A STATISTICAL MAPPING OF MUSLIMS IN BRITAIN
A major statistical lacuna in relation to the sociology of minorities in Britain is the lack of data on Muslims and other minority faiths. This has major social policy implications, for Muslims constitute a larger group than any other non-European origin minority. They are probably more numerous than South Asians, being the single biggest non-white group. They are more likely than South Asians to organise themselves under a single identity (indeed it is noticeable that there is no single national body that attempts to bring South Asians together). Moreover, most of the South Asians with the greatest social needs are Muslims.
This neglect of Muslims and other religious minorities has its roots in the sociological and policy focus on 'race' and ethnicity in relation to the post-war migrants from outside Europe (Modood, 1992 and 2000). Whilst the idea that all those of non-European stock are 'black' is no longer central to these frameworks, it is still the case that there is no legislation against religious discrimination and all analyses of minority exclusion from positions of wealth, power and influence are by reference to ethnic and racial groups - partly because that is the only data available. It is common for the police, the BBC or the Civil Service to say that they wish to employ more blacks and Asians; unlikely for such organisations to have any awareness of their under-representation of Muslims, let alone to take action on it.
It is rare for any major survey in the field of social exclusion to have a religion variable but the PSI Fourth National Survey of Ethnic Minorities is an exception (Modood et al, 1997). It was thus able to establish that religion and religious identity is of great importance to South Asians; that forty per cent of South Asians who said that they had suffered racial discrimination in looking for work believed that prejudice against their religion was a factor; and that the mainly Muslim Pakistanis and Bangladeshis suffered a level of disadvantage that was much greater than that of other non-white groups.
Consequently, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), has been prominent in an inter-faith alliance to argue successfully for the need for a religion question in the 2001 Census (the first time it will appear since 1851). As with other census data, the purpose is to collect data that will be useful to the government and other agencies in relation to present and future housing, educational, health, employment trends and the needs of distinct groups of the population.
It is already clear, however, that in relation to religious groups and their needs this purpose is not going to be fulfilled without further effort. The Office of National Statistics (ONS), the body responsible for the public provision of census data, has announced that, unlike its treatment of ethnicity, it will only provide two cross-tabulations using the religion question: Gender and Age by Religion, and Gender and Ethnic Group by Religion. This will be clearly inadequate for health services and local authorities planning local services, as well as members of the public and NGOs, who will have to think up what tables they want, order them from the ONS and pay for them. It is no exaggeration to say that this administrative decision seriously compromises the political decision to include the religion question.
The MCB has therefore come to the view that extra expertise will have to be devoted to the Census if the religion question is to fulfil the practical goal for which its inclusion was intended. It is therefore, in this proposal, uniting with academics who can help to train and guide a researcher who can extend the analysis of the Census to meet this goal. The primary purpose is one of developing a community resource, an expert on Muslim statistics, who can analyse, interpret and disseminate statistics to, and draw out their implications for government agencies, service providers, the voluntary sector, pressure groups, political parties and so on. This will ensure that accurate and relevant data about Muslims is widely available so that it may be used to inform and engage with policy priorities and public perceptions. Additionally, the researcher should situate the new policy interest in religious communities within a broader understanding of the contested (self-)construction of 'minorities' by 'race', 'ethnicity' and so on, exploring how shifting power relations, discourses and social change crystalise in the rise and fall of certain conceptualisations and data constructions.
The PhD thesis will consist of a search and review of all existing data that could be relevant to identifying the demography of the Muslim communities and their needs, and evaluating its usefulness and compiling key statistics for dissemination by the MCB and others. Some secondary analysis of data-sets such as the Fourth Survey will be appropriate here. Qualitative data sources would be also be utilised for assistance they gave in interpreting the quantitative data and for providing evidence on social issues, such as drug use or forced marriage or religious discrimination, where quantitative data do not exist. This part of the thesis will be undertaken in the period before the 2001 Census data is available (it should start coming on stream from mid-2002). The MCB already has made a start on this and will make available its draft reviews as well as its own database of Muslim electors with their addresses and postcodes, which has not yet been made available to the public or utilised for analytical purposes. The analytical power of the latter, especially thorough the use of postcodes, is considerable, as has recently been demonstrated in analysing university admissions by social classes, not to mention its obvious potential for creating an electoral map of Muslim Britain. When available, the Census data will be utilised to pursue the above goals (we are assuming that the ESRC and the ONS will make as good a range of the 2001 data available to the social science community, as they did with the 1991 data). The use of statistics will be used with accompanying reflection on ways which data collection 'defines' groups and social problems.
The completed thesis will be a comprehensive review of what data are available on Muslims in Britain, the intellectual and social context of their construction, the methodologies that can yield the best analytical results, the policy and future research implications and guidance on how the data can be useful to the Muslim community.
Dissemination and advising on policy implications will clearly be a key component of the project and will be done with the support of the MCB and its organisational facilities during and at the end of the project in the form of seminars to the professional and voluntary sector, through publications in these sectors and the media, and thorough academic meetings and publications.