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French Hijab study “not trustworthy” say Stanford researchers

AnalystNews reached out to researchers from Stanford University to ask them about a controversial French hijab study

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French Hijab study

Researchers from Stanford University have cast doubt on claims by a French hijab study which suggested that hijab bans within the classroom have been beneficial for Muslim girls and led to an improvement in grades.  

The study said that the 1994 circular which required schools to ban all “ostentatious” religious symbols “coincided with a significant improvement in the educational attainment of female students of Muslim origin”. 

Vasiliki Fouka and Aala Abdelgadir from Stanford University, who conducted their own study in 2019, said that the February 2022 paper by Ėric Maurin and Nicolás Navarrete had a number of significant drawbacks, rendering their conclusions invalid. They highlighted three major drawbacks of the study.

Problems with French Hijab study

Firstly, the French report compared the effects of the ban on a group of prepubescent girls against older girls, who the authors claimed would be unaffected by the circular because older girls would already have made their decision to wear or not to wear the veil.

French Hijab Study

The Stanford researchers said: “It is not appropriate to consider this group of older girls as unaffected by the circular because they were also in school during its implementation and would have been affected.” 

What the Stanford study found was that it was actually girls who were already in secondary school that experienced the most discrimination during the implementation of the Hijab ban in 2004.

“Comparing girls pubescent versus girls post-pubescent in 1994 could yield a finding of higher educational attainment for younger girls simply because the comparison group of older girls did worse in school because of the circular’s effects on them,” they said.

The second major drawback that Fouka and Abdelgadir explained was that the reason for a supposed reduction in the attainment gap between Muslim and non-Muslim students cannot necessarily be related to the 1994 circular. They said: “High school graduation rates seem to have been increasing steadily for Muslim girls born 1975 and later, with no apparent change for girls that Maurin and Navarette define as affected by the circular”. 

Instead, graduation rates among non-Muslim girls seemed to stagnate for those in the younger cohort of the French Hijab study, which could have contributed to the positive effects that their study found. 

The third significant drawback of Maurin and Navarrete’s study was that they didn’t make clear their reasons for concluding Muslim girls fared better after the ban.

“The circular’s veiling prohibition is claimed to allow these girls to engage in school, thus reducing dropout rates and raising their educational attainment. But there is nothing in the analyses of the paper that provides direct evidence for this,” said Fouka and Abdelgadir.  

The authors of the French Hijab study themselves acknowledged that many girls wore the Hijab out of their own free choice, which affirmed their “cultural identity as a woman free to veil and a part of French society,” the Stanford researchers added.

For these reasons they said: “We don’t think the conclusions of the study are trustworthy.”

Stanford Study

In the study conducted by them, they were able to provide evidence on the specific causes of why the 2004 ban reduced the educational attainment for Muslim girls. They showed that girls in school at the time experienced discrimination specifically in the context of educational settings, but not other public spaces.

Further interviews with Muslim women uncovered how there was a “climate of increased scrutiny and targeting” during the early phases of the law’s implementation. 

The Stanford study highlighted the need to investigate and take into account negative consequences of such bans which target vulnerable groups, like teenage girls, before enforcing such policies. 

Fouka and Abdelgadir found a “clear and immediate reduction” in the educational attainment of Muslim secondary school girls at the time of the ban. This “robust” effect persisted even after various forms of analysis across three different data sources. 

Discrimination due to Hijab

While the argument in favour of the headscarf ban may suggest that it shields Muslim girls from discrimination based on their religious identity, which is more apparent with their choice of clothing, this is all speculative and there is no concrete evidence to support this claim, the researchers added. 

Fouka and Abdelgadir say: “There is no research we are aware of that provides systematic evidence either on the reasons why Muslim girls veil at school, nor that veiling bans reduce discrimination against them (indeed, our data shows that perceived discrimination increased rather than the other way around)”.

Other methodological limitations of the French Hijab study, such as how the researchers decided to determine religion of students, and the assumption that all girls wearing the veil were forced to do so, also waive confidence in the conclusion of the findings. 

Stanford’s Fouka and Abdelgadir concluded by saying: “It is worth thinking whether, as a society, we want to place the onus of reducing targeting on the victims – by having them blend in and be less conspicuous – or on the perpetrators. If the goal is to reduce discrimination and improve the standing of marginalised groups, we should perhaps consider alternatives that do not make the targeting of those marginalised groups even more intense”.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Media

Mo Farah’s experiences show the impact of compassion toward the “others”

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Mo Farahs Documentary

While the world spins in a gyre of unrest, a BBC documentary on the life of British Athlete Mo Farah has brought another darker aspect to light. In a 60-minute documentary, Mo Farah, whose name at birth was Hussein Abdi Kahin, revealed he was trafficked into the UK from the former French colony of Djibouti. 

