Article: “Australia tweeted #illridewithyou – and showed great solidarity in a moment of crisis” – The Conversation

ridewwithFollowing events in Sydney yesterday, I was invited to write this piece for Tehe Conversation.

To read the article in full, click here.

Australia tweeted #illridewithyou – and showed great solidarity in a moment of crisis

Against a backdrop of fear and uncertainty following the hostage taking in Sydney, thousands of ordinary Australians turned to social media to spread a message of unprecedented tolerance and solidarity.

Trending worldwide, the #illridewithyou hashtag was a response to a number of Muslim listeners who called Australian radio stations to say they were scared to travel in public as the siege unfolded.

Users offered to ride on public transport with anyone feeling intimidated. They posted their travel plans and invited others to get in touch if they were going the same way and wanted a companion.

Police stormed the Lindt cafe in the central business district, bringing an end to a day-long standoff with gunman Man Haron Monis. There is still uncertainty about his motive for taking up to 30 people prisoner.

To read on, click here.

Article: Britain First – More than the mere sum of the parts left over by the BNP & EDL, LSE British Politics & Policy Blog

Britain-FirstLast week I was invited to contribute a piece on Britain First to the LSE’s excellent ‘British Politics and Policy’ blog.

To read the article in full, click here.

To whet your appetite, the first few paragraphs are reproduced below.

Britain First – More than the mere sum of the parts left over by the BNP & EDL

The recent decision to grant planning permission for a new mosque in Dudley comes after more than a decade of arguing and wrangling in the West Midlands town. As well as the financial cost – alleged to be in the millions – the highly divisive nature of the campaign has been played out at the expense of community relations, creating a void that different far-right groups and organisations have historically sought to exploit.

It is maybe no surprise that the far-right’s ‘new kid on the block’, Britain First sought to get in on the act. Unlike the British National Party (BNP) which gained a seat on the local council and the English Defence League (EDL) which organised some of its biggest marches in the town, Britain First took the protest in a new – and somewhat vile – direction, announcing that they planned to bury a dead pig a on the site declaring that the Qur’an forbids any building on ground containing ‘swine’.

And when it’s not making threats in Dudley, Britain First is standing candidates for public positions, such as in the recent by-election in Rochester and Strood, or running social media campaigns that somewhat insidiously lurk behind rather less innocuous messages that offer support to ‘our’ war heroes on Remembrance Sunday or even more bizarrely, loveable dogs.

To read on, click here.

Article: Britain First – the party taking far-right politics to new lows, The Conversation

britain firstFollowing the shocking incidents in Dudley, where Britain First have announced its intention to bury pig remains around the site of the new mosque, I am posting below an article I’ve written for The Conversation introducing Britain First, its ideologies and activities. To read the full article, click here.

Britain First – the party taking far-right politics to new lows

The decision to grant planning permission to build a new mosque in Dudley has come after more than a decade of wrangling in the West Midlands town. And the division caused by the arguments has proved an irresistible opportunity for Britain First, the new kid on the block in far-right politics.

Members of the party announced that they planned to bury a dead pig on the site, declaring that the Qur’an forbids any building on ground containing swine. And when it’s not making threats in Dudley, Britain First is standing candidates for public positions, including the forthcoming by-election in Rochester and Strood.

Who are they?
Although it is a separate party, Britain First does have links to the British National Party and the English Defence League. It was founded by James Dowson, a former BNP member. A Scottish Calvinist minister with close links to loyalist paramilitaries, Dowson was seen as a credible challenger to Nick Griffin’s leadership after the 2010 elections. Soon after though, he acrimoniously split from the BNP following allegations that he made unwanted sexual advances to a female colleague.

Continue reading the article here.

Article: The poppy hijab is just Islamophobia with a floral motif – The Conversation

conversation-full-logo-cbaac7752ab98f2473e3fd769fa885a6-copy-640x234Click here to read the full version of my latest article for The Conversation. Some of the article is reproduced below:

The poppy hijab is just Islamophobia with a floral motif

For some time, my research has shown that Muslim women who wear the hijab or other types of Muslim attire are the most likely to become victims of street-level Islamophobia. The explanation is simple: those wearing the hijab are easily recognisable as being Muslim. For perpetrators, the hijab is also seen to symbolise Islam, or more appropriately, all that they perceive to be wrong or problematic about Islam.

