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Muslims in Leicester

 

Muslims In Leicester Researched by the Policy Research Centre for the Open Society Institute
Released: 22nd April 2010

Click here to download the report


Videos from the launch:
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Background:

The Policy Research Centre conducted this piece of research for the Open Society Institute’s At Home in Europe Programme, which explores the policy concerns of Muslim citizens in eleven EU cities.

The first of the 11 city reports to be released, this is the largest and most detailed survey of Muslims in the city of Leicester including 200 detailed questionnaires (with Muslims and non-Muslims), 6 focus groups and over 30 interviews with city stakeholders. The report examines the views of Leicester residents in areas such as citizenship, identity & belonging, policing, education, employment, health and media.

Leicester has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the United Kingdom (UK) outside London. According to the 2001 Census, Leicester’s population was 279,921, of which just over 30,000 (11 per cent) were Muslims, making them the third-largest faith group in Leicester after Christians and Hindus. This has changed significantly over the last ten years. The study focused on three wards: Evington, Stoneygate and Spinney Hills.

The Report can be downloaded by clicking here.

Key Findings:

Leicester gives strong examples of how ethnic and cultural diversity can be managed well and, in fact, turned into an asset for cities. Awards for Community Cohesion and a now a global reputation for intercultural and interfaith harmony, demonstrate the level of success. The key lesson is that we don’t need to be afraid of diversity.

But there are challenges on the horizon. Rapidly changing demographics, mobility of people into and out of the city, and a number of key socio-economic difficulties mean that continued action is needed.

This research project, the most detailed study of this type to date, is about how a good thing can be made better.

  • Seventeen of the 54 Councillors for the city (31 per cent), including the previous lord mayor, are of ethnic-minority background.
  • The majority of Muslims in Leicester possess a strong British identity and sense of belonging to the city as well as the country, holding many values in common with non-Muslims.
  • Muslims play an active role in civic and political engagement and there is greater trust in local authority than in the central government.
  • The faith communities of Leicester are valuable contributors to the life of the city. The city is particularly well served by the strong faith presence of Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, along with important institutions committed to positive inter-faith relations.
  • Islamophobia and racism did not feature in the list of things respondents said they did not like about their neighbourhoods.
  • Relations between police and Muslim communities in certain wards in Leicester are among the strongest in the UK.
  • Respondents reported a much more positive picture of the depiction and reporting of Muslim communities by the media in Leicester in comparison with the national media. Both Muslim and non-Muslim interviewees commented that the Leicester Mercury should be used as a model for local and national media in the UK.

Challenges:

  • High levels of socio-economic deprivation in parts of the city and wide disparity between areas, e.g. education attainment varied from 30% - 80% (GCSE, 5A*-C).
  • State schools in Leicester perform less well than in other cities in the region. High pupil mobility is identified as one factor contributing towards low attainment levels in Leicester. This was mainly attributed to a regular influx of new communities into Leicester, and the time taken for them to be settled and allocated housing and schooling. But a significant challenge in education is improving the attainment of ‘white pupils’ in the most deprived parts of the city.
  • Economic inactivity high among Muslim women (50%).
  • Approximately 50 per cent of Muslims and non-Muslims believe racial discrimination is still very much alive in the UK. An even larger number (over 70 per cent of both groups) feel that there is ‘a fair amount’ of religious prejudice in the country today and that it has increased over the last five years. Muslim respondents felt that attitudes towards them had become more negative.
  • While ethnic minorities are well represented in elected positions in the city, they remain under-represented, though not absent, in higher positions in the police, council and National Health Service (NHS).
  • BME groups are recognised to be at greater risk of suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, coronary heart disease and other health problems than white citizens.
  • Recruitment levels of minorities into the Police remain low, reflecting serious issues of mistrust and image that the police must overcome.
  • Potential for tension between some minority groups, e.g. Hindu-Muslim-Sikh.
  • Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other smaller communities can at times feel as if they are a minority within a minority, whose difficulties are forgotten amid the relative success of Gujarati Muslims.
  • The PVE agenda could be undermining cohesion work.

What makes it work?

  • City council policies that have embraced diversity.
  • Presence of multiple minority-faith communities (as opposed to a bipolar faith community context).
  • Dialogue among faith community leaders, (the leadership of the Anglican Church in particular).
  • Greater social capital, keen entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen among minorities.
  • Progressive reporting and editorial policies adopted by the local media.
  • A more open engagement with the communities by the police resulting in greater trust between the police and communities.
  • The networks, relationships and partnerships, at a strategic level, that allow ‘tough conversations’ to be had.

Key Recommendations:

Recognising that Leicester offers a number of very positive practices, especially on inclusion of its diverse communities, 35 recommendations are made at the end of this report. Here are the key suggestions for making a good city better:

  • There is a need for more focused research on and activities relevant to the plural cities shift in demographics and policies for managing this shift.
  • Emphasise that community cohesion is about narratives of commonalities of all citizens - and not just about ‘whites’ and ‘non-whites’. It’s also about cohesion within communities, e.g. Muslim communities such as the Somali and Pakistani ethnic groups.
  • More intercultural dialogue between the minority faith communities. This could start from cultural similarities such as family life, food, ethics, values and entertainment.
  • Look into economic inactivity of Muslim women and if anything can be done to create greater engagement with the labour market.
  • Raise awareness and discussions of sensitive aspects of policing, such as stop-and-search and anti-terror raids, and clarify the guidelines for these procedures.
  • Greater awareness campaigns within BME communities about the civic institutions, processes and consultation mechanisms of the city.
  • Muslim organisations, mosques and leaders could promote the importance of citizenship more strongly - roles in civic forums and platforms in the city.