Sharing experiences of his bleak past and his feelings of devastation and alienation in a world that was new to him Farah told the BBC how the conflict in his birthplace of Somaliland forced his mother to send him to his relatives in Djibouti from where his miseries began. While the documentary shows the struggles he went through to make his way in a country far away from home, it also serves as a reminder of being considerate and compassionate toward immigrants and the “others” of a society. 

According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), young kids in countries of conflict, economic decline, and marginalized communities are at higher risk of getting “tricked, forced or persuaded to leave their homes”. They are then forcefully used as work slaves or treated as commodities for sale. 

The International Organization for Migration has also noted that trends in human trafficking are gendered as well. Both men and women are chosen and trafficked to perform certain jobs. It further explains how immigrants can also fall prey to human traffickers as their social vulnerabilities, unfortunately, makes them an easier target. 

As per the most recent figures[1]  available, about forty-nine thousand people were trafficked[2] . These figures, up till 2018, do not include the cases that went undetected because of the lack of resources for identification and screening at borders. 65% of these people comprised women and girls, while 20% of men and 15% of young boys were trafficked from various regions around the world. Since then, however, the state of the world has drastically changed. Covid-19 has put various communities on the verge of financial decline. This, in turn, has increased the risk of people in those communities and countries, trying to find stability and financial security, and falling prey to human traffickers. 

Similarly, after the US pulled its forces out of Afghanistan deserting an already socially, politically, and economically turbulent country. It created a huge influx of migrants towards western nations as well as its neighboring countries, thus escalating opportunities for the unscrupulous to exploit those desperate enough into forced labor.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine is another example of a conflict that has also forced people from both countries to evacuate to a safe place. In these types of situations, vulnerable, people and especially children become an easy target.

While the victims are forcefully exploited for work, they continue to live in visually civilized societies. The biasedattitude of people towards the “others” of society renders them unnoticed. These biases are fed to people through electronic and print media. While stereotyped accents and professions make it difficult for immigrants, refugees, and the apparent “aliens” of society to find their place, it also increases the chances of victims of child and human trafficking to continue being under the shadow of their oppressor. 

The trauma of fleeing an area of conflict, or forcefully being removed from one’s home makes it difficult for victims of human trafficking and refugees to play an active role in society. But as proven by Mo Farah, when proper attention and care is given to even those who seem “misfits,” they can become an asset and inspiration to a whole nation.

A boy separated from his mother at a young age, was able to return to her years later as Knight of the Realm and honored by Her Majesty the Queen, and all because of the decency, care, and humanity shown to him by his early education teachers.


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All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

‘Don’t forget them’: millions of Afghans face hunger, economic crisis 

International aid workers share stories of children and families struggling to make ends meet

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“Winter is coming.”

That’s how Ammar Ammar, spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Afghanistan, describes the situation in Afghanistan. The current hunger crisis, the result of a collapsing economy and drought, will only get worse if the country doesn’t get help, he says, especially in the colder months when people also have to stay warm.

“It’s not Game of Thrones here, it’s reality.”

Almost a year after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the world has become silent about the plight of the country and its people, who are facing one of their worst humanitarian and economic crisis in decades.

After the fall of Kabul, the international community declined to recognize the Taliban regime. Countries paused foreign aid and imposed sanctions. The United States also froze billions in Afghan state assets.

A country that had become reliant on external aid was left on its own. In the process, millions of Afghans were abandoned, too.

On a recent lunch break in Kabul, Ammar saw two girls, one about six years old and the other about three. One of them was lying down on the sidewalk, while the other was squatting next to a big nylon bag. They’d been collecting pieces of scrap metal on the streets to make ends meet. 

“You could see that they were exhausted,” Ammar said. “You are going for your break and at the same time you can see two kids on the street, where they have no break at this age. It strikes you.”

And there are thousands of children like them.

“We are doing a massive job,” Ammar says. “But the sad reality is we can’t help everyone at the end of the day.”

A woman in Qala-e-Naw, the capital of the Badghis province recently told the UN-run World Food Programme (WFP) in Kabul how she made ends meet after her husband died five years prior. 

“In the past, she said, she had a fair life, just getting by cleaning and washing for other people. After the economy collapsed, families have no money anymore to pay her and her work dried up,” said WFP spokesperson Philippe Kropf in an email. As a result, she borrows money to buy food, going further into debt.

“She told me she has not been able to buy cooking oil for weeks. She eats bread with tea and sometimes rice,” he said.

