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Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims

    Released: 1st September 2009

Click here to download the Executive Summary

Click here to download the full report

Click here to download the press release

Much is written about young British Muslims, but what are young Muslims themselves saying and thinking about the lives they live?

A major new study of Britain’s Muslim youth argues that young Muslims clearly see themselves as British, but also feel let down in several ways by a society that misreads them - but wastes no time in speaking about them! Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims, by Sughra Ahmed, is the result of 18 months of rigorous research across England, Scotland and Wales listening to and analysing the voices, feelings and aspirations of young people from across the UK.

The report enables female and male voices to express, in their own words, their outlook and how they feel they are perceived, scoping topical issues such as intergenerational challenges, identity, gender, religious teachings, mosques, policing and the media.

Sughra Ahmed, author of the report commented, “We are used to hearing about young Muslims in the context of radicalisation of Muslim opinion, but their lives are far more complex. They feel a strong sense of patriotism, but also feel let down by voices that do not do justice to their aspirations. Young people are comfortable in negotiating their multiple identities, but some also feel a sense of disconnection from older generations as well as pressure from a society that increasingly stereotypes young people.

The findings in this report challenge both British society and the Muslim community to do more to connect with young people and their latent talents. It makes a number of recommendations to policymakers, statutory services and Muslim communities, including: better and more informed outreach programmes to connect with young people; the need for greater investment in young people to develop their capacity and to create leaders and role models; and the need for initiatives that help bridge inter-generational gaps within the Muslim community.

In the Foreword to the report, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester and Chair of the Children’s Society writes: ‘As this report suggests, “much is written about young Muslims but we rarely seem to actually hear their voices”. This report goes a long way to rectifying this issue so that young Muslim voices are heard and valued…Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims provides valuable insight into some of the more pertinent questions asked by policy makers, statutory services and community institutions concerning a new generation positioned to make its impact on society.

1. The average Muslim in Britain is 28 years old (13 years below the national average age); nearly half of all Muslims are below the age of 25; one third are aged 16 or younger.
2. Muslims aged 16 to 25 and from 15 different ethnicities took part in 9 focus groups in England, Scotland and Wales – 45% of those who took part were young women.
3. The Policy Research Centre, based at the Islamic Foundation, specialises in research, policy advice and training on issues related to British Muslims.

Feedback on Seen and Not Heard

YMAG's LogoSeen and Not Heard, Voices of Young British Muslims is an important piece of research which aimed, primarily, to identify the areas of concern that young Muslims feel are particularly pertinent to their lives. As the title suggests, the research is centred on the dialogue that took place with young Muslims which provides this piece of research with the veracity of unmediated perspectives.
Young Muslims Advisory Group (YMAG)
Minab's Logo Your report will go a long way to educate the public and also will act as a vehicle to listen and improve our own understanding of our youths within our communities.
Maulana Shahid Raza OBE
Chairman, Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB)
University of Bradford's Logo Well done: constructive and critical
Dr Philip Lewis, Department of Peace Studies
University of Bradford
MIHE's Logo It is a very timely and important contribution to the discourse of British Muslims in general and British Muslim youth in particular, at a time when the stereotypical depiction of Muslims is gaining currency.
Markfield Institute of Higher Education (MIHE)
DCLG's Logo Way to put young Muslim's voices on the agenda in a reflectively complex and intelligent way and in what looks like must have been painstaking research.
Anita Nayyar, Women's Engagement Officer
Preventing Extremism Unit, Department of Communities and Local Government
NMWAG's Logo In her ground-breaking research - Seen and Not Heard - Voices of Young British Muslims, Sughra Ahmed has provided a rare insight into young British Muslims' thoughts, experience, concerns and aspirations. Young people speaking for themselves give policy makers, service providers, community leaders and the older generation clear pointers for engaging with them on the basis of a deeper knowledge and understanding. This should help young British Muslims achieve their potential and empower them to take a dynamic role in the development of our plural society
Dr Nazia Khanum OBE
Director, Equality in Diversity
National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group (NMWAG)
Bishop of Leicester's Logo You have done an excellent job with this. Many congratulations
Revd Mike Smith
Chaplain & Policy Adviser to the Bishop of Leicester
altmuslim's Logo Sughra Ahmed has produced an impressive report that, through its principled approach, urges us all to reconsider our perceptions of British Muslim youth.
Zahed Amanullah
Associate Editor at
MCB's Logo Just brilliant, well done!
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra
Assistant Secretary General, Muslim Council of Britain