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The future of Islam in Britain: issues and considerations  PowerPoint Presentation
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The future of Islam in Britain: issues and considerations 

The future of Islam in Britain: issues and considerations 

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The future of Islam in Britain: issues and considerations 

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  1. The future of Islam in Britain: issues and considerations  PowerPoint presentation to Pakistani Professionals’ Forum, Pakistan High Commission, 34-36 Lowndes Square, London SW1X 9JN Dr Tahir Abbas BSc(Econ) MSocSc PhD FRSA Reader in Sociology Director, Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture Department of Sociology University of Birmingham, UK 11 June 2006

  2. Contents Analysing British Muslim identities, pre- and post-7/7 • Migration, demographics and community • Assimilation, integration and multiculturalism • Radical political Islam, pre- and post-7/7 • Sociological and policy relevant questions

  3. Pakistanis in Britain • Around 1m of Britain’s 1.6m Muslims originate from South Asia (two-thirds are from Pakistan, under a third from Bangladesh and the remainder from India). The other half a million or so is from Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and South East Asia (more later…) • Independence of former East Pakistan in 1971 and the fact that the vast majority of all Pakistanis in Britain are from the Azad Kashmir region of North East Pakistan masks the true ethnic identity of people ordinarily defined as Pakistanis • There is a considerable body of people who originate from the North West Frontier but as a result of huge population movements from Afghanistan to Pakistan since the Russian-Afghan War and beyond, their ethnic identities as Pukhtan and Pathan are subsumed under the title of Pakistanis • Furthermore, there are religio-cultural differences between Sunni, Shia, Wahabi, Ahmadiya sects Approximately one in three of all British Muslims are from Azad Kashmir

  4. UK Variations • British Muslims remain concentrated in older post-industrial cities and conurbations in the South East, the Midlands and the North • The Muslim population of London – 1 million (total 7.2 million); Birmingham - 150,000 (1 million) – this includes the world’s largest expatriate Kashmiri population. Nine per cent of all British Muslims were found to be in Birmingham in 2001 (ONS 2003) • Scotland 60,000 (33,000 in Glasgow); Wales 50,000; N. Ireland 4,000 • This British Muslim population has grown from about 21,000 in 1951 to 1.6m at present (Peach, 2005)

  5. UK Muslims 2001

  6. Age • Around a third of all British Muslims are under the age of fourteen • 33.8 of Muslims are aged 0-15 years (national average is 20.2 per cent); 18.2 per cent are aged 16-24 (national average is 10.9 per cent) • 50 per cent of Muslims are born in the United Kingdom • 54.5 per cent of Pakistanis and 46.6 per cent of Bangladeshis are born in the UK The next five slides are taken from Ballard, R. (n.d.) The Current Demographic Characteristics of the South Asian Presence in Britain: an analysis of the results of the 2001 Census, Centre for Applied South Asian Studies University of Manchester. Available a

  7. Age distribution of Pakistanis in 2001

  8. Comparison between expected and actual UK Pakistani population in 2001

  9. Percentage distribution of members of each ethnic group by religious affiliation

  10. Percentage distribution of those affiliated to each major religion by ethnic group

  11. Regional distribution of (i) the Indian and (ii) the Pakistani population

  12. Regional Distribution of the South Asian population of England by Religion

  13. Local authorities with highest percentage of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi residents

  14. Ethnic and Religious Inequalities • Education: Ethnic minority candidates found strong evidence of bias against ethnic minority candidates within the ‘old’ (i.e. pre-1992) universities. The probability of a white candidate receiving an initial offer was greater (.75) than for Pakistani or Bangladeshi candidate with equivalent qualifications (0.57)[1] • Employment: Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are two and a half times more likely than the white population to be unemployed and nearly three times more likely to be in low pay[2] • Health: Self-reported diabetes among Bangladeshi men and women is six times more than the general population[3] • Housing: 77 per cent of Pakistani households are composed of owner-occupiers. They are overwhelmingly concentrated in terraced housing. About 45% of Bangladeshis are owner-occupier. Another report by Peach states that 43% of Bangladeshis live in council or housing association properties - 50% higher than the national average[4] [1] National Statistics, Labour Force Survey, Spring 2000. [2] ‘Help or Hindrance? Higher education and the route to ethnic equality’ by Tariq Modood and Michael Shiner, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 2002. [3]The Health Survey of Minority Ethnic Groups, Health Survey for England 1999, Department of Health. [4] ‘Ethnicity in the 1991 Census’ Volume 2 edited by Ceri Peach (HMSO); table (5.12) ‘Percentage of households by tenure and ethnicity’.