Afghanistan abandoned


A young man told Kropf that “his family went to sleep many evenings without anything to eat in the past months.”

“They borrowed food with neighbours, but increasingly the neighbours have nothing to share,” he added, noting the young man had only completed second grade and was trying to find labour jobs to make ends meet. “But these jobs are getting rarer and rarer because of the collapse of the economy, too.”

The man participated in a training program to gain skills such as tailoring or mobile phone repair to earn a livelihood. The program trains 200 men and women over six months, during which participants receive food assistance for their families. 

“After the training, (the young man) hopes to either open his own little shop, sewing clothing for men and children or to find work in a tailor shop and work for a salary,” Kropf said.

Prospects of famine remain

With the country reeling from recent droughts, and facing high inflation, a difficult situation is becoming even worse.

“For the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities, marking the shifting face of hunger in the country,” Kropf said, noting some people are seeking help from WFP for the first time in their lives.

“The scale of the crisis in Afghanistan is immense, and needs continue to outpace available funding,” he added. The WFP needs nearly US $1 billion by the end of 2022 to help 18 million people – nearly half the population of Afghanistan.

Of that, the group urgently needs US $172 million to secure 150,000 metric tonnes of food to support 2.2 million people in remote parts of Afghanistan, which can get cut off by ice and snow in winter.

“We need these even more urgently because of the long lead-times for food commodities that we need to buy internationally,” Kropf said, including vegetable oil and specialized nutritious foods. “We need to get them into (the) country and then drive them into the mountains.”

The lack of funds in state bank accounts means civil servants aren’t being paid regularly, companies are shutting down and ordinary civilians face restricted access to their own savings.

Prospects of famine remain, said Ammar, noting that the main indicator is farming, which most people depend on to make ends meet. Farmers say climate change is resulting in less food production, resulting in extended periods when people don’t have adequate access to food.

Need for international aid

At the end of June, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit southeast Afghanistan, killing      over 1,000 people and causing damage the International Rescue Committee described as “catastrophic.”

“This earthquake is a catastrophe for the people affected, but the response to the wider crisis in Afghanistan remains a catastrophe of choice for the international community,” said David Miliband, the group’s CEO and president in a release at the time.

“While humanitarian aid has averted famine for now, policies of economic isolation, the halting of development funding, and the lack of support for Afghan civil servants are unraveling the two decades of development progress that western leaders vowed to protect.” 

He noted that families across the country face unemployment, leading to lower demand among local businesses which in turn leads to further job losses. He called for the international community to urgently provide funding to the country as well as “the phased and closely monitored unfreezing of assets.”

The question of frozen assets

Advocates for Afghanistan have criticized U.S.’s decision to freeze a portion of the country’s assets and decried a proposal for the U.S. to use some of them to support families affected by 9/11.

Afghanistan’s assets rightfully belong to Afghanistan, said Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. 

However, while unfreezing the funds would help bring immediate help to alleviate Afghanistan’s crisis, the country will need more support in the long-term, said Iqbal, who previously worked at the International Monetary Fund for more than 30 years.

The solution is to grant foreign aid to Afghanistan in a sustainable way to allow recovery, while managing its spending through an independent entity, he said.

Concerns around a proposal in the U.S. to use some of the Afghan assets to support families affected by 9/11 prompted a group of Afghan women to write an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden in February.

“Taking funds from the Afghan people is the unkindest and most inappropriate response for a country that is going through the worst humanitarian crisis in its history,” the letter reads. “It is the squeezing of a wounded hand.”

Freezing the assets from the Taliban was the right decision, said one of the signatories in an interview, but they belong to the Afghan people and must be released to address the humanitarian crisis. 

“My expectation from the international community is to put serious attention on Afghanistan,” said Roshan Mashal, former deputy director of Afghan Women’s Network, who left Afghanistan after the takeover and is now a fellow at the University of Texas at Arlington. 

She called for coordination on how countries engage with the Taliban and to support the country’s people, as millions of Afghans face hunger and economic crisis.

“Don’t forget them,” she said.


All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Politics

Indigenous Abuse in Catholic Canadian Residential Schools- Who is to Blame?

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Study period at Roman Catholic Indian Residential School Fort Resolution Northwest Territories 14112957392

Starting from the 1880s and up until much of the 20th century (till 1998) more than 130 Residential Schools which were created by the Canadian Government and supported by Catholic Church conducted a cultural genocide of indigenous children in Canada. 

Around 150,000 children of ages as young as three years old used to be forcibly separated from their parents and made to live in the residential schools where they faced physical, sexual, spiritual and psychological abuse. 

