Why this project is needed
In today’s Britain and beyond, it has never been more important to build strong, effective relationships between people of different religious and cultural backgrounds. Yet the tensions and fissures that exist both on and beneath the surface of society have seldom been greater or in greater need of attention. There are two underlying causes:
- the educational disaffection of young people;
- ignorance and hostility towards other people’s faiths.
The most urgent examples of these causes are the educational under-performance of Muslim young people and the hostility of many non-Muslim young people towards Islam.
Young Muslims in Britain today face multiple educational and social challenges
Many young British Muslims end up in prison where Muslims comprise 13% of the UK prison population whereas they make up only 4% of the total population. 42% of young Muslims between the ages 22-24 are Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) compared with a national average of 23%. A severe lack of prospects and the influence of false ‘Islamic’ teaching and a lack of connection to the national narrative leave some Muslim young people vulnerable to becoming radicalised and a threat to their fellow citizens.
At the same time, 52% of Britons believe that Islam and Muslims impact negatively on life in the UK and organisations like the English Defence League continue to stir up hatred against Islam. White young people who get caught up in these attitudes become distracted from their education in the short term and will struggle to succeed in a world where over a quarter of the population will be Muslim by 2030 and in which the wealth and influence of many Muslim-majority countries is growing.
It is essential in order to address the issues above that young Muslim Britons have a strong historical knowledge of Britain and that non-Muslim Britons know something about the historical contribution and achievements of Islam. It is also vital that an adequate religious education helps young Muslims reflect in an informed and rational way about their faith.
52% of Britons believe that Islam and Muslims impact negatively on life in Britain. Such widespread antipathy is accompanied by the emergence of extremist groups such as the English Defence League who specifically brand Muslims in Britain as the enemy within and draw most of their support from younger people.
This ignorance starts at school with the absence of teaching about the positive contribution of Islam and Muslims to the progress of Britain and humankind.