In recent weeks however, the hijab appears to have taken on a new symbolic value. The Daily Mail has publicised a campaign to get British Muslim women wearing hijabs designed with a poppy motif in the run up to Remembrance Day on November 11.

Read on here.

Journal Article: Britain First: The ‘Frontline Resistance’ to the Islamification of Britain – Political Quarterly

Last week saw the publication of my article “Britain First: The ‘Frontline Resistance’ to the Islamification of Britain” in the respected academic journal, The Political Quarterly. If my investigations are correct, then this is the first academic article to be published about Britain First.

As with many academic articles, you will likely need to have a subscription to read it or purchase it individually, neither of which is ideal. I am not a big fan of this system as it means that many people will not be able to access it. Nonetheless, if you do want to read it then you can do so by clicking here.

I’ve pasted the abstract below, just in case you want to find out more.

Abstract:

The British National Party and English Defence League forged new frontiers in British political
spaces in relation to anti-Islam, anti-Muslim ideologies. Whereas the former sought to do so in
formal political arenas, the latter did so as a street-level movement. With the subsequent
waning of both, Britain First has emerged seemingly to fill the political void they left. In many
ways, Britain First combines the strategies and actions of the parties that preceded it, at both the
formal and street levels. This article considers what is known about Britain First, about its
history, development and its ideology, and how this is manifested in terms of its political
strategies and actions. This includes such activities as standing for European elections and also
undertaking ‘Christian patrols’ and mosque ‘invasions’. The article considers how Britain First,
while having some similarities with the BNP and EDL, is more confrontational and militaristic
and is informed by apocalyptic Christianity.

To access the full article, click here.

Article: Why I Quit the Government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group – Huffington POst

Reproduced below is my ‘open letter’ explaining the reasons why I quit the Government’s Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group. This was originally published in the Huffington Post on 30th October 2014 and can be found by clicking here.

“Shortly after the re-launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Islamophobia in November 2011, I was invited to join the newly formed Cross-Government Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group hosted in the Department for Communities and Local Government.

My understanding was that the Working Group would work closely with the APPG on common themes – as the Anti-Semitism equivalent had done previously – and was to be made up of members from Muslim and civil society organisations plus imams and academics with relevant expertise.

With expectations high, I accepted the invitation and joined the group as an independent member, my time and involvement funded solely by my academic institution.

Three years on and having personally submitted around half a dozen briefing papers to the group and associated politicians, I have now resigned my position, disillusioned by both group and government’s shared inability to even begin to move forward the issue of tackling Islamophobia.

Having always been open about being a member, I was regularly asked what the group was doing. Sadly, I always had to be hopeful rather than specific, knowing there was always very little of import in the pipeline.

While we should have been demanding politicians set out what they were intending to do about the 65% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes recorded by the Metropolitan Police in the past year, we were instead being asked to promote the Big Iftar, Srebrenica Memorial Day or identify Muslim organisations to participate in social media workshops. Each has a value of course but none are likely – in my opinion – to change the mindset of those who think it’s OK to spit at, verbally abuse or be violent towards someone just because they’re Muslim.

And this is where the problem lies. Whether it was the murder of Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham last year, the bombs left outside mosques in the West Midlands, calls for a ban on the niqab in hospitals, or the hoax allegations made via Operation Trojan Horse, the voice of the group was non-existent.

Probably because some were too scared to put their heads above the parapet, others fearful of losing their seat at the government’s table, the group let the politicians off the hook. It had no bite, no influence, no impact. For me, this was most apparent when some of us sent letters requesting meetings with ministers from the departments of health and education: one was ignored, the other declined.

And what of my role?

In spite of recent suggestions that the group had strengthened the evidence base relating to anti-Muslim prejudice through ‘academic research’, the harsh reality is somewhat different. In fact there has been no ‘academic research’ to have emerged from the group, let alone funded by it or indeed government. Consequently all the research I’ve undertaken since becoming a member was wholly independent of the group rather than because of it. The question then is what was I there for.

Combined with the impotence of the APPG on Islamophobia it now feels that the opportunities and expectations of three years ago have been sadly lost, both group and government having collectively failed to create the forward momentum necessary if Islamophobia was ever to have been realistically tackled.

Where we go now and how we go about it remains unclear for the time being at least.”