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Durham University News

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Call for Government action to tackle the needs of British Muslims

(24 November 2004)

A major report, edited by a leading human rights academic from the University of Durham, calls for more effective Government action to tackle disadvantage, deprivation and discrimination faced by British Muslims.

The report (Muslims in the UK: policies for engaged citizens) by the Open Society Institute EU Monitoring and Advocacy Programme (EUMAP) is published this week. Its editor Mr Tufyal Choudhury, lecturer in Human Rights law at Durham, is Director of the Institute’s UK Muslim Research Project.

The report was presented by Home Office Minister Fiona Mactaggart MP at a national launch in Westminster before a high-profile audience including leading representatives of the Muslim Council Britain and the Commission for Racial Equality.

Politicians, policy makers, journalists, opinion formers, and key individuals from the ethnic minority and faith communities attended the launch event aimed at bringing its recommendations the attention of key Government ministers, relevant Muslim organisations, community groups and other stakeholders.

Mr Choudhury said: “If key legal and political institutions understand and accommodate their central concerns, Muslims will feel a deeper sense of belonging to British society. Muslims in the UK makes detailed, practical and realistic recommendations aimed at seeing that Government policy is more effective in meeting the specific needs of Muslims as a group.“

Muslims in the UK presents new analysis and data and makes the case that religion is a more important aspect of identity than ethnicity for British Muslims. At present both data collection and Government policy too often address minority issues only through the lens of ethnicity.

The report focuses on four key policy areas, namely: employment, education, the criminal justice system, and equality and community cohesion.

The report’s chapter on employment highlights the disproportionately high rate of unemployment among Muslims in the UK and the over-concentration of Muslims in certain low-paying sectors. It also finds that Muslim women recorded the highest level of economic inactivity among all faith groups and that Muslim youth are at increasing risk of social exclusion.

Confidence in the criminal justice system is central to a sense of belonging and inclusion in society. Muslims in the UK reveals the low levels of confidence in the criminal justice system prevalent amongst British Muslims and the impact of anti-terrorism laws in fuelling a perception of unfair treatment.

The education chapter reveals that key educational concerns for Muslim parents are the poor (although improving) academic results of Muslim children; the need to eradicate racism and Islamophobic bullying; and the lack of recognition or support of their children’s religious identity. Education is crucial for integration and social cohesion, as the school system is the first mainstream institution with which young people come into sustained contact. The extent to which schools respect and accommodate diversity sends out strong signals about the value that society places on diversity.

Main recommendations in the report include:

  • Improved data collection on the basis of faith (as well as ethnicity).
  • Increased engagement by Government agencies and public bodies, in particular criminal justice agencies, with Muslim communities.
  • The need for policy makers to take into account the aspirations and needs of Muslims as a group, in designing targeted policy to tackle the socio-economic disadvantage faced by Muslims and to ensure their full integration into the labour market.
  • The need to incorporate knowledge and understanding of Muslims and their faith in the education curriculum.
  • More research on the specific needs of British Muslims, as a group.

ends

Notes to the Editor

  1. The report is a follow up to Tufyal Choudhury’s Monitoring Minority Protection in the EU: The Situation of Muslims in the UK published by OSI – EUMAP in November 2002, (available at www. eumap.org). This 2002 report was a snapshot of the situation of Muslims in terms of minority rights, and their experiences of discrimination and disadvantage.
  2. The present report was edited by Tufyal Choudhury (University of Durham) Authors include Zamila Bunglawala (labour market analyst), Dr Basia Spalek (University of Birmingham), Professor Mark Halstead (Plymouth University) and Maleiha Malik (Kings College). Zamila’s employment paper, launched on 22 July 22 (a press release is available at: http://www.eumap.org/reports/2004/britishmuslims/press.doc) is published alongside the other reports in one edited volume.
  3. Tufyal Chopudhury is a Solicitor's Educational Trust lecturer in human rights law at Durham. He was previously a Research Associate at the Centre for Public Law at Cambridge University working on the Independent Review of UK Anti-Discrimination Law. He is author of two working papers for the Review: In What Respects Does UK Discrimination Law Fall Short of the Standards Demanded by International Human Rights Law (Centre for Public Law, 1999) and Discrimination on the Grounds of Religion or Belief (Centre for Public Law, 2000). He is co-author, with Professor Bob Hepple and Mary Coussey, of Equality: A New Framework - Report of the Independent Review of the Enforcement of UK Anti-Discrimination Legislation (Hart, 2000), and co-author, with Professor Hepple, of Tackling Religious Discrimination: Practical Implications for Policy Makers and Legislators (Home Office, 2001). He was also a speaker on this matter at a JUSTICE conference on religious discrimination in July 2001. He also contributed sections on discrimination and multiculturalism in the Democratic Audit report Democracy Under Blair, (Politicos) both were published in November 2002. He has provided briefings to the Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit on ethnic minorities and UK discrimination law and has spoken about discrimination at CRE and Discrimination Law Association conferences. He was a member of the advisory committee for the Institute of Public Policy Research project on 'Race and Governance in the UK' and is a member of the HM Inspector of Police Training Reference Group for Race and Diversity. He is a consultant to the discrimination law project at the Human Rights group JUSTICE.
  4. The Open Society Institute, a private operating and grant-making foundation, aims to shape public policy to promote democratic governance, human rights, and economic, legal, and social reform. On a local level, OSI implements a range of initiatives to support the rule of law, education, public health and independent media. At the same time, OSI works to build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as combating corruption and rights abuses. For further information: www.soros.org.
  5. EUMAP, the EU Monitoring and Advocacy Program of the Open Society Institute, Budapest, monitors the development of human rights and rule of law issues in both the European Union and in its candidate and potential candidate countries. The program works with national experts and NGOs to compile reports which are distributed widely internationally. The reports are designed to encourage broader participation in the process of articulating the EU’s common democratic values as well as in ongoing monitoring of compliance with human rights standards throughout the union. For further information: www.eumap.org.

For further information on this report and on the OSI-EUMAP UK Muslims Research Project contact: Tufyal Choudhury, tel. 0796 1347126 or 0191 334 2809, e-mail: t.a.choudhury@durham.ac.uk

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