Employment opportunities for Muslims in the UK Contents

1The Government’s approach to integration and opportunity

9.In this chapter we discuss the Government’s approach to integration and opportunity, which sets the context for considering employment opportunities for Muslims in the UK.

Recent Government announcements

10.The Government has announced a series of reviews and initiatives relevant to the disadvantages faced by Muslims. These have focused on integration, with other work attempting to tackle aspects of discrimination and inequality in employment and higher education.

Casey Review

11.In October 2015 the Government announced a major new review into “integration and opportunity for isolated and segregated communities” to “help break down the barriers between communities”. It is being led by Dame Louise Casey. When our report was agreed on 12 July, the Casey Review was scheduled to be published in July.8 This review was announced as part of a new counter-extremism strategy9 (see discussion later in this chapter on separating integration from counter-extremism).

ESOL funding

12.Writing in The Times, in January 2016, the Prime Minister announced £20 million of additional funding to promote ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes for Muslim women as part of the Casey Review:

The new English language scheme will reach tens of thousands of the most isolated women and will be targeted to specific communities based on Louise Casey’s ongoing review into segregation in England.10

13.In his article the Prime Minister said: “issues like gender segregation and discrimination and the isolation of some women in society could help lead to a slide towards radicalisation and extremism.”11 We will discuss this further in this chapter. The provision of ESOL is also discussed in Chapters 2 and 4.

Inter-Ministerial Group and the BME 2020 challenge

14.During the 2015 general election campaign, David Cameron announced his vision that by 2020 employment rates, participation in higher education, and apprenticeships and business loans for people from BME backgrounds will each have increased by 20%.12 The 2020 targets are being coordinated by an Inter-Ministerial Group led by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and President of the Board of Trade, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP. They do not include specific ethnic or religious categories. We will explore these targets further in Chapter 4.

15.As part of the 2020 targets, a review of BME progression in the workplace will be led by Baroness McGregor-Smith, the CEO of Mitie Group plc. This is due to report in late 2016. The terms of reference were published on 1 April 201613 and like the 2020 targets, do not expand ethnicity categories.

Sir John Parker’s Review

16.In December 2014, the then Business Secretary, Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable announced that Sir John Parker would lead a review looking at BME representation on the boards of companies. When Baroness McGregor-Smith’s review was announced in February 2016, the Government confirmed that this review would be complemented by the work of Sir John Parker. Its aim is to “end mono-cultural boards in the FTSE 100 boards by 2020”.14

The Coalition Government’s integration strategy

17.Under the previous Coalition Government, work on integration was guided by the Department for Communities and Local Government’s (DCLG) strategy, Creating the conditions for integration.15 This identified five components to the Government’s work on integration:

Anti Muslim Hatred Working Group

18.As part of this this strategy, the ‘Anti Muslim Hatred Working Group’ was set-up in 2012 to: “[ … ] consider and take forward proposals to tackle Anti Muslim hatred”, “engage with Muslim communities” and “advise Government on how best to take forward key priorities.”16

19.According to a Parliamentary Question in the House of Lords from October 2015, activities of the Group included:

[ … ] training for journalists to tackle the negative portrayal of Muslims in the media; encouraging increased reporting and recording of Anti Muslim incidents and online abuse; supporting social media workshops to build the capacity of community organisations to promote positive narratives; and facilitating a number of regional road shows to engage communities on integration and tackling Anti Muslim hatred. The group also worked on the issue of disaggregation of Anti Muslim hate crime data.17

Project funding

20.The Creating the conditions for integration strategy included funding, and in a statement in 2014, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, set out a list of funded projects explaining that the Department expected their total spend on integration projects from 2010–2015 to be £50 million.18 One of these projects was the Near Neighbours programme which was launched by the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in 2011 to bring “together people from diverse communities and different faiths to get to know each other better and help them improve their local neighbourhoods.”19

21.In 2015 the Department for Communities and Local Government announced funding for civil society projects which aimed to help strengthen and support faith institutions across England based around the five key themes in its strategy.20

Current Government strategy

22.When we were first established as a Committee many organisations were expressing concern about a lack of clarity about the Government’s overall strategy for race equality.21 Overall responsibility for equality strategy and legislation across Government lies with the Government’s Equalities Office (GEO), but the Department for Communities and Local Government leads on integration, race and faith policy and community issues.22

23.We wrote to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Baroness Williams of Trafford in January 2016 to ask for more information about coordination between DCLG and the GEO and whether the Government planned to produce a public cross-departmental race equality strategy.23 Her response did not address the question relating to a strategy and instead focused on the Prime Minister’s 2020 targets.24

