LONDON—New research reveals that Muslims in Waltham Forest have a stronger sense of local identity than national identity, according to a report released today by the Open Society Foundations.
Four in five (79 per cent) Muslims surveyed feel a sense of belonging in their local community, while two-thirds (69 per cent) feel a sense of belonging towards Britain.
The situation is reversed among non-Muslims in the borough. 76 per cent of non-Muslims surveyed feel a sense of belonging towards Britain, while 66 per cent feel the same about their local community, suggesting stronger identification with the nation than with their local community.
The report also finds that while 82 per cent of Muslims in one of London’s most diverse boroughs see themselves as British and want to be seen as British; only 40 per cent think other people see them that way.
“This report highlights the gaps preventing exemplary local cohesion efforts from fully working” said Nazia Hussain director of the At Home in Europe project which oversaw the research. “Uncertainty over national identity, values and belonging in Britain stops British Muslims from feeling they really belong, and others from agreeing they do.”
The report surveyed Muslim and non-Muslim residents in Waltham Forest and found that while a sense of community was strong, a sense of shared values was not. Nearly 70 per cent of residents felt people were willing to help each other out though less than half felt people in the neighbourhood shared the same values.
“It was the everyday, lived multiculturalism of London that swayed the decision for the 2012 Olympics to be hosted in London and Waltham Forest shows what’s needed to make this cohesion work locally” said Hussain. “If we want cohesion to work in Britain, national leadership is needed to ensure these efforts stick.”
Of those surveyed, 74 per cent of Muslim and 65 per cent of non-Muslims felt people in their area got on well together. The majority of Muslim and non-Muslim respondents liked living in their neighbourhood, either definitely—40 per cent—or to some extent—56 per cent.
The trend of stronger local identity and belonging continues regarding politics with 62 per cent of Muslims feeling they could influence decision making at a local level and 63 per cent who trusted their city council. Significantly fewer Muslims held even a fair amount of trust in the national parliament and government, with even lower rates of trust in national institutions among non-Muslims.
“Waltham Forest is one of London's most diverse boroughs and this is something that has helped give the area such a unique sense of vibrancy," said Cllr Liaquat Ali, Waltham Forest's Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Cohesion. "I really believe this is one of the borough's strengths, and I'm heartened that so many local people feel the same way. Our challenge now is to build on our successes and work with residents to close the gaps that this report has identified.”
- The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.
- Muslims in London is part of a series of monitoring reports titled Muslims in EU Cities that examine 11 cities in the European Union (EU) with significant Muslim populations.
- Other key findings from the report Muslims in London include:
- A stark gap between Muslims and non-Muslims exists regarding perceptions of religious based racism. Only 21 per cent of non-Muslims felt there was a fair amount of religious discrimination in the country, compared to 86 per cent of Muslims.
- Over 70 per cent of both groups felt there was a fair amount of racial discrimination.
- While the majority of Muslim and non-Muslim respondents had confidence in the police, of those who had been a victim of a crime, none of the Muslims had reported it to the police, in contrast to all the non-Muslims, who had.
- This qualitative report is based on a number of methodological tools and was conducted in the London borough of Waltham Forest. It includes a survey of 200 respondents people (100 Muslims and a comparison group of 100 non-Muslims) and nine focus groups with people with a Muslim background. It also includes in depth discussion with over 30 individuals from Muslim communities in the London borough of Waltham Forest, as well as local government officials, civil society members, and relevant experts engaged with inclusion and integration issues. The definition of Muslim in this report relies on respondents’ self-identification.