LONDON – Painting a disturbing future for young Muslims in the UK, a new report has revealed that members of the religious minority are less likely to succeed in the workplace with many reporting experiences of Islamophobia, discrimination, and racism.
“The British social mobility promise is that hard work will be rewarded. Unfortunately, for many young Muslims in Britain today, this promise is being broken,” said Alan Milburn, chair of the Social Mobility Commission, The Guardian reported on Thursday, September 7.
Research for the government’s social mobility watchdog, shared exclusively with the Guardian, found a strong work ethic and high resilience among Muslims that resulted in impressive results in education.
This dedication was not translated into the workplace, with only 6% of Muslims breaking through into professional jobs, compared with 10% of the overall population in England and Wales.
The study found 19.8% of Muslims aged 16-to-74 were in full-time employment, compared with 34.9% of the overall population.
Milburn warned that the report “paints a disturbing picture” of challenges young Muslims face.
“Young Muslims themselves identify cultural barriers in their communities and discrimination in the education system and labor market as some of the principal obstacles that stand in their way. Young Muslim women face a specific challenge to maintain their identity while seeking to succeed in modern Britain,” he said.
“These are complex issues and it is vital they are the subject of mature consideration and debate.
“There are no easy or straightforward solutions to the issues they have raised. But a truly inclusive society depends on creating a level playing field of opportunity for all, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background.”
Prof Jacqueline Stevenson, of Sheffield Hallam University, which led the research, echoed a similar opinion.
“Muslims are being excluded, discriminated against or failed at all stages of their transition from education to employment. Taken together, these contributory factors have profound implications for social mobility,” he told the Guardian.
Farhana Ghaffar, a 25-year-old Muslim woman who acted as a researcher for the study, said she was “incredibly shocked” by the findings.
“It ranged from assumptions that they were forced to wear the headscarf to jokes and casual comments in workplace about Muslims. Or every time there was a terror attack there was a feeling of a need to apologize and explain,” she said.
Among those interviewed in the research, one woman in Liverpool said her father had suggested “changing her name to help get a job.”
Another female respondent in High Wycombe referred to hearing comments such as “he looked very Muslim” or “look at her, she’s got a scarf on.”
Another government-backed report, by Dame Louise Casey, previously raised the alarm over a lack of social integration in the UK.