Islamophobia holding back UK Muslims in...
Research for the government’s social mobility watchdog, shared exclusively with the Guardian, found a strong work ethic and high resilience among Muslims that resulted in impressive results in education. However, that was not translated into the workplace, with only 6% of Muslims breaking through into professional jobs, compared with 10% of the overall population in England and Wales. The study found 19.8% of Muslims aged 16-to-74 were in full-time employment, compared with 34.9% of the overall population.
The research also found evidence of women being encouraged by their communities to focus on marriage and motherhood rather than gaining employment. Overall, 18% of Muslim women aged 16 to 74 were recorded as “looking after home and family”, compared with 6% of the overall female population.
Academics cited a number of barriers to success, including:
- Students face stereotyping and low expectations from teachers and a lack of Muslim staff or other role models in the classroom.
- Minority ethnic-sounding names reduce the likelihood of people being offered an interview.
- Young Muslims routinely fear becoming targets of bullying and harassment and feel forced to work “10 times as hard” as their white counterparts to get on.
- Women wearing headscarfs face particular discrimination once entering the workplace.
Alan Milburn, the former cabinet minister who now heads the government-sponsored Social Mobility Commission, said the research painted a disturbing picture. “The British social mobility promise is that hard work will be rewarded. Unfortunately, for many young Muslims in Britain today this promise is being broken,” he said.
Calling for action by the government, communities, educators and employers, Milburn said: “Young Muslims themselves identify cultural barriers in their communities and discrimination in the education system and labour market as some of the principal obstacles that stand in their way. Young Muslim women face a specific challenge to maintain their identity while seeking to succeed in modern Britain.”
Prof Jacqueline Stevenson, of Sheffield Hallam University, which led the research, said: “Muslims are being excluded, discriminated against or failed at all stages of their transition from education to employment. Taken together, these contributory factors have profound implications for social mobility.”
Stevenson told the Guardian that the research highlighted routine examples of Muslim men and women failing to secure jobs that were commensurate with their skills and qualifications. The research involved a series of in-depth focus groups across the country through which young Muslims shared their experiences. One woman in Liverpool said her father had suggested “changing her name to help get a job.
A female respondent in High Wycombe referred to hearing comments such as “he looked very Muslim” or “look at her, she’s got a scarf on”. Another said they felt that when white children went to school they might fear getting bullied but the thought would occur to all ethnic-minority children.
Farhana Ghaffar, a 25-year-old Muslim woman who acted as a researcher for the study, said she was “incredibly shocked” by the findings. “It ranged from assumptions that they were forced to wear the headscarf to jokes and casual comments in workplace about Muslims. Or every time there was a terror attack there was a feeling of a need to apologise and explain,” she said. Ghaffar talked of difficulties within the workplace, including a culture of drinking alcohol that Muslims were unable to participate in. Raised in London by parents who were economic migrants from Pakistan, Ghaffar said she had been strongly supported by her teachers and then at university, but the research often painted a different picture.
The research aimed to build on a previous report by the commission that found children of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin outperformed other ethnic groups in education but were much less likely to enter managerial or professional jobs. This study aimed to explain what was causing the trend through more in-depth focus groups and statistical analysis.