Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

In UK, poor Muslim families doing better

Poking around the Templeton Report archives this afternoon, I found this news of a Templeton-funded research project that examined life among a geographic segment of economically disadvantage British teenagers. Here’s one of the things researchers found:

Hodge Hill is one of the most economically disadvantaged areas in the UK, and three-quarters of its population is Muslim, mostly of Pakistani origin. The survey found significant differences between the Muslim and the white populations there. As James Arthur told the Templeton Report, “the Muslim population was much more stable than the white population.” Families in the former group “often had six or seven children, knew all of their neighbors,” and their children “got more involved in volunteer work.” At a time when many in the UK are concerned about how well Muslim immigrants are integrating into society, Arthur and his colleagues also were pleased to find that the Muslim students “took their duties as citizens seriously” and wanted to learn more about their public responsibilities.


By contrast, Arthur said, the white population of Hodge Hill “is more socially fragmented.” There are more divorces and more single-parent families. Though the white children often identified themselves as Christian, there was little evidence of regular religious activity, nor did they have many community associations, with traditional groups like the Boys Club and the Girls Guides having apparently, in Arthur’s words, “died a quiet death.”


Why do you suppose that is? Is there a connection between religious engagement, or at least a meaningful religious sensibility among the poor, and social responsibility — both in terms of self-discipline, and an impetus to serve others? Regarding what enables them to thrive socially, what do the Muslim urban poor in the UK have that the Anglo urban poor do not? We hear a lot about disaffected and radicalized British Muslim youth, but could it be that there’s a more important story to be told about the Muslim youth who are doing pretty well , certainly compared to their British peers?

Comments read comments(19)
post a comment
John E. - Agn. Stoic

posted January 4, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Regarding what enables them to thrive socially, what do the Muslim urban poor in the UK have that the Anglo urban poor do not?
Cultural/religious prohibitions against divorce, conceiving children out of wedlock, and consuming alcohol.

report abuse


posted January 4, 2010 at 11:19 pm

I agree with John E. I believe Mormonism is flatly false (sorry, any Mormons reading this… just being truthful), but it helps maintain social order. Were the Anglos serious about their Christian faith, it would have the same effect.

report abuse


posted January 5, 2010 at 12:01 am

Well, I think it probably also has something to do with family cohesion as well. The institution of the family seems to have disintegrated in the UK’s white lower-income populations (actually AFAIK a solid family is a strong indicator of not staying in poverty, whereas a lack of family structure is much more likely to keep a person trapped in poverty). Muslim–and Hindu–families seem to work a lot harder to keep it together.
Is it necessary for a society that has lost faith to also lose its strong families? I don’t know that UK has had a terribly strong common faith for quite some time–sure, there was always the C of E but it had a lot of lip service paid by a lot of people in the 20th century, even in the 19th.
Certainly, as a Mormon (hi MWorrell! :D), I’m all for strong religious faith and family. But I’m not sure that the UK’s loss of a common faith HAD to result in the devastation being wrought in its lower classes.

report abuse


posted January 5, 2010 at 12:35 am

First, the few remaining whites in the area are likely to be among the less cognitively capable of the indigenous British population. From a sociological standpoint a more apt comparison would of these Muslims (often first or second generation) with the white working class of the outer suburbs.
Second, this study seems to contradict aggregate statistics for example:
Almost 10% of the prison population are Muslim, two-thirds of whom are young men aged 18-30. (Source: Prison Service statistics, 2004) [generously, Muslims make up about 5% of the UK population]
In 2004, 28% of 16-24-year-old Muslims were unemployed. This compares with only 11% of Christians of the same age. (Source: National Statistics 2001 Census report on faith)
35 % of Muslim households have no adults in employment, (more than double the national average). (Source: ‘Muslim Housing Experience’, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies)
though education statistics are ambiguous
In 2004, 67 % of Indian, 48% of Bangladeshi and 45% of Pakistani pupils gained five or more grades A* to C at GCSE (or equivalent), compared with 52% of White British pupils. (Source: Social Trends No. 36, 2006)
31% of young British Muslims leave school with no qualifications compared to 15% of the total population. (Source: National Statistics)
Given all that it is probably true that the indigenous lumpenproletariat in the UK has been ill served both by liberal social policy and by a governing class that makes no secret of despising them (along with the white working class). A web search for ‘chav’ will give you some idea about the depth of the hatred — or refer to the thread about Labour’s ‘elect a new people’ immigration policy on Crunchy Con a few months back.
Muslims in contrast have leadership that instills pride in their community as Muslims, and as Pakistanis (or Bangladeshis) and as South Asians. Muslims have leaders that pursue their communities’ political interest. The indigenous have no such leaders, receive no grants for their community as such, have no BBC radio station devoted to them (see BBC ‘Asian’ network). Instead they are the dumping ground for every sort of abuse, and their communities are subjected to total demographic transformation.

