British Muslims say life is improving but prejudice at work remains a worry

Survey reveals more job opportunities and public role models, although nearly 70 per cent have faced racial discrimination in workplace

A nationwide survey of more than 1,500 British Muslims reveals that life overall has improved for them in the UK over the past five years. Reuters
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More than half of UK Muslims believe their lives are better today than they were five years ago but concern over discrimination in the workplace is high, a recent nationwide survey found.

The poll by Savanta ComRes, asked 1,503 British Muslims 12 questions on topics ranging from their financial situation to their opportunities for success.

The results revealed a general optimism, with more than two thirds of respondents noting an increased participation in society by Muslims over the past five years and 72 per cent saying they thought Muslims’ contribution to the economy had risen during the same period.

The survey, carried out on behalf of Hyphen, a new Muslim-focused digital magazine, includes the views of 700 people aged 18 to 24, of whom 69 per cent agreed that there were more “Muslim role models in the UK that inspire them”.

“Young Muslims, in particular those born in the UK, have grown up more comfortable with the interaction between their religious identity and Britishness,” said Emma Levin, senior consultant at Savanta ComRes. “With more and more representation in business, entertainment, politics and sport, this trend looks set to continue in the coming years.”

In recent years, the high-profile successes of British Muslims such as Oscar winner Riz Ahmed, Great British Bake-Off star Nadiya Hussain and footballers Mo Salah and Sadio Mane have done a lot to increase the positive visibility of Muslims in the UK.

More than half of those who answered the survey said they thought acceptance of Muslims had increased in the past five years and almost 60 per cent thought life in the UK was better for them than in other countries in Western Europe

Nevertheless, the general optimism in the survey, in which 53 per cent felt that “life overall” had improved over the past five years, compared with 19 per cent who said things felt worse, was tempered by two major worries.

The cost-of-living crisis ― a concern across the board in the UK ― and Islamophobia in the workplace were cited as issues that had worsened over the years.

Sixty-nine per cent of Muslims who completed the survey said they had experienced some form of racial discrimination at work, while 46 per cent said religious discrimination on the job had worsened in the past five years.

Increasing Islamophobia in the UK has been a concern for campaigners, politicians and monitoring groups for some time.

Home Office statistics show that for 2019-2020, offences against Muslims made up 50 per cent of all recorded hate crimes, although that figure reduced the following year to 45 per cent for 2020-2021.

Britain’s Conservative Party has been criticised for not tackling Islamophobia in the country or among its own membership.

Last year, a review led by Prof Swaran Singh found that “anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem” in the party.

The Labour Party has also been accused of failing to act on growing Islamophobia among its membership.

Earlier this year, a survey from the University of Birmingham found that the British public are almost three times more likely to hold prejudiced views of Islam than they are of other religions.

Updated: June 08, 2022, 1:23 PM