‘Muslim degree course is set to cause controversy’

Under that heading this week’s Tribune reports that the University of Chester is to offer a degree in Muslim youth work, which has been developed in collaboration with Muslim agencies.

Ron Geaves, head of theology and religious studies at the university, is quoted as saying: “It seems to me that if ever a community was crying out for more skilled youth workers, it is the Muslim community. There are a huge number of Muslims who work already in the voluntary sector but are not qualified, which limits their career choices.”

Ann Cryer, Labour MP for Keighley, is not impressed. “I get a bit fed up with the idea that we have to have specific things geared to the Muslim community”, she tells Tribune. “Why can’t we have a youth worker working with all youngsters generally?”

Yakoub Islam adds:

In relation to this story, it is worth mentioning that Professor Ron Geaves is an ethnologist who has been working with British Muslim communities for over two decades. His research has seen him spend prolonged periods living within Muslim communities in England, particularly working class Barelwi Muslims who voices are seriously under-represented in every area of British society.

Ann Cryer’s comments are therefore all the more offensive for their willful ignorance, in the face of one of the most authorative academic voices on Muslims in Britain, whose knowledge of the impact of decades of discrimination against Muslims comes first hand. British Muslim communities are dogged by high rates of youth unemployment due to Islamophobia. Many young Muslims feel marginalised by British society. This is reflected in the rates of drug abuse and criminality, such that today Muslims make up 1 in 10 of the prison population in England.

Professor Geaves’ comments reflect his understanding of a desperate need; Anne Cryer’s reflect the bigotry of a desperate and despicable politician.