Maralyn Parker published an article this week in the SMH resulting from an interview with Professor Riaz Hassan of Flinders University. Late last year he wrote a report based on the 2006 Census data indicating that unemployment in the younger (19-24 year old) Muslim community is twice the rate of the national average (18% versus 9%). This, despite the fact that Muslims are more likely to have tertiary qualifications than non-Muslims.
Professor Hassan also makes the points in his report that the rate of poverty amongst Muslim children is 40% versus 20% for the general population (albeit a very subjective measure) and the rate of prison incarceration is significantly higher for Muslim populations in European countries, citing the U.K. and France (where Muslims number 8% of the country but 50% of the prison population).
Ms. Parker is sure that there are two explanations for this discrepency;
i) the proliferation of Islamic schools in Australia leading to marginalised Muslim youth unable to get ahead in an otherwise Anglo/Chinese country.
ii) ‘discrimination’ by non-Muslim Australia against Muslims
She has two solutions;
i) Stop the spread of religious schools and regulate existing ones much more tightly
ii) Encourage businesses to employ Muslims
‘Perhaps we can start a campaign to help by telling employers _ do your bit for Australia, employ a Muslim Australian.’
The U.K.’s education watchdog, OFSTED, now publishes GCSE exam results (Year 10) by ethnic group. This information reveals much more interesting information. In fact, it is a wonderful report to show your racist (sorry, ‘race realist’) friends as it reveals that far from indigenous white kids stealing the show, the best performers are those with yellow and brown skins. But within the ‘brown skin’ category, there is a marked difference between the performance of non-Muslims (largely Indians) and Muslims (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis). Far from pointing to genetic effects in intellect and effort, this data suggests cultural differences are far more important.
A rather more intelligent line of questioning than the SMH is taken by a post on Muslim Village. They pose the following;
1. Is there discrimination in the workforce and is this one of the reasons for the higher unemployment rate?
2. Are Muslims obtaining degrees but not choosing to work, instead opting for a more family orientated role?
3. Are Muslims putting their deen [way of life] before a career?
4. Are there not enough suitable jobs for Muslims due to certain industries being prohibited?
From my own personal experience i would agree that Muslims are discriminated against in the workplace (i’ve seen first hand evidence many times). Some employers (though generally not the larger ones) are nervous of hiring Muslims for fear of litigation down the road (justified or otherwise). A small business needs flexibility in its workforce to survive. The thought of being dragged through the courts on charges of racism or Islamophobia almost certainly deters some smaller business owners. This is an issue both communities need to work out.
On the subject of religious schools, i am torn. Every libertarian bone in my body argues that parents should be free to choose the education for their children. Parents will ultimately make decisions in the interests of their children and will not choose to send them to schools that will harm their employment prospects later in life. But every pragmatic bone suggests that this view is naive and not working. Religious schools breed difference and marginalisation.
Finally, i would add one further explanation for the large differential in employment. There is a anti-school, anti-work, aggressive culture amongst many young Muslim males. These boys are often ‘pampered by their mothers’ as you will see on numerous Muslim forums. This is a problem the Muslim community needs to address.