Remaining true to Muslim values in the face of adversity

9 th December, 2014

Muslims suffer the worst discrimination of any minorities in the UK when it comes to employment. Muslims are the most generous religious group in the UK in terms of giving to charity. On the face of it, there appears to be no direct correlation between these two facts.

Throw in the ‘xfactor’ though and an argument can be made along the lines of ‘what hurts you can make you even stronger’.  In this case, a strengthening of faith and identity.

The ‘x factor’ is arguably the increasingly hostile attitude and actions that many Muslims in the UK feel they’re being subjected to, not necessarily as individuals but as a community and because of their religious identity.

Part of this stems from their employment prospects or lack of them. Recent research by The Independent newspaper found that Muslims are seen by employers as “disloyal and threatening” and are therefore far less likely to be employed than Christians and other groups.

According to the report from Dr Nabil Khattab and Professor Ron Johnston from the University of Bristol, Muslim men are up to 76% less likely to have a job than white British Christian men of the same age with the same qualifications, while Muslim women were also up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed.

The research used data from the Office for National Statistics’ Labour Force Survey, which covered more than half a million people and studied 14 ethnic and religious groups. The study concluded that while skin colour made little difference to whether people were hired or not, Muslims were the most disadvantaged group.

Dr Khattab said this was likely to be because of “growing Islamophobia and hostility” towards Muslims, meaning employers were discouraged from hiring them, especially if there were candidates from “less threatening groups”.

The strength of faith

Combined with the feeling that events including 9/11, the rise of ISIL in the Middle East and the London bombings have fuelled Islamophobia, it would be of little surprise if Muslims felt that employment discrimination – however subtle or unconscious – was also conspiring against them.

It would also be of little surprise if these factors led to the Muslim community or portions of it restricting their religious activities (visible or otherwise) in attempts to conform or ‘fit in’.

Yet, conversely, the number of Muslims in the UK continues to grow, more mosques are being created and giving to charity remains strong.
Islam is the second largest religion in the UK, with 2.7 million Muslims (4.8% of the total population) according to the 2011 Census. This compares with 1.6 million (3%) in 2001. It was also reported in 2011 it was reported that the United Kingdom had about 100,000 converts to Islam, 40,000 more than in 2001 (source: BBC).

The generosity of Muslims

Not only is Islam growing in terms of population numbers but the generosity of Muslims puts it ahead of other denominations. This can be put down partly to Zakat – one of the five tenets of the faith – and the general importance instilled in Muslims of their duty to help others.
A study by ICM Research in 2012 and based on data from JustGiving showed Muslim donors are the most generous in the UK, giving an average of £371 per head, £100 more per person than the next denomination (in this case Jewish donors).

That trait was acknowledged by Prime Minister David Cameron when he hosted British Muslims at an Eid ul Adha reception at 10 Downing Street in October 2014.

“I’ve spoken about the extraordinary outpouring there’s been about these appalling events in Syria and Iraq, but we shouldn’t be surprised about that because British Muslim communities are immensely proud of being British and they give an enormous amount to our country,” he said. “British Muslims are actually the most generous, charitable givers that there are of any community in Britain, and that’s something to be immensely proud of as well as all the contributions to the arts, to literature, to music, to sport.

The charitable nature of Muslims demonstrates, according to Farooq Murad, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, “the true spirit and reality of Islam in Britain, in caring not just for the community but also humanity at large”.

So while Muslims in the UK face myriad pressures because of their faith, they remain steadfast and determined to stay loyal to their faith and its values, especially reaching people in need.

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