report abuse


posted January 5, 2010 at 1:57 am

perhaps there is a difference between the poverty experienced by recent immigrants – which is largely temporary – and the poverty experienced by the white population – which is generational. The white families have likely lived in Hodge Hill or its equivalent for more than one generation and demonstrate the behavior associated with the social disorganization that multi generational poverty produces. The Pakistani families are more likely first generation. That they live in Hodge Hill now doesn’t mean that their circumstances in Pakistan were different – they may be better educated – that they immigrated demonstrates a desire for a better life. So Hodge HIll may just be a stop on the way to greater opporunity.

report abuse

Jason Gagnon

posted January 5, 2010 at 5:42 am

I’ve been to Orthodox and Greek Catholic Liturgies where being ethnic trumped any Christian identity. Anyone that’s visited a Greek Orthodox Liturgy knows this experience- after liturgy, a little old grandmother will come up to you “Are you Greek? No? Then why are you here?”
This population in Hodge Hill is first and foremost an immigrant population, not a muslim one.
Mworrell raised a good point with the example of Mormonism. Mormonism is a set of dogmas, practices and social norms that appear to foster social cohesiveness. How much of that is attributable to their defining themselves as an outsider group against the world (where they all pull together) and how much is it an outgrowth of their doctrinal belief in family group salvation?
Is Islam a socially cohesive religion? When I think of muslim majority countries, I don’t tend to think of them as socially cohesive. Perhaps it is my own anti-muslim bias, but I tend to attribute whatever social cohesiveness remains in those nations to lingering tribalism rather than to anything inherent to Islam.

report abuse


posted January 5, 2010 at 6:16 am

John E, you are right about alcohol, but wrong on divorce: Islam allows for it, in fact under Sharia it’s absurdly easy for a man to get rid of an unwanted wife.

report abuse


posted January 5, 2010 at 6:59 am

John E,
Islam doesn’t prohibit divorce. It is proverbially easy for a Muslim man to get divorce (no idea about women). In fact, many Christians in Egypt are (apparently) in the habit of ‘converting’ to Islam for a few days in order to get divorced.

report abuse

John E - Agn Stoic

posted January 5, 2010 at 7:24 am

Yes, of course you guys are right about the ease of divorce in Islam – although I’d wonder how that manifests in practice.
And I think stari is definitely on point with regard to the difference in IQ between the two populations and Cecilia’s point about the different probably future social paths of the two populations.

report abuse


posted January 5, 2010 at 9:39 am

If this observation is true, it could also be related to the “democraticness” of the two dominant faiths. Islam makes a point of serving poor folks, while the Anglican brand of Christianity is for the rich and effete. I don’t think Britain has an equivalent of T.D. Jakes or Pat Robertson.

report abuse


posted January 5, 2010 at 9:39 am

As a support for most of the above answers, we should cite some Theodore Dalrymple. Books on amazon, but free articles on, etc.

report abuse

Grumpy Old Man

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:42 am

Globalization has destroyed the economic underpinnings of the white working class in England and increasingly in the United States.
Add to that the messages of television and other mass media.
That’s the negative part.
Then there’s the fact that immigrants generally arrive with some social/cultural capital–family ties, rituals, religion–and are self-selected for ambition and probably intelligence. They generally deplete that capital in 2-3 generations, and intelligence regresses towards the mean.
That’s when you get car-burners, gangsters, and the routinization of bastardy.

report abuse


posted January 5, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Peter Hitchens often blogs on this topic and seems to hit the nail on the head in this post:
But here comes David Willetts – so-called Two Brains – the intellectual powerhouse of the Cameron revolution. In a flattering and friendly interview with (of course) the anti-British, heavily State-subsidised Guardian newspaper, Mr Willetts accurately warns that marriage is dying out except among the rich.
Why is this? Because the State actively encourages fatherless families with social housing and benefits, and through anti-marriage sex-education in schools. Mr Willetts has many times emphatically rejected any attempt to do anything about this, falsely describing the real defence of marriage as a ‘war on single
mothers’. He needs two brains to carry two contradictory ideas in the same head
BTW, best of luck on your new job. However, I do not see how culture can realistically be covered with out the politics in that they are so mutually intertwined with each affectin the other.

