BRADFORD'S booming Muslim population is to be celebrated, say organisations responding to national research.
The British Muslims in Numbers report, published yesterday by the Muslim Council of Britain, analysed the 2011 census.
It revealed the number of Muslims in the UK had increased 80 per cent between 2001 and 2011 - a jump almost mirrored in Bradford.
In 2001, there were 75,188 Muslims living in Bradford - making up 16.1 per cent of the 467,665 population. In 2011, the number of Muslims in Bradford made up almost a quarter - 24.7 per cent - of the 526,400 population.
Bradford district also has the largest proportion of people of Pakistani ethnic origin - 20.3 per cent, or 106,614 - in England.
And the city is one of the youngest in the country, with 23.5 per cent of its population aged under 16 years, with only Birmingham and Leeds having higher numbers.
By 2030, there are expected to be 187,978 people of Asian - not including Chinese - origin living in Bradford, comprising 31.8 per cent of the projected 590,104 population.
The new report said just one in five Muslims was in full-time employment, compared with one in three of the wider population, with the researchers saying Muslims faced a "double penalty" in entering the labour market of "racial discrimination as well as Islamophobia".
While more than half were born outside the country, 73 per cent said their national identity was British, the report said.
Ratna Lachman, director at JUST West Yorkshire, said: "Bradford’s youthful population can be a tremendous asset for the district if we are able to harness their energy and skills to build a vibrant and dynamic economy.
"However given Bradford’s poor performance in the education, health and employment league tables, we need strong leadership to address the issues of inequality in employment, educational attainment, health and life expectancy that the district currently faces.
"These issues impact on ethnic minority communities disproportionately and the increase in the district's Pakistani Muslim population will only compound these issues if they are not addressed now."
She said in the context of the ‘war on terror’ and a rising tide of Islamophobia, Bradford had to work doubly hard to "create an inclusive cohesion template in which young Muslims do not feel demonised."
Zulfi Karim, of the Bradford Council for Mosques, said the report did not reveal anything new and had to be seen in a positive light.
"I don't think Bradford needs to fear from this. We have got to be careful that there is no fear-mongering here. For Bradford to have a majority minority is not something that should be feared," he added.
Bana Gora, of the Muslim Women's Council, said Bradford was a complex and exciting place with a great history of immigration and social diversity.
"What we shouldn’t shy away from is celebrating the diversity that has existed for a number of years across the district," she said.
"The key questions that need to be asked, regardless of faith, are: where are the employment opportunities?
"A major concern is the future generation and a lack of academic attainment, leading to a short fall in career opportunities, which inevitably will lead to more crime and disorder."
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