24.In evidence to us Baroness Williams confirmed that the 2010–2015 Integration strategy remained in place. When we pressed her on how this approach worked in practice, she told us:

Personally, from DCLG I attend various IMGs [Inter Ministerial Groups] on this subject and also sit on the GEO board. This is a whole Government approach, rather than having it in one department, with other departments not engaged in it. It looks cumbersome, maybe because it is across Government, but there should be a whole Government approach to this.25

Separation of strategy from counter-extremism

25.Some of the most significant concerns we heard during this inquiry were about Government initiatives on integration being linked to counter-extremism. In the course of this inquiry we came across individual Muslims who were reluctant to engage with us for fear that our inquiry was part of the Prevent programme. During our visit to Luton, Muslim participants told us Government interventions made them wary and that they felt they were being treated as a suspect community. The Prevent strategy was cited as a significant source of tension.

26.Since 2001 there have been several different Prevent strategies operated by different governments. Most recently, the Counter-Extremism and Security Act 2015 has introduced a ‘Prevent duty’ on a range of public authorities, including schools, universities and prisons requiring them to take steps to prevent radicalisation, for example by conducting risk assessments or by reporting suspicious behaviour.

27.In his evidence to us Raheel Mohammed from Maslaha raised concerns about the negative effect of the Prevent duty on teachers, pupils and families:

The Prevent duty, which became a duty in 2015, has had a negative effect in terms of how teachers work in schools, but there is also the knock-on effect that has both on families and on pupils. That will affect aspirations.26

28.The Coalition Government noted the issues with linking counter-terrorism work to integration in its 2011 counter-terrorism strategy, CONTEST:

Prevent must not–as it has it the past–assume control of funding for integration projects which have a purpose and value far wider than security and counter-terrorism. The Government will not securitise its integration work: that would be neither effective, proportionate nor necessary. [ … ] We must mobilise and empower communities not give the impression that they need to be convinced terrorism is wrong.27

29.Witnesses to our inquiry were critical of the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of additional funding for ESOL in which he said:

Issues like gender segregation and discrimination and the isolation of some women in society could help lead to a slide towards radicalisation and extremism.28

Sufia Alam told us that linking the additional ESOL funding with extremism increased pressure on Muslim women:

I know it is in the Prevent agenda and I cannot understand why. It is putting pressure on people and it is quite draconian in the approach, especially for Muslim women. It should be that ESOL courses are welcomed by all women and you need that diversity within the ESOL courses as well to get people job-ready and ready for society.29

30.Witnesses also expressed concern about the impact that the Prime Minister’s statement had on stereotyping of British Muslim women. The Muslim Council of Britain told us:

It is about promoting again this fear that we are the other, and that Muslim women are kept at home, they do not integrate, they do not socialise and they are not part of British society and hence they do not bother to learn English. We are so diverse. It is only a handful of people and you have more and more people coming into the country—refugee status and immigrants. It was wrong to just put us in that category talking about Muslim women’s English-speaking ability.30

31.Miqdaad Versi from the Muslim Council of Britain raised concerns with us about the attention being given to the issue:

The funding for English speaking has gone down in the last five years. This idea that suddenly it is a big issue is quite frustrating, and in particular the focus on British Muslim women.31

32.In evidence to us, Minister for Skills, Nick Boles MP32 reinforced the Government’s position, linking a lack of English skills with isolation and being susceptible to extremism:

I said that there is a link between not speaking English and isolation, and some people who are isolated may then be more likely to fall prey to authority figures in their community who want to encourage them to take up extremist ideas.33

Measuring the effectiveness of initiatives

33.We also heard specific criticisms of some of the Government’s initiatives. Tell MAMA highlighted a lack of tangible action from the Anti Muslim Hatred Working Group in the last four years, arguing that this was due to a lack of strong political will across all Government departments behind it and no clear actionable robust work programme with real resources.34 A former member of the Working Group, Dr Chris Allen, argued that the group ‘had no bite, no influence, no impact’ and too much focus on community relations projects such as the ‘Big Iftar’ (a day during Ramadan where mosques are encouraged to welcome non-Muslim members of the communities to share in an evening meal) rather than targeted research and interventions.35

34.In evidence, Miqdaad Versi from the Muslim Council of Britain referred to the lack of action by the Group:

The Anti Muslim Hatred Working Group was set up by the Government [ … ] Three of the members have resigned because they feel like there is nothing being done on the topic. Obviously many people have remained but it is very interesting to see. In Matthew Goodwin’s article in The Guardian36 he is quite harsh about the fact that he felt the Government was not supporting the work there in an effective way.37

35.There is little publically available information about the Group, making it very difficult to assess its effectiveness.

