Journal of Moral Education
Vol. 36, No. 3, September 2007, pp. 357–369

“Community perceptions of moral education as a response to crime by young Pakistani males in Bradford”

Marta Bolognani, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan


While increasing attention from academics and the media focuses on the lives of Muslim
communities in the west, little attention has so far been given to insiders’ own perceptions of their
social lives. This paper, borne out of broader research on their perceptions of crime, aims to
analyse some internal discourses on moral education. The ethnographic data, collected between
October 2004 and July 2005, is used to try to show the potentials and the pitfalls of formal (in
mosques, madrasahs and schools) and informal (in family and community) means of provision of
moral education. The paper argues that prevention of deviance through moral education seems to
be neglected in favour of punishment, retrieval or rehabilitation. Female deviance, however, seems
to be addressed by prevention strategies that are based on protection and the limitation of certain
interactions, rather than on moral education.



This paper has shown how families, although expected to be the core of moral
education and social control practices, are seen by many Bradford Pakistanis as
failing to provide moral guidance and nurture for mainly three reasons: lack of
parental skills, lack of interaction with the outer world, including schools and
tendency to delegate moral education to others, especially mosques and madrasahs.

Faith was a source from which many of the notions of good and evil were drawn.
Proximity with pious environments was generally considered a ‘protective factor’ in
terms of crime but not even this was deemed as a completely safe path for crime
prevention. While faith was thought of as able to help individuals who had gone onto
a wrong path, it was generally considered a variable independent of human will and
therefore could not directly be used in crime prevention: humans cannot control
faith. However, many believed that an upbringing that emphasised Muslim identity
may lead to some positive results. On their part, mosques were depicted by many as
structures trapped in power and blackmail struggles. The problems of incompetent
imams and the language barrier were also mentioned, together with a growing
interest in international and ‘ummatic’ problems, rather than local concerns. These
issues were reflected in the critical views on madrasahs and religious education.
However, religious practice through English as a medium was generally evaluated as
a safer strategy as it was the teaching of universal Islamic moral values that would
benefit the community through encouraging the inner change of individuals.
Schools, on the other hand, were not considered as conveyors of moral education,
but of skills. Furthermore, inner city schools were considered a place where a
‘contamination’ from bad characters could take place. Overall, research participants
seemed to agree that in Bradford moral education was perpetually delegated and no
agent was ever found to take it over. Prevention of deviance through moral
education, therefore, was perceived to be unsuccessful overall. Social control in
terms of punishment, retrieval or rehabilitation was a more common approach for
boys, though not for girls. Female deviance in fact seemed to be addressed through
prevention strategies that were based on protection and the restriction of certain
interactions, rather than through moral education.”