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British Muslims, identity, discrimination and integration

British Muslims, identity, discrimination and integration

Categories: Latest News

Friday May 27 2016

The Daily Telegraph reports on the results of an Opinium Research survey exploring identity and equality in multicultural Britain with the headline “One in three Muslims do not feel ‘part of British culture’.”

The Opinium survey, based on a polling sample of 2,000 people plus a booster sample of nearly 500 individuals who self-identify as ethnic minority, is presented in the report, ‘A question of identity and equality in multicultural Britain‘. The report, by James Crouch and Maria Stonehouse, looks at the UK’s changing attitudes to racism, discrimination and equality 20 years on.

The report disaggregates data by age, religion, ethnicity and income group to present an interesting set of data on how the white British majority and British ethnic minority groups regard the UK’s success in adapting to its changing demographic profile.

The report notes the agreement across groups, both white and ethnic minority, about a shared set of common values with just over half (54%) of all UK adults agreeing that there are a set of values that all nationalities and religions in Britain can agree on in future. This is particularly high in London, where almost three quarters (72%) of the city’s diverse population think that there are values that Britons can all agree on regardless of background.

Two thirds (64%) of ethnic minorities agree that those moving to the UK should make an effort to integrate and not establish their own separate communities, similar to the 70% of all UK adults who think this.

But the reports highlights experiences and perceptions of racial and religious discrimination which obstructs ethnic minority integration.

The report notes that “One in seven (14%) Muslims and 10% of Hindus frequently face racial discrimination, compared to a handful of ethnic minorities who are Christians. This suggests that some groups are still targeted more than others, and the data at least, should lead us to re-examine the issue of Islamophobia in Britain.”

The report shows that Muslims are least likely to report ‘never’ having experienced discrimination. Muslims are also the group most likely to report being victims of discrimination ‘frequently’ and report higher levels of discrimination on racial or religious grounds than the average for all ethnic minorities; 64% compared to 58%.


The report reveals that “seven in ten (71%) ethnic minorities think that racist beliefs are still widely held in the UK but are not openly talked about, and 60% believe that racial discrimination is common in the UK. More than half (58%) of ethnic minorities say that they have been a victim of racial discrimination, while 47% say they have received racially motivated abuse.”

The types of racial discrimination experienced by ethnic minority Britons ranges from direct insults (47%) and being at the receiving end of racist jokes or insults (40%) to racist stereotyping (40%) and being treated differently in public places (e.g. shops / restaurants) (38%).

Workplace discrimination is also evident in the results with 14% of all ethnic minorities saying they have been denied a job or interview because of their race, and 13% reporting being turned down for a promotion.

Perceptions of discrimination is also covered in the report with ethnic minorities saying they regard some professions as “closed off” to them.

“Two thirds (63%) of ethnic minorities think that there are occupations or professions closed off to them, rising to 71% amongst the younger generation (aged 18-34). However, white Britons as a whole do not share this pessimism, with only 28% believing that there are still professions closed off to ethnic minorities in the UK.

For minority groups, 18% reported the police as being a profession they believed to be “closed off” to ethnic minorities, 16% cited the legal profession and  15% said banking.

More problematic are the numbers who said they felt  politics was a career “closed off” to ethnic minorities. Almost a quarter, 23% said this and more than a third, 37% of ethnic minorities said they think that the role of prime minister is barred to them.

On the question of identity, there is a split between a civic notion of identity and the attachment to religion or race among ethnic minorities groups. 72% of White Britons said the country in which they live in is the single most important part of their identity.

Almost half (47%) of Muslims considered their faith to be the most important part of their identity, while 43% of Black Britons considered their ethnicity to be the key to describing themselves.

On identity and integration, the report notes, “Just over a third (35%) of minorities report feeling like they belong to a different culture, with a further 22% being excluded from society as a whole by explicitly agreeing that they don’t feel like they are a part of British culture.

“A third (33%) Muslims – the group most likely to identify with their religion – are most likely to say they do not feel a part of British culture, while only 19% of those with no faith feel the same.”

While the Daily Telegraph headline article puts this information at the forefront of its coverage of the report, it neglects a vital piece of information that relates some of the reasons why minority groups, and especially Muslims, might not feel a part of British culture.

The report explain ” However, fundamental issues such as identity are not the only factors in this disconnect from society. A range of socio-economic factors that might not be directly associated with identity come into play. Those with a household income of less than £20,000 a year are twice as likely as those with a household income of more than £50,000 to feel excluded from British culture.”

Moreover, “The younger generation are the most likely to say they feel disconnected from British culture (29%).”

As with the Daily Telegraph’s exclusion of data on the higher levels of discrimination expressed by British Muslims, its neglect of the socio-economic factors which may account for the cultural dissonance between Muslims and other Britons give the impression some British Muslims are implacably resistant to integration rather than address factors that explain the causes why.

As Ingrid Storm pointed out in her study of British Social Attitudes and generational shifts in British attitudes towards Muslims and other minorities “a public debate which focuses on cultural incompatibility, religious extremism and violence could potentially affect a person’s views not only of world events, but of their neighbours, friends, colleagues and potential in-laws.”

It’s a shame the Daily Telegraph should focus on British Muslims’ ‘cultural incompatibility’ while evading questions about the media’s contribution to how and why it might come about.


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