The government’s study into the social mobility challenges faced by young British Muslims once again shines a troubling spotlight on how race, class, Islamophobia and patriarchy within Muslim communities – and wider British society – is impacting the life chances and quality of life for a significant section of the British population.
It also further highlights the deepening fractures in our society. It is not inconsequential that the report from the government’s social mobility commission has been published days before the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and the subsequent normalisation of anti-Muslim rhetoric in so much of our political, social and media discourse.
It is important for this connection to be made if we want to understand the wider context behind why British Muslims are lagging so behind with social mobility. The impact of 9/11 and the so-called “war on terror” on the lives of young British Muslims cannot be separated from the avalanche of racism and Islamophobia, micro-aggressions and hate crimes many young people face and the impact this is having on all aspects of their lives, from mental and physical wellbeing to career prospects.
For millennial Muslims, often the only references they have to their Muslim identity – and to wider society’s understanding of it – is terrorism, continuous war in Muslim countries, the savagery of the Taliban, al-Qaida and Isis, “home-grown” jihadists, desperate refugees fleeing, images of sex grooming gangs, and oppressed and victimised women splashed across the newspapers and internet. When this is the only dominant image you see of yourself, there is a problem. When you as a young person are being told over and over that this is your identity unless you prove otherwise, this does not bode well for you as an individual or a constructive member of society.