LONDON (Reuters) - Many young British Muslims feel demonized by the police and the media and say they have come under pressure to prove their loyalty since the September 11 attacks and the 2005 London bombings, a study has found.
The report for the Policy Research Center, an Islamic think tank, was intended to give young Muslims their own voice to counter assumptions made by outsiders.
It said young Muslims had been portrayed in the media as a threat to society and often struggled to convince people that they can be both British and Muslim at the same time.
Public debate over immigration, nationalism and integration has left them feeling under attack, while Britain’s role in Iraq and Afghanistan has only increased the pressure.
“As well as facing questions and challenges to their loyalty, young Muslims ... are being pressed to define their identity in light of national and international events,” the report said.
Young Muslims are too often asked to prove that their religion is peaceful and they are law-abiding, the report said.
“This is especially damaging when myths and stereotypes surmount accurate information, resulting in young British Muslims being portrayed as a threat to the wellbeing of the wider British communities,” it said.
There are 1.6 million Muslims in Britain, 2.8 percent of the population, according to the last census in 2001. Unofficial estimates suggest the number could now be well above 2 million.
Most have roots in south Asia, particularly Pakistan and Bangladesh, a legacy of Britain’s colonial rule.
With Britain in its worst recession since World War Two, immigration has risen up the political agenda. The far-right British National Party won its first two seats in the European Parliament in June, helped by fears over jobs and housing.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, trailing in the polls with an election less than a year away, has repeatedly defended his immigration policy and has called the BNP “Nazi sympathizers.”
Despite attempts by police chiefs to engage with the Muslim community, the report found many young British Muslims did not trust the police and felt harassed.
The report blamed a dramatic rise in Muslims being stopped and searched in the street after the July 2005 suicide bombings, which killed 52 people in London. Four British Muslims, three of Pakistani origin, carried out those attacks.
The report said sensationalist media reporting after the bombings created negative stereotypes of Muslims in Britain.
“They see one Asian person’s mistakes and the rest of the community ... has to pay for it,” one unnamed young Muslim was quoted as saying in the report.
Editing by Kevin Liffey