We are testing a new beta website for gov.scot go to new site

Experiences of Muslims living in Scotland


2 Chapter 2: Literature review


2.1 A motivation for this literature review arose from the recognition that there has been limited research into the experiences of Muslim communities in Scotland and in particular, the prevalence of religious intolerance and racism experienced by Muslim communities. Modood believes that the way in which 'race' and 'racism' has been understood in Britain has too often narrowly focused on black-white relations, which insufficiently capture the experiences of Asians in Britain (Modood 2005). Therefore, Modood argues that to fully understand discrimination against ethnic minorities in Britain, and the challenges faced by Muslims in particular, it is necessary to recognise the existence of 'cultural racism' through which people are vilified for being seen to embody particular cultural traits, with religion an important dimension of this (Ibid).

2.2 In addition, despite the existence of some large scale research studies into the experiences of discrimination and intolerance against ethnic minorities within Britain, it has been acknowledged that such research has often assumed the experiences of ethnic minorities in Scotland are the same as elsewhere across Britain. Therefore, it has been suggested that there is a lack of relevant research into the experiences of ethnic minorities in Scotland, and in particular the experiences of Scottish Muslims (for example Hopkins, 2008; de Lima 2005). Similarly, it has been suggested there are important differences in Scotland in comparison to England that require research to be conducted in Scotland. In particular, Sundas (2008) argues that there has been a lack of research into how Muslims think about themselves, with people of dual heritage often being overlooked by research into minority ethnic groups (see Hopkins 2007b).

2.3 This review provides a brief historical outline of Muslim communities in Scotland, as well as a discussion of the key demographic features of Muslim communities in Scotland. It should be noted that this review is not attempting to map the full extent of the migration of Muslim communities to Britain. In addition, the data in this report has largely been drawn from the 2001 census findings. The 2001 census was the first large-scale source of data available on ethnic minority groups in Scotland since 1991 and is currently 5 a key source of data on the ethnic minority population in Scotland (de Lima 2005).

2.4 The chapter continues by outlining some of the key areas of discussions and findings from an overview of a selection of published research into the experiences of Muslims. The research sourced for this report has predominantly focused on Muslim communities in England but where possible will draw out the findings from the available Scottish research.

Muslims in Scotland

2.5 A comprehensible relationship between Muslims and Scotland can be mapped out to illustrate the complex circumstances which may have led Muslims to settle in Scotland. As it has been argued elsewhere, it is necessary to understand the migration histories of communities who have settled in Britain in order to understand their current realities (see Lewis 2007; The Change Institute 2009). It is important to note that the majority of what will be discussed in this section will largely rely on the migration histories and demographics of South Asian Muslim communities in Scotland. As the largest Muslim community in Scotland, much of the data available drawn from the 2001 census findings reflect the particular experiences of these communities. Nonetheless, it is important to stress the diversity of Muslim communities residing in Scotland.

2.6 Mass migration in the early part of the Nineteenth century saw people from a diverse range of backgrounds entering the British Isles, including people from India, Yemen, Malaya (now predominantly known as Malaysia) and various other areas of the colonised British Empire (Ansari 2004). This migration was largely labour-driven, with migrants taking up employment in a number of trades and manual sectors. Nevertheless, a number of migrants also came to Britain as students, professionals, merchants and servants. From the Eighteenth century onwards, Scotland has observed a large number of students from the Indian Sub-Continent 6 who have travelled as a result of widespread interest in Western education among affluent families in South Asia (Maan 1992). Making Scotland a 'home' was often not out of choice for these students, and for migrants generally, as the burden of cost for travel home became too heavy and a large number eventually settled. By the middle of the nineteenth century, a large number of lascars (maritime workers) had arrived in Scotland, in particular Glasgow, which was one of the largest ship building nations in the world supplying one fifth of the world's ships (Maan 1992) 7.

2.7 A number of academics mark the Second World War as the point at which the Muslim migrant population grew not only in Scotland, but around the whole of the UK, with the large increase in demand for labour (see for example, Maan 1992). Muslim organisations also began to grow, with the introduction of Jamiat Ittehadul Muslimin, also known as The Muslim Mission in Glasgow in 1940. By this time, the presence of Muslims in Scotland became evident, many from the Indian Sub-Continent (Maan 1992). The first mosque was established soon after The Muslim Mission and other areas of Scotland began to experience an increase in the presence of those from the Islamic faith.

2.8 The 2001 Scottish Census was the first large-scale source of data on religious groups, allowing a much more detailed profile of Muslims in Scotland. However, there are clear limitations with basing current estimates on these figures. In particular, these figures are ten years out of date. Therefore, it is important to recognise that this data will largely exclude more recent Muslim communities including asylum seeker and refugee communities who have settled in Scotland, in particular Glasgow, many of whom come from Islamic nations (see Figure 1.0).

Figure 1.0: Main Countries of Origin of Asylum Seekers arriving in Glasgow (2006) 8

Figure 1.0: Main Countries of Origin of Asylum Seekers arriving in Glasgow (2006)

2.9 It has been acknowledged that there is limited data available on migration to Scotland, and in particular on the characteristics, outcomes, intentions and attitudes of migrants (Rolfe and Metcalf 2009). Nevertheless, the next section will discuss some of the key demographic trends of Muslims in Scotland taken from the 2001 Scottish census findings.


2.10 A significant difference between Muslims in Scotland and those in England stems from the routes into employment that followed the decline in the lascar and manual trade sectors. A number of migrants had become partially-skilled workers; developing expertise in various trades, building an awareness of industry and creating contacts when necessary and where appropriate (Bailey et aI. 1995). After the post war period, various trades ceased or were in decline. A number of migrants began to search for prospects elsewhere. Scotland's retail and catering trade were seen as an alternative choice of career as established skills could be utilised and applied in a different context (see Maan 1992, Bailey et al 1995).

2.11 Pakistanis in Scotland occupy the largest Muslim migrant community. In 1991, almost 22,000 Pakistani nationals were residing or working in Scotland (Bailey et aI. 1995), climbing to 30,000 in 2001 (McCrone and Bechhofer 2008). Muslims still account for less than 2% of the overall Scottish population, with an overall estimated figure of 75,300 (1.5%) of Muslims living in Scotland 9. This compares to England, where in the 2001 census 3.1%, just over 1.5 million, of the population referred to their religious identity as Muslim 10.

2.12 Pakistanis comprised 67% of the Scottish Muslim population in 2001 (see figure 1.1, appendix B). Figure 1.1 shows that non-indigenous religious groups in Scotland are the most diverse in terms of ethnic background. Considering they represent a very small number of the overall Scottish population, Muslims in Scotland made up 45% of the non-Christian religious population in 2001 (see Figure 1.2, appendix B). Principally, figure 1.1 highlights the diversity of the Muslim population in Scotland thereby reinforcing that there is not a homogenous Muslim community. Research into the experiences of Muslims in Scotland needs to recognise this diversity, and suggests a serious limitation of research that focuses solely on the South Asian Muslim communities.

2.13 People brought up as Muslims were the least likely group to change religious affiliation or declare no religious affiliation, at only 2%. Table 1.0 explores this further (see appendix B), highlighting the importance of religious affiliation and religion for Muslims in Scotland.

Age Profiles

2.14 Among all the religious groups in Scotland in 2001, Muslims had the largest youth profile with approximately 31% of its devotees under the age of 16 (see figure 1.3, appendix B). This finding was similar across Britain where 34% of Muslims were under the age of 16 11. In addition, figure 1.3 highlights that in 2001 Muslims in Scotland were least likely to be over the age of 50.

2.15 Approximately 65% of Muslim men according to 2001 figures were between 16 and pensionable age, and 31% of Muslim men were under 16 (see Figure 1.4, appendix B). There was a similar age profile for Muslim women, with approximately 62% between 16 and pensionable age and 33% under 16 (see Figure 1.5, appendix B). However, distinctions exist between different age groups, with Muslim women having a fractionally larger population under the age of 16 and a smaller number of people aged 50 to pensionable age. Muslim women had a slightly larger population of those of pensionable age at 4%; 1% more than Muslim men. Muslim men and women populations had the same percentage of those over the age of 74 (1%).

Urban, Rural and Local Authority Analysis

2.16 Census data from 2001 indicated a low Muslim presence outside urban areas in Scotland. In 2001, a very small proportion of Muslim families resided in 'Remote Rural' areas (this was reported as 0% in 2001 Census) 12. Further, only 3% of Muslim households lived in 'Accessible Rural' areas 13. Almost four fifths of Muslims in Scotland inhabited 'Large Urban Areas' 14 (79%).

2.17 Through an analysis of Local Authority areas, the largest proportion of Muslims in 2001 were residing in Glasgow (42%), followed by a much smaller presence in Edinburgh (16%) and 7% in Dundee. There were a number of Local Authority areas in Scotland where it was reported that a very small proportion of Muslims families resided in 2001. This included Dumfries and Galloway, East Lothian, North Ayrshire, Shetland Islands and a number of others. 15

2.18 Whilst it has already been stated that there has been a relatively limited amount of research undertaken into the experiences of Muslim communities across Scotland, it has been acknowledged this is particularly the case for Muslim communities living in rural areas (Frondigoun et al 2007).

Marriage, Household and Accommodation Data

2.19 In 2001, Muslims were the most likely religious group in Scotland to be married, alongside Sikhs, at 58%. They were also among the least likely religious groups to be divorced, separated or re-married. Table 1.1 (see appendix B) illustrates the differences among various religions, highlighting how those from the Islamic faith differ from mainstream Scottish religions.