report abuse

Your Name Here

posted January 5, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Poor whites = working class who just happen to live in britain
Muslims = a mix of middle and working class immigrants who self selected based on their belief that they could pursue a better life in a capitalist western society.
I’d like to know how the report dealt with these sampling problems.

report abuse

David J. White

posted January 5, 2010 at 7:40 pm

My first posting on your new blog, Rod! I hope you and your family are settling into your new life.
I’m not surprised, unfortunately, to hear that organizations such as “Boys Clubs and Girl Guides” (and I assume also, unfortunately, the Boy Scouts) have “died a quiet death”. I have been involved with the Boy Scouts in some capacity or other (unfortunately mostly on paper, of late) since I was 11 — and my father became the Scoutmaster of my troop, and has remained far more actively involved than I have since I went away to graduate school.
Certainly in America, the Boy Scouts have always had at least a general religious component; in fact, the organization has survived court challenges to its exclusion of professed atheists (as well as gays, but that’s another issue). While the Scouts claim to help inculcate certain values — and I believe they do — they also presuppose that their members already hold those values to a certain extent, and that they come from families that reinforce them.
In the 70s, the Boy Scouts tried to market Scouting as something for disadvantaged urban youth, esp. those without fathers at home. I remember that the Scout handbook and other literature at the time had illustrations showing Scouts setting up tents in urban vacant lots! By the 1980s the organization had largely abandoned that sort of outreach. Not because Scouting doesn’t work for boys from poor families — the founder of Scouting, Lord Baden-Powell, demonstrated that it could — but because it really only works for boys who come from families that already subscribe to and can help instill and reinforce certain values. Among those values are things like delayed gratification, and the willingness to work together towards a common goal.

report abuse

David J. White

posted January 5, 2010 at 7:42 pm

PS — Rod, are the archives to Crunch Con still available anywhere? Or have they disappeared into the ether?

report abuse

David J. White

posted January 5, 2010 at 8:41 pm

A final thought about the Scouts and families: the Mormons have embraced Scouting in a big way. They tend to run their own troops that are tied to their church organization. Some years ago I was involved with a Scout leader training session that our local Scout council put on for Mormon Scout leaders.

report abuse

David J. White

posted January 5, 2010 at 9:31 pm

Final PS — Ah, OK, I see where you have the link to the CC archives, Rod. Thanks!

report abuse

Fake Fan Base

posted January 6, 2010 at 7:13 pm

This is a heartening story. It’s about a community striving to do better and succeeding. I’m not sure we could rush to conclusions about religion or family networks without valid qualitative research, and controlling for numerous dry variables.
The challenge will be for local agencies to find ways to support the whole community perhaps building on the strengths that exist in sections of it, in this case the Muslim community. Cohesion and inclusion are continuous processes and they involve give and take and letting people achieve their aspirations. What role and style for National policy and for those who would detract from it? Politicians need to rooted in local concerns to work effectively and maturely.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

Another blog to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Rod Dreher. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Most Recent Scientology Story on Beliefnet! Happy Reading!!! ...

posted 3:25:02pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mommy explains her plastic surgery
In Dallas (naturally), a parenting magazine discusses how easy it is for mommies who don't like their post-child bodies to get surgery -- and to have it financed! -- to reverse the effects of time and childbirth. Don't like what nursing has done ...

posted 10:00:56pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Why I became Orthodox
Wrapping up my four Beliefnet years, I was thinking about the posts that attracted the most attention and comment in that time. Without a doubt the most popular (in terms of attracting attention, not all of it admiring, to be sure) was the ...

posted 9:46:58pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Modern Calvinists
Wow, they don't make Presbyterians like they used to! ...

posted 8:47:01pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

'Rape by deception'? Huh?
The BBC this morning reported on a bizarre case in Israel of an Arab man convicted of "rape by deception," because he'd led the Jewish woman with whom he'd had consensual sex to believe he was Jewish. Ha'aretz has the story here. Plainly it's a ...

posted 7:51:28pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.