male Muslims in England and Walesaged 16-25 are unemployed
compared with a national average of 13%

1.54m the Muslim population of Britain

68% of Bangladeshi and Pakistani households are living below the
poverty line

46% of the British Muslim population are British-born


big debate

Eight tables, eight subjects, 103 young Muslims. Here are the reports of the
discussions (moderated by participants).

Table 1
How would you describe your identity?

Table 2
What is the impact of the ‘war on terror’ on British

Table 3
Do you want integration or parallel lives?

Table 4
Are you satisfied that the leadership of the community
reflects your views?

Table 5
How do the faithful live in a secular society?

Table 6
The widespread perception is that Islam discriminates against
. Why is that so?

Table 7
What are the most pressing problems in your community?

Table 8
How hopeful are you about the future?



The future of Muslim Britain

Read the views of young British Muslims on faith, women and the war on
terror … in their own words.


Ajmal Masroor, 33

Anber Raz, 28
Siddiqui, 28

Ayfer Orhan, 45

Raihan Al Faradhi, 19

Rukshana Ali, 22

Sajjad Hoque, 34

Salma Yaqoob, 33


our guests thought

How to face up to perceptions – and frame the right questions

Five guests who addressed the gathering – Tariq Ramadan, Humera
, Trevor Phillips, Fiona Mactaggart and Tim Winter
– take issue with the queries put to participants.


… And why we urgently need new answers

Sarfraz Manzoor, one witness to proceedings, calls for critical



Being Muslim and British

November 30 2004: Jon Dennis reports from a Guardian-organised event
at which more than 100 British Muslims from all walks of life were brought
together at University College London.


Information meets celebration

November 22 2004: George Wright finds some key web links on Islam
Awareness Week.



Hopes and challenges

Leader: Multicultural Britain is moving into new and unfamiliar
territory if the results of our latest poll and today’s supplement reporting
on a Guardian conference of young Muslims are any guide.


online debate

Tariq Ramadan
Monday December 6: Post your questions now for Tariq Ramadan,
named as one of the 100 most influential thinkers in the world by Time
magazine. Mr Ramadan is professor of religion, conflict and peacebuilding at
the University of Notre Dame, Indiana. His books include Western Muslims and
the Future of Islam (OUP).


Islamic Awareness Week

Altering images

November 22 2004: Nadeem Malik explains the thinking behind Islam
Awareness Week and highlights some events.


on Muslims in Britain


We asked Muslims in Britain for their views on the Iraq war.



We turned the spotlight on the achievements, anxieties, conflicts and
ambitions of the 1.8m followers of Islam in Britain.



need to stop making Muslims scapegoats’
want a just society’
Muslims are a diverse people of many cultures’
Muslim shapes you, but first and foremost I’m a human being’
need to ask ourselves what it means to integrate’
isn’t a great chasm between British Muslims and British non-Muslims’

need to be allowed to contribute to British culture’

Young, Muslim and British
is the impact of the ‘war on terror’ on British Muslims?

Raihan Al Faradhi, 19
would you describe your identity?

Salma Yaqoob, 33

Anber Raz, 28
you want integration or parallel lives?
do the faithful live in a secular society?

Special reports
Religion in
the UK

Muslim Britain
of the moderates


Militant groups in the UK

on the common good

reject image of separate society

and laws of Islam


Comment and analysis
Britain and Islam can make it together

Yusuf: Islam has a progressive tradition too

Kabbani: Dislocation and neglect in Muslim Britain’s ghettos

Useful links
Muslim Council of Great Britain
Muslim News
Q News

Go to …

report: Muslims in Britain


Muslims in Britain: archived articles


need to stop making Muslims scapegoats’


are being asked to abandon part of their identity’


of our community leaders are not educated enough about Islam’


classes should be mandatory for immigrants’


Muslims are a diverse people of many cultures’


need to ask ourselves what it means to integrate’


need to be allowed to contribute to British culture’


is the impact of the ‘war on terror’ on British Muslims?


would you describe your identity?


Ayfer Orhan, 45


widespread perception is that Islam discriminates against women. Why is that


Ajmal Masroor, 33


Siddiqui, 28


are the most pressing problems in your community?


do the faithful live in a secular society?