2.20 In 2001 Muslim households were amongst the largest of all religious groups in Scotland, with at least one dependant 16 in almost three out of every four Muslim households in Scotland (72%). Further, 34% of these families had two or more dependants. Alongside Sikh and Jewish families, Muslims were less likely than other religious group to live in a household that contained one or more dependants headed by a lone parent, at 15%. Further to this, 10% of Muslim households comprised of two families living together; among the largest figure across all religious groups.

Housing Tenure

2.21 Muslims in Scotland were more likely to live in houses or bungalows as opposed to flats or apartments, 53% and 47% respectively. In addition, 66% lived in owner occupied accommodation while 34% resided in rented accommodation or lived rent free. Interestingly, this finding differed to the picture across Britain where overall only 52% of Muslims were homeowners 17. Furthermore, Muslims across Britain were more likely than any other religious group to live in socially rented housing (28%) 18.

2.22 In Scotland, of those Muslim households living in rented accommodation, 51% lived in socially rented housing 19. Moreover, 33% of Muslims in the 2001 Scottish census were believed to be living in households below the occupancy rating standard, meaning they were overcrowded. This finding was repeated across Britain 20.

Education and Employment

2.23 The 2001 census highlighted that proportionately Muslims achieved lower educational attainment levels than other religious groups. Muslims were the most likely to have no qualifications between the ages of 16 and 29 of all religious groups, and the second most likely group to have no qualifications between the age of 30 and 49 21. Figure 1.6 (see appendix B) presents an illustrative view. These findings were supported by comparable figures across Britain 22.

2.24 Muslims in 2001 were among the least likely to have gained any qualifications, and the fourth lowest group to have gained a degree or professional qualification (see group 4, table 1.2 appendix B). This trend continues throughout each age group (see figure 1.6 appendix B).

2.25 Interestingly, Muslim students accounted for 16% of all full-time students in 2001, among the highest numbers of those studying full-time which may suggest attainment levels will be higher in the 2011 census. This can be better illustrated by Figure 1.7 (see appendix B).


2.26 Muslims in Scotland in 2001 were least likely to be economically active, with only 52% of Muslims of working age in employment or seeking employment. This low figure is likely to be a result of the low rates of economic activity for Muslim women 23 (see figure 1.8 and figure 1.9, appendix B). Muslim men were significantly more economically active than Muslim women, 67% and 35% respectively. Nevertheless, whilst this was the case, Muslim men had the lowest economic activity rate of all religious communities. Muslim women had the lowest level of economic activity by religion and 45% of Muslim women in Scotland have never worked, this is significantly higher than their male counterparts at 17%.

2.27 Data from the Annual Population Survey 24 on local area labour markets highlights that between 2004 and 2008 Muslims continued to have the lowest employment rate of all religious groups and the employment rate has shown a marked decline since 2007 (see figure 1.10 appendix B).

Unemployment and Employment Patterns

2.28 According to the 2001 census, Muslims had the highest unemployment 25 rate at 13% and Muslim women are more likely than women in any other religious group to be unemployed (15%). This finding is replicated across Britain according to the 2004 Annual Population Survey 26. Therefore, in 2004, Muslim males had a disproportionately higher unemployment rate than men in any other religious group across Britain at 13%, whilst the unemployment rate for Muslim women was 18%.

2.29 Next to Sikhs, Muslims have the highest levels of self employment of all religious groups (29%). Over a third of Muslims (36%) in the 2001 Scottish census reported being employed in the wholesale and retail trade, followed by 16% who were employed in the hotels and restaurants sector.

Wealth and Assets

2.30 Recent findings from the Wealth and Assets Survey highlight that Muslim households in Britain have the lowest overall wealth of all religious groups (see Table 1.3 appendix B).

Review of the Literature

2.31 A number of studies have begun to explore the experiences of Muslims in Scotland, describing episodes of racism and religious intolerance, prejudiced views held by the media and non-Muslim community, and occasionally discrimination faced within public sector services (for example Hopkins 2009, Hussain and Miller 2004). The circumstances surrounding the terrorist attacks in September 2001 , the London bombings and the Glasgow Airport attack have led to increased debate regarding the presence of Muslims in Western Europe. The next section of the report will discuss the findings of some of the recent literature on the experiences of Muslims across Britain.

Scottish Muslims and Scotland

2.32 As discussed previously, it has been suggested that important differences exist between the experiences of people from ethnic minority communities in Scotland compared to England. It has been argued by McCrone that there is a powerful and enduring 'Scottish myth' which portrays Scotland as a 'more egalitarian society than England'. This would suggest that experiences of discrimination in Scotland are less likely. However, Hopkins and Smith have argued that the difference between the Scottish and English situation has not been the absence of racism within Scotland compared to England. Rather, they argue there has been a distinctive racialisation of politics in Scotland. Hopkins and Smith suggest there has been a specific preoccupation with the religious divide between Catholic and Protestant Christians in Scotland and that this has led to " unwarranted complacency among Scottish decision takers" about other forms of racial and religious discrimination (Hopkins and Smith 2008).

2.33 A further difference noted by some academics is that whilst there is evidence to suggest English nationalism has an impact on whether a person expresses 'Islamophobic' attitudes, Scottish nationalism does not appear to (Hussain and Miller 2006). Similarly, Maan argues that the Asian community and ethnic minority communities generally have fared comparatively better in Scotland than in England (Maan 1992).

2.34 Within recent debates about social identity, there are writers who highlight important differences between the experience of Muslims in Scotland and the experiences of Muslims elsewhere in Britain (see for example Hussain and Miller 2006, Saeed et al 1999, Hopkins 2008). For example, Hopkins argues that not only are there significant differences in the diversity and distribution of the minority ethnic population in Scotland, it is also relatively middle class in comparison with the same populations in England. Therefore, for Hopkins "issues of deprivation, disadvantage and poverty are less salient in their lives compared with their counterparts south of the border" (Hopkins 2008). Nevertheless, the findings from the 2001 census discussed in the first section of this chapter would suggest that there is evidence of disadvantage experienced by Muslims in Scotland.

2.35 In addition, Hussain and Miller (2004) argue that Muslims in Scotland are more likely to identify themselves as Scottish than Muslims in England are to identify as English (Hussain and Miller 2004, 2006). In their study, comparing experiences of Islamophobia and Anglophobia in Scotland, Hussain and Miller established that the Muslims interviewed found it very easy to identify with Scotland. They suggest this could be explained partly because their religious identity is seen as cultural and not territorial. This finding is supported by research conducted by Masud (2005) into the experiences of Muslims across Britain after the London bombings in 2005. In this research conducted across Scotland 27"it was widely acknowledged and appreciated that compared with other parts of the country, especially England, Scotland was a tolerant place" (Masud 2005).

2.36 Another example of research looking at the experiences of Muslims in Scotland is provided by a qualitative study conducted by Virdee et al (2006) in a multi-ethnic Scottish neighbourhood. The research did not specifically focus on Scottish Muslims but, rather, looked at the relationship between ideas of race and nation in formations of Scottish identity and, in particular, what criteria were significant in ascribing people as Scottish. The study found there were certain cultural factors which were seen as relevant by the Asian Muslim and white research participants when defining someone as Scottish. Both the Asian Muslim and white research participants made a distinction between people they saw as Scottish Muslims and non-Scottish Muslims. Certain cultural features like accent, dress and behavioural characteristics worked to upset the relationship between skin colour and behaviour and suggested the possibility of a hybrid cultural identity (Virdee et al 2006).

2.37 For both the Asian Muslim and the white respondents it was not a person's colour but certain cultural behavioural characteristics which would signify that person as Scottish. However, in contrast, certain behaviours or cultural codes were seen by the participants as incompatible with Scottishness. In particular, some of the Asian Muslim women respondents spoke of a Scottish identity that excluded them because they wore the hijab. This was confirmed in the discussions with the white respondents who saw the wearing of the hijab and burqa as symbolising oppression and 'fundamentalism' which the respondents saw as incompatible with being Scottish (Virdee et al 2006). It was not a Muslim person's religious beliefs that prevented them from being accepted as Scottish by the white Scottish participants but, rather, religious symbols that were interpreted as signs of 'fundamentalism' (Virdee et al 2006). Therefore, Virdee et al argue that whilst there is one understanding of Scottishness defined by a racialised nationalism, there is evidence to suggest that national belonging is not out of reach for ethnic minority groups (Virdee et al 2006). Nevertheless, this national belonging was conditional on ethnic minority groups exhibiting certain behaviours and cultural codes which would allow them to be seen as Scottish.

2.38 This review found a small body of research into the experiences of racial and religious discrimination against Muslims in Scotland. Hopkins (2008) cautions against two related ideologies which he believes are evident in Scotland;

"one which sees Scotland as being 'white' and the other which sees Scotland as being free from any form of ethnic or racial tension" (Hopkins 2008 ).

Hopkins argues these two ideologies help reinforce the view that racism is not a problem which needs to be addressed in Scotland. In contrast, Hopkins believes

"racism is an everyday experience for many people in Scotland as it is for those living elsewhere in the UK" (Hopkins 2008, see also Maan 1992).

2.39 This assertion can be discussed further by drawing upon a selection of other research. For example, Qureshi and Moores (1999) in a study into the lives of young Pakistani Scots found the young people demonstrated a continuing sense of social difference or distance from 'Scottish people' through their use of language, using such terms as 'us' and 'them' (Qureshi and Moores 1999). In addition, Clayton argues that, in Scotland, the political discourse of national unity has a cultural dimension based on an ethnicised difference from England. The author suggests this can lead to young ethnic minority people feeling like outsiders, marginal to the 'authentic' majority in the host nation (Clayton 2005).

