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Islamophobia curbs job prospects for Muslims in Britain, says study

Young Muslims said they faced stereotyping from teachers and struggled to find role models due to a lack of Muslim staff.
LONDON: Islamophobia is curbing employment opportunities for Muslim men and women in Britain according to a new study.
It found that just one in five Muslim adults is in full-time employment.
Research from the Social Mobility Commission, the UK government’s social mobility watchdog, pointed to widespread discrimination and Islamophobia in the workplace, with less than 20 percent of Muslim adults in full-time work, compared to 34.9 percent of the overall population.
The discrimination starts in schools, where despite strong performance in education, and reports of a high work ethic and resilience among Muslim students, success fails to translate into career opportunities, the report found.
Young Muslims said they faced stereotyping from teachers and struggled to find role models due to a lack of Muslim staff. According to the study, many Muslim students feel targeted by bullies and believe they have to work harder than other students to succeed.
A previous report by the Social Mobility Commission found that young people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds were outperforming students from other ethnic groups in schools but less likely to gain employment at the professional or managerial level.
According to the latest study, Muslims as a whole account for just 6 percent of people occupying these roles, compared to 10 percent of the overall population.
“Muslims experience the greatest economic disadvantages of any group in UK society,” said the report’s author, professor Jacqueline Stevenson at Sheffield Hallam University, which led the research. “They are more likely than non-Muslims to experience neighborhood deprivation, housing, educational and health disadvantage, and unemployment,” she added.
The latest study, which was based on focus group discussions and interviews, cited several obstacles faced by young Muslims in schools and later on in the workplace.
Some of those interviewed described being singled out for wearing a hijab or having an ethnic-sounding name. One Muslim women reported that her father had suggested she change her name to help get a job and others spoke of feeling alienated at work or overlooked for promotion due to their faith.
Community pressure on Muslim women can also be a factor in hindering access to employment. According to the study, restrictions on Muslim women are often greater than those on Muslim men.
“Traditional attitudes toward the role and place of women within the family can also have a negative effect on the social mobility of Muslim women, particularly concerning their employment opportunities,” the report said.
In the 16 to 74 age range, 18 percent of Muslim women were found to be “looking after home and family” compared to 6 percent of the overall female population.
Women who wear the hijab face particular problems in the workplace. In June this year, an estate agent working in Bury filed a complaint against her employer after she was allegedly told to remove her black hijab due to its “terrorist affiliations.” The claimant, who did not wish to be named, said a colleague reported feeling “intimidated and scared” by the garment.
“Young Muslim women, whether they attend schools, colleges or work in professional environments, should never have to feel that they have to compromise their religious beliefs or water down their Muslim identity for fear of intimidating people of other or no faith,” she said.
A recent report by Hope Not Hate on attitudes toward race and immigration in the UK detailed the increasing polarization of Muslims in Britain and the rise in anti-Muslim sentiment. In the wake of recent terror attacks in the country, 42 percent of people surveyed said they were more suspicious of Muslims in Britain while just 10 percent of the population identified themselves as being “similar” to Muslims.
“Young Muslims feel a real challenge in maintaining their identity while seeking to succeed in Britain,” said Stevenson. Some respond by asserting their Muslim identity while others feel pressured to hide it, she added. “Muslims are excluded, discriminated against, or failed, at all stages of their transition from education to employment. Taken together, these contributory factors have profound implications for social mobility.”
Iman Atta, director of Tell Mama, a UK-based group that monitors Islamophobia, referred to a “Muslim penalty” in salaried jobs.
“Our research found that ‘Homemaking’ women in relatively deprived neighborhoods are less likely to become employed and those women residing in those areas who are employed are more likely than others to become unemployed,” she said.
“Misconceptions about cultural differences, and false assumptions that Muslim women prioritize family life over work leads to ‘significant discrimination’ at the recruitment and career advancement stages.”