Data quality

36.Throughout our inquiry witnesses have commented about a lack of detailed data and research on faith and race discrimination and disadvantage. The Muslim Council of Britain raised concerns with us about insufficient research being carried out and the reduction in funding for research.38

37.In their report, Rising to the Top,39 Demos raised concerns that the data being collected on British Muslim communities failed to recognise their diversity:

It is important to be aware of the limitations that exist when presenting data on a group as diverse as the British Muslim community. Cultural, ethnic and socio-economic diversity within the Muslim community must be noted, but data sources often do not allow for fine-grained analysis of these differences.40

38.In the past, data collected on ethnicity in which people identified as being of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage was used as a proxy for those of Muslim faith. However, we have heard evidence that this should be done cautiously:

Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims as the largest Muslim groups in the country are sometimes used as a statistical proxy for British Muslims, but this has become less accurate as the British Muslim community has grown. Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims currently account for only 53% of the British Muslim population.41

39.Witnesses did highlight that there are difficulties with asking people which religion they follow. The Minister for Skills suggested to us that whether someone considers themselves to be of a particular faith is not necessarily fixed.42

40.Nevertheless, others argued for the importance of better data collection and monitoring on religion. In evidence to us, Professor Stevenson spoke about the impact of a lack of data being compulsory collected on religion and belief in higher education (see also Chapter 3):

In the latest Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) data on religion and belief, 44% is the known data on students. That is because it is not collected in a compulsory manner, unlike that to do with ethnicity, gender and disability. In a conversation with HEFCE recently, when I was asking them why they were not doing any work to look at religion and higher education, their argument was, “We do not have robust data”.43

Conclusions and recommendations

41.The Government must work to rebuild trust with Muslim communities by adopting an approach to integration which focuses on how it improves the life chances of disadvantaged communities rather than through the lens of counter-extremism. The Government must set out how it will address the challenge and work to achieve equality for British Muslims. This aim is distinct and should be separated from the Government’s work to challenge extremism.

42.Despite a welcome focus from the Government on tackling disadvantage, it still lacks a coherent overarching plan with measurable objectives to tackle the inequalities faced by Muslims. The Government must introduce a plan to tackle the inequalities faced by Muslims by the end of the year. The 2020 challenge and McGregor Smith and Parker reviews must identify the distinct barriers that individuals from different groups face on the basis of their religion, ethnicity and migration history, and include specific policies to address the disadvantages faced by Muslim people.

43.Key to this is a drive to improve the quality of data so that employers, universities and the Government can all play their part in helping Muslim people achieve their potential. A lack of comprehensive data is hindering analysis of the barriers that Muslim people face in achieving equality of opportunity. This gives more weight to anecdotal evidence and undermines the analysis of policy efficacy. The Government needs to address this issue directly in its response to this Report, and outline how it intends to improve data collection, including timescales.


9 HM Government, Counter-Extremism Strategy, Cm 9148, October 2015

10 ’Passive tolerance’ of separate communities must end, says PM, Prime Minister’s Office press release, 18 January 2016

11 Ibid.

12 Conservative Home, Cameron’s message to ethnic minority voters, 25 April 2015

14 PQ 330 8 [on Directors: females], 8 April 2016

15 Department for Communities and Local Government, Creating the conditions for integration, 2012

16 PQ HL4504 [on Religious Hatred], 28 January 2015

17 PQ 134 8 [on Anti Muslim Hatred Working Group], 26 October 2015

18 Department for Communities and Local Government, Update on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s work on integration, 18 December 2014

19 Department for Communities and Local Government, Launch of Near Neighbours programme, 14 November 2011

20 Department for Communities and Local Government, Strengthening Faith Institutions: Specification, 2015

21 See, for example: Runnymede Trust, Who, exactly, is responsible for race equality in the government, 19 August 2015

22 Government Equalities Office, ‘About Us’, accessed 9 June 2016

24 Women and Equalities Committee, Letter from Parliamentary Under Secretary of State to Committee Chair, 25 January 2016

28 Prime Minister’s Office press release, Op. cit.

30 Q27 [Talat Ahmed]

32 The role of Minister for Skills is shared between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education.

36 The fight against Islamophobia is going backwards, The Guardian, 19 October 2015

38 Q24 [Miqdaad Versi]

39 Demos, Rising to the Top, 2015

40 Demos (MIE0031)

41 Fawcett Society (MIE0021)




© Parliamentary copyright 2015

3 August 2016