2.40 This finding is supported by the work of Hopkins and Smith (2008) into the lives of young Muslim men in Scotland. Hopkins and Smith argue there is a

"politics and practice of fear that makes religion a point of racial distinction between young Muslim men and other young people in Scotland" (Hopkins and Smith 2008).

According to the authors, rather than society celebrating the differences amongst its communities, Muslims in particular are being constructed as problematic; embodying a difference incompatible with the rest of society since the events of 11 September 2001 (Hopkins and Smith 2008, see also Ansari 2002; Masud 2005). This has resulted in Muslim communities becoming segregated from the rest of society and demonised.

"The symbols and markers of Muslims lives and bodies - dress, skin pigment, beards - now mark out those who bear them as both different and threatening" (Hopkins and Smith 2008 ).

2.41 Based on a series of qualitative interviews with young Scottish Muslim men in two urban areas in Scotland, Hopkins and Smith found the young men's sense of belonging to Scotland was conditional rather than taken-for-granted (Hopkins and Smith 2008). Violence and harassment were part of the lived experiences of the young men. The young men in Glasgow talked about establishing a feeling of safety as a result of living in an area which had a large number of Muslim residents. The research reported that "the young men described their experience of residential segregation as protective, specifically against the threat of racism" (Hopkins and Smith 2008). In comparison, Hopkins and Smith argue Edinburgh, with a smaller ethnic minority population than Glasgow, epitomises a Scottish politics "hands off" approach to racism. In such circumstances the young men in Edinburgh attempted to make themselves invisible in a predominantly 'white' area to avoid being perceived as a threat and being placed at risk.

2.42 Experiences of religious discrimination against Muslims have also been reported in other research carried out in Scotland (see Hopkins 2007b, Masud 2005). Drawing upon research conducted by Hussain and Miller, Hopkins highlights that 39 per cent of Pakistanis in Scotland feel there is a 'fairly serious' conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims in Scotland (Hopkins 2007b). In addition, research carried out by Masud (2005) found that Muslims living in rural and isolated areas in Scotland experienced more harassment than Muslims in urban areas (Masud 2005).

2.43 This section has explored a selection of the literature that has been identified into the experiences of Muslim communities with a specific focus on Scotland. The rest of this chapter will explore the key themes which emerged from the full body of literature identified by this review. Where possible, Scottish research will be highlighted.

Scottish Muslims and Scotland - Key Points

  • It has been suggested that important differences exist between the experiences of ethnic minority communities in Scotland compared with England. Nevertheless, the literature presents a mixed picture.
  • There is evidence that experiences of racial and religious discrimination against Muslims are a problem in Scotland as they are elsewhere in the United Kingdom.
  • Research by Hussain and Miller (2006) found that whilst English nationalism does appear to have an impact on whether a person expresses 'Islamophobic' attitudes, this is not the case for Scottish nationalism.
  • Research found that Muslims in Scotland are more likely to identify with Scotland than Muslims in England are with England (Hussain and Miller 2006)
  • Nevertheless, research has suggested that whether or not people from ethnic minority communities are accepted as Scottish is conditional on ethnic minority groups exhibiting certain behaviours and cultural codes which would allow them to be seen as Scottish (Virdee et al 2006).

Social Identity

Religious Identity

2.44 Much of the recent literature on Muslims in Britain has focused upon questions of social identity formation and, in particular, the extent to which there is evidence of a trend towards the increasing importance of religion as a key dimension of British Muslims' social identity (see for example Saeed et al 1999; Hopkins 2007a; Garland et al 2005; Sundas 2008). A key theme which emerged from the literature was that religion is one of several important dimensions of British Muslims' social identity.

2.45 In a study of the way in which Glasgow Pakistani teenagers spoke about their identity, Saeed et al (1999) found that for the majority of the teenagers their religion was important in defining their identity. Muslim identity was chosen by 97% of the sample, more than double those who chose Pakistani identity (Saeed et al 1999). Perhaps more importantly, the majority of respondents also referred to their ethnicity in bi-cultural terms, a finding supported by research conducted by Cassidy et al (2006). In their study of how young people experience leaving school, Cassidy et al suggest that not only were young people from all ethnic minority communities more likely to identify with their religion and ethnicity than their white peers, in particular the Indian and Pakistani participants saw religion to be very closely tied to ethnicity. The ethnic minority participants also placed high importance on their Scottish identity, on occasion more than the white participants, by referring to such markers as their accent and cultural knowledge, and when they expressed their identity they would draw on both cultures (Cassidy et al 2006). This is an important finding for questions of data collection in that, as Hopkins highlights, singular forms of identity classifications will have limited value for respondents (Hopkins 2007b).

2.46 In research carried out by Garland et al (2005) into 'hidden' ethnic minority communities in Britain, religion was again identified as important for identity formation. Drawing upon the 2001 Home Office Citizenship survey the authors found, " in contrast to 17% of white respondents who said that religion was important to their self-identity, 44% of black and 61% of Asian respondents said that religion was important to them" (Garland et al 2005). Garland et al raise an important point about research that continues to focus upon race and ethnicity as opposed to religious identity, suggesting that it might only serve to obscure an important part of individual's everyday lives (Garland et al 2005, see also Sundas 2008; Hussain & Choudhury 2007; Modood 2005).

2.47 There has been an attempt by some researchers to explore the reasons behind this proposed increase in the importance of religious identity, in particular for young British Muslims. One theory put forward is that religious identity is becoming increasingly important as second and subsequent generations of Muslims become 'British' (Samad 2004 in Hussain & Choudhury 2007). This theory is offered in response to suggestions that this trend symbolises a rejection by Muslims of identifying with Britain. It has been recognised that young Muslims in particular have to negotiate between the demands of their dual cultural and multiple identities to define themselves in hybrid terms.

2.48 In contrast, Ballard (1996) argues that this growing identification with the religious dimension of identity occurs, in part, because it is this aspect that Muslims' feel comes under attack. Furthermore, for Ballard, Islam is a useful vehicle for political mobilisation because of the feeling of belonging to a global Muslim diaspora (Ballard 1996 in Hussain and Choudhury 2007). This view has been supported by Modood who argues that an excluded group will seek respect for themselves as they are, or as they desire to be, and that religion is central to how Muslims identify themselves (Modood 2005).

2.49 However, the evidence also suggests this trend of growing religious identification amongst Muslim communities should not be overemphasised. It has been acknowledged by some writers that within Muslim societies and communities divisions of ethnicity matter as much, and sometimes more, than a shared religious identity (see for example Ansari 2002; The Change Institute 2009). Indeed, Lewis argues that too often:

"journalistic and political commentary on Islam supposes that actual ethnic particularities are subordinate to the aspirational rhetoric of belonging to one, undivided, world-wide community" (Lewis 2007).

Drawing on the findings of the Labour Force Survey, Lewis highlights that 98% of Bangladeshi women and 94% of Pakistani women were married to people of the same ethnic background (Lewis 2007).

2.50 In addition, Bartlett et al (2010) stress that no single facet of identity fully explains the experience of an individual, pointing out that the differences between ethnic groups can be less significant than those between richer and poorer groups (Bartlett et al 2010). Lewis suggests that any attempt to understand Muslim communities in Britain must recognise that religious identity is only one dimension in the formation of identity and that it is important for research not to underestimate other important aspects of identity. In particular, it is important to understand the importance of gender, sexuality, and age alongside ethnicity and religion in the formation of identity.

Young Muslims

2.51 A specific focus of the literature is on the experiences of young Muslims. An emerging theme is that intergenerational tensions are evident within some, especially more established, communities. Some authors suggest this represents a 'communication crisis across the generations' (Lewis 2007, see also The Change Institute 2009). However, Lewis cautions against seeing this communication crisis as specific to Muslim communities, suggesting that such tensions are merely part of growing up.

2.52 Nevertheless, it has been argued in some of the literature that amongst the younger generation of British Muslims who see themselves as both British and well integrated a feeling of resentment has been emerging. This resentment is targeted towards a British national identity that does not accommodate their history, diversity and values, and does not make space to allow for differences. Rather, the resentment emerges from a pressure to conform to the majority culture (Change Institute 2009). In addition, Lewis refers to a study of young people mainly from South Asian Muslim communities in an English city which found evidence of multiple challenges in their lives. In particular, he cites the 'suffocating impact' on the young people of community pressure exercised by the clan network, or biradari. Lewis documents evidence of a growing number of young people actively challenging their parents' cultural traditions for example, by appealing to the teachings of Islam. However, Lewis also references evidence of a growing disengagement amongst young Muslims with both mainstream society and the culture of their parents.

2.53 Consequently, there is evidence of multiple challenges for young British Muslims trying to develop a strong identity and sense of belonging. It has been suggested by Bartlett et al that such pressures partly explain the radicalisation amongst a minority in Muslim communities (Bartlett et al 2010). In their research examining the difference between violent and non-violent radicals, Bartlett et al caution against viewing all forms of radical thought as problematic, stressing that "radicalisation that leads to violence remains a particularly problematic subset of the wider phenomenon of radicalisation" (Bartlett et al 2010). The research compared profiles of individuals found guilty of terrorist related offences with a selection of individuals who held radical views and a selection of non-radical young Muslims. It found that each of the groups experienced a degree of societal exclusion and felt a distrust of government. In addition, many felt disconnected from their local community and experienced an identity crisis.

