This ESRC funded project explores areas of need for Muslim communities during the impact of coronavirus, and developing interventions in tandem with community organisations to maintain a sense of community and connectedness.
The research will focus on Muslim communities living in Washwood Heath, Bordesly Green, Sparkbrook and Handsworth, Birmingham, UK, and the responses to the COVID pandemic by religious community leaders, community organisations and Mosques within these communities.
The UCL Institute of Health Informatics has shown that BAME individuals are two-three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the white population (UCL 2020). Specifically, the risk of death from Covid-19 is: 3.29 times higher for Pakistanis than the general population; 3.24 times higher for Black Africans; 2.41 times higher for Bangladeshis; 2.21 times higher for Black Caribbean and 1.7 times higher for British Indians (UCL 2020). The above data clearly indicates that Muslims from BAME backgrounds are at significantly elevated risk. Furthermore, 73.7% Of Muslims in the UK are from South Asian groups and 88.5% are from BAME backgrounds (MCB 2015), with the Annual Population Survey documenting 301,000 Muslims living in Birmingham (ONS 2018).
The research will focus on impacts on Muslims living in the wards identified around perceptions of vulnerability post-lockdown; state responses including the policing of social distancing measures and NHS responses to COVID-19; and responses by local Mosques to facilitate collective worship, rituals around burial and community connectedness. Data will be collected through online surveys with Mosques and semi-structured interviews and focus groups with community members and religious leaders. The research will develop applicable interventions based on responses by Mosques and other Muslim community organisations, deliverable in partnership with local government agencies in Birmingham and in the UK more widely.
Muslim communities in Birmingham have been among the most affected black and minority ethnic groups to be impacted by COVID-19. The proposed research covers a range of bases which will be integral to identifying areas of need and more pertinently, areas of limitation in local government responses and the ways in which these have been partially filled by community-led initiatives. Through documenting these areas of need and identifying desired and appropriate responses, the insights from the research will allow for effective strategies to be developed specifically to the needs of British Muslims as a particularly vulnerable group within the context of the pandemic. These strategies will be documented in practical terms through toolkits, a written report, and two proposed conferences (both to be delivered in person and live streamed) to facilitate access for Muslim communities, and black and minority ethnic communities across the country more generally.
Impact will be focused on alleviating vulnerability within Muslim communities in Birmingham initially, and on the national level later on. The research is significant not least because we will gain an insight into the experiences of Muslims as one of the most vulnerable communities to include black and minority ethnic groups. But we will also gather insights into the implications of the pandemic for religious observance, collective worship obligatory rituals around burial, and the role of Mosques for the community in times of extreme need. We will also look at perceptions of state responses held within Muslim communities in Birmingham, including concerns around the rollout of vaccines. Understanding the complexities of how these factors are related is necessary in order to fully understand areas of need for Muslim communities within the context of COVID-19 Britain.