Understanding the Muslim Community's Contributions to British Society

About Us

The British Muslim Civil Society Report is a new venture by Mercy Mission UK in consultation with a coalition of civil society partners from across the country. The purpose of the report is to better understand British Muslim civil society and empower it to contribute to a more compassionate and united Britain.

About us image

The report is the product of extensive on-the-ground research in the form of interviews, focus groups, and consultations. Through it we have tried to put our finger on the pulse of Britain's Muslim community and learn about the challenges it faces.

The lead researcher behind the BMCS Report, Dr Usaama al-Azami of the University of Oxford, spent the past year conducting research across Britain. Much of the report builds on a series of interviews and focus group discussions with community leaders and activists, conducted by Dr al-Azami both in-person and online. His report offers a vista into the workings of Britain's Muslims and the invaluable social contribution they make to their communities through their fath-inspired civic-mindedness.

Picture of Jehangir Malik

Dr Usaama al-Azami

BMCS Report Lead Researcher

‘This report offers valuable insights into the wide-ranging contributions of Britain’s Muslim community to civil society. Britain’s Muslims are diverse, dynamic, energetic, and often young. As this report shows, they are frequently looking for ways to contribute. We hope this report drives the long-term and meaningful conversations that have so far been largely absent between policymakers across sectors and Muslim civil society organisations, which can improve lives and transform our communities’.

Picture of Jehangir Malik

Jehangir Malik

BMCS Project Director

Download this year's report

Download report image

Key Recommendations

We would propose that statutory and civil society stakeholders should continue to embrace diversity by formally recognizing the contributions made by faith-based organizations, including Muslim organizations, to the voluntary sector in the UK. Opportunities for collaboration between groups of all faiths and none should be actively explored and realized.

In keeping with the Faith Covenant developed by the APPG on Faith and Society, we would like to encourage both local authorities and Muslim organizations to continue to pursue joint work in a way that develops into long-term robust relationships across sectors, including through blended finance, for example. We encourage similar partnerships with central government, an area that needs serious action from both the government and Muslim civil society.

We would propose that civil society umbrella bodies like the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) should begin documenting the religious breakdown of civil society organizations in its annual Almanac so that policymakers can become more aware of their levels of contribution to civil society.

We would propose that New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) consider regularly publishing summary reports on faith-based charitable work, continuing its pioneering reports from recent years in partnership with faith-based charities, so that the sector and Muslim charities can better understand how they fit into the wider charity sector.

Muslim women should be welcomed and sup- ported as contributors and decision-makers in a greater proportion of Muslim organizations and charities, a majority of which remain male-dominated spaces, and therefore cannot be as responsive as they should be to the needs of half of the population.

Mosques and Islamic centres need to offer greater access to Muslim women. This could be achieved in part by opening a conversation about non-South Asian interpretations of a mosque’s social and religious function within Muslim communities.

More women should be welcomed to sit on the boards of mosques and other Muslim organizations than is the current norm so that boards are well-informed of the needs of a significant subset of their potential beneficiaries.

13. More generally, mosques should not function, as they do in many cases, solely as spaces of prayer for men for a few minutes every few hours. The MCB’s Women in Mosques Development Programme is a step in the right direction. However, mosques will need considerable support to undertake such transformations.

Given the levels of deprivation in the British Muslim community, key Muslim charities have begun to recognize the immense importance of focus- ing a greater degree of their efforts towards Britain’s domestic Muslim community, as the Muslim Charities Forum’s recent report, Bridges of Hope, powerfully highlights. This is a positive development, as is the increasing recognition that the problems Muslims face cannot simply be alleviated by poverty relief, but rather by addressing the systemic and structural causes for their deprivation. Such shifts in attitudes should continue.

When producing strategic reports on the future of philanthropy and social investment in the UK, marginalized communities should be taken into account more fully. We recommend that Muslim and other minority faith voices are sought out and meaningfully engaged in national conversations, like the one being attempted in the important recent report, Unleashing the Potential of Philanthropy and Social Investment, from the APPG on Philanthropy and Social Investment.

