‘Think tank’ wants more Muslims in top jobs

Baroness Warsi at 10 Downing Street during her time as Minister without Portfolio
Baroness Warsi at 10 Downing Street during her time as Minister without Portfolio
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A THINK-TANK has called for CVs to be anonymised to prevent businesses from discriminating against people with ethnic sounding names, in a new report investigating why Muslims are under represented in top professions.

The think tank Demos calls for action from Government, schools, business and community leaders to tackle a “chronic under representation of British Muslims”.

It warns today that integration in society should be measured by success in the job market rather than how well people from different backgrounds understand British values.

The report, Rising to the Top, looks at why British Muslims are less proportionately represented in the managerial and professional occupations than any other religious group, (at only 16 per cent, compared to an average of 30 per cent.) This figure is said to have barely improved since 2001, increasing by only one percentage point.

Muslims in England and Wales are also said to be disproportionately likely to be unemployed or economically inactive and have the lowest female participation rate of all religious groups in the country. It calls on people within the Muslim community to “lead the way” in shifting attitudes towards the role of women at home and at work.

The report says the Government needs to ensure integration strategies do not focus solely on British values or on countering extremism but also promote the economic benefits “of greater participation in British life.”

It calls on schools and councils to ensure young people who aspire to the top professions are given the right advice. It also says “high performing pupils with poor formal English” could receive targeted tutoring. This would ensure a lack of formal English does not stop people achieving their potential.

And it says employers should prevent discrimination and reduce the perception of discrimination and calls on the Government to legislate for CVs to be anonymised.

Baroness Warsi said that she agreed with Demos’ claim that measuring success in the Labour market was a more meaningful way of assessing whether we lived in an integrated society than to question whether particular groups believed in British Values.

She said: “ This is very much in line with what David Cameron said in his speech to the Conservative Party conference.

“He said that even when people have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names

“He said this was disgraceful and he is right. For there to be equality of opportunity people need to be treated equally.

“And as David Cameron said there is no equality of opportunity for a British Muslim if he walks down the street and is abused for his faith.”

Gugsy Ahmed, is the head teacher of Parkinson Lane Primary, in Halifax who received an OBE for his services to education.

His school, which serves a largely Muslim community, is rated as outstanding by Ofsted and is among the top three per cent nationally for adding value to pupils’ performance.

He said he believed that better integration and more equality in the job market would be achieved hand-in-hand.

Mr Ahmed said: “I certainly don’t think that there is overt discrimination or religious discrimination.”

Talking about the need for integration he said “I think one thing which will help is people from different backgrounds finding common ground with each other.

“For example a lot of our children will go to Pakistan during the summer break. Whereas other children might go to Spain or Greece or other European destinations and there is no commonality there for them to talk each other. But we find that if they have both been to the same place then they can share their experiences. Having that commonality can help integration.”

He said he believed that schools like Parkinson Lane were helping pupils to achieve academically and to instill a sense of British values. Mr Ahmed said he hoped this would help them achieve their potential and then go on to be role models for future generations.

Qari Asim, Imam at the Makkah Masjid Mosque in Leeds and a lawyer said he believed the role of women in the Muslim community was changing. “I think as with other communites the Muslim community is going through a transition. We are seeing more girls than boys going to university and this will lead to more women going into top jobs.”

And he said he believed the country was already moving towards more equality.

However he warned that discrimination - and the perception of discrimination when people were applying for jobs created a vicious circle.

He said: “If someone has been to university and cannot get the job they want and they see their peers from different backgrounds with the same qualifications getting these jobs it will lead to them feeling alienated

“And it is those feelings that people prey on when they try to radicalise people.”

He also said the way the Muslim community was portrayed needed to change.

“If a community is only ever talked about in one way it creates a narrative about them. And it can create a sense of distrust in someone when they see a Muslim sounding name in a job application.”