  15. The multicultural state of British Muslims • Ever since the Iranian Revolution since 1979, Muslims across the globe have become a focus of attention. 1979 was also the year that Russia invaded Afghanistan • The Salman Rushdie Affair of 1989 revealed how British South Asian Muslims were shown to be weak and intolerant when in fact they were merely expressing their opinions in relation to the publication of The Satanic Verses

  16. Ummatic politics and ‘clash of fundamentalisms’ • The first Gulf War (1990-1991), the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1993-1996), The Oklahoma Bombing (1995), the Taliban in Afghanistan (1997-2002), Grozny and Kosovo (1999), the recent Palestinian Intifda (since September 2000) and the War on Iraq (2003) have all played a part in creating a transnational Muslim solidarity; a genuine and conscious identification with others of the same religion • Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ thesis – positioning East and West, Islam and Christianity as diametrically opposed and irreconcilable has served only to build on growing anti-American sentiment and increased Orientalism through over simplification and generalisation

  17. ‘The war on terror’ • Nothing, however, could have prepared the world for the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in the United States • Reactions were swift and associations between Islam, terrorism and the juxtaposition of Christianity versus Islam only fuelled added anti-Islamic and anti-American sentiment • Gave rise to efforts of far right groups to paint Muslims as epitomising unwanted difference, and excused anti-Islamic violence

  18. Muslim minority mobilisation • Externally, after 9/11 international issues have dominated domestic politics, there has been a tightening of security and anti-terrorist measures, with citizenship tests for new immigrants, for example • Internally, young British Muslims are increasingly found in the precarious position of being influenced by radical Islamic politics on the one hand and developments to British multicultural citizenry on the other • Creates tension and raises issues, encouraging some to take up the ‘struggle’ more vigorously while others seek to adopt more Western values… • Local, national and international issues in relation to Islam and Muslims …7/7

  19. ‘Death of Multiculturalism’ • British multiculturalism is under severe test, as is how Muslims experience it • What is apparent, however, is that 7 July attacks have further changed the landscape and, along with it, how Muslims will be regarded, considered and treated for the foreseeable future (‘sleepwalking into segregation’. • Direction based on nation-states and their policies towards different Muslim migrants, minorities and citizens as well as how Muslims work to adapt to majority society

  20. Political discourse • British Muslims, however, feel beleaguered by recent Home Office statements • At the same time, elements of the British right-wing target Muslims as the new ‘enemy other’ • Not only are there are questions of integration at one level, at another, is the politically-loaded question of ‘loyalty’ to state and society • There has been a focus away from racism towards ethnic differences, with a concentration on religious markers of distinction • But, in the post 7/7 period, where the concepts of nation and identity are often intertwined, multiculturalism needs to inform the general consciousness and permit a new sense of Britishness to emerge as part of the changing ethnic identities of British Muslims…. (Modood, 2005)

  21. Persistent Islamophobia… • Defined as The fear or dread of Islam or Muslims • Although the term is of relatively recent coinage, the idea is a well-established tradition in history • Since the genesis of Islam in 622, awareness of Muslims in Europe has been negatively smeared • Has been convenient for to pain Muslims in the worst possible light, so as to prevent conversions to Islam and to drive the inhabitants of Europe to resist Muslim forces at their borders • Although there have been periods of learning and understanding on the part of the English, there has also been ignorance, conflict and demonisation • Muslims characterised as barbaric, ignorant, closed-minded, ‘terrorists’ or intolerant religious zealots • Attitudes still present today in the negative representation and treatment of the Muslim-other, all of which exists as part of an effort to aggrandise the established powers, legitimising existing systems of domination and subordination

