Sunday , 16 December 2018

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Islam and United Kingdom

Islam in the United Kingdom

Demographics [Return to top] Prior to the end of the Second World War, there had for some time been a small Islamic presence in Britain. Britain’s colonial heritage meant that it had had some amount of contact with the religion of Islam for several centuries. During the nineteenth century the Islamic presence in Britain expanded, as foreign workers arrived in Britain’s seaport cities as a source of cheap labor. Some were Muslim, and this lead to the emergence of small Muslim communities in cities such as London, Liverpool and Woking. This resulted in the construction of Britain’s first all-purpose Mosque, built in Woking in 1889. 1) It was in the years following the end of World War II, however, that the majority of Muslim immigration to Britain occurred. This was an era of decolonization. Following the partition of India, many Muslims from South Asia (the majority of whom were from Pakistan) arrived in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s. After the war, Britain was in the process of rebuilding its devastated economy and infrastructure, and so it benefited profoundly from this source of cheap labor. Ikhlaq Din has challenged the suggestion that “many Pakistanis who came to the United Kingdom…[were] reluctant migrants”. 2) Instead he contends that for many of these people, “England was vilayat, ‘a place of dreams’”. 3) He supports this by pointing out that many of the Pakistanis who came to the UK “belonged to the lower castes…and had little opportunity to better themselves back in Pakistan”. 4) Although the majority of South Asian Muslims to arrive in Britain after the war were Pakistani, a small amount of Indian Muslims also arrived, and they were followed by a wave of new Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh during the 1980s. Some East African Asian Muslims also arrived in Britain during the late 1960s and early 1970s as a result of ‘Africanization’ policies in countries which had been affected by British colonial influence. East African Asian Muslims from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda all settled in Britain at this time. The 2001 census revealed that there are roughly 1.6 million Muslims currently living in Britain, 2.7% of the overall population. This population is “a fast growing and young population”, 5) with 60% being below 30 years old. The cities with the largest Muslim populations are: London (607,000), Birmingham (140,000), Greater Manchester (125,000), Bradford (75,000) and Kirklees (39,000). 6) Although roughly 50% of Muslims living in Britain are of either Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin, Britain’s Muslim community is ethnically diverse: “Britain’s Muslims are of varied ethnic backgrounds: two thirds are of South Asian origin but about 8 per cent are of African origin and about 12 per cent are white”. 7)
Labor Market [Return to top] The unemployment rates for Muslims living in Britain are disproportionately high. In its 2004 Annual Population Survey, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in Britain found that unemployment rates for Muslims were higher than those for people from any other religion, for both men and women. 8) In 2004, 13% of Muslim men in Britain were unemployed, which was over three times the rate for Christian men (4%). Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 years old were found to have the highest unemployment rates− 28%, compared to 11% for Christian males from the same age group. The ONS survey also revealed that “men and women of working age from the Muslim faith are…more likely than other groups in Great Britain to be economically inactive, that is, not available for work and/or not actively seeking work”. In Birmingham (the British city with the largest Muslim population outside of London), Muhammad Anwar has noted that there exists a strong correlation between the areas of Birmingham where the city’s Muslims are most concentrated, and the areas of Birmingham which contain the city’s highest unemployment rates. 9) Nevertheless, we should note that the extent to which unemployment and religious identity are linked remains unclear. As the Open Society Institute’s 2004 report Aspirations and Reality: British Muslims and the Labour Market states: