Understanding Muslim Ethnic Communities

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The Pakistani Muslim Community in England

Understanding Muslim Ethnic Communities

The Pakistani Muslim Community in England

Understanding Muslim Ethnic Communities

The Change Institute

March 2009

Department for Communities and Local Government

The findings and recommendations in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

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March 2009
Product Code: 08 PEU 05760
ISBN: 978-1-4098-1174-9

1 Executive Summary 5

1.1 Introduction and context 5

1.2 Migration and England’s Pakistani Muslim population 6

1.3 Identity, religion and language 7

1.4 Socio economic status 8

1.5 Intergenerational dynamics, young people and the role of women 8

in the community

1.6 Cohesion and integration 10

1.7 Media and links with country of origin 10

1.8 Civil society and civic engagement 11

2 Introduction 14

2.1 Objectives of the research 14

2.2 Report structure 15

3 Methodology 16

3.1 Project Phases 16

3.2 Analysis of data 19

3.3 Limitations of the research 20

4 Country profile and history 23

5 Migration history and trends 25

6 Community demographics and key locations 29

7 Socioeconomic situation 33

8 Key characteristics 36

8.1 Identity 36

8.2 Ethnicity 38

8.3 Religion 39

8.4 Language 41

9 Intra-community dynamics 42

9.1 Intergenerational dynamics 42

9.2 Young people 44

9.3 Women 45

9.4 Integration and cohesion issues 47

9.5 Politics 49

10 Media 51

10.1 Perceptions of the media 51

10.2 Media consumption 51

11 Links with countries of origin 53

11.1 Travel 53

11.2 Remittances 53

11.3 Political links 54

11.4 Business and commerce 54

11.5 Return home 55

11.6 Natural disasters 55

12 Civil society 56

12.1 Brief overview 56

12.2 Types of organisations and services offered 57

12.3 Key Organisations 58

12.4 Key influencers 62

12.5 Engagement with public authorities 62

12.6 Community issues and capacity building needs 64

13 Conclusions and recommendations 66

14 Glossary 69

15 Bibliography 71

  1. Executive Summary

1.1 Introduction and context

This report is one of thirteen reports on England’s Muslim ethnic communities commissioned by the Cohesion Directorate of Communities and Local Government in order to understand the diversity of England’s Muslim population and to help enhance its engagement and partnership with Muslim civil society.

The primary goal of the research was to detail the main population and community locations, identify denominations and religious practices, and identify the strengths of links with the country of origin. An overarching objective for the project was to identify how government could best engage and work in partnership with specific communities.

For many of these communities, there was little pre-existing research specific to the community, although because of the way in which ethnicity is recorded in official surveys there is relatively more research available for the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community than there is for the other communities included in this study.1 Hence the research was expanded to include other areas such as identity, language use, socio-economic situations, and intra-community dynamics. Since the country and migration contexts are important, these have also been briefly detailed.

The relatively limited scope of this study in relation to individual communities means that there is still a great deal more research needed in order to establish comprehensive knowledge and understanding about the different communities. This study provides first insights into the communities rather than offering firm conclusions, and hence should be understood as a starting rather than an end point in getting to know the different communities covered by the research.

This report details the research findings for the Pakistani Muslim community. Individual reports for the other twelve communities covered by the study, as well as a separate report synthesising the overall research findings, are available from Communities and Local Government.

1.2 Migration and England’s Pakistani Muslim population

Large scale immigration to Britain from Pakistan began in the 1950s, when Britain encouraged migration from the former colonies to satisfy its post war labour needs.2 Migration increased significantly in 1961 prior to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act (1962) which restricted automatic entry to the UK for Commonwealth citizens.3

Most of these Pakistani migrants were economic migrants from Northern Punjab and the rural Mirpur District of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), who began to migrate when the town and its surrounding areas were submerged by the waters of the Mangla Dam. The introduction of the ‘voucher system’4 in the 1960s also aided movement from Pakistan by allowing those who were already in Britain to arrange jobs and vouchers for their relatives and friends. During the 1950s and 1960s, those that migrated were largely single men, who were later joined by their families in the 1970s and 1980s. There are still Pakistani migrants arriving in Britain for marriage purposes, or on temporary student and work permit visas. The latter tend to be highly skilled professionals such as doctors and other health professionals.

According to the 2001 census there were 706,539 Pakistanis in England of which 650,516 identified themselves as Muslim. Forty-three per cent of all Muslims in England are Pakistani. In 2007 the Office for National Statistics provided population estimates for mid-2005 and estimated the Pakistani population in England to have grown to 825,500 by this point. Based on the same growth rate and the census data on religion the Pakistani population in England in mid-2008 would be 899,0005 and the Pakistani Muslim population would be 827,080.

Of the three South Asian communities, the Pakistani community is the most evenly spread across the UK, although it is still concentrated in particular areas – Lancashire, Yorkshire, West Midlands and Greater London. Greater London, as a whole has the largest Pakistani population, but at the local authority level Birmingham has the largest Pakistani population followed by Bradford and Kirklees. More than half of the Pakistani population growth since 1991 is accounted for by UK born Pakistanis. Currently Bradford has the largest proportion of its total population (15%) identifying themselves as of Pakistani origin in England.

Pakistanis encompass a number of distinct regional and linguistic groups including Pathans, Punjabis, Mirpuris, Sindhis and Balochis. There are no accurate figures available but it is estimated that 60 per cent of the Pakistani population is from the Mirpur District of Kashmir and settled mainly in Birmingham, Bradford, Oldham and surrounding towns. In London the community is more mixed.

1.3 Identity, religion and language

The identity of different generations varies, with the elders from the first generation still feeling a strong connection towards their country of birth. The second generation also has a deep connection to Pakistan, but to a much lesser extent than their parents. The third generation of young people see themselves as primarily British and this forms a strong part of their identity. As the country of birth of their parents and grandparents, they still have a deep personal or psychological association with Pakistan, but one that is a substantially diminished part of their own personal identity in comparison to their parents. However, the majority of community members of all ages and generations unequivocally describe themselves as British Muslims.

The identity issue has become more critical for young people post 9/11 and 7/7. The mass increase in Islamophobia, negative publicity and the general perception about Muslims, are causing many young people to feel unsupported by the British system and culture, and made to feel like strangers in what they consider as their home. Young Pakistanis who are also navigating their way through multiple identity paradigms, both ethnic and religious and emerging identities are not solely linked to a historical past or a cultural present informed and influenced solely by their Pakistani heritage. For a generation of young Pakistanis growing up in the UK, a ‘pan-ethnic’ identity, informed through contact and interaction with the wide range of cultures that form the Muslim diaspora in the UK, is part of the process of being British.

According to the 2001 Census, 98 per cent of Pakistanis in England are Muslim6, with a small (1%) Christian minority. The majority of Pakistanis are Sunni Muslims, though there are smaller numbers of Shi’a Muslims. The four most important movements in the UK are the Deobandis and Tablighi Jamaat, Barelvis or Sunni Sufis, the Jamaat-e Islami and the Ahl-e-Hadith. Other groups with a more Arab influence are the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafis, and Hizb ut-Tahrir. Communities did not arrive in the UK with an automatic loyalty to these movements. This had to be won in the early period of community formation. Between the 1960s and the 1980s, when the sectarian segmentation of mosques was most noticeable, this could be seen in the fierce rivalry for mosque control that was mostly played out between the Deobandi influenced outreach movement, the Tablighi Jamaat, and the Pakistani Sufi orders known as the Barelvis.

Key religious organisations for British Pakistanis include the UK Islamic Mission, the British Muslim Forum, the Union of Muslim Organisations, the Islamic Society of Britain and its youth arm, Young Muslims. The Federation of Islamic Student Societies (FOSIS) also represents a significant number of Pakistani youth, as does the Muslim Student Trust. There are also a number of representative bodies which provide a platform for mosques in specific regional or local areas.

There is some difference of opinion concerning the main language spoken by Pakistanis in Britain, which may in part be related to the different parts of the country that respondents come from. Some suggest that Urdu is the most widely spoken, whilst others believe that Punjabi is, in both mainstream Punjabi and Mirpuri dialect forms. There is consensus however that the Urdu script is the most widely used for reading and writing. Other main languages and dialects include Pashto, Sindhi, Saraiki and Balochi. Young people communicate mostly in English.

1.4 Socio economic status

The Pakistani population is one of the most economically disadvantaged ethnic groups in the UK, and are more likely to be considered ‘poor’ under official classifications than their white counter parts. However, macro-analyses and population averages hide considerable regional, class and ethnic variations. Despite being below-average on most socio-economic indicators, the Pakistani population is steadily improving its educational (secondary and tertiary) and labour market outcomes.

Whilst there is still a substantial gap between the educational attainment of pupils of Pakistani heritage and the national average, increasing numbers of young Pakistanis, male and female, are successfully entering higher education and moving into the professional sphere occupations. There are indications that the economic trajectory of the Pakistani community is now beginning to mirror that of the indigenous population, with a majority middle or aspiring middle class, alongside an underclass of mainly young people who have left school with no qualifications and are caught up in drugs and criminality. Whilst officially unemployed, many are part of a thriving and ‘informal economy’.

1.5 Intergenerational dynamics, young people and the role of women in the community

Respondents reported that a key area of concern between the generations is the loss of culture and tradition. This particularly concerns the first generation, and, to an extent, the second generation, who feel that the third generation is losing its cultural and religious identity. Additionally, existing community support structures that were established to meet the needs of the earlier generations have not kept pace with the changing needs of the

community, particularly young people and women, and traditional leadership has not been able to transform community organisations, structures and means of service delivery to serve the needs of young people.

Whilst the Pakistani community is facing similar differences and communication difficulties between the generations as other communities, interviewees stressed that there is still a great deal of respect for one another’s achievements. Young people spoke about the need to develop better communication and understanding with their parents in order to bridge the gaps that exist, and many older people express a strong pride in the educational, professional and social advances made by their young people. However, there is also a high level of criticism of those young people who are attracted towards extremism and violence and towards drug use and crime.

There is acute concern within the community about the influence of those promoting and recruiting young people to extremist and violent interpretations of Islam. Older generations in particular feel that there is an ideological battle taking place with a wide range of external and international actors involved and that unless the community actively engages internally with its young generation, external forces will dominate and determine the future direction of the community.

Unlike their mother’s generation, who were largely restricted to the home, most young women have the expectation of working and developing their professional careers. Pakistani girls and women are outperforming their male counterparts in compulsory and higher education, and women are becoming more visible in all walks of life: corporate, media, political and community based. Leadership is being demonstrated through a growing number of women who are taking a leading role in politics and other arenas as councillors, mayors, journalists, and by women in high profile jobs in the public sector. However, women stress that they still have to reconcile these aspirations and goals within the framework of a patriarchal culture – ‘to be someone in a man’s world’.

Women’s organisations try and address some of the barriers women and girls face but these kinds of organisations, such as the Henna Foundation and the An-Nisa Society, are rare and poorly resourced. Similarly, a limited number of nascent national Muslim women organisations have emerged in recent years including the Muslim Women’s Network, but these represent a range of ethnicities and also face funding constraints. Some male organisations are beginning to be more inclusive of women and have opened up their premises for more activities and planned events which are organised and led by women, for women. However there is still a long way to go before women gain parity and equal status within the community.

1.6 Cohesion and integration

Many of the Pakistani Muslims who took part in this study are critical about current debates about integration and cohesion. They feel that these debates only arise when there is a sense of public crisis, and that these ignore the reality of a multicultural Britain in which communities by and large live side by side in harmony and mutual respect. The use of the term integration is particularly resented, as it is felt to imply a one sided focus on minority communities, as opposed to being promoted as a two way process. There is also a widespread view that no matter how much minorities try, the majority community will never accept them as truly British. Some are also very critical about the low levels of awareness and lack of interest in the host community about minority communities and cultures.

There is a high level of anger about the perceived increase in Islamophobia in British society and the stereotyping of all Muslims as potential terrorists or terrorist sympathisers. This makes people feel that their loyalty and British identity is being questioned. Most people in the community believe that, like mainstream society, the majority of Pakistanis view acts of terrorism as a serious crime and hence the exploitation of terms to link all Muslims with terrorism is a very serious issue.

Whilst undeniably there are some young Pakistanis that are influenced by extremist ideologies, young people in this study were on the whole more positive about integration than older people, and recognised that communities and individuals have to sacrifice and lose a part of their culture in the process on both sides, incomers and the host community. Some young people proposed that differences in cultural values and lifestyles play a significant role in integration. Paradoxically, some also felt that in some ways young people are more segregated and ‘tribal’ than the older generation was and less likely to step outside their own culture and peer group.

1.7 Media and links with country of origin

Perceptions of the UK media are extremely negative and the overwhelming view is that the media is completely anti-Muslim. Most people believe that Muslims only ever make the news as terrorists, fundamentalists or extremists, and air time is generally devoted to people who either speak against Muslims or to Muslims with distorted radical ideologies of their own which do not reflect the views of the majority. Most believe that with such a hostile media, there is no hope of the true nature of Islam to be appreciated by the general public.

Whilst most people use the mainstream British press and TV for news and entertainment, there is also a considerable amount of media consumption that is of Pakistani origin. This includes a wide range of satellite TV channels, both Islamic and entertainment based, radio stations, printed media and the internet. Much of the Pakistani media is of more interest to the older generation, whereas younger people are more likely to access information on the internet and via TV than from the print media.

Pakistani families have maintained close links with Pakistan and their families there since their arrival in the UK but these links are weakening with the third generation. Travel between Pakistan and the UK has consistently been a strong link and sending of remittances to families has been a critical element of connection, and whilst the tradition is still maintained, it is not at the same level as the days of early migration.

Pakistanis remain highly engaged with the political situation as it unfolds in Pakistan, and there are many formal visits by politicians both ways. Another key influence that drives political links is the effort by Pakistani political parties to establish their political structures and affiliations in the UK. These parties have local office bearers in Britain, which creates a local medium for political, social and religious links for individuals and groups, as well as fundraising in the UK.

There are substantial business and commercial links between Pakistanis in the UK and their country of origin. Additionally, the existence of various national charitable organisations that work in Pakistan and Kashmir have also helped in maintaining close links.

1.8 Civil society and civic engagement

The civil society infrastructure varies across different parts of the country. Due to the size and duration of the Pakistani community in the UK, its civil society structures are relatively well developed. In general, the Pakistani community has made limited use of the mainstream civic institutions such as leisure centres and other voluntary sector services. The emphasis has been on separate facilities, which have largely been catered through self funding and some through public grants. There are now literally thousands of associations and support organisations focusing either specifically on the community, or catering for South Asians in a broader sense. Many civil society organisations are religiously informed, and it is difficult to separate discussions about civil society from discussions about religion. Mosque structures have existed for quite some time and have played a primary role in community development over the years.

Mosques and religious leaders have historically been seen as a key influence, but there is a growing feeling that mosques are no longer able to maintain this leadership role. Many management committees are seen to be stuck in the old and traditional approaches which are incompatible with the needs of the younger generation. The most influential people cited repeatedly by respondents after parents and family are local councillors and successful businessmen.

The Pakistani community is actively engaged in local and national politics. Until the 1970s, entry into the public and political sphere was largely in response to concerns about racism and discrimination experienced by Pakistanis and other black and minority ethnic communities in the UK. Political affiliation also developed along UK mainstream party political lines, with the majority of the Pakistani community traditionally viewing the Labour Party as a natural

home. This has changed over time and affiliation now cuts across all three major parties as well as new ones such as the Respect Party. Whilst engagement to date has predominantly involved men, recent years have seen a rise in the number of Pakistani women occupying positions in the public and political realms.

The character of Pakistani political participation has also significantly evolved and is increasingly based on religious identity and Muslim community concerns. This development is said to have had its genesis in the 1980s as a consequence of Muslim organisations and religious groups responding to the publication of the Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. The incident is believed to have energised pre-existing Muslim community organisations and networks into a new political and social activism, influencing the emergence of new groups such as the Muslim Parliament and the Muslim Council of Britain. This activism has since been reinforced in response to heightened security and counter-terrorism concerns that many feel discriminate against Muslims and demonstrate a pervasive Islamophobia.

Perceptions about the UK government vary from community to community and person to person. However the perception of unconditional support by the Blair government for American policy on Iraq and Afghanistan has had a considerably negative impact on the level of support that exists for the government. In terms of the wider interests of the community, people appear to be generally happy with the government’s policies on health, employment and social welfare.

At local levels there is a strong feeling that small ethnic minority voluntary organisations are being squeezed out by numerous consortiums and forums that now seem to control all funding flows in local areas. These are seen to be dominated by white voluntary or statutory sector staff in full time paid posts, whilst people from the community who are often struggling without pay and resources, or who do not have the appropriate language and communication skills, are being excluded or marginalised. There is also a lot of cynicism about general consultation exercises by local and central government agencies. Many people believe that most of the time public authorities come to them to conduct consultations and questionnaires purely because their own delivery plans requires them to do so, rather than out of any genuine desire to consult or engage communities.

The identified civil society capacity development needs are seen as not very different to the development needs of mainstream communities and voluntary organisations and include: community development funding to support micro community groups, education and training for community groups and management committees to address local needs, consultation that leads to real action in the form of programmes and activities to meet identified community needs, and better coordination and networking to share information and resources and to develop joint provision.

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