Being a Muslim in Europe: attitudes and experiences

Saffron Karlsen and James Nazroo, University College London

[Project number 30103]

The proposed work provides a unique opportunity to explore the impact of religious differences on the lives of people in Britain and Europe, in particular how these may relate to ethnicity - investigation which remains unforthcoming. The study proposes to explore differences in health and socioeconomic circumstances, attitudes and discriminatory experiences among different religious communities in (predominantly) England, and will be supplement with an exploration of variations in the experience of being 'Muslim' in terms of the effect of location in different national settings and in different racial and ethnic groups. This will include how it is influenced by the attitudes of the general population and how far it has been affected by the terrorist incidents in New York in 2001 and Madrid in 2004. These analyses would employ a number of data, particularly from the ONS Longitudinal Study, the Health Survey for England, the European Social Survey and the 'Muslims in Europe' study, which contains data on Muslim groups in London, Berlin and Madrid.

These analyses will make an important contribution to the understanding of the socioeconomic and other health-related trends affecting different ethnoreligious groups, and how they are affected by the negative attitudes and behaviours of others. As a group which experiences considerable social disadvantage and exclusion - particularly since and including the events of 2001 and 2004 - direct comparison of the attitudes and experiences of Muslim groups that differ ethnically, socioeconomically and geographically, will allow insight into the relationship between religion, ethnicity, 'race' and discrimination and how they may each influence the experiences and attitudes of marginalised groups. It would have clear relevance for the development of specific policy initiatives and would make an important contribution to research and wider understanding: theoretically, empirically and methodologically; specifically and more generally.

The use of a longitudinal data source will provide important information on the changing circumstances of different ethnic and religious groups in Britain, a key aim for the proposed analyses. Further, while the Health Survey for England contains useful information on the ethnic and religious affiliation and sociodemographic circumstances of respondents, these data are obtained from a relatively small sample generated according to electoral-ward-level ethnic density statistics. These sample sizes are somewhat problematic for indepth subgroup analysis of the type proposed. As a dataset including a much greater number of respondents, which does not rely on such a crude allocation of target addresses, the LS will therefore also provide an unrivalled opportunity to explore important, cross-sectional information on the demographic characteristics and socioeconomic and health circumstances of different ethnic, religious and ethnoreligous groups in England and Wales. The LS will also provide important background for the additional analyses of the effects of geographic location, experienced racist and religious discrimination and perceived hostility, on both the attitudes and experiences of different ethnoreligious groups in England and Europe. In short, the aims of the study would be seriously impeded in the absence of the opportunities presented by the LS.

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