A NEW report has shone a spotlight on young Muslim women’s experience of drugs and drug-related activity in Bradford.

The study, one of four, was carried out as part of the Muslim Women’s Council (MWC) Think Tank programme, established last year with the aim of ensuring Muslim women can influence policy and decision-making at all levels.

After completing a training programme, those involved identified a list of key research areas which emerged from their lived experiences - some difficult and rarely addressed in research.

The first to be released examines the experiences and views of 50 young Muslim women on drug-related activity in Bradford.

Bana Gora, CEO of MWC, said “Our community research teams have demonstrated sustained commitment and dedication while developing the research themes and questions. We are proud to present the first of four cogent and timely studies on community-based issues.”

The Think Tank community research teams pinpointed this as an under-researched topic, said the MWC, and were keen on drawing attention to what they know, from experience, is a “growing epidemic within their communities in order to explore and develop effective solutions without criminalising or judging the young women’s choices”.

The report found that just over half of the young Muslim women interviewed were involved, or knew someone who was involved in drug-related activity. One in three had been offered drugs, one in six admitted taking them regularly and one in 10 did so by the age of 15.

Meanwhile, more than half of those who refused drugs said they did so because of their faith commitment.

Those taking drugs gave a number of reasons for doing so, including loneliness and anxiety, peer pressure and a need to belong. The most popular recreational drug was cannabis, while other drugs identified included cocaine, crack, MDMA and speed.

Half of those taking drugs used social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram to purchase drugs, but took personal risks by going to unsafe collection points.

One young girl told the study: “They [drug dealers] are always on there, and easy to find.”

All those interviewed agreed on the negative impact of drugs, and one in five flagged up the impact on their relationship with their family if they found out.

The report says: “They believed there was a gendered stigma in the community and that they would be judged far more harshly than boys.”

Others highlighted the impact on their mental wellbeing, their faith and the potential toll on physical health. The report makes a number of recommendations including culturally-sensitive training and targeted support for young Muslim women including a confidential helpline, drop-ins at schools and specially trained staff who understand the cultural and religious context.

It also recommends peer support initiatives, law enforcement working alongside social media platforms and collaborative working with mosques.