A report published yesterday commissioned by the Women and Equalities Committee titled ‘Employment Opportunities for Muslims in the UK’ has revealed that many Muslim women face “triple penalties” which affect their job prospects – being women, being from an ethnic minority and being Muslim. 12.5% of Muslims are unemployed, compared to 5.4% of the general population and if we analyse these figures further Muslim women are more likely to be unemployed than Muslim men.
Muslim women face the ‘double bind’ of gender and religious discrimination particularly visibly Muslim women who are on the front line of attacks as we have written in previous blog posts. Muslim women who wear the hijab told the Women and Equalities Committeethat they felt wearing the headscarf limited their employment opportunities. This discrimination prevents them from fully integrating into the society in which they live and fosters a sense of inequality and unfairness. Last month, JAN Trust wrote a blog on how institutional racism affects Muslims and about the difficulties they face in finding employment or rising to a managerial role. We highlighted the work of Dr. Nabil Kattab of the University of Bristol who conducted a survey in 2015 revealing that 71% of British Muslim women are up to 65 per cent less likely to be employed than white Christian counterparts.
The committee identified several factors including the following: discrimination and Islamophobia, stereotyping, pressure from traditional families, a lack of tailored advice around higher education choices, and insufficient role models across education and employment. It is true that discrimination and Islamophobia are affecting Muslim women as are the other factors identified by the committee such as poverty and language barriers. However, the work done by efforts made by JAN Trust to lift these women out of poverty by empowering them economically can be thwarted when they are not given access to the same opportunities as other women with similar skills and experience.
Maria Miller MP said that “Muslim women particularly, face really unacceptable levels of discrimination and that discrimination comes from the workplace, from employers, but also from within communities as well.” The committee has told Ministers that a plan must be introduced before the end of the year detailing how this issue will be tackled. Recommendations have already been made to the Government as to how it could begin confronting the employment inequalities being experienced by Muslim women. These include: raising awareness among employers of what constitutes illegal discrimination, pushing universities to introduce a dedicated careers advice service for BME students, and training Jobcentre Plus staff on the issues faced by Muslims.
The discrimination faced by Muslim women is not a new issue. Since it was established in 1989, JAN Trust has been campaigning for discrimination against Muslim women to be addressed. Founder, Rafaat Mughal OBE, sought to draw attention to this issue “the elephant in the room.”
In our work with women Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BAMER) communities we have been told by Muslim women about the discrimination they and/or their families and friends have faces. In one area where JAN Trust delivered its Web Guardians™ programme we were told by one lady about how her daughter’s friend had taken off her hijab prior to attending a college interview worried that she would not be given a place to study. Another lady told us of the discrimination her daughter had faced in the workplace because she wore hijab. Discrimination, in whatever form, must not be tolerated and organisations such as JAN Trust who work on a day-today basis with Muslim women should be listened to by the Government and supported to continue doing the work they do.