  22. A question of ‘Islamic political radicalism’ Young people are marginalised, ostracised, subjugated, oppressed… • Economic (education, labour market) • Social (inter-generational, gender/masculinity) • Political (lack of representation in mainstream politics) • Cultural (identity, citizenship) • Religion (local, national and international Islamophobia)

  23. Radicalism analysed • ‘Islamic’ radicalising forces of emerge outside many of the South Asian Muslim traditions found in Britain (i.e., Deobandis, Brewlvis, Hanifis) • Young people of South Asian origin are affected by ethnic, cultural and religious prejudice/discrimination/racism – leading to a process of acute alienation • Alienation encourages young Muslims (men) to seek alternative forms of expression – issues to do with • Masculinity in western settings • Information/communication technologies • Reaction to individual, community and group Islamophobia, which is in part ‘theologically abstracted’ • The problem is not of the faith of Islam, it is political: more to do a reaction of lived experience – the interaction with secular, liberal society

  24. Concluding thoughts… • In the end, in relation to radicalism: • Locally: Acute socio-economic inequalities; limited formal and Islamic education… which leads some to become radicalised (sociological, criminological, and theological explanations) • National: Questions raised about citizenship and loyalty; rising nationalism; reverberating in discussion about multiculturalism – and the Muslim other and their ability to co-exist in a liberal, secular state • International: ‘war on terror’

  25. Marginalised groups • Problems of identity crises of Muslim groups who are most vulnerable in society. • Loss of a British identity; shift towards radicalised political Islamic identities for some… • For others, a move towards secular politics and development of broad alliances with centre-left anti-globalisation politics • For others still, greater attempts at integration (the ‘two-way street’ variety)…

  26. After 7/7 Politicians will be looking at initiatives in response to 7/7. Policy might seek to achieve five things: • Ensure that Muslim communities become more culturally and politically included than they have been • Provide genuine educational and labour market opportunities for the young • Make certain that community leadership is reflective and capable • Certify religious instructors in mainstream mosques, ensuring they are properly connected with local and national institutions; • Help ensure that international issues that impact on British South Asian Muslims, namely, Palestine, Iraq, Chechnya, and Kashmir, are resolved…

  27. Policy matters • Problems of leadership: political, cultural, intellectual and theological. • State dismisses any links between ‘war on terror’ and ‘home-grown terrorism’. • Decline of civil liberties, increased policing powers and draconian anti-terrorism operations.. • Meanwhile, inequalities widen and cultural, economic, social and political alienation increases. • Greater integration an inevitable results of inter-generational social mobility and economic prosperity, given current demographic and socio-economic profile of the British South Asian Muslim Community.

  28. The Rushdie Affair of 1989

  29. Gulf War 1991

  30. Bosnia 1993-1996

  31. Chechnya 1999-

  32. Second Palestinian Intifida 2000-

  33. Bradford2001

  34. 11 September 2001New York

  35. LondonMarch 2003

  36. MadridMarch 2004

  37. AmsterdamNovember 2004

  38. The 7/7 Bombers

  39. 7/7: Terror strikes London

  40. ‘Ricin terror plot’ 2005 ‘Britain: trial finds no evidence of “ricin plot” Another Iraq war lie exposed’, by Julie Hyland and Chris Marsden, 21 April 2005 (World Socialist Web Site:

  41. Danish cartoonists under fire

  42. ‘Danish Cartoons Outrage’ 2006

  43. (Failed) ‘London Terror Arrests’June 2006

  44. ‘2004 Haditha massacre’June 2006

  45. ‘Killing Zarqawi’June 2006

  46. Relevant texts and work in progress Abbas, T. (ed) (2005) Muslim Britain: Communities under Pressure (London and New York: Zed). Abbas, T. (2005) ‘Recent Developments to British Multicultural Theory, Policy and Practice: The Case of British Muslims’, Citizenship Studies9(2): 153-166. Abbas, T. (ed) (2007) Islamic Political Radicalism: A European Comparative Perspective, forthcoming (Edinburgh, University Press). Abbas, T. (2007) British Islam, forthcoming(Cambridge, University Press). Further details at