Research reveals Muslim pupils more tolerant than non-Muslims
Muslim pupils in East Lancashire are much more liberal and tolerant than their white counterparts according to a study by Lancaster University.
The findings contradict the view in some parts of the media that Asian pupils are in danger of falling into the hands of extremists.
The research was carried out by Dr Andrew Holden from the Religious Studies Department as part of the Burnley Project, a two year Home Office funded investigation in the wake of the riots of 2001.
He says the interim results reveal the strong influence of the BNP on local people and show the “fragility of the White British identity.”
Over 400 fifteen year olds were questioned about their attitudes towards race, religion and cultural integration in the summer term of 2006.
They came from three non-religious schools, all in deprived areas - one in Burnley attended mostly by white pupils and two schools in Blackburn, where one had mostly Indian or Pakistani pupils and the other was ethnically mixed.
Dr Holden said: “One of the most disturbing findings of the survey resulted from a question concerning race.”
Nearly a third of the white pupils believed that one race was superior to another compared with a tenth in the Asian school and under a fifth in the mixed school.
“The greater degree of racial tolerance in an overwhelmingly Asian/Muslim populated school again calls into question the common sense assumption that mixed schools represent the most tolerant environments.”
In contrast, almost half of the white pupils felt that respecting others regardless of religion was not important and a quarter did not feel it was important to tolerate people with different views.
Dr Holden said most pupils at the mainly Muslim school were well integrated and loyal to the UK.
“The overwhelming majority supported liberal democratic values such as showing respect for others, freedom of speech, being friendly to people from other religious and ethnic groups and tolerating those with different views.”
He said the much higher levels of intolerance at the white school were linked to widespread resentment among white residents over the allocation of public funds to the Asian community.
“It is the cumulative effect of myths and stereotype, negative perceptions of cultural diversity and fundamental fear of difference that teachers, outreach workers and educational support staff must make every effort to combat.”