Focus groups with practitioners

Discussion at the roundtable, as can readily be seen from the notes on the previous page, was largely academic and theoretical. The next stage in the project was to consult further with practitioners – that is, with teachers and youth leaders who work with young Muslim citizens – about how the theoretical points could be translated into educational practice. Accordingly, two one-day focus groups were organized, in Birmingham and London respectively.

At each of these, participants were introduced to the academic debate by being given nine quotations from the earlier roundtable and being asked to discuss and prioritize them. The quotations are shown on the previous page. The three quotations which received most votes from practitioners were these:

Us and them
Discourse within the Muslim community that disrespects fellow citizens needs to be tackled. Muslims must not perpetuate a dualistic perspective that sees a Muslim ‘us’ and a non-Muslim ‘them’.

Margins and mainstream
It is not just a matter of whether Muslims are participating in the political arena but how they are participating and in which areas. There seems to be more Muslim engagement with international rather than domestic issues. If Muslims want to be citizens in the mainstream, rather than on the cultural and religious margins, this discrepancy has to be addressed.

Responsibility to non-Muslims
Muslims have a social responsibility towards non-Muslims. As citizens, Muslims should ask themselves ‘What do I, as a Muslim, have to offer to non-Muslim citizens in Europe?’

 

Participants in the focus groups added several further concerns. These included:

  • the attractions of modern youth culture and street culture, and how to counteract their negative aspects at the same time as embracing popular culture’s potential to be constructive, creative and positive
  • the need to develop creativity in young Muslims, so that they see and contribute to positive representations of themselves in mainstream popular culture – music, films, TV, magazines, sport
  • relationships with parents and elders, and how young people can help to bridge the generation gap and what they need for this
  • the impact of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism, particularly in the media, on the confidence and self-esteem of young Muslims
  • the need to build up assertiveness in young Muslims, as distinct from passivity, apathy and defeatism on the one hand and anger and aggression on the other
  • helping young Muslims to separate out authentic Islamic traditions from traditions and customs that are distinctive only of a particular national, ethnic or regional culture
  • helping young Muslims to separate authentic Islamic teachings from radical and extremist interpretations of Islam
  • the need to build and strengthen participation skills in young people, including skills in debate, advocacy, communication and persuasion
  • the need for forms of guidance, advice and support for young Muslims that are not only based on traditional Islamic principles but also are sensitive to the distinctive contexts of modern urban life, and to real-life situations and events.

 

The concerns expressed at the roundtable and in the focus groups were then combined by a small steering group into a statement of principles and incorporated into the activities set out in this pack.

Next, a piloting version of the pack was produced and this was introduced and discussed at meetings which took place in Birmingham, Bradford, Bristol, Leicester, London and Nottingham. Some of the participants in these meetings subsequently tried out several of the activities with young people and provided written feedback. In the light of their written and spoken feedback, the piloting version was revised.

 



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