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Religion and community solidarity

·      We can calculate that only about 14% of those claiming to be Christians in the census are active members, against 42% of Muslims, 33% of Buddhists, 32% Jews and 29% of Hindus.

·      A lower proportion of active Christians does not, in itself, necessarily indicate lower levels of religiosity, as it is probable that the majority population value the community experience of the place of worship less than do people from ethnic groups.

There are various possible reasons why immigrants to Britain have placed a greater emphasis on religion than the long-established population:

·      People had high levels of belief before migration and as Weber suggested, being members of deprived groups, they tended to be more religious. Religion provides an explanation for disadvantage and possible offers hope of salvation.

·      Religion helps bond new communities- particularly when under threat. As Durkheim has argued, it provides members with a sense of shared norms and values.

However, religion has also become a basis for conflicts between cultures. The dominant culture often sees minority cultures in a negative light. Ethnic minority issues, e.g. arranged marriage, suggest an unwillingness to assimilate and have created resentment from the host community.

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Religion and ethnic identity

·      African-Caribbeans were mainly Christian on arrival in the UK, but when they tried to join existing religious institutions, they often had to come to terms with the racism displayed by the church and its congregations.

·      On the other hand, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims had virtually no existing religious organisation s and places of worship in Britain to join. They had to make a collective effort to establish and practice their faith in a radically new social setting.

·      Nonetheless, distinctively African-Caribbean forms of Christian spirituality in both the mainstream churches and in the black-led churches have mushroomed in the past 20 years, as some African-Caribbeans have sought to establish their own churches. An average of three new churches have been started since 1998- half this growth is from ethnic minorities.

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Differences in styles of worship

·      Pentecostal church congregations comprise every age group and an equal balance of the sexes. There is a greater emphasis on religious experience and worship is concerned with demonstrating publicly the joyous nature of religious conversion and the power of religion to heal people.

Bird suggests that Pentecostalism has played a dual role for African-Caribbean people:

1.   For some, it has enabled them to cope with and adjust to a racist and unjust society. It serves as an 'opium' for the people, as Marx has suggested.

2.   For others, such as Pryce, it encourages hard work, sexual morality and strong support of the family and community. In this sense, it reflects the Protestant ethic that Weber outlined.

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Young people and religiosity

·      Modood et al found that there appears to be an overall decline in the importance of religion for all of the main ethnic groups, and fewer said they observed the various rules and requirements.

·      Also, fewer second-generation respondents regularly attend a place of religious worship. The least religiously committed were Sikhs. When asked how they saw themselves, virtually none of the second-generation Punjabis said 'Sikh'. However, a decade earlier, Drury studied a much larger sample of 16 to 20 year old Sikh girls and found that, if prompted, all saw their Sikh identity as fundamental.

·      But despite claims of religious indifference, some kind of belief appears to be continuing among young people. Mayo, Smith and Rankin suggest that young people are interested in spiritual matters, but that they attribute to the term 'spiritual', a wider variety of meanings, appreciated among themselves, rather than ascribe to those proposed by religious or spiritual representatives.

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Young Muslims

·      In the case of young Muslims, there appears to be a re-emphasis on Islamic identity arising in the wake of perceived injustice. In a PEW poll of 2006, 72% of Muslims of all ages in the UK said they believed that Muslims have a very strong (28%) or fairly strong (44%) sense of Islamic identity, and 77% felt that this sense of identity was increasing.

·      Archer also finds that a strong Muslim identity provides an alternative to the gang and drug cultures of the 'street'. It is a way to resist stereotypes of 'weakness and passivity'.

·      Though exaggerated by the media, the so-called radicalisation of Muslim youth, where it has occurred is due, according to Choudhury, to a lack of religious literacy and education. He argues that this appears to be a common feature among those drawn to extremist groups.

Akthar argued that after 9/11 and the wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, radical Islamic groups were able to exploit the view of a simple dichotomy of oppressors and oppressed - the West versus Islam, which puts the blame for all of the problems faced by Muslims under the same banner.

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Young Muslim women

·      Research by Knott and Khoker suggest that many young South Asian Muslim women draw a distinction between 'religion' and 'culture', in contrast to their parents who, in their view, mistakenly confuse the two. Furthermore, they reject their parents' conformity to cultural traditions whilst at the same time full embracing their Muslim identity.

·      Woodhead suggest that many young Muslim women have developed, as she puts it, 'a careful and often lavish attention to style, mixed with a very deliberate not to faith', which she terms 'Muslim chic', creatively asserting their Muslim identity, whilst at the same, making a commitment to the British national identity.

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