Article: The far right is changing but its anti-Islam message remains – The Conversation

Conversation_logoAnother article of mine has been published today, again writing for The Conversation UK – an online collaboration between editors and academics to provide informed news analysis and commentary that’s free to read and republish.

Today’s piece relates to the suggestion last week by a senior government aide about the possibility of the far-right expanding both in terms of numbers of supporters as also the number of groups emerging.

To read the piece on The Conversation’s website – which includes appropriate links – click here.

Alternatively, read on below:

The far right is changing but its anti-Islam message remains

A UK government adviser has suggested that at least five new groups have emerged within the past month to stake a claim to the far-right in the UK. And according to that adviser, the catalyst for their growth has been the increasing presence of Islamic State in the Middle East and the fallout from the inquiry into child sex abuse in Rotherham.

Over the past decade and a half, far-right organisation in the UK and Europe have sought to gain political influence by promoting various incarnations of an insidious anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim ideology. They have taken the kind of discourse once used against Jews and Judaism and applied it to Muslims and Islam. These groups have sought to justify this by claiming the need to halt what they perceive to be the Islamification of Europe.

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Article: A Personal Reflection on Islamophobia – European Day of Action Against Islamophobia & Religious Intolerance

NoHateLogo-380x380To celebrate 2014’s European Day of Action Against Islamophobia and Religious Intolerance, I wrote this reflective piece that was published on the No Hate website, available here.

I’ve also copied the piece below:

A Personal Reflection on Islamophobia

It is almost 15 years since I first began researching the phenomenon of Islamophobia. At the time, I could not believe that more was not being done to tackle it: why were we allowing a situation where real people were being allowed to be routinely prejudiced, discriminated and vilified just because of their religion or how they look? Why, more worryingly, were we allowing people to become victims of crime, abuse, assault and more without doing something about it? It failed to make sense then and it fails to make sense today.

That 15 years has been a long and at times, troubling journey. My research has been shaped by events such as 9/11 and 7/7, by a newly resurgent explicitly anti-Muslim, anti-Islam far-right across Europe, by the barbaric killing of Lee Rigby on the streets of London and more recently, the equally barbaric atrocities of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. All have catalysed hatred against ordinary Muslims going about their everyday lives whilst adding fuel to the fire of those desperate to voice their belief that Islamophobia just doesn’t exist.

Despite such protestations, I have repeatedly come across and indeed contributed evidence to prove that Islamophobia is indeed a very real and dangerous phenomenon. One of the first times I saw this was when I was commissioned to explore Islamophobia in the EU following 9/11 by the European Monitoring Centre for Racism and Xenophobia. The evidence showed that across the breadth of Europe, Muslim and other vulnerable communities became routine targets of increased hostility and hatred. Some of this was manifested in terms of physical violence but most was in the form of verbal abuse, harassment and aggression. Muslim women and those who were more ‘visually’ Muslim were the most likely victims whilst mosques were also widely targeted. Sadly but also unsurprisingly, the research I did with Arshad Isakjee and Özlem Young into street-level Islamophobia in Britain showed that more than a decade on, little had in fact changed with visible Muslim women being disproportionate victims of discrimination, bigotry, hate and violence.

I continue to reflect on why this might be so.

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EXHIBITION: ‘Islamophobia – from pavement to parliament’ at Think Corner, Birmingham

PostcardsLast week, on the 11th and 12th September 2014, I held an exhibition of my research from the past 15 years into the phenomenon of Islamophobia. Titled, “Islamophobia: from pavement to parliament” the exhibition was held at the University of Birmingham’s Think Corner pop-up space in the Pavilions Shopping Centre in Birmingham city centre.

Over the two days I sought to use different approaches to explain to the general public how my research into Islamophobia has gone beyond the mere academic, helping to raise awareness of the experiences of those who become victims of street-level anti-Muslim hate as also trying to shape and influence political thinking about how best to tackle this unwanted and un-necessary phenomenon. This is where the title came about, from ‘pavement to parliament’.

All Banners

As part of this, I also gave a ‘cafe-scientifique’ style talk on the evening of the 11th. Entitled, “Islamophobia: why it matters to Birmingham” the talk set out a number of reasons why – if Birmingham is to be a successful, cohesive and integrated city in the future – we need to work together to tackle Islamophobia as indeed all other forms of discrimination, bigotry and hate. You can listen to the talk on Soundcloud by clicking here.

Over the two days, I engaged with around 50 or so people, most of whom would never have encountered my research and so on that basis alone, the exhibition was a success.

To find out more about Think Corner, click here.

ARTICLE: Shadow of extremism scandal lingers as Birmingham goes back to school – The Conversation


Conversation_logoAs school children from across the country return to schools, my latest article for The Conversation considers what impact the allegations and fallout from Operation Trojan Horse will have on Birmingham, its schools, its children and its communities. To read the article in full, click here.

Below are the first few paragraphs:

Shadow of extremism scandal lingers as Birmingham goes back to school

If a week is a long time in politics, then the school summer holidays must have seemed like a lifetime the for governors, teachers, pupils and staff at the 21 schools at the centre of the Trojan Horse plot in Birmingham.

