Social Mobility and its Impact on Muslims in the United Kingdom

Social mobility is commonly defined as the movement of individuals or groups within social position. 

This phenomenon can also by in large refer to health, literacy and numeracy indicators designed to gauge the wellbeing of the country. However, we need to ask ourselves to what extent have Muslims fared in relation to social mobility indicators over the last 70 years. 

The last census conducted in 2011 stated that Muslims made up five per cent of the total UK population and that Islam had emerged to become the second largest denomination on these shores. It is fair to say that a significant minority of British Muslims have broken the ceiling of social mobility and managed to become highfliers in their respective fields evidenced by the plethora of lawyers, accountants, GP’s and dentists that reside in every conceivable corner of this nation. It is at this point that we should ask ourselves is this a true and accurate reflection of the position of Muslims in the United Kingdom. 

One is of the view that the UK Muslim community has a long way to go in respect of elevating young Muslims to the very top of the social mobility tree. Unfortunately, even today despite Muslims being third, fourth and even fifth generation Muslims they are still lagging behind when it comes to educational attainment levels and as a consequence failing to enter the professional ranks in substantial numbers. This fact was underlined a number of years ago by Farhan Nizami CBE of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies claimed that many Muslims were simply opting for self-employment rather than aspiring to obtain a position within the professional ranks. Some may claim these sentiments are too simplistic, especially in view of the fact that many Asians and Muslims have faced racism and discrimination in the job market over the short period of time they have been present in this country. However, in recent times the situation has improved to the extent that we are beginning to see policies such as ‘positive discrimination’ being implemented to ensure that the workforce reflects the socio-demographic nature of the country.


Alyas Karmani recently highlighted cause for concern at a high profile event by stating that in the city of Oxford that houses arguably one of the leading universities in the world only one pupil from the Muslim community residing there had gone to read a degree from that institution in nearly 70 years. Even more of a worrying trend is the number of Muslims failing to enter the professional ranks altogether after leaving further education (FE) or higher education (HE). These are just some stark reminders of the fact that much work is required in order to address the underlying issues with the Muslim diaspora.


As a community we need to ask ourselves are we devoting enough time and consequently engaging with the youth in order to ensure that they have excellent credentials and prospects in order to allow them to compete with other people in the job market.  It is crucial that every single Muslim is able to speak the language of the nation to a professional standard and be cultured in the values and traditions of the country in order to compete with their counterparts.


Failure to do so will result in future generations being ill equipped to make a positive contribution to this country in the last few years, Muslims have spent too much time and attention and continue to do so in establishing religious educational and communal institutions costing millions of pounds but at the same time paying no attention whatsoever to the pressing socio-economic and religious needs of the Muslim community. It should be said that in order to make a community successful there needs to be a partnership between individuals and institutions or we risk a situation developing whereby the latter end up becoming a glorified ‘white elephant’ devoid of any real sense of purpose.


It is imperative that Muslim leaders in the UK fully engage with the younger members of our community and ensure that we give our full attention to their socio-educational wellbeing so that every child fulfils their potential. There is the familiar saying ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ It is rather tragic to see so many people including Muslims seeing their very potential being wasted rather than being fulfilled partly fuelled by neglect from various sectors of the community.



Now is the time for action not inaction and the moment of truth has arrived for Muslim leaders in this country who have stark choices that involve changing their current approach and to have strategies in place that cater for the socio-economic and educational wellbeing of their constituents or end up being deemed out of touch and becoming irrelevant in the main by maintaining the status quo.