THE MUSLIM IMAGE SEEN FROM UK
By Dr. Terry Lacey
August 03 , 2009
With British army dead in Afghanistan already greater than in Iraq, 52 percent of British voters want troops out now from a war where there can be no military victory. But the fate of Afghanistan will be decided in Pakistan.
The UK press recently reported bombs in Indonesia, Iraq and Pakistan. Hundreds are reported dead in clashes with an Islamist cult in Nigeria. When the Sunday Times does a report on the increasing use of sharia law in the UK it prints a negative picture of a sharia flogging, although the article is fairly positive.
The clampdown on the Iranian protesters was emphasized in the UK press but often without balanced reports that 62 percent of Iranians voted for President Ahmadinejad, with no clear evidence of substantive electoral malpractice.
Iranian democracy despite its compromise with theocracy remains substantially more democratic than most Arab or South Asian countries.
With the UK and Europe in recession, rising unemployment, falling incomes, the housing crisis and increased support for right wing and racist political parties, there are fundamental problems facing Muslim communities in the West.
Sadiq Khan, one of the four Muslim MPs in the British Parliament pointed out in 2008 that 62 percent of the 1.6 million British Muslims are either Pakistani or Bangladeshi, and that Muslims have the highest economic inactivity rate of any group in the UK (47.3 percent) and the highest rate of unemployment (16 percent).
Khan reported that 39 percent of all UK Muslims have no qualifications at all compared to 29 percent of the UK population, while 60 percent of Pakistani children, and 72 percent of Bangladeshi children in the UK are raised in poverty, compared to 25 percent of white children. And Pakistanis and Bangladeshis have the highest birth rate in the UK. (Fabian Society Pamphlet 624/2008).
After ten years of a Labour Government elected with Muslim support, integration has failed. The majority of Pakistani and Bangladeshi migrants have simply moved from poverty in Pakistan and Bangladesh to poverty in the UK.
The majority of UK Muslim migrants are trapped in a culture of under-development, low wages, unemployment and poverty with many not speaking enough English to break out of the ghetto.
Young Muslim women in the UK do much better at school than young Muslim men, but face barriers against improved education or economic advancement from conservative parents, and even forced marriages and sometimes honor killings.
And young Muslim men are disproportionately represented in jail, along with young British blacks.
Perhaps the time is coming when the alternative of fighting your way out of poverty in Bangladesh or Pakistan will be a better option than bringing your children up in poverty in the UK as part of a marginalized ethnic and religious group.
Much greater effort is needed to tackle underdevelopment and poverty in Pakistan and Bangladesh, preferably with more help from Middle East sovereign funds and Islamic financing, and increased trade and investment between Muslim and southern countries, as the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) advocates.
Meanwhile in the UK after a decade of Labour government, the gap between rich and poor is wider, while freedom and liberty have been eroded by excessive over-reactions to the now-discredited Global War on Terror.
Muslim supporters of the Labour Party must be wondering why so many Pakistani and Bangladeshi children in UK still face poverty, low incomes, and less prospects of employment than the rest of society.
No-one has clear answers to this massive failure in British social policy or the failure of these large migrant groups to adapt to British conditions and integrate better into the economy and society.
The focus on a potentially disastrous long war against the Taliban and their Pushtu sympathizers in Helmand province in Afghanistan is already moving to negotiations and an exit strategy.
Maybe its more important, for security reasons as well economic and social justice, to fight and win the war against poverty in Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in the back streets of Britain.
Dr. Terry Lacey
Dr. Terry Lacey is a development economist who writes from Jakarta, Indonesia, on modernization in the Muslim world, investment and trade relations with the EU and Islamic banking.
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