By Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari
The urge for education and learning is in the Muslim psyche, thanks to inspirational texts in the Muslim holy book and strong encouragement by the Prophet (PBUH). The shining contribution of Muslims in all spheres of life in the dark period of Europe was due to the thirst for knowledge among the masses and promotion of scholarship by most Muslim rulers. Sadly, the severe stagnation due to colonial take over of many Muslim lands and post-War mismanagement of Muslim countries have impacted negatively on Muslims in many ways, including in the education sector. But over the past years the situation has gradually been changing. The Muslim community in Britain today is a prime example of where even a disadvantaged start by diverse Muslim communities has not barred its young people from achieving highly in the educational ladder. This is significant in their fight against socio-economic deprivation.
It is heartening to see more and more young Muslims are becoming educated to the highest degree. There are more lawyers, teachers, doctors and other professionals than ever before. Studies and research conducted by various organisations have shown that people from ethnic minorities are becoming progressively more interested in their education. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation did a publication whereby they discovered that ‘although South Asian women were seen to be one of the most socially excluded groups in the UK, their numbers at university had rapidly increased in recent years1.’
However, while we have those that are performing extremely well, on the other hand, there are so many who simply have a blasé attitude when it comes to education. Reasons such as apathy or a lack of strong role models may be to blame for this. In the coming decade, these are among the areas where we need to invest our energy to tackle these issues. We need to reach out and help those who are struggling.
There are also some young Muslims who may undergo some social pressure from their parents and extended family to go for only traditionally ‘high preference’ subjects such as medicine, law, accountancy and engineering. Thus subjects such as English, art, sociology, politics take lesser preference. However, for the progress of any community we need artists, sociologists, politicians and journalists. It is counter-productive to our development to be constrained to one view or aspect of education. Indeed the participation in all academic and social backgrounds is something to be proud of.
The Muslim Council of Britain’s Footsteps initiative is an example of a project where Muslim role models are organised and engaged to visit educational institutions and run motivational workshops and sessions with the Muslim youth. Using good positive Muslim role models as an example may help those that feel helpless or unconcerned about their education. Showing these youngsters that there are people from a similar background, that have gone through the same issues and dilemmas that they have experienced, yet still made it through to become successful in what they do, may give them the encouragement and influence they need. By supporting and engaging in such work, we can hope to motivate a higher level of achievement within the Muslim community.
Furthermore, the MCB, in its endeavour to help the diverse Muslim communities in its internal capacity, has been encouraging Muslim students for some time to choose from the key subjects mentioned above and excel in them so that they are seen as vital assets for the society as a whole. Things are seen to be moving in the right direction. Let’s hope the new decade brings even more positive results.
1The role of higher education in providing opportunities for South Asian women, Paul Bagguley and Yasmin Hussain, University of Leeds, 30 April 2007
Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, MBE, FRSA is an educationalist with a PhD and PGCE from King’s College London and a Management degree from the Open University. He has worked as an Air Force Officer, researcher in physics, science teacher and SEN specialist in London. He is chair of the East London Mosque Trust and a board member of The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Ltd.
He is an author of several books on parenting, and issues of youth and identity. These include: ‘Building Muslim Families’, ‘A Guide to Parenting’, and ‘Race, Religion & Muslim identity in Britain’. He is the current Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, having been elected to the position at the MCB’s Ninth Annual General Meeting on 4th June 2006.
Reclaim Your Stage:
The Platform is a groundbreaking blog that provides current affairs and cultural commentary. Our pieces offer challenging opinions from a range of spectrums; that’s why we love hosting a platform for them.