Muslims in Scotland are more likely to be in higher education or self-employed than the rest of the population, a study shows.
The number of Muslims educated to degree level or above rose from 22 per cent in 2001 to 38 per cent in 2011, more than the general population at 27 per cent. Analysis of census data also indicates that Scottish Muslims are entrepreneurial, as one third of those working full-time are self-employed, compared with 12 per cent of the population.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh analysed data from the 2001 census, in which a question of religion was introduced, and the census of 2011.
Khadijah Elshayyal, who led the study, said: “Much of the data indicates a highly aspirational Scottish Muslim population with an eye on social mobility and a tendency towards financial independence and self-sufficiency.
“Our report encompasses numerous aspects of life for Muslims in Scotland. Its findings will hopefully form the basis of a wider project that aims to encourage conversations with government, policymakers and organisations concerning the present and future needs of Scotland’s growing Muslim population.”
Other findings from the report show that a quarter of Muslim women look after home and family, compared with 5.6 per cent of all Scottish women.
Researchers at the university’s Alwaleed Centre suggest that a relatively young Muslim population in Scotland may be a factor in this. Statistics show that 30 per cent of Muslims were aged 15 and under in 2011, compared with 17 per cent of the total population.
The study suggests that third sector groups and the Scottish government use this data to address how to improve women’s access to employment opportunities.
With the overwhelming majority of British Muslims residing in England (95.5 per cent), studies of Muslims in Britain have very often been essentially studies of Muslims in England, Dr Elshayyal said. Because of this, misconceptions about Muslims in Scotland have arisen.
In England and Wales, Muslims make up 13 per cent of the prison population and only 5 per cent of the national population. However, this report shows that only 1.8 per cent of the prison population in Scotland is Muslim, which is broadly in proportion to the 1.45 per cent of the Muslim population in Scotland.
Analysis also revealed that a disproportionately high number of elderly Muslim women have reported bad or very bad health — 33 per cent compared with 14 per cent of elderly women overall. The report recommends that policymakers and community groups extend health education and awareness campaigns.
The study found that Muslims were widely dispersed across the nation, with the highest concentration in Glasgow at 5 per cent. It also highlights that less than 4.5 per cent of the Muslim population has weak or no English language skills, compared with an estimated 6 per cent south of the border.
Dr Elshayyal said: “On balance, the data tells us a more positive story than has been told in England and Wales, and this should be acknowledged as encouraging.
“Does Scotland play a role in this, has it been more accommodating and helpful? I think this is an area that is worth looking into.”
She added: “The Scottish Muslim population is very diverse and composed of many communities and I hope this report will be a valuable tool to help find facts and figures and gain a better understanding of the issues affecting Muslims in Scotland.”
I feel proud to be a Scottish Pakistani
Junaid Ashraf, 20, is a mechanical engineering student at the University of Glasgow, who has grown up as a young Muslim in Scotland.
His mother is a second generation Scottish-Pakistani and his father is a first generation immigrant from Pakistan.
Neither of his parents, who own a petrol station in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, had a university education but all five of their children have gone on to higher education. “In my family it was assumed you would go to university,” Mr Ashraf said.
“My sister set the bar for us when she went to university at 16 to study pharmacy at Strathclyde university and had her master’s degree at the age of 20.
“I’m the second youngest of five children and I’ve got a brother studying optometry, another has a modern apprenticeship in the civil service and another is studying actuarial science at Heriot-Watt University.”
Mr Ashraf, who was a member of the Scottish youth parliament, was born in Glasgow Southside where his parents ran a newsagent before they moved to Cumbernauld.
“We moved to Cumbernauld when I was eight years old and there isn’t a lot of diversity there but people have been very much positive about any differences.”
He said that he had only suffered one “serious racial encounter” on a bus on a Friday night in Glasgow involving a drunken man who verbally abused him and a young cousin.
Mr Ashraf said that friends had suffered much worse abuse but “on the whole” he has had a positive experience in Scotland.
“I cannot think of a more positive place to live. If I could, then I would move,” he said.
“We get treated very well and Scotland is good for social mobility. We are able to improve, social mobility is more accessible and perhaps that is why we take up education as strongly as we have done.
“We feel as though we are part of the community. I have friends down south but they don’t feel the same amount of pride I feel as being Scottish-Pakistani.”