Reimagining British Muslims
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Thursday 24th September 2020
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Friday, July 24th, 2020

A new report compiled by a group of academics has produced surprising results on the perceptions of Islam on campus. Academics from Durham, SOAS, Coventry and Lancaster universities have examined the ways in which Islam and Muslims are understood on campus. The lead authors are Professor Mathew Guest and Professor Alison Scott-Baumann.

The report states that: ‘There are more than 230,000 Muslims studying at UK universities, around 8-9% of the total student population. They are distributed across the 140 or so higher education institutions in the UK, studying a variety of subjects. Most are home students – British Muslims – although a small proportion – around 1 in 10 – are from elsewhere in the world. Given the number of Muslim citizens within the UK today – roughly 5% of the total population – this means they are somewhat overrepresented within universities, a fact that is unsurprising given the relatively lower average age of the Muslim population’.

The researchers conducted a survey of 2,022 students across more than 100 universities. Interviews and focus groups were also conducted with more than 250 staff and students across the higher education sector. The report came up with a series of recommendations on Islam and Islamophobia on campus, cohesion on campus, free speech on campus and generally on knowledge and education concerning Islam and Muslims.

The report found that on the whole Muslims tend to be more religious and declare themselves as being more religious than Christians. This confirms what has been found in other studies and is partially due to the increased number of obligatory actions that Muslims have to fulfil.

The report also found that in general the majority of students had positive opinions on Islam and Muslims, as the table below shows. The exception seems to be on gender where more people are willing to express more negative views on Islam and Muslims.

On the prevent policy, the study found that the majority of students had not even heard of prevent.

One finding was that the researchers found that more negative views of Islam were held by those that viewed that radicalisation was a serious threat on campus i.e. that there was an overlap with those who tended to see the need for a prevent policy and those who held negative views on Islam and Muslims. This should worry policy makers.

The report was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.

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