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Article: “Controversy, Islam and politics: an exploration of the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ affair through the eyes of British Muslim elites” in Ethnic & Racial Studies


Back at the end of 2012, along with my colleague and long-term collaborator Arshad Isakjee, we did some research around the impact of the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film that sparked protests around the world. Given the inherent lack of speed and urgency evident within academic publishing processes, the findings from that piece of research have just been published in the prestigious Ethnic & Racial Studies journal.

Whilst I can’t (yet) reproduce the article in full here, I have reproduced the abstract below for those who are interested. To access the article (you’ll need a subscription or it will cost you – sorry), click here.

Controversy, Islam and politics: an exploration of the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ affair through the eyes of British Muslim elites

In September 2012, a video entitled ‘Innocence of Muslims’ was uploaded to YouTube. The fourteen-minute clip featured actors playing the Prophet Muhammad, his companions and wives, and while production values were amateurish, aided by airings on Egyptian national television and others elsewhere, the video went viral. Recalling the Rushdie affair two decades beforehand, angry protests took place across the world. In the UK, the response from Muslims was markedly different. This article traces the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ affair from the eyes of those involved in formal Muslim-governmental relations. It explores what the new controversy tells us about the representation of Muslim communities in the process of political engagement since the Rushdie affair. It considers the experiential disconnect that exists between Muslim and political actors in contemporary Britain before exploring three important political factors – the cultural, representational and geopolitical – that influence and impact upon Muslim–governmental relations.

To access the full article, click here.

Article: Islamophobia in Western Europe – Oxford Islamic Studies Online

euro islamophobia

euro islamophobiaI’m pleased to announce that my entry to Oxford Islamic Studies Online titled, ‘Islamophobia in Western Europe’ has been published this week.

The best thing is that during Ramadan, Oxford are allowing free access to all of its content if you use the following log in details:

Username: ramadan2014

Password: freeaccess

To read my entry, click here.

The first few paragraphs are reproduced below:

Western Europe, Islamophobia in

“Islamophobia” is a relatively new word that is used to describe a contemporary phenomenon that encompasses myriad expressions of anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic prejudice, discrimination, bigotry, and hatred. It is, however, an extremely complex and contested phenomenon. The most likely reason for this is the lack of consensus in trying to define and understand what Islamophobia might or might not be.

Definitions and Contestation

Typically, definitions of the word refer to or are rooted in the 1997 report of the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia (CBMI) titled Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All. Commonly referred to as the Runnymede Trust Report, the document is widely acknowledged as the first to raise the issue of Islamophobia in contemporary Western political spaces. In doing so, the report defined Islamophobia as a shorthand term to describe the dread or hatred of the religion of Islam and, by consequence, the fear of or dislike of all or most Muslims without differentiation. To illustrate this, the report identified a number of “closed views” through which Islamophobia could be evidenced. These closed views depict Islam as monolithic and static, as other and separate, as inferior, as an enemy, and as manipulative.

To read on, click here (not forgetting to use the free access details provided above).


Article: Operation Trojan Horse: how a hoax problematised Muslims and Islam – Discover Society


DS-LOGO4a-webFollowing my articles for The Conversation and the Birmingham Brief on Operation Trojan Horse, I was approached by Discover Society to write a short reflective piece for its July publication.

Titled, “Operation Trojan Horse: how a hoax problematised Muslims and Islam” it’s one of a number of different articles on the issue. To read my article, click here.

For those who don’t know, Discover Society is published by Social Research Publications, a not-for-profit collaboration between sociology and social policy academics and publishers at Policy Press to promote the publication of social research, commentary and policy analysis.

Pasted below are the first few paragraphs of my piece to whet your appetite.

Operation Trojan Horse: how a hoax problematised Muslims and Islam

There was always a distinct possibility that an anonymous letter leaked via the Sunday Telegraph alleging an Islamist ‘plot’ to take-over of Birmingham schools was a hoax. Dubbed ‘Operation Trojan Horse’, the letter set out a five-step guide alleged to have been written by Muslims on how to overthrow existing teachers and governors in non-faith state schools in order to replace them with more ‘Islam-friendly’ individuals prepared to run schools in accordance with conservative Islamic principles.

Whilst West Midlands Police continue to investigate the letter, few accept its authenticity. The recent investigations into 21 Birmingham schools undertaken by Ofsted that were prompted by the allegations also show no evidence whatsoever of a plot. Yet still the allegations linger, the investigations go on, and the politicians continue to intervene, resulting in the story remaining in the headlines and front pages of an ever insatiable media. What then is it that keeps Trojan Horse in the public and political spaces?

One of the worrying trends to have emerged out of my research into Islamophobia over the past decade or so is that, even when stories about Muslims and Islam are proved to be incorrect or just untrue, many in wider society continue to believe them arguing that there is ‘no smoke without fire’.

To read on, click here.

Article: Beyond Islamophobia? Media shows Muslim families to be ‘normal