“BRADFORD born and raised, I have been a journalist for more than 20 years and I was writing for decades before that. One of the most frustrating things I have come across is how so many stories relating to Islam in the UK are often discussed without actually speaking to Muslims.
And if you happen to be a Muslim from the north of England then you are even more likely to be airbrushed out of the conversation.
Ironically, of course, Bradford as a city never seems to be out of the news whether its about high levels of immigration, poverty and other social problems.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron called Bradford a ‘tale of two cities’ and there was a Channel 4 programme called ‘Making Bradford British’ further perpetuating the myth that we are not really a part of the United Kingdom. But still the voices of young Bradfordians are seldom heard.
So when I heard about this research looking at the inner struggles of young British Asian men in particular, I knew I had to get involved.
For so long we have assumed that, as they are now second and third generation, our youngsters have reached some level of acceptance both as British citizens and the wider community and also within their own skin. Surely we don’t have that battle any more, the schism between them and us?
But while many young people can straddle this culture gap successfully, flitting seamlessly between their parents’ world view and that of their peers, for others it really is a chasm, a void, a bridge too far.
I wanted to give those voices a platform.
It is shocking that these young people have never been asks for their opinions before and they clamoured to take part in the research. Young men would answer my questions and then tell me they had mentioned it to their friends who also wanted to speak to me. It snowballed and could have been a much wider project.
Some of the young men felt alienated from their families, others felt alienated from wider society.
One lad, a polite respectful young man, said plaintively: “It doesn’t matter how much we try to fit it we will never be accepted so why bother?”
They formed little communities with their closest friends and had known each other since primary school and didn’t venture out of those enclaves.
Of course the vast majority are happy, well adjusted, successful.
As a reporter of many years standing I have seen first-hand how many have reached the dizzying heights of their careers. A growing number of British-born young Muslims are successful entrepreneurs and social media stars with huge followings as well as those who are have gone down more traditional career routes.
There are phenomenal success stories here. But equally, there are those who feel out of their depth.
A couple of the young men blew myths about the Asian community out of the water- like how we are all so family orientated.
One said: “I will never forgive my granddad for making my mum have an arranged marriage and I have cut him out of my life. Some people care more about rules and what people will say rather than the feelings of their own flesh and blood.”
As other researchers have mentioned there were a number of participants who suffered from mental health problems and how they were told to keep these problems under wraps lest they be judged by the rest of the community.
All in all, it opened my eyes to a distressing situation. I had assumed that as we become more embedded in British life that things were becoming easier but I was wrong.
This research has changed me, previously I was way more judgemental and harsh, believing that our young have ‘never had it so good.’
In some ways, yes, they have all the benefits but at what cost?
We need to continue this research and look at ways of tackling these issues further. We owe it to future generations.”
By Anila Baig