||The Runnymede Trust has published a new report entitled The New Muslims.
The report notes the Census 2011 results on the number of British Muslims and finds the there has been a decrease in Muslim segregation.
An example includes the through the spreading out from the biggest Muslim concentrationsm (Tower Hamlets), towards neighbouring areas like Barking and Dagenham.
Statistics published by the Ministry of Defence in 2012 which show that there are 650 Muslims serving in the UK armed services. Of these 550 are in the British army, constituting 0.5% of the total.
Muslim citizenship in the UK is under threat. Since 2003, 21 British nationals have had their citizenship revoked and all but one or two of these were Muslim. Sixteen of these revocations took place under the current government and at least five individuals affected were British-born, with one man having lived in the UK for almost 50 years.
There is a need for an urgent review of funding for voluntary, ethnic minority and faith groups. There is a lack of needs-based funding for Muslim women’s organisations at a time where issues like marital breakdown are on the rise.
Debates on integration of schooling must factor in experiences of anti-Muslim racism. A regard for the way in which international and national events shape local Muslim experiences within schools is also noted.
Youth services serve a clear purpose however, for these spaces to effectively provide a safe and secure environment for marginalized young people, a move away from negatively loaded ‘risk prevention’ agendas by the government will be necessary.
Dominant views of Muslim identity can be challenged and expanded by including Muslim voices in the media. Unity FM, a community radio station for the Muslim community in Birmingham, provides a space for diverse Muslim voices to come together and change limited notions of community.
Regarding ‘The Muslim Question’ and specifically ‘who is a Muslim?’ the researchers found that the term ‘Muslim’ is often a “codeword for a series of pathologies.” When researchers looked at the dominant representations of Muslims they found that the three main categories were: “gender (hijab/forced marriage/ honour killings), triad gangs and grooming, and terrorists/extremists”.
It is these negative themes that, as the reports puts it; “provide grist to the mill of the born-again racism-without-race popular with both the EDL and the so-called liberal left because, apparently, it’s not racist to be anti-Muslim.”
The report argues that this “singular focus on religion” overlooks other often more pressing issues that affect Muslims such as “high levels of unemployment, educational underachievement, stop and search, poor housing, low levels of household wealth and the ‘ethnic penalty’ experienced by Muslim professionals.”
A chapter in the report tackles “The ‘Muslim Question’ in Europe” and finds that the high levels of discrimination which European Muslims suffer show no signs of abating. Muslims, like the Jews before them, have to fight to be heard. The researchers found a commonality between the ways in which Muslims are treated now compared to how Jews were treated in the last century.
The report states:
“Unfortunately, disadvantage is not normally what occupies those posing the ‘Muslim Question’ – a reference to the ‘Jewish Question’, which has previously haunted Europe and centred on what today we would describe as issues of integration for (and rejection of) Jewish minorities. While there are analogies between the racism encountered by Jewish and Muslim communities (Meer, 2013), it is important to stress that just as their Jewish counterparts before them, who have moved inwards from the margins of social and political life, Muslims have become active participants in democratic life, and so are not merely objects of discrimination.”
The report contains a chapter on Muslims in the British Army with most recent statistics published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD, 2012a) indicating that there are 650 Muslims serving in the UK armed services. Of these, 550 are in the British Army, constituting 0.5% of the total.
The report found that Muslim soldiers are not just an asset when it comes to combat, but that they can also contribute to other aspects of the war effort. The report notes the remarks in 2009 of the then Chief of the General Staff, General Sir David Richards, the first patron of the Armed Forces Muslim Association (AFMA) who, said Britain ‘had a commitment to … all those Muslims with whom we have a natural identity, given our own core values reflect very strongly with those of the Muslim faith’.
In the final chapter the report focuses on ‘British Justice for (Which) British Citizens?”. The chapter highlights the significant disparity between the way in which British Muslims and non-Muslims have been dealt with by the judiciary.
The author states:
“When the campaigns against the extradition of Babar Ahmad, Talha Ahsan, Richard O’Dwyer and Gary McKinnon united to demand justice and make claims to British sovereignty, they collectively called for ‘British Justice for British Citizens’.”
“Significantly, the campaign for reform of the 2003 US–UK Extradition Treaty drew different responses for each of the four men. Following an 8 and 6 year battle respectively, whilst they were detained without trial, Babar Ahmad and Talha Ahsan lost their appeals against extradition in October 2012, along with three other Muslim men, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the prospective sentences faced by them in the US (80–100 years in solitary confinement) were not tantamount to torture.
“Ten days after their extradition, the Home Secretary ruled against the removal of Gary McKinnon, due to the vulnerability inferred from his Asperger’s syndrome, which put him at high risk of suicide. Declaring his case to be an ‘exception’, Theresa May’s decision displayed the humanitarianism offered to McKinnon that was at one and the same time denied to the Muslim men, whose health conditions also included Asperger’s, as well as severe clinical depression, diabetes and physical disabilities.”
This disparity in treatment of those British citizens who happened to be Muslim the report terms the “white elephant in the room”.
The researchers argue that “the suspension and increasing retraction of human rights and civil liberties under the War on Terror pushed for public comment on who could be treated with complete impunity, or even on who might be considered human.”
The report, The New Muslims, can be found here.