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  • Technorati: graph / links

    New report on young Muslims, missing a trick


    by Sunny on 2nd September, 2009 at 12:19 pm    

    Sughra Ahmed has compiled and published a report for Policy Research Centre on young British Muslims. She has also written an article for Guardian CIF today. A press release sent to me states:

    The report enables female and male voices to express, in their own words, their outlook and how they feel they are perceived, scoping topical issues such as intergenerational challenges, identity, gender, religious teachings, mosques, policing and the media.

    Sughra Ahmed, author of the report commented, “We are used to hearing about young Muslims in the context of radicalisation of Muslim opinion, but their lives are far more complex. They feel a strong sense of patriotism, but also feel let down by voices that do not do justice to their aspirations. Young people are comfortable in negotiating their multiple identities, but some also feel a sense of disconnection from older generations as well as pressure from a society that increasingly stereotypes young people.”

    The findings in this report challenge both British society and the Muslim community to do more to connect with young people and their latent talents. It makes a number of recommendations to policymakers, statutory services and Muslim communities, including: better and more informed outreach programmes to connect with young people; the need for greater investment in young people to develop their capacity and to create leaders and role models; and the need for initiatives that help bridge inter-generational gaps within the Muslim community.

    Now this kind of stuff is generally positive and to say that young Muslims are complex is to state the obvious.

    I had a skim of the report and it has recommendations like ‘teach more about Islamic history’ etc. Here is where I think they’re missing a trick. Look, during Europe’s dark ages it wasn’t just the Middle East that was churning out amazing knowledge - so was the sub-continent and China. Hell, the Chinese damn near invented everything for quite a few centuries. At one point India and China were about a quarter of the world’s economy (as they will be again eventually). So to focus purely on ‘Islamic history’ is as narrow as the people who just want to focus on European history.

    This undertone runs through the report unfortunately. Muslims are no doubt unfairly maligned in the media all the time. But the way to get over that isn’t through education about Islamic history and outreach specifically to Muslim groups - but to tie their struggles with those of other communities.

    As a narrative, it is far better for Muslim researchers and commentators to keep comparing Muslims to, say, white working class Britons, and illustrating how they have similar struggles (on poverty, lack of access to power etc). That also makes it easier for policy-makers to sell ideas to the public since anything seen as pandering to just one minority will not be popular.

    There are plenty of recommendations to Muslims too in the report, which are quite sensible. The whole report is quite sensible. But what I’d like is for people to think: how would I sell our issues to a white working class person living in Dagenham? The current narrative just sells it to the Guardian, which doesn’t go far enough.



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    26 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. fugstar — on 2nd September, 2009 at 12:49 pm  

      maybe you can write a report on white working class social values and vision in dagenham and then we can join the dots.

    2. Ravi Naik — on 2nd September, 2009 at 1:00 pm  

      I totally concur with this post, Sunny. Well said.

    3. Jai — on 2nd September, 2009 at 1:01 pm  

      Sunny,

      At one point India and China were about a quarter of the world’s economy (as they will be again eventually).

      It was even more than that — during the height of the Mughal era, India and China combined accounted for about 50% of the world’s economy.

      But, to expand on your point, India and China were indeed global heavyweights for thousands of years, including long before the subcontinent’s Islamic period. So was Persia in particular.

      I also agree completely with your view that a broader, “big picture” understanding of global history would be much more beneficial than focusing on one narrow group, both in the interests of accuracy and also to enable people to gain an understanding of how interconnected large chunks of the world have been for an extremely long time.

      And ultimately, ideally it would have the benefit of facilitating a grasp of everyone’s common humanity and shared history, whether the “student” is European, Muslim (or both), or from any other background.

    4. fugstar — on 2nd September, 2009 at 1:27 pm  

      but you would of course understand the west asian skew on islamicate as a product of the derationalisation of the arab/muslim by the orientalist west.

      i doubt china gives a stuff if brits portray them insensitively.

    5. Sofi — on 2nd September, 2009 at 1:47 pm  

      i agree, sunny; drawing parallels with the issues of the wider community will sell it better.

      judging by the little you quoted of the report findings and presuming all else - is this anything new? no.

    6. Boyo — on 2nd September, 2009 at 2:06 pm  

      “As a narrative, it is far better for Muslim researchers and commentators to keep comparing Muslims to, say, white working class Britons, and illustrating how they have similar struggles (on poverty, lack of access to power etc).”

      Hey, you’re sounding almost like a socialist Sunny.

      Not sure i agree about history, unless its part of a module on “world history”, on the contrary i think there’s not enough emphasis on British history and how “the evil empire” yoked the world for its own good ;-)

      Instead as part of this should be an emphasis on the true story - the Muslims and Sikhs who fought so gallantly for the British cause, the fact that a third of the crew on the Victory were afro-caribbean… a couple were even French.

      These seemingly frivolous points are serious mind - they illustrate that the English have always been what they are now: a People, not a tribe.

    7. bananabrain — on 2nd September, 2009 at 2:10 pm  

      i think i would probably agree. it got sent to me as well and i took a look at the recommendations. every single one is about providing government funding, mostly for organisations to work with young muslims. i don’t think it’s terribly practical at this point and for me, in terms of implementation, is somewhat lacking, although no doubt the analysis is interesting.

      b’shalom

      bananabrain

    8. Soso — on 2nd September, 2009 at 3:08 pm  

      Here is where I think they’re missing a trick. Look, during Europe’s dark ages it wasn’t just the Middle East that was churning out amazing knowledge– so was the sub-continent and China. Hell, the Chinese damn near invented everything for quite a few centuries. At one point India and China were about a quarter of the world’s economy (as they will be again eventually).

      There is virtually no evidence to support most Muslim claims concerning these “islamic discoveries” Most of the science and mathematics’discoveries’ are Indo-Persian in origin and predate Islam by centuries. In the field of philosphy, Syrian Greek-speaking monks translated the works of the Greeks and Romans into Arab. The Arabs then attempted to retrofit these concepts with an islamic identity. Ditto for the science, mathematics and even medicine. The Arabs may have made one or two discoveries in the field of optics, but even that is greeted with skepticism by some experts.

      The depth of Europe’s “dark age” is overblown,as well. You know, in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries Constantinople was the world’s largest city and housed what was at the time humanity’s oldest university. The rector of that university ( forget both the name of the fellow and the institution) served for a time as Byzantium’s ambassador to Damascus.

      The reaons so little of this is known is due to the fact the Ottomans served as a bulwark agains Czarist Russia and its descendant, modern Turkey, was a NATO ally against the Soviet Union. Any talk of Byzantium’s achievments, discoveries and history has been largely supressed, and talk of Islam’s intellectual history, because of the oil situation, has been consistently embellished and exagerrated

    9. Soso — on 2nd September, 2009 at 4:11 pm  

      Look, during Europe’s dark ages it wasn’t just the Middle East that was churning out amazing knowledge

      I don’t wish to derail this thread, but…

      Check out “The Pandidakterion”, also knows as the University of Magnaura that existed in Constantinople. It was founded by the Emperor Theodosius II in 425 AD ( after the collapse of The Western Roman Empire), had 31 chairs for law, medicine, philosophy, mathematics geometry, astronomy, music, rhetoric etc, etc, and it existed right up until 1453.

      Also check out a fellow named Photios, a tenth century Greek Byzantine and rector of The Pandidakterion, who transmitted the knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Romans to the arabs. In the 10th century this university was perhaps the best and most brilliant in all of the world, but almost no one knows it even existed.

      In the Arabo-Muslim world of the time, there was nothing even approaching the quality and knowledge levels of The Pandidakterion.

      That university and the combined knowledge of the Indo-Persian civilisations, knowledge that was expropriated and retrofitted with an islamic identity by invading Arabs, are what lay behind most of Classical Islam’s intellectual fervour.

    10. Sunny — on 2nd September, 2009 at 5:02 pm  

      Sofi - well, you’ll have to read and find out more. I just skimmed it admittedly but I found the tone a bit off-putting.

    11. Sughra Ahmed — on 2nd September, 2009 at 5:19 pm  

      Enjoying this discussion…

      Regarding the Muslim heritage / teaching stuff – that wasn’t really our focus. In fact the report tries to argue that young Muslims see themselves just as any other young people in our society…I completely agree that drawing parallels and connecting with the wider world is important. But you can still talk to an audience in a way that’s specific…and resonates culturally…e.g. pickled politics encourages good open debate but not everyone will access it.

      Its of course true that civilisations have been creative exactly because they learn from each other - so we can’t afford to be exclusive about the way we talk about these things.

      Going back to the report, we wanted to talk to young people so that we could hear from them first hand instead of from ‘representative voices’ – we found in many focus groups these young people were unfamiliar with some of the key national organisations – so its important to hear straight from the horses mouth.

    12. Jai — on 2nd September, 2009 at 5:56 pm  

      You know, in the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries Constantinople was the world’s largest city and housed what was at the time humanity’s oldest university.

      …..Check out “The Pandidakterion”, also knows as the University of Magnaura that existed in Constantinople. It was founded by the Emperor Theodosius II in 425 AD ( after the collapse of The Western Roman Empire), had 31 chairs for law, medicine, philosophy, mathematics geometry, astronomy, music, rhetoric etc, etc, and it existed right up until 1453.

      “Oldest surviving university” might be a better description.

      The universities at Nalanda (427 AD to 1197 AD) and Taxila (6th century BC to 5th century AD), both located in the Indian subcontinent, were also renowned and attracted international students.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nalanda

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxila

      Other ancient centres of learning in the subcontinent are listed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Universities_of_India .

      There are also examples of ancient universities in China, including (for example) the institution at Nanjing, originally founded in 258 AD, and still in existence as a functioning university.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanjing_University

      China had numerous other formal institutes of higher education, known as Guozijian: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guozijian

    13. Boyo — on 2nd September, 2009 at 6:53 pm  

      Strictly speaking, Bologna is the world’s oldest surviving university, as it was the first to use the word, in 1088.

    14. Rumbold — on 2nd September, 2009 at 8:38 pm  

      Generally speaking there is ignorance about both the Eastern Roman/Byzantine empire, and the Islamic world. As Soso said, there were a lot of non-Muslims involved in the translation of Greek texts, albeit under Arab patronage (very few Arabs bothered to learn another language). I have always thought of the ‘Dark Ages’ (an ungly, simplistic term) as applying to Latin Europe, and opposed to Greek Europe, i.e the majority of the 15 EU states, save Greece, and the Iberian plains. Even then it is a poor term, especially when considering centres of culture like Charlemagne’s court, or the foundings of many of the great universities of Europe, (Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, etc.).

      Universities are a difficult one. As far as I know, Boyo is right. We tend to think of the Greek academies as proto-universities, but I think it is largely a semantic debate. As Jai’s excellent comment points out, there were centres of learning all over the world.

    15. damon — on 2nd September, 2009 at 9:13 pm  

      Are these young lads the focus of this report?
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOz-KeXjZYM&feature=related

      Type similar words about cricket and Pakistan with places like Birmingham and Oldham and you get similar scenes.

    16. damon — on 2nd September, 2009 at 9:32 pm  

      Are these Somali youth part of this whole thing?
      Listening to them hurts my ears a bit.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eh234NN2cPw&feature=related

    17. Dalbir — on 2nd September, 2009 at 10:03 pm  

      So, I take it Somalians are this season’s community of choice, when it comes to vilification in the UK.

      Same shite, different day, different community.

      Yawn!

    18. me — on 3rd September, 2009 at 12:22 am  

      I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for history teachers - & their pupils!

      History teaching needs to start at primary level with something very basic & very value neutral that gives all kids of all backgrounds a sense that they have a place in this country & its future. At that stage I remember my gen (mid sixties start) learned about Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, etc in a simple matter of fact way, with examples of how they shaped the beginnings of the country this is today. Whatever the feelings toward the history of Empire, you’re Brits too, you need to own that history too. Perhaps the notion of “empire coming home” & reshaping Briatain all over again would be a start to build on. To be taught throughout all schools, not just those with a BME enrollment. White kids in pale areas need to know everyone belongs just as much.

    19. damon — on 3rd September, 2009 at 6:46 am  

      So, I take it Somalians are this season’s community of choice, when it comes to vilification in the UK.

      Why that word vilification? This is about listening to young people, and here are some of them talking.

      Maybe that youtube discussion would be better led by someone like Sughra Ahmed to give it better direction. I admit that I find the sound of the way some young people talk off-putting. The tone and enunciation.

    20. sidney — on 3rd September, 2009 at 9:51 am  

      The report makes interesting reading, the social problems mentioned in the report are faced by all communites in the uk. However in my experience of working in the community,it does’nt matter how many reports or projects you want to push onto muslim youth, to make them feel a sense of “britishness” because i don’t see them having a problem of being labelled british or muslim british.

      Problem arises as soon as they put on the tv, and see bombs dropping on the heads of iraqis, british troops occupying countries and of course not to forget UK governments two faced foriegn policy on israel. The good work of reports and projects will end up as a waste of money and resources, because the target audience see contradictions on the multimedia all around them.

    21. Jai — on 3rd September, 2009 at 10:11 am  

      I agree that knowledge of the Byzantine Empire is not as widespread as it deserves to be.

      The book Byzantium by Judith Herrin is excellent, and Millennium by the historian Tom Holland also includes a lot of information about the empire and that period in general.

    22. persephone — on 3rd September, 2009 at 12:28 pm  

      15, 16 & 19

      From skimming the report the focus groups included muslims from circa 9 different ethnicities ie white, black & brown muslims including professional youth workers of several ethnicities.

      As to the way they are talking - I recently interviewed some teenagers (of all skin colours) in an urban city area and its the simply the way they talk. To not do so marks you as an outsider

    23. Tom — on 3rd September, 2009 at 12:57 pm  

      “As to the way they are talking – I recently interviewed some teenagers (of all skin colours) in an urban city area and its the simply the way they talk. To not do so marks you as an outsider”

      To not do so also marks you out as someone who might succeed in the education system

    24. persephone — on 3rd September, 2009 at 1:23 pm  

      “To not do so also marks you out as someone who might succeed in the education system”

      Depends on what individuals see as education, or indeed other indicators of ’success’. Perhaps some see that hip hop is a global growth industry & want an education and success to meet their ambition through that route

    25. damon — on 3rd September, 2009 at 6:10 pm  

      From Sunny at the top of this post, I agree:

      As a narrative, it is far better for Muslim researchers and commentators to keep comparing Muslims to, say, white working class Britons, and illustrating how they have similar struggles

      .
      Sughra Ahmed, I’d be interested to know if you took in these opinions from Munira Mirza.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9Xb7sL2MtQ.

      The Sky News bloke was a dork with his jargon, but Munira got things so much better I thought.

    26. bananabrain — on 4th September, 2009 at 11:00 am  

      but sughra, what bothers me are the recommendations. “bung the charity sector a couple of million and they’ll sort it out” isn’t really an answer.

      any thoughts?

      b’shalom

      bananabrain



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