Wednesday, September 19

The specific pattern of Muslim immigrants’ integration in the UK

A recent research paper delves deeper into "Are Muslims successfully resisting integration in the UK? And are Muslims who belong to certain socio-economic or demographic groups more likely to integrate than others?"

The authors find that British Muslims are characterised with a stronger sense of religious identity. Also, "In particular, Muslims are on average less educated than non-Muslims, with a lower household income, and with more than a double probability to be unemployed. Muslims also live in more ethnically-segregated areas, which have higher unemployment rates."


Our analysis reveals that the integration pattern adopted by Muslim immigrants in the UK contains in fact several important specific aspects. For non-Muslims, a high level of education (being highly educated in Britain) and a high level of job qualification (being a manager) are among the most important factors that decrease their sense of identity. For Muslims, instead, education does not seem to have any effect on the attenuation of their identity and, on the contrary, being a manager as well as having a high income seems to strengthen their religious faith. Consistently, Muslims living in areas with lower unemployment rates seem to show a higher identity. The picture that emerges from the data is that although Muslims are less likely to become managers than non-Muslims and are poorer, those who succeed show a stronger religious identity.

This is an interesting finding and shows that Muslims (mostly Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indians) react much slower to integration and migration than non-Muslims (Caribbean, Chinese, and non-Muslim Indians, etc.).

I think the conclusion of the report is important enough to quote in full:

We conclude that the evidence about Muslim integration in the UK speaks in favour of its specificity. But the specific pattern of integration we document in our sample for Muslim immigrants in the UK stands somewhat in contrast to the intellectual foundation of most immigration policy in Europe, with its focus on economic achievement and geographic integration: a stronger resistance to cultural integration on the part of Muslim immigrants (in the form of intense ethnic/religious identity) is relatively more prevalent between the more successful and better educated immigrants, and in the less segregated and better-off neighbourhoods.

We should be very careful before drawing policy implications from our analysis. First of all, we only have data for the mid-90s. Most importantly, we are simply documenting differences in behaviour across groups rather than causal relationships. Our analysis of integration should in any case obviously not be interpreted to favour shying away from economic support to the immigrants and/or to favour the formation of ghettoes. It does, however, cast some doubts on simple-minded policies favouring geographic and social integration (as well as school integration, for instance) under the optimistic belief that geographic and social integration breed cultural integration. It is possibly true that "when we leave work, most of us leave multi-ethnic Britain behind" (Trevor Phillips – head of the Commission on Racial Equality in the UK). But our analysis suggests that this may not be the real problem. The presence of unresolved forms of ethnic and religious discrimination, which appear predominant in culturally diverse and mixed environments, and perhaps more acute towards successful members of the minorities, may actually be the initial locus to look at for the design of a sensible integration policy .

All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!!!

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