Children were forced to assimilate into the white Canadian culture and they were not even allowed to speak their native language.  The idea was to kill the native from within those children. 

Ever since the 1970s, the unmarked graves of children suspected to have died due to disease, neglect or other causes while in these residential schools have been found from time to time, a recent of 200 plus such graves of indigenous children were discovered last year.  

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada have reported that graves of thousands of children have been found over the years.  They were buried on the school premises and parents were not even informed or their dead bodies were not sent to their homes apparently to save costs.  

Over the last 50 years there have been demands of an apology from the Catholic Church by the survivors of these schools and the families of the children who went through this dark period. The recent visit of the Pope to Canada is in fulfillment of one of the action items demanded by the survivors of these schools and other indigenous leaders. 

The Pope visited the site of a former residential school and apologized for the involvement of Catholic Church in government sponsored “projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation” during his current dedicated trip to Canada called as penitential pilgrimage.

“Understanding that survivors will each have their own vision of reconciliation, for many, anything less than an apology that includes an unqualified admission of the crimes committed, a full acceptance of responsibility, and a commitment to end the abuse and make full reparations will be just another empty apology and continuing injustice for First Nations, Inuit and Metis,” said an indigenous leader. 

The Pope in his speech offered apology multiple times  in different ways and said “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” He added “May Jesus be preached as he desires, in freedom and charity.”

Reacting to the apology, President of the Native Women’s Association of Canada said, “a lot of mixed emotions at this point, where some people are happy with the visit and the intent and [others don’t] want to hear about it at all.”

“When he talks about the atrocities that the churches did on our people, he didn’t use the word ‘sexual abuse.’ … That’s what happened. It happened. And why did he not say that?”, a residential school survivor commented.  

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

Is Cryptocurrency the Hedge Against Inflation?

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With the world in economic turmoil through wars, food insecurity, gas and energy prices skyrocketing, some have been flocking to cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation.

Cryptocurrency, a digital currency, is an alternative payment form which is created through encryption algorithms. It functions as both the currency and a virtual accounting system. A cryptocurrency wallet is needed to use cryptocurrency, which can be cloud-based, on a computer or mobile device. 

Cryptocurrencies are still very new and the market for these currencies are very volatile with the risks still being studied. Because cryptocurrencies are not regulated by a third party and do not use banks, they are uninsured and typically difficult to convert into tangible currencies. As they are technology based and intangible assets, they can be hacked. These currencies are not stored in a bank, but a digital wallet, so if that wallet is lost then the entire crypto investment is lost. 

Although many people looked to cryptocurrency as an inflationary hedge, the crypto market seems to be dropping instead of rising. In June, one of the most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, dropped by 40%, bringing it down to a low of below $18,000. Another popular cryptocurrency, Ethereum, dropped by almost 50% last month hitting a low of nearly $900.

High inflation will likely rise into 2023, through the Fed’s interest rate hikes, continued conflicts abroad and supply chain disruptions. It still remains to be seen how the rising inflation will continue to affect cryptocurrencies, but experts believe the market will continue to be volatile.

In theory, cryptocurrency was seen to be uncorrelated with the stock market, and looked at as an asset similar to fine art or precious metals. However, the crypto market has increasingly tracked with the stock market. This past May, a stablecoin, known as Terra, crashed, bringing down $400 billion in crypto market capitalization in just a few days.

Chief operating officer at Defi lending protocol Euler and a former trader at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Brandon Neal, shared his thoughts saying Crypto is too young of an asset class to know for sure how inflation will affect it. He said “It might not have necessarily been true that crypto was a good inflation hedge. It may have just been coincidental and that, up until now, crypto merely looked like it was a good inflation hedge.”

Bitcoin was launched in 2009, giving us only 13 years worth of data during a period of historically low interest rates. There is no way to tell how the market will respond to changes in global circumstances. 

The managing director and senior research analyst at D.A. Davidson, Chris Brendler, believes that Bitcoin could be a good hedge against inflation over time, due to the fact that it is decentralized and not tied to any central bank. At the same time, he says the current speculation and volatility in crypto markets is overpowering bitcoins value as it is still a new asset. 

Brendler said “If there’s a lot of money printing going on, bitcoin should hold its value [over time],”. “What we don’t know is how much of it is speculation, and we’re continuing to see that come out. I think it will be proven over time to be an inflation hedge, but not this time.”

Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, had been a proponent of cryptocurrencies in the past, especially Bitcoin and Dogecoin. At one point, he even allowed customers to use Bitcoin to purchase his company’s electric vehicles, although later suspended that option citing environmental concerns over Bitcoin mining.

