Policy Exchange has released Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the paradox of multiculturalism, a major new survey of the attitudes of Muslims in
Britain. The research finds that there is a growing religiosity amongst the younger generation of Muslims and that they feel that they have less in common with non-Muslims than do their parents. The research shows that younger Muslims feel a profound unease with the culture of the West. “There is a particular concern for the perceived loss of values in
Britain, and a belief that Islam at least offers a moral alternative:
‘A lot of the values that used to be in Western society about fifty years ago have been lost. To me it seems there are no values left. I find that my religion at least provides us with a way of life where these values aren’t lost. Whether we choose to abide by them or not is a different matter’”
Female, Muslim, 24,
The clear implication is that young Muslims feel that immorality is the result of a decline in religion: “Some discussed how religion in general could be used as a helpful moral framework, and a way of living that could ensure a harmonious society…“Muslim respondents commented on how they felt much in common with people of other religions, who were also struggling against what they saw as the lack of values in mainstream of society:
“This isn’t because I’m a Muslim, I think that this is because I’m religious. I think if you ask any religious person this question, you will get the same answer because secular education for some reason doesn’t teach morals.” Female, Muslim, 21,
But the report does challenge this view in its commentary: “Many of us could sympathise with the view that adult authority has been undermined to too great a degree in
Britain today. A bit more respect from young people would be welcome. But how far should we accept the claim that these are “Muslim values” or even immigrant families’ values? Many ordinary families in
Britain adhere to…common standards of decency….To suggest that white or non-Muslim people need better values is to ignore the reality that most people do try to bring up their children with good intentions. There may well be lapses, but on the whole, people in the West live their lives and engage with others in a trusting and humane way, and are not the decadent, amoral beings that some Muslims seek to portray.
However some of the moral judgments of respondents are based on “ people’s lifestyle choices, rather than socially oriented issues such as justice, equality or fraternity. When young Muslims complain about the lack of values, they reveal a remarkable intolerance for other people’s personal behaviour. The overwhelming concerns for the more religious Muslims we spoke to were homosexuality, the overt sexuality of women, drugs and binge drinking….
The report does not engage with this fundamental clash of values but points out that these lifestyle choices are not as prevailant as they are characterized: while many non-Muslims would probably sympathise to some extent with such concerns, is it an accurate description of life in
Britain? Are we really a nation of hooligans, louts and abusers? Such a gloomy picture seems removed from the reality of life for most decent ordinary people.”
The report warns that “it is important to recognise that the conservative/ moralising views held by some young Muslims are not alien to British society stating that “we should consider the way in which its animosity towards the West chimes with certain ideological trends that have long been fashionable amongst the Western intelligentsia. For instance, prominent members of the anti-globalisation movement attack the ‘greedy’ consumerism and materialism of capitalist society; culturally relativist social theory bemoans the dominance of ‘euro-centric’ scientific and cultural knowledge; environmentalist groups celebrate the spiritual richness of pre-industrial, rural life; and certain strands of radical feminism condemn the sexualisation of women in the West.” Read report,