British Muslims need to begin addressing the needs of their community based on empirical evidence, and this means strategically investing in serious research, drawing on existing data produced by official bodies like the Office for National Statistics, the National Centre for Social Research, alongside publicly accessible regular surveys like the Census, the Labour Force Survey, the Annual Population Survey, and the UK Household Longitudinal Study.

In addition, Muslims can gather data through community initiatives. Such a “British Muslim Survey/Report” would offer granular demographic and economic data that can form the basis for community initiatives, as well as for local and national government to take targeted action to combat deprivation in Muslim communities, actions that are ultimately in the national interest.

British Muslim civil society organizations need to further invest in think-tanks and research institutes that develop robust relationships with lawmakers and policymakers, in local, and national government. These institutions should regularly convey evidence-based policy proposals to inform policymakers at the intersections of faith, policy, and civil society.

Muslim communities, in partnership with some of their successful philanthropists and entrepreneurs, need to re-establish a long tradition of Muslim community endowments and foundations (awqaf) that can cater towards the self-sufficiency and development of Muslim civil society infrastructure in Britain.

Community organizations and initiatives need to be socialized into a culture of seeking funds based on innovative proposals and successful track records of work, thereby increasing the quality of projects that are funded in the community.

Britain’s Muslim community needs to ask long-term questions about its direction and the role it will play in strengthening the fabric of our society. These questions include: What will the Muslim community’s role be in the next ten, twenty, or fifty years? How can it successfully adopt a model of civil society contribution that makes Muslims an integral part of Britain’s civil society landscape? What investments should be initiated today in order for the Muslim community to be in a better position to respond to the needs of British society in future decades?

A Muslim youth sector needs a significant impetus to take off locally, regionally and nationally, addressing the needs and aspirations of a growing, dynamic Muslim population that tends heavily towards a youthful demographic.

Youth-focused programmes in the Muslim community should be provided with culturally appropriate guidance that would allow them to tap into national funding bodies, such as the Youth Investment Fund. This could be strategically supported by local, regional and national bodies by identifying infrastructure development needs and the strategies for the co-creation of solutions within Muslim civil society spaces.

Muslim civil society organizations should explore innovative mechanisms for ensuring that young people’s voices and lived experience are a core part of governance structures, such as through genuinely empowered “youth advisory boards.”

The charity sector, alongside partners in national and local politics, need to acknowledge the deleterious psychological impact of Islamophobia, perceived by many young Muslims as embedded within policies like Prevent, on young Muslims’ mental health and their prospects for educational and professional success. They can do so by adopting the APPG on British Muslims’ definition of Islamophobia.

Muslim youth mentoring initiatives for both genders should be established. Muslim youth need inspiring role models of success from within their communities in Britain – role models they feel have succeeded and are celebrated in wider society without having to compromise their values.

Mosques and Islamic centres should realize their potential to become major community hubs of civil society. Taking into consideration their size, these institutions could serve as a possible starting point for community services, reflecting the Prophet’s mosque as a model for Muslims in all times and places. However, this will need a significant cultural shift in modern Britain, and a major effort within the British Muslim community to build capacity within various local Muslim communities.

Mosques should become vibrant hubs of local democracy in the British Muslim community, where Muslims collectively deliberate and participate in their civic duties as Muslim citizens of Britain.

Such transformations will not happen overnight, but there should be dedicated capacity building organizations which can, with proper funding, be called upon by aspiring mosques in promising communities, to give advice and practical guidance on how to undertake a root and branch transformation from a prayer room to a worshipful community service hub.

Given inevitable limitations on resources, mosques will need to take the first steps towards internal transformation, ideally with commitment and dedication from their communities, men and women, before outside organizations and donors can consider backing long-term transformational projects.

Muslims need to grow and strengthen projects like the MCB’s Centre for Media Monitoring (CfMM) and other community-led initiatives like those led by Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) to increase media literacy in their civil society institutions. This will allow them to be in a stronger position to combat Islamophobic media reports and hostile media interest.

In addition to a reactive strategy, Muslims need a proactive strategy of disseminating and amplifying positive news stories from their communities around the UK. This means developing communications expertise within Muslim civil society organizations, as well as investing in developing greater numbers of Muslim journalists, and exploring the possibility of setting up high-quality Muslim-run news outlets that can compete in quality and professionalism with mainstream news organizations.