Back in February 2021, the price of Bitcoin went skyrocketing when Tesla announced a $1.5 billion cryptocurrency investment. However, on Wednesday, Tesla sold 75% of its massive Bitcoin stake amid a severe slump in the cryptocurrency markets, furthering the fall of the cryptocurrency. 

Whatever your thoughts on cryptocurrency, before converting real dollars into cryptocurrency, one should make sure to understand how it works, how to exchange it and where it can be used. One should also be sure to do research into choosing a well known digital wallet that is right for them. Lastly, have a backup strategy, in case your computer, mobile device or wherever you have your wallet stored is lost or stolen. Without a back up plan for a lost device, the entire cryptocurrency investment will be lost.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Human Rights

US House of Representatives Passes Respect for Marriage Act

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Marriage Equality Act vote in Albany NY on the evening of July 24 2011 photographed by the Celebration Chapel of Kingston NY

The United States House of Representatives passed a bill titled the Respect for Marriage Act, which gives federal protection towards same-sex marriage. The bill calls on overturning the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman. The action comes after arguments that same-sex marriage should also be overturned like Roe V. Wade, which was recently struck down by the Supreme Court. 

The Respect for Marriage Act will now move on to the divided Senate, with the White House urging they pass. Press Secretary Karin Jean-Pierre stated that President Joe Biden “believes [the bill] is non-negotiable and that the Senate should act swiftly to get this to the president’s desk.”

However, a large majority of Republicans oppose the bill, with an outcome of 267-157. Republican representatives have voiced their support for Justice Clarence Thomas, that same sex marriage should be overturned, stating that Democrats will delegitimize the Supreme Court. That being said, surprisingly 47 Republicans within the House of Representatives voted in favor of the bill, indicating a possibility of further bipartisan support. This could be due to the fact that 70% of Americans support same sex marriage, according to Gallup’s annual Values and Beliefs poll, which could be a potential indication towards the gradual shift of opinion in Republicans. 

But the overall outcome of the bill ultimately remains unknown. In order for the bill to pass within the Senate, Democrats would need the support of ten republicans to avoid a delay. If provisions allowing same-sex marriage are to be overturned by the Supreme Court, states will be allowed to restrict same-sex marriage. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Economics

“Sociocultural attitudes” does not cause high Muslim unemployment, study finds

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Muslim men and women are consistently among the groups of people who are at a higher risk of being unemployed. Previous research has explained the trend due to “sociocultural attitudes” within the Muslim community. However, recent research has rejected this rather, it is anti-Muslim discrimination within the British labour market which drives high unemployment rates within Muslims.

The paper published in the Ethnic and Racial Studies Journal used data from the first ten years of the UK Households Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS), an annual survey which collects data mostly from face-to-face interviews of participants socio-economic situation.

Previous research has found that ethnic differences have impacted “labour market outcomes” in the UK, this could mean significant pay gaps between different ethnic groups, the time of unemployment being significantly longer for those who come from ethnic minority backgrounds and the probability of unemployment increasing when you are an ethnic minority. This is what has been described as an “ethnic penalty.”

The ethnic groups more worse off are, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Black Africans, and Caribbean’s. Indians are less penalised compared to any other minority ethnic group. There is also a “Muslim Penalty.” Research has found that Muslims are the most disadvantaged out of any other types of religions within the labour market. Thus, showing that people’s labour market outcomes can be affected by religion and ethnicity.

Some researchers have found that these penalties have existed due to the discrimination Muslims and ethnic minorities face. However, some research has also found that these penalties have existed within the British Labour Market due to ‘sociocultural variables’ and these variables disproportionately effect women more than men.

The Muslim penalty in particular, is believed to have existed due to commitment to ‘traditional gender norms’ which is assumed to have stemmed from religion. Thus, Muslim women’s poor outcomes within the labour market are due to traditional gender norms of women having to prioritise childrearing and household work leading to less time to find employment.

However, recent research conducted by the Samir Sweida-Metwally, a doctoral researcher at the University of Bristol has found that although a Muslim penalty is acknowledged to exist, this is not due to ‘sociocultural variables’ that has previously been found to be the factor of the existence of a Muslim penalty.

Instead, the study finds that ‘sociocultural variables’ is “not a convincing source of the unexplained ethno-religious differences in labour market participation and unemployment among Muslim men and women.” Rather, the paper finds that the Muslim penalty is due to “anti-Muslim discrimination” which creates a “significant barrier” to the labour market.

The study goes further and states that the there is a ‘country of origin penalty’ too. White British Muslims were not more likely to be unemployed than White British Christians. However, Arabs with no religion experienced the highest likelihood of unemployment.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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