Muslim Women and Migration Teaching Pack
Age Group: 13+
Length: 1hr 30 minutes
Developed by Sibyl Adams (University of York)
The aim of the lesson is to emphasise the long history of Muslim women migrating to Britain, and to introduce some key ideas:
- Men often migrated first then women and children followed
- Migration and Muslims living in Britain is not a contemporary phenomenon
- Contemporary Muslim women’s experience in Britain are varied and so not compliant with the stereotypical representations of ‘oppressed’ and ‘voiceless’ women.
Legacy of Colonialism and Empire
- The history of Muslims in Britain is very complex as there are differing reasons for migration. For example, 300 years ago sailors were recruited in India to work for the East India Company (which was a British trading company). Some stayed in the UK.
- In 1869 the creation of the Suez Canal (man-made canal in Egypt connecting Europe to Asia) meant an increase in trade caused a demand for men from the colonies to work in ports and ships. Links grew between these workers and Britain, causing some to settle in Britain. As a result, the first mosque was built in 1889 in Woking.
- Consider the psychology of being a colonial subject- seeing Britain as the mother land. Also note that a lot of colonies had large Muslim populations.
Decolonisation and Partition
- Most migrants came from colonial areas that had strong connections with British Empire (i.e. recruitment for army or navy).
- British Nationality Act 1948- granted colonial subjects British citizenship, citizens of commonwealth countries had extensive rights to migrate to UK until 1962 (Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962).
- Partition of India into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as a result of Britain leaving, (which is still a controversial topic even today as to what extent Britain was to blame), a lot of Muslims (and other religions) came to Britain to escape violence. 2 million people in total were killed for religious reasons.
- An example: most people of Pakistani descent in Bradford came from the same area in Pakistan that had links with British navy- 90% of Pakistanis have their roots in and around the Mirpur District of southern Azad Kashmir.
Large Scale Immigration 1950s, 60s, 70s
- Labour shortage and historic links with Britain resulted in large-scale migrations to Britain in modern times.
- First migrants mainly men who left their family behind and lived in communal houses.
- Most of the British Muslim population are descendants from this first generation.
- It is important to stress the identification of ‘Muslim’ as both a religious and cultural identity (cultural can be categorised as lifestyle, interests, food, rituals and holidays, etc), in the same way that some British people celebrate Christmas but do not identify as ‘Christian’.
(A blog post written by Sibyl on her experience of teaching this workshop can be found here)