2.54 Nevertheless, the authors found it was not the extent to which the individuals held 'radical' views which influenced the journey to violence (Bartlett et al 2010). The authors caution that there exists no single path to terrorism. Rather, they point to a combination of factors " which suggest the phenomenon shares much in common with other extremist or youth movements" (Bartlett et al 2010). The research found evidence of the considerable power of peer pressure within a group and explained that such groups comprise of individuals who do not fit into society. Further, the groups have their own internal code of honour, with those who demonstrate radical tendencies accruing a higher status. Bartlett et al suggest the thrill and coolness associated with a counter-cultural movement is also a motivating factor. They argue that for many people there is an emotional pull, which is not informed by religious knowledge, but by " vitriolic narratives based on the notion of Muslims under attack around the world", coupled with a lack of alternatives that could have acted as a diversion (Bartlett et al 2010). Similarly, Lewis suggests such groups can function as a shield against discrimination and prejudice (Lewis 2007). Therefore, the factors that influence the journey to violence amongst the young people in the study were multiple and complex. Of importance for the purpose of this report was the finding that each of the groups in the study had experienced some degree of exclusion from society.

2.55 Lewis suggests there is a challenge for Imams who arrive from outside Britain to offer meaningful direction to young British Muslims (Lewis 2007). Similarly, research has found evidence of a feeling amongst some Muslim youth that the people who define themselves as 'community leaders' often exclude the views of young Muslims, as well as women (see Change Institute 2009, El-Nakla et al 2007, Lewis 2007). Lewis believes expressions of radicalism are not a recent phenomenon, but, rather, have agitated Muslim communities in Britain for over twenty years. Indeed, he proposes radical groups attempt to respond to the tensions in the lives of young Muslims. Crucially, both Bartlett et al and Lewis argue that the popularity of such movements will only be eroded if independent voices set out arguments against extremist ideas, and if practical alternatives exist to engage with young people. Lewis cites several examples where there have been positive attempts to confront the unacceptable aspects of such radicalism including; an informal school for Muslim journalism, Muslim Youth helpline, the creation of a youth foundation for Muslim young people and a citizenship course for mosque and school (for more information see Lewis 2007).

2.56 As highlighted above, a key theme which emerged from the literature reviewed was the extent to which British born Muslims are increasingly identifying with their religious identity rather than their ethnic heritage. Nevertheless, it is suggested that some have been able to reconcile the tensions resulting from their dual cultural contexts better than others. For some writers, there is a tension existing for young Muslims who identify less with their parents ethnic heritage but are not fully accepted as British by mainstream society, and that this explains the reason for young Muslims increasingly identifying with a pan-Muslim identity (see for example Ballard 1996, The Change Institute 2009). This review found that more research is required into the experiences of this generation of Muslims, particularly in Scotland (see Frondigoun et al 2007).


2.57 The significance of gender in the formation of social identity was a further theme which emerged in the literature. In particular it was recognised that Muslim women experience specific challenges. According to the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia 28 ( EUMC) the most visible symbol of female Muslim identity, the headscarf or hijab, is often interpreted by the majority population as a sign of gender inequality ( EUMC 2006). This finding is supported by Ansari who argues the dominant Western image of Muslim women depicts them as compliant and unreflective, subject to patriarchal traditions and lacking any active agency to change their condition (Ansari 2002). In addition, the EUMC reported

"Muslim women are at the centre of heated public debates concerning the role of religion, tradition and modernity, secularism and emancipation, and are often singled out as victims of oppression attributed to Islam" ( EUMC 2006).

2.58 Particularly for women, cultural codes which identify them as Muslim can act to exclude them from being seen as Scottish; particularly the wearing of the hijab and burqa (see also paragraphs 2.36 and 2.37). Gale has argued that a key area of concern for research into the position of women in Muslim communities has been the way the veil has become a symbol around which Muslim women's identities are formed and contested (Gale 2007). Gale discusses research which found that assumptions about the oppression of Muslim women are simplistically made when people encounter a veiled Muslim woman. It is within this social context that British Muslim women must negotiate their religious and cultural identities, offering particular challenges for British Muslim women (Dwyer in Gale 2007).

2.59 A number of studies have found that Muslim women have experienced an increase in incidences of religious discrimination since the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001 and the London bombings in 2005. Researchers have suggested the reason for this is because Muslim women are easily identifiable for example through their religious dress (see Change Institute 2009, El-Nakla et al 2007). Indeed, according to research into the experiences of Muslim women in Scotland " Muslim women clearly differentiate between experiences of colour racism and Islamophobia" and found evidence that a feeling existed amongst many of the women that such experiences of racism and 'Islamophobia' were inevitable (El-Nakla et al 2007).

2.60 In contrast to this dominant image of Muslim women as compliant and submissive, research into Muslim women studying at universities in England found that the women actively asserted control over their lives, defining their identity in their own terms. Subsequently, the women favoured a notion of 'Muslim' identities which were highly subjective and which they felt to be more inclusive of other aspects of their identities (Tyrer and Ahmad in Ali 2008). Similarly, Choudhury et al argue that, for some young Muslim women, Muslim identities can provide a way to negotiate parental restrictions which they perceive to be located in their ethnic heritage. Therefore, Islamic teachings can be an important source of resistance to parental and community restrictions on behaviour, confirming the findings from other studies that Muslim women 'desire to achieve equality within Islam, not without it' (Parker-Jenkins and Haw in Choudhury et al 2004). Increasingly, Muslim women are involved in civic participation and in providing necessary welfare services in response to the specific challenges faced (for a discussion see Lewis 2007, Change Institute 29 2009, El-Nakla 2007).

2.61 Nevertheless, an overwhelming feeling emerged from a series of focus groups conducted with Muslim women across Scotland that Muslim communities need to become less exclusive, and that women's and young peoples' voices need to be listened to (Masud 2005). This was a finding common to each of the communities in the study by the Change Institute; that public authorities need to directly support and consult with women and women's groups and there is a need for more women led groups (Change Institute 2009).

Muslim men

2.62 Gale suggests that much of the research on Islam has focused predominantly on Muslim women with some work only now being conducted on Muslim men and their perspective of Muslim gender roles (see for example Hopkins 2007a, 2007b, Hopkins and Smith 2008). In a study by Archer (2003) on young Muslim men it was found that the construction of their Muslim identity was intimately tied up with issues of masculinity. In some cases the young Muslim men constructed a "strong" Muslim identity as a way in which to resist stereotypes of "weak passive Asians", relating Muslim masculinity with power, privilege and 'being the boss' (Archer in Choudhury et al 2004).

2.63 The importance of Muslim masculinity and clearly differentiated gender roles within the family has been researched by Siraj (2010). In her research, Siraj found both male and female participants were active in reinforcing the importance of distinctive gender roles; acting in ways which reinforced the appropriate roles and behaviour for their sex. In contrast to accounts which suggest there is a 'crisis of masculinity' in modern society both in terms of the changing role of men within the family and in men's relationship to work, Siraj found that the male and female participants stressed the importance of the man as the head of the household and the 'breadwinner'. The participants evidenced their views of appropriate gender roles using arguments based on 'natural differences' and through reference to a religious framework that positioned the two sexes as intrinsically opposite yet compatible. Siraj suggests that the role of the family head was an expression of true masculinity for the research participants and this masculine ideal was carefully maintained by both the men and women within the family structure (Siraj 2010).


2.64 There is somewhat limited literature on the experiences of, and attitudes towards, gay and lesbian Muslims in Britain, with some exceptions (see Siraj 2006, Siraj 2009). It has been acknowledged that the impact of religion on the identity of gay men and lesbians has been limited to Christianity (see Siraj 2006) In her study into the experiences of gay Muslims living in London, Siraj found the Muslim men affirmed both their Muslim identity and sexual orientation. Some of the research participants called for a reinterpretation of the Qu'ran that is appropriate for contemporary society with its changing norms and values (Siraj 2006). Disclosing their sexual orientation to family was overwhelming met with a lack of acceptance or violence and not all the respondents had disclosed their sexuality (Ibid).

2.65 Siraj argues there is a distinct separation of the sexes within Islam which serves to reinforce the 'natural order' of heterosexuality. Siraj carried out interviews with male and female Muslims in an urban area of Scotland to explore their attitudes towards same sex relationships. The research found evidence that the participants strongly believed in the gendering of their reality, with distinct roles being seen as appropriate for men and women. The participants' views were informed by their religious and cultural belief systems and resulted in the participants holding strongly critical views about same sex relationships (Siraj 2009).

2.66 It should be noted that this finding corresponds with the finding of the 2006 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey 30 on the incidence of discriminatory attitudes amongst religious groups in Scotland. In 2006 it was found that 52% of people who attend a religious service once or more a week would be "unhappy" or "very unhappy" if a close relative married or entered into a long term relationship with someone of the same sex as their relative. This compared with 27% of people who never or practically never attended a religious service, and 33% of people overall (Bromley et al 2007).

Social Identity - Key points

  • Research has demonstrated the importance of religion in Muslims' identity formation.
  • However, a key theme which emerged from the literature was that religion is one of several important dimensions of British Muslims' social identity. In particular, several writers have stressed that it is important not to underestimate the importance of other aspects of identity.
  • A particular focus of the literature was on the extent to which young, British born Muslims are experiencing specific challenges negotiating between two cultures.
  • A key theme in the literature was the significance of gender on identity formation.
  • Particularly for women, cultural codes which identify them as Muslim can act to exclude them from being seen as Scottish; particularly the wearing of the hijab and burqa.
  • Research has found that for Muslim men, the construction of their Muslim identity is intimately tied up with issues of masculinity.
  • There is limited research into the experiences of gay and lesbian Muslims. It has been argued that there is a distinct separation of the sexes within Islam which serves to reinforce the 'natural order' of heterosexuality. (Siraj 2009)

Community Relations

2.67 This review found that much of the research into Muslims in Britain has examined the nature of 'community relations' between Muslim communities and the wider community. The majority of this research has centred on English cities with a notable lack of research in Scotland, with certain exceptions (see for example Munoz 2006). What follows is a discussion of the main findings from a selection of this research.

