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?