Perceptions of failed Muslim integration overturned

The old maxim which many regard as underpinning the UK Government’s engagement with the Muslim community over the last 30 years – that to be more British, you needed to be less Muslim, was turned on its head this week. First by the election of the Western world’s first Muslim leader of a democratic nation and second by the results of a survey conducted by polling company Savanta on behalf of European online Muslim portal Hyphen.

The new FirstMinister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf in his acceptance speech referred poignantly to the constant need to prove his loyalty during his upbringing in a nation which clearly doubted due to his religion, the legitimacy of him as as stakeholder in the country of his birth. He said:

“It speaks to our values as a country as I stand here as the first Muslim to lead aWestern democratic nation. You try telling that to 16 year Humza Yousaf who post 9/11 was questioned constantly about his loyalty to this country. We have…collectively come a long way…I remember vividly the very nerves I felt in the very pit of my stomach the day I decided to tell my parents that I wanted to study politics instead of law. Far from giving me ..a clip around the ear, they could not have been more supportive, saying that it was vital, important, that people like us were also represented in politics.”

The latest poll study by Savanta, whilst it skips past Humza’s own Millennial Generation, otherwise known as Generation ‘Y’ and focuses on ‘Y’s successors Generation Z, presents findings which represent a real challenge to the accepted national discourse and the deeply held convictions of many senior politicians. Remarkably, Gen Z Muslims share almost identical views with their non-Muslim counterparts on British and Universal values with regard to most liberal issues. Their strength of feeling on issues such as the climate change crisis or the economy were identical. As one mainstream newspaper report put it:

‘Gen Z Muslims in the UK may be the country’s most integrated Muslims ever.’

Most Gen Z Muslims expect to be home owners by the time they reach the age of 30 which accords with the sentiments expressed by non-Muslim respondents.

Critically, the report highlights a number of important other findings. It recognises that Gen Z Muslims have grown up in a more diverse environment and that they see diversity as a natural phenomenon. Consequently they are far more likely than those born abroad to identify equally being British as Muslim. Interestingly their non-Muslim counterparts defy the generic trend prevalent among older generations, which largely see Islam as a problem. The non-Muslim Gen Z counterparts have much greater sympathy to the specific needs of minorities andMuslims in particular – such as the right to have time off work during Eid and the need for less discrimination in the work place.

According to the study, half of all Gen Z Muslim men have directly experienced Islamophobia in one form or another during their lifetimes, whether at school, college, university or in the workplace, whilst the incidence of Islamophobia against women has been much higher.

Also it is significant to recognise the major differences in spirituality between non-Muslim and Muslim Gen Z respondents. Gen Z Muslims are up to three times more likely to attend a place of worship, to seek spiritual advice from a spiritual leader (Imam or priest) whether in person or on-line on media platforms, than their non-Muslim peers.

Burhan Wazir, the editor of Hyphen commented:

What we can deduce is that [Generation Z] UK Muslims view their faith and national identity as intertwined’ And that they have a ‘shared living experience’ with their non-Muslim peers.

The recent election of Humza Yousaf as First Minister of Scotland, the earlier appointment of Anas Sarwar as Leader of the Scottish Labour Party in 2021, the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London in 2016 as well as the results of the recent Savana/Hyphen Poll represents a direct rebuttal to the official discourse and views expressed by such as former Equality and Human Rights Commission Chair, Trevor Phillips who famously said that:

‘Muslim communities are not like others in Britain and . . . will never integrate.’

Or those expressed by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who said that

‘I think perhaps one of the reasons the polls show an increasing level of concern is because people do see a fifth column living within our country, who hate us and want to kill us.’



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