2.68 It is important to note that the majority of this research focused on South Asian, in particular Pakistani, Muslims which does not reflect the full realities of Muslim communities in Britain. According to research carried out by the Change Institute 'the numerical dominance of Muslim communities from South Asia has meant that research has often masked differences between and within communities and there has been a tendency to homogenise and 'essentialise' the characteristics of these communities rather than examine their diversity 31 as well as commonalities' (Change Institute 2009). In addition, Lewis argues that to understand the experiences of migrant communities it is necessary to explore the culture and histories the communities brought with them as well as their particular settlement histories (Lewis 2007).

A Segregated Community?

2.69 There is a body of work investigating the internal dynamics of Muslim communities, and the extent to which Muslim communities in Britain 'choose' to self-segregate from the rest of the population. Some of this work has centred on an analysis of 'community cohesion' policy. It has been suggested the concept of 'community cohesion' became popular in public policy terms following the report into the episodes of civil disorder in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham in 2001 32 (see Change Institute 2009). The Commission on Integration and Cohesion, reporting in the aftermath of the London bombings in 2005, published a report that defined a 'cohesive community' as one with:

"a clearly defined and widely shared sense of the contribution of different individuals and different communities to a future vision for a neighbourhood, city, region or country" and where there are "strong positive relationships between people from different backgrounds in the workplace, in schools and other institutions within neighbourhoods" (Commission on Integration and Cohesion 2007).

2.70 There appears to be an underlying assumption that lack of cohesion amongst communities is a problem in Britain that needs to be addressed. The following section will consider a selection of literature examining relations between Muslim communities in Britain and the wider population. A key theme in the literature is that these policies often fail to recognise the impact of economic and social deprivation, along with discrimination on community relations. As Jayaweera and Choudhury report, there has been a growing critique of aspects of the community cohesion policy. In particular

"a key line of criticism challenges the extent to which the focus on social capital in the community cohesion policy turns attention away from the importance of social and economic deprivation and inequality" (Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008).

2.71 Ansari (2002) argues the apparent segregation of Muslim communities must be understood as a consequence of institutional racism. In a report into Muslims in Britain, Ansari evidences the way Muslim populations are largely concentrated in areas of multiple deprivation across Britain. Ansari argues the majority population often perceive this to be through choice because they mistakenly believe Islam to be incompatible with British society and British institutions (Ansari 2002). For Ansari, the combination of deprivation and mutual distrust between members of different communities is what can sometimes lead to tension. The reports published after the disturbances in Bradford, Burnley and Oldham in 2001 33 highlighted that each area affected suffered from relatively high levels of youth unemployment, inadequate youth facilities, and a lack of strong civic identity or shared social values to unite the diverse local communities (Ansari 2002). This would suggest these structural factors may have contributed to feelings of tension which resulted in the disturbances. This view is supported by Jayaweera and Choudhury (2008) who argue that research has highlighted that it is the material circumstances of families and individuals which prevents their movement out. Further, that the concentration of Muslims in inner city areas can be accounted for mainly by natural growth in the population (see Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008).

2.72 Further research has challenged the popularist belief that British Muslims are introspective and self-segregating (see for example Gale 2007). According to Phillips (2006) the picture is more complex than this belief suggests. Phillips found that Muslims make restricted choices when considering where to live; balancing aspirations to move out of deprived areas with the wish to maintain links with their cultural and religious heritage sustained by existing housing settlements, and the desire to avoid exposure to racial abuse and harassment (Phillips 2006 in Gale 2007). Therefore, this research refutes the populist belief that presents Islam and Muslims as isolationary and self-segregating. Rather, the choices available to Muslims are restricted and influenced by their lived experiences.

2.73 Analysis of the 2005 Citizenship Survey found that Muslims had a very strong sense of belonging to their local neighbourhood, also reporting that people from different backgrounds got on well together in their area and respected ethnic differences between people (Kitchen et al. 2006 in Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008). The authors concluded that the effects of religious and racial discrimination had a greater impact on the sense of belonging felt by Muslims in Britain than either living in a homogenous neighbourhood or feeling an attachment to their country of origin (Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008). Therefore, it was argued:

"There is thus a need to address public perceptions of Muslims and migrants and discriminatory behaviour towards them as a key component of cohesion strategy" (Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008).

2.74 The impact of discrimination on Muslim communities was discussed in other literature. In a report into Muslim communities in England, it was asserted that the meaning of integration and cohesion is not clearly understood, nor what is required of members of ethnic minority communities and the host society to support such cohesion (Change Institute 2009). Rather, there was a feeling amongst the research participants from longer established Muslim communities that they still are not accepted or valued in society and that the rhetoric of integration is often underpinned by an expectation for minority communities to assimilate. Similarly, it was evident from discussions carried out with Muslim women in Scotland that the women felt they were being forced to change their behaviour as a consequence of the London bombings to avoid being labelled as 'terrorist' (Masud 2005).

Islamism and a Connection with the Umma

2.75 A further theme which emerged from the literature, is that there has been a heightened sense of connectedness with a global Muslim community or umma amongst British Muslims (see Neilson 2000 in Gale 2007) . However, recent research carried out in Scotland found evidence that this claim should not be overstated (see Hopkins and Smith 2008). In a study into the experiences of young Muslim men in Scotland, Hopkins and Smith found that there was a marked ambivalence towards the global umma from many of the respondents. The authors explained this ambivalence by suggesting that identifying with this global community may no longer feel safe since the events of 11 th September 2001 (Hopkins and Smith 2008; see also Hopkins 2007a). Similarly, according to research conducted by Peach, it is more appropriate to conceptualise British Muslims as a community of communities stressing once more the diversity amongst the Muslim communities in Britain (Peach in Gale 2007; see also Lewis 2007).

2.76 Nevertheless, a selection of literature has focused on the extent to which there has been a movement away from a connection to ancestral homelands and 'ethnic' heritage towards a connection with a Muslim umma, and why this might be happening. For example, Nielsen (2000) argues that alongside challenging the cultural practices of their parents, groups of young Muslims are engaged in a politics of the wider 'Muslim world' (Nielsen 2000 in Gale 2007). Further, Gale suggests ethnic differences can be a catalyst for an articulation of a British Islam because different Muslim groups have a strong sense of both the common global and local threats to shared Muslim interests (Gale 2007).

2.77 Göle defines this political mobilisation as a process of Islamism; a social movement promoted by Muslims who live in conditions of social mobility and uprootedness (Göle 2003). According to Göle:

"because Islam is no longer transmitted by social, family, and local settings Muslims reappropriate, revisit, and reimagine collectively a new religious self in modern contexts" (Göle 2003).

2.78 Göle suggests the growing adoption of the veil by Muslim women as a symbol of Islam is a political statement. The significance of the veil has arisen as a result of this trend towards an Islamist movement advanced, above all, by Muslims negotiating different cultural backgrounds (Göle 2003). This argument has been supported by Ameli and Merali (2004) in their research of British Muslims. Ameli and Merali found that despite acknowledging the diversity of Muslim communities in the United Kingdom:

"there were many responses that indicated an attempt to overcome such fragmentation by describing a common Muslim experience in the UK, which is characterised negatively by demonisation, discrimination and aggressive targeting by government, media and policy makers" (Ameli and Merali 2004).

Nevertheless, the writers found that British Muslims did not see much, or any, contradiction between being a good British citizen and a practising Muslim (Ameli and Merali 2004). However, the respondents felt they were only partially recognised as British citizens; believing that there was an environment of suspicion about Islam in the UK and an ethnic prejudice "which barred their recognition as equal members of society" (Ameli and Merali 2004). Again, this is an area of enquiry that requires further research from a Scottish perspective.

Active Citizenship

2.79 Some studies argued that there has been a shift within Muslim communities in Britain from isolationism towards an 'active citizenship' (Hussain and Choudhury 2007). This shift has been explained by the emergence of a generation of British born Muslims (Lewis 2003 in Hussain and Choudhury 2007). Choudhury et al (2004) suggest a distinct discourse of "British Muslim Citizenship" has been developing. This trend can be understood as a positive attempt to contribute to debates on citizenship by drawing upon Islamic traditions and ideals (Choudhury et al 2004). Importantly, they stress that political assertiveness by British Muslims should not be mistaken for a desire to be separate (Choudhury et al 2004).

Community Dynamics

2.80 There has been an important body of work into Muslims communities in Britain that has suggested significant differences exist between the experiences of Muslim communities in particular between older, established and newer communities (The Change Institute 2009). According to the Change Institute the newer communities experience specific challenges to integration resulting from the circumstances of their migration and the length of time they have been settled 34. In addition, the authors note there are important distinctions within the communities themselves that should not be ignored, as is often the case when the existence of a discrete and distinct Muslim community is assumed (The Change Institute 2009). Within communities there are complex groups based on language, geography, class, politics, tribe and kinship affiliations that can lead to considerable fragmentation. For example, as referred to previously, Lewis discusses the importance of the biradari, an extended clan network, which has traditionally governed community life in the Pakistani community (Lewis 2007). Similarly, The Change Institute refers to the significance of ethnic factions amongst different groups in Afghanistan, and the clan based divisions in Somalia. Nevertheless, the authors recognise that such differences are seen by many as an opportunity for dialogue based on shared knowledge of a common homeland or shared status as minorities (The Change Institute 2009). Further, it cannot be assumed that settled communities in Britain will merely replicate the settlement patterns of their country of origin (The Change Institute 2009).

2.81 An important topic of discussion in the literature reviewed has been the extent to which the internal structures within Muslim communities in Britain reflect the diversity of the communities. The importance of the mosque as a locus of the community is acknowledged in much of the literature (see for example Ahmed 2009; El-Nakla et al 2007; Lewis 2007). Nevertheless, as discussed previously, it has been suggested that prominent 'community leaders' often represent the interests of first generation older males and can exclude the views of the younger generation and women in particular 35 (see for example, The Change Institute 2009; Bartlett et al 2010; Lewis 2007).

2.82 A recurring recommendation within the literature was for there to be wider engagement by Government beyond 'community leaders' who claim to talk on behalf of communities (The Change Institute 2009, Bartlett et al 2010; Lewis 2007). In the discussions with Muslim women across Scotland, the Muslim Women Resource Centre ( MWRC) found that whilst the women believed Mosques had an important role to play in encouraging understanding amongst the communities, Mosques needed to reach out more to women and young people (El Nakla et al 2007). In addition, the women thought Mosques should try to address social issues affecting Muslim communities (Ibid).

2.83 In addition, Bartlett et al (2010) acknowledged that an important difference between the non-violent and violent radicals in their study was the focus placed on learning and reflection. Therefore, the research participants who held radical views, as well as the young Muslims interviewed, recognised the importance of continuous learning. The findings highlighted the significance of policy and community initiatives which allow open debate inclusive of the whole community (Bartlett et al 2010). In particular, the authors recommended that Imams be required to undertake English courses to help ensure young people have access to information and services. Moreover, Ahmed (2009) recommends that Mosques should provide outreach programmes and facilities for young people. Further, Ahmed recommended that Imams and 'community leaders' be required to undertake training to work with young people and ensure their teachings are relevant to the lives of young British Muslims (Ahmed 2009).

Community Relations - Key Points

  • This section has looked at arguments that Muslims choose to segregate from the rest of society.
  • It has been suggested that such arguments are often justified through reference to cultural explanations, rather than looking at the socio-economic conditions (Gale 2007).
  • The research evidence does not sufficiently support the existence of an increasing identification with a global Muslim community within Britain.
  • There is evidence to suggest Muslims, particularly British born Muslims, feel excluded from fully identifying with Britain and that this requires further research in Scotland.
  • It is important to understand the diversity between and within Muslim communities in Britain.
  • The diversity of the Muslim communities is an important finding in the context of Scotland in that much of the current research has focused on the established South Asian communities.

2.84 This review found that remainder of the literature analysed could be grouped according to the following themes; the legislative context, education and employment, health and deprivation, and the media. The next section shall consider each of these in turn.

Legislative Context

2.85 This section will examine some of the debates on the development of current anti-discrimination legislation 36 for religious communities.

2.86 Abdul Bari (2005) argues that current legislation has developed in piecemeal fashion, and is insufficient in protecting Muslims and supporting equal opportunities (Abdul Bari 2005; see also Modood 2005). Muslims, unlike Jews and Sikhs who are defined as an ethnic group, are not protected under race relations legislation. Therefore, according to Bari, the issue of religious discrimination is of particular importance to Muslims. This argument is supported by Abbas (2005) who suggests the state apparatus marginalises Muslims because of their exclusion from the race relations legislation (Abbas 2005). For Abbas, the success of British multiculturalism will be revealed in part through the way it deals with the current predicament of British Muslims who, Abbas notes, face immediate problems concerning their housing, employment, education and health. Abbas contends that in recent times British Muslims have become increasingly scrutinised and treated with suspicion arguing, it is important "to understand the ways Muslims are culturally, socially, politically and economically ostracised from society" (Abbas 2005). Similarly, Modood argues that current liberal formulations of multiculturalism which resign religion to the private sphere of a person's life, risk ignoring the experiences of discrimination for a significant section of British society (Modood 2005). In response, Modood believes public recognition of religious minorities is needed alongside the acknowledgement of the requirement for a renewed understanding of the importance of religion in public policy.

2.87 It is apparent that there has been comparatively less research carried out into experiences of religious discrimination in Britain than racial discrimination. Nevertheless, this literature review has found evidence that religious discrimination is a problem experienced by religious communities. Indeed, as Modood argues:

"An oppressed group feels its oppression most according to those dimensions of its being that it (not the oppressor) values the most; moreover, it will resist its oppression from those dimensions of its being from which it derives its greatest collective psychological strength" (Modood 2005).

2.88 According to Modood, experiences of discrimination against Muslims in Britain cannot simply be reduced to that of 'colour racism'. Rather, it is necessary to recognise the religious and cultural dimensions of discrimination. This reflects the findings of research carried out with Muslim women in Scotland that the women distinguished between experiences of colour racism and religious discrimination (El-Nakla et al. 2007). Modood suggests that attempts to redress the discrimination experienced by minority groups must publicly recognise the different norms, cultures and religions of the communities within Britain.

2.89 In research conducted for the Home Office by Weller et al (2001) into religious discrimination in England and Wales it was found that ignorance and indifference towards religion were of widespread concern amongst the research participants from all faith groups (Weller et al 2001). The research indicated that Muslim organisations were more likely to say that the problem of ignorance, hostility and discriminatory practices had worsened. In addition, a consistently higher level of unfair treatment was reported by Muslim organisations than by most other religious groups. This was both in terms of the proportion of respondents who indicated that 'some unfair treatment' had been experienced, and the proportion who indicated that the experiences were frequent rather than occasional (Weller et al 2001). The majority of Muslim organisations reported that their members experienced unfair treatment in every aspect of their lives including: education, employment, housing, law and order, and in all the local government services covered in the questionnaire. Experiences of religious discrimination against Muslims have also been reported in research carried out in Scotland by Hopkins (2007b) and Masud (2005) (see discussion in paragraphs 2.41 and 2.42). However, it should be noted that whilst racist incidents recorded by the police in Scotland are published annually, currently no data is published on the religion of the victims or on crimes where the victim or any other person perceived the criminal offence to be motivated by hostility on grounds of their faith or religion 37.

Double burden

2.90 This is not to suggest that religious discrimination is a more serious problem than racial discrimination for Muslims in Britain. Rather, a key theme of the recent literature has been the extent to which Muslims experience a 'double burden' (Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008; see also Ameli et al 2004, El-Nakla et al. 2007). This double burden reflects the fact that Muslims experience unfair treatment and discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity and race, as well as in relation to their religious identity. Jayaweera and Choudhury (2008) found that some of the interviewees in their research were not sure whether the discriminatory treatment they had experienced was on the grounds of their race or religion. This finding is supported by other research for example, research conducted by the Clegg and Rosie (2005) into faith communities in Glasgow.

2.91 Jayaweera and Choudhury reported in their research that more of the established Muslim residents, as opposed to the recent Muslim migrant participants "spoke interchangeably about religious discrimination and race discrimination…" (Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008).

Criminal Justice

2.92 Discussions of Muslims experience of the criminal justice system also emerged as a theme in the literature. Ansari found that a high proportion of Muslims and Muslim organisations reported unfair treatment from lawyers, courts, and prison officers with two thirds of Muslim organisations surveyed reporting unfairness both in the attitudes and behaviour of police officers and in the practices of the police service (Ansari 2002). According to Hussain and Miller, the numbers of British Muslims in prison increased by 834% between 1991 and 2003, with Muslims now comprising 9% of those in prison despite only making up 3% of the general population (Hussain and Miller 2006).

2.93 Furthermore, research has suggested Muslims are particularly likely to report being victims of religious discrimination or racial discrimination. For example, in a survey carried out by several Muslim organisations 38, found that 80% of respondents reported being subjected to religious discrimination (Choudhury et al 2004). In addition, the Home Office Citizenship Survey 2005 reported that 22% of Muslims said they feared being attacked because of their skin colour, ethnic origin or religion (see Hussain and Choudhury 2007). Hussain and Choudhury also note that the impact of racist crimes on the victim can be particularly severe. Referring to the findings from the British Crime Survey 2000, a much larger proportion of victims of racial incidents said they were 'very much affected' by the incident (42%) than victims of other sorts of incidents (19%) (Hussain and Choudhury 2007) It is important to note that currently in Scotland information is not published on the number of incidences of religiously motivated personal crimes and therefore it is not possible to report on the extent of such crimes. In addition, the religion of the victim is not reported in figures on racist incidents.

Anti-Terror Legislation

2.94 Hussain and Choudhury explore the significance of the impact of anti-terrorist legislation on British Muslim communities and, drawing upon the work of Connolly and Campbell (2006) in Northern Ireland, suggest that the use of anti-terrorism powers in the United Kingdom against Muslims could be expected to enhance the sense of solidarity of the 'out-group', generating a greater risk of radicalisation (see Hussain and Choudhury 2007). Hussain and Choudhury suggest the anti-terrorism powers have disproportionately been used against ethnic minority communities. They acknowledge that, whilst statistical data is not collected on the basis of religion, according to the data collected on ethnicity between 2001/02 and 2002/03 the number of white people stopped and searched under the Terrorism Act 2000 increased by 118%, while the corresponding increase for black people was 230%, and for Asian people 302% (Home Office 2004 in Hussain and Choudhury 2007). Moreover, according to FAIR, the enforcement of anti-terrorism legislation "has led to the victimisation and stigmatisation of the Muslim community" (FAIR in Hussain and Choudhury 2007). FAIR also suggest this victimisation under the anti-terrorism legislation has led to an increase in the incidence of religious discrimination and racism against Muslims (Choudhury et al 2004).

2.95 In a briefing by Blick et al (2007) for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, it was proposed that the Government's counter terrorism legislation was 'prejudicing the ability of the security forces to gain the trust and cooperation from the Muslim communities that they require to combat terrorism effectively' (Blick et al 2007). Moreover, Blick et al contend that the terrorist threat has become racialised into a language of 'us' and 'them' and it is Muslim communities who have been disproportionately affected by the powers deriving from the legislation which may increase feelings of alienation.

2.96 Whilst anti-terrorist legislation has not been as widely implemented in Scotland as in England, in a study with Muslim women Masud (2005) found there was a perception amongst the Muslim women that there had been an increase in stop and search incidents across Scotland since September 11 th and the London bombings. In addition, Bartlett et al argue that "including social issues 39within a counter-terrorism agenda risks perpetuating the perception that radicalisation to violence is only a concern within Muslim communities, and not others" (Bartlett et al 2010). The authors suggest that social policy interventions designed to tackle the economic and social difficulties which disproportionately affect some Muslim communities should not become part of the security agenda since it can risk isolating Muslim communities and stigmatising social policy. Not only has there been little evidence to suggest that socioeconomic factors directly contribute to radicalisation to violence, the authors argue that tackling such issues is a matter of social policy (Bartlett et al 2010).

Legislative context - Key Points

  • It has been suggested that the development of current anti-discrimination legislation for religious communities has, to date, not sufficiently protected Muslim communities.
  • A key theme of the recent literature has been the extent to which Muslims experience a 'double burden', reflecting the fact that Muslims experience unfair treatment and discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity and race, as well as in relation to their religious identity.
  • It has been suggested that a high proportion of Muslims and Muslim organisations in Britain reported unfair treatment from lawyers, courts, and prison officers. In addition, Muslims in Britain are particularly likely to report being victims of religious or racial discrimination.
  • A focus of a selection of the literature reviewed was the impact of anti-terror legislation on Muslim communities.

Education and Employment


2.97 In a report by the European Monitoring Centre ( EUMC) into experiences of racism and xenophobia against Muslims 40 across the European Union, it is recognised that there are difficulties in assessing whether differences in the educational attainment of various ethnic groups can be traced back to discrimination or whether they are caused by other factors, such as different social backgrounds, or language, religious and cultural differences. Nevertheless, the report suggests that some indicators point more clearly to the possibility of discriminatory practices; in particular, residential segregation and overrepresentation in special education provision (see EUMC 2006).

2.98 The EUMC report acknowledged that there is a lack of educational statistics based on religion and ethnicity and therefore the educational situation of Muslim pupils can only be inferred indirectly through data referring to nationality or country of origin ( EUMC 2006). Nevertheless, they report that in several Member States 41 where a notable proportion of the migrant population are Muslims, the migrants and their descendants show lower educational completion rates and attain, on average, lower qualifications than the majority population ( EUMC 2006). The EUMC refers to the 2003 PISA study on mathematics which found that in a number of Member States a comparison of the performance of "first generation" students (those born in the country but with parents born outside) with that of native students showed large and statistically significant differences in favour of native students. The study pointed out that these are troubling differences because despite the apparent similarity of educational history, being a "first generation" student leads to a relative disadvantage in these countries ( EUMC 2006).

2.99 In addition, Cassidy et al found in their study into the experiences of young people from different ethnic minority groups there were considerable barriers limiting ethnic mixing among young people in Scotland, particularly at University (Cassidy et al 2006). For example, participants reported that they did not see the same students everyday at university and that they perceived a division between ethnic groups at university. In addition, the study found that parental and community expectations played a greater role for the ethnic minority young people in influencing their career path (Cassidy et al 2006).

2.100 Ahmed (2009), in a study of the experiences of Muslim youth across England, suggested that young Muslims often grow up in a working-class culture with the majority living in neighbourhoods considered to be the most deprived in England. Further, these young Muslims are often reflected in statistics as underachievers, anti-school rather than pro-school, and generally display signs of disengagement with school authorities (Ahmed 2009). Moreover, the research identified that attitudes, language difficulties, poor education background and feeling insecure with systems of school governance can turn parents away from helping children with their homework or contacting teachers and can serve to isolate parents from their child's schooling.

2.101 This finding is supported by Lewis (2007), who suggests young Muslims are often overprotected by their families, particularly young women. Drawing upon the findings of a study by the educational charity Young Voice, Lewis reports that a recurring feeling expressed by the young Muslims in the study was the "suffocating impact of community pressure exercised by the extended family embedded in clans" (Lewis 2007). According to Lewis, parents would not allow their children to do something that could be considered inappropriate, which could include decisions about the courses to study at university and where they wish to study. Lewis also discusses other cultural, linguistic and religious practices which impact on the educational experiences of young Muslims. Lewis discusses the findings from a micro-study of an inner city primary school in a northern English city where it was found the school was seen as the preserve of women, with the mosque as the male preserve. In addition, Lewis highlights the continuing preference for transcontinental marriage and the huge linguistic demands being placed on young people as further impacting on the educational experiences of young Muslims (Lewis 2007).


2.102 It has been suggested in the literature that there is evidence Muslims experience discrimination in employment. In particular, Frondigoun et al argue that in Scotland all minority ethnic groups perform less successfully in the labour market than the majority population (Frondigoun et al 2007). The importance of religion as a factor affecting employment disadvantage has been documented by Jayaweera and Choudhury who reported:

"…for some time now, data has recorded the employment disadvantage experienced by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, further analysis of the 2001 census data on religion shows that 'Muslim men and women of any ethnic origin are in a similar position to Pakistani/Bangladeshi men and women'" (Berthoud and Bleksaune in Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008).

2.103 According to Blick et al (2007), even Muslims with degrees can experience discrimination in employment. Blick et al refer to a study by Connors et al (2004) which compared ethnic minority graduates with first and upper second class degrees. The study found that Pakistani 42 and Bangladeshi graduates had a higher unemployment rate than all other ethnic groups (Blick et al 2007). Similarly, Choudhury et al (2004) argue Muslims are the most disadvantaged faith group in the British labour market, suffering from disproportionate levels of unemployment and inactivity, and are over-concentrated in certain low-paying sectors of the economy (Choudhury et al 2004).

2.104 Whilst acknowledging that official data on key employment indicators do not normally target Muslims, the EUMC suggest there is evidence that indicates religion is a factor in employment discrimination ( EUMC 2006). The EUMC argue that the lack of success in the labour market experienced by Muslims in Europe cannot be accounted for by the level of skills and qualifications achieved. The report cites the United Kingdom as an example where information is available on unemployment according to religion and ethnicity; in 2004 Muslims in the United Kingdom had the highest unemployment rate for men at 13% and the highest female unemployment rate (18%). Importantly, Muslims aged 16 to 24 years had the highest overall unemployment rate. Nevertheless, the EUMC acknowledge that:

"although differences in wages, type of employment and unemployment rates of migrants, of which a significant proportion belongs to Muslim faith groups, indicate persistent exclusion, disadvantage and discrimination, it would be misleading to attribute this only to religious or cultural differences" ( EUMC 2006).

2.105 In the European Union's first large scale survey 43 into experiences of racially or ethnically motivated discrimination against ethnic minorities and immigrant communities, discrimination in employment 44"emerged as the most significant area for discriminatory treatment on the basis of respondents' immigrant or ethnic minority background" ( EU- MIDIS 2009). Whilst the survey does not specifically report on experiences of discrimination against religious communities across the European Union, the results do suggest the significance of the labour market as an area where experiences of discrimination manifest.

2.106 According to the EUMC, discrimination in the labour market was not restricted to the United Kingdom. In most Member States, Muslims 45 tended to have low employment rates for example, "Turks in Germany, North Africans in France, and Pakistanis in the UK have employment activity rates that are 15 to 40% below that of natives" ( EUMC 2006). Similarly, a study into the findings of the 2003 Home Office Citizenship Survey of England and Wales found that out of those people who had been refused a job in the past five years perceptions of religious discrimination were highest for Bangladeshis (13%) and Pakistanis (9%) (Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008). However, the writers acknowledge the difficulties in identifying the source of disadvantage. Nevertheless, this does suggest there is a perception of religious discrimination, particularly amongst people within Muslim communities.

2.107 As highlighted in the demographics section (see paragraph 2.26), Muslim women are particularly underrepresented in the labour market, a finding supported in a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission 46 (Equal Opportunities Commission 2007). Five employment gaps were identified for minority ethnic women including; their participation in the labour market, unemployment levels, progression opportunities, pay levels, and occupational segregation (Equal Opportunities Commission 2007). In addition, as discussed earlier, current debates about community cohesion often portray an image of Muslim women being held back by their culture and in relation to wearing the veil creating a barrier to their integration. However, research carried out by El-Nakla et al in Scotland highlighted Muslim women's willingness to work, identifying various barriers preventing women from gaining employment that included limited appropriate childcare, a lack of understanding of Islamic requirements by employers, poor English language skills and the women's lack of confidence (El-Nakla et al 2007).

2.108 Nevertheless, Ansari (2002) reports that increasing numbers of young Muslims are joining the professional levels of British society. Recent figures suggest there are currently over 5,000 Muslim millionaires in Britain (Ansari 2002). However, after controlling for a range of factors Ansari found that Indian Muslims remain almost twice as likely to be unemployed as Indian Hindus, and Pakistani Muslims are more than three times as likely to be unemployed as Pakistani Hindus. Further, Muslim men and women are overrepresented in the lowest income band, with almost a quarter earning less than £115 per week, compared to around one in ten Sikhs and Hindus (Ansari 2002).

2.109 Evidence into the causes of under-performance in the labour market is limited in Scotland. Further research is required to understand the links between educational attainment and experiences in the labour market of Scotland's ethnic minority and faith communities.

Education and Employment - Key Points

  • The experiences of Muslims in the education system and the labour market was a particular focus of the literature.
  • There is evidence to suggest Muslims in Britain experience particular challenges that are impacting on their educational experiences for example, the influence of cultural traditions and language barriers faced by parents.
  • Muslims were found to experience particular difficulties in the labour market, with Muslim women being particularly underrepresented.
  • Evidence into the causes of under-performance in the labour market is limited in Scotland.

Health and Deprivation

2.110 Across Europe it has been suggested that many Muslims, and in particular young Muslims, face limited opportunities for social advancement and regularly experience social exclusion and discrimination which could give rise to a feeling of hopelessness and alienation ( EUMC 2006). In addition, whilst there has been some overall improvement in housing conditions, inequalities in housing are still experienced by low-income groups such as migrants or the descendents of migrants resulting from the inadequate stock of social housing across the Member States ( EUMC 2006). Within a British context Gale, drawing upon work conducted by Beckford et al (2006) using the 2004 Index of Multiple Deprivation, highlights that one third of Muslims in England and Wales live in areas that are the worst deprived (Gale 2007).

2.111 According to research conducted by Choudhury et al (2004), the concentration of Muslims in the poorest areas in Britain is indicative of the marginalisation that Muslims experience. Further, they found evidence that Muslim children are especially at risk from child poverty, with 42% living in overcrowded accommodation compared to 12% of the population as a whole. In addition, 12% of Muslim children live in households without central heating compared with 6% of children overall (Choudhury et al 2004). Blick et al suggest "these figures are particularly significant for the future, given the young age profile of Muslims in Britain" (Blick et al 2007).

2.112 In research conducted by Jayaweera and Choudhury (2008) across three localities in England with a high proportion of minority ethnic residents, the authors found that a number of participants believed there was a connection between the deprivation in their area, the poor infrastructure of housing and public spaces in their area, the minority ethnic concentration in the locality, and the inadequate investment and action by both local and national government (Jayaweera and Choudhury 2008). This would suggest the research participants perceived discrimination to be an underlying factor in the continued deprivation of their neighbourhood.


2.113 According to Hussain and Choudhury, some studies have suggested discrimination and 'Islamophobia' have contributed to health disparities, made worse by "faith-blind" health policies (Hussain and Choudhury 2007). Drawing upon the findings from the 2001 National Census, when controlling for age, Muslims reported the highest proportion of males (13%) and females (16%) who described their health as 'not good'.

2.114 Similarly, research conducted by Sheridan found that the terrorist attack on the 11 th September 2001 had a negative impact on the health and well-being of Muslims (Sheridan 2006). Investigating experiences of religious discrimination before and after the terrorist attacks, Sheridan employed the General Health Questionnaire ( GHQ-12) 47 to investigate the impact of this event on the health of British Muslims. The findings highlighted that out of 222 Muslims, more than one third (35.6%) displayed evidence of having a mild common mental health disorder, and 13.6% were found to display evidence of having a serious common mental health disorder (Sheridan 2006). The research found evidence of a relationship between Muslims found to be displaying a mild to serious mental health disorder, whether they reported experiencing a specific incident of September 11 th related abuse and whether they would describe themselves as highly visible as a Muslim (Sheridan 2006). Therefore, in terms of this study, it was apparent that experiencing incidents of religious discrimination and being visibly identifiable as a Muslim had a significant relationship on whether the research participant experienced poor mental health. In contrast, neither gender nor ethnicity was found to be a significant predictor of whether or not a specific incident of abuse was reported.

2.115 In addition, it has been suggested that there is a lack of awareness and understanding of the needs of Muslims' within public services (see El-Nakla et al 2007, and Frondigoun et al 2007). For example, it has been suggested that often mainstream mental health and maternity services do not operate in a religiously and culturally sensitive manner. Ali suggests that the public arena is seen by many young British Muslims as a space in which Islam is frequently misrepresented, and where they see themselves portrayed as alien or even a dangerous presence in society. Therefore, as a consequence of how they are perceived, many young British Muslims do not feel comfortable accessing mainstream support services, for fear of being misunderstood (Malik et al in Ali 2008). This finding is confirmed by research conducted by Ahmed (2009) who found that Muslim youth do not approach statutory agencies for issues relating to their mental health. According to Ahmed, this is partly because they feel service providers do not understand Muslims, their religion, culture and other norms young Muslims are faced with within their own community structures (Ahmed 2009). This finding has serious implications for public services with a responsibility for mental health improvement.


2.116 This review found limited research into the experiences of disabled Muslims. Again, the research covered in this section focuses on South Asian communities.

2.117 Bywaters et al (2003) have argued that, despite evidence that South Asian families with disabled children experience discrimination and disadvantage in accessing the health and care services needed:

"it has sometimes been assumed that religiously based explanations for and attitudes to having a disabled child have led to the low uptake of health and social services" (Bywaters et al 2003) .

Rather, the authors contend there is no evidence to support the negative views held by some professionals and service providers. On occasion, some parents who participated in their research did refer to God in explaining their child's impairment however, not all parents explained their child's disability in this way.

"Families could hold religious explanations alongside medical ones, and although they might believe that their child's life was in God's hands, this did not usually mean that they did not want and seek assistance or strive to provide the best care they could themselves" (Bywaters et al 2003).

2.118 There was evidence that parents were more likely to provide religious explanations when they had not received much medical information, in particular where language barriers existed and interpreters had not been provided. In addition, the research found little evidence to suggest the parents were unwilling to seek help, nor was there evidence that the parents turned down support because of extended family support as was sometimes suggested to be the reason for low uptake of services. Rather, the parents described occasionally experiencing "negative disablist attitudes" from people within their community towards their child and were further restricted by their poor material circumstances (Bywaters et al 2003). These findings were supported by Croot et al who argued that mainstream services are not sufficiently understanding of parents' cultural, religious and spiritual beliefs (Croot et al 2008).

Health and Deprivation - Key Points

  • Research in England has shown that Muslims are disproportionately likely to live in areas of deprivation, and Muslim children are especially likely to be at risk from child poverty.
  • There was limited research into the experiences of Muslims living in deprivation in Scotland.
  • Research found that experiencing incidents of religious discrimination and being visibly identifiable as a Muslim had a significant relationship on whether the research participant experienced poor mental health (Sheridan 2006)
  • Writers have suggested that there is a lack of awareness and understanding of the needs of Muslims' within public services.
  • There was little research into the experiences of disabled Muslims. However, research has suggested that South Asian families with disabled children experience discrimination and disadvantage in accessing the health and care services needed (Bywaters et al 2003).


2.119 Finally, the role of the media was referred to repeatedly in the literature analysed in this review. The media was frequently identified as a source of religious discrimination against Muslims. For example, Ansari argues the media plays an integral role in reinforcing "Islamophobic attitudes in the majority community" (Ansari 2002; see also Sheridan 2006). Indeed, Allen has argued that "the media's portrayal and representation of Islam has been one of the most prevalent, virulent and socially significant sources of Islamophobia' in Britain" (Allen cited in Ansari 2002). According to Ali (2008) the media plays a significant role in associating religion with terrorism; highlighting the systematic way in which the media combines such words as 'Islamic' and 'terrorism'. Therefore, through the media, religion has become identified as the primary factor of influence in terrorist actions (Ali 2008).

2.120 Ali refers to the terrorist attacks on the 11 th September 2001 as the point at which radical Islamism entered a new era of 'presentation' by the media. Ali carried out research into the language used by two globally available newspapers 48 when reporting on three violent attacks 49. Ali found that the New York Times made use of the terms 'we/us/our' 67 times and 'they/them/their' 72 times when reporting on the violent attacks, whereas the Guardian whilst less frequent in their use of these terms, made use of the terms 'we/us/our' 23 times and 'they/them/their' 48 times (Ali 2008). Ali is suggesting that such language helps to reinforce the popular belief that Islam and terrorism are intrinsically linked, further disadvantaging and alienating members of the Muslim community.

2.221 The largely negative representation of Islam and Muslims in the media is not a recent phenomenon (see for example Poole 2002). Alexander (2000) argues Muslim young men have emerged as the new "folk devils" of popular and media imagination (Alexander 2000 in Choudhury et al 2004). A significant finding about the perception of the media by Scottish Muslims was reported in a study conducted by Masud into the experiences of Muslim women in Scotland since the London bombings. This research found that the women participants believed the media contributed to Islamophobia and the negative portrayal of Islam (Masud 2005, see also El-Nakla et al 2007). Therefore, according to the women interviewed the way the media reported on Islam was to blame not only for the mis-education of the mass public and the increase in aggression toward the Muslim community, but also for fuelling anger amongst the Muslim community particularly Muslim youth (Masud 2005). Importantly, the women felt that in order to tackle this negative representation, Muslims needed to engage positively with the media, both as individuals but also as a community (Masud 2005).

Media - Key Points

  • The media was frequently identified in the literature as a source of religious discrimination against Muslims.
  • Research found that the media plays a significant role in associating religion with terrorism, by identifying religion as the primary factor of influence in terrorist actions (Ali 2008).
  • Writers have suggested the largely negative representation of Islam and Muslims in the media is not a recent phenomenon (Poole 2002, Alexander 2000).

2.222 This chapter provided a brief historical outline of Muslim communities in Scotland, as well as a discussion of the key demographic features of Muslim communities in Scotland. Further, the chapter explored the key findings from a selection of the recent literature on the experiences of Muslims across Britain. The next chapter will discuss the findings from focus groups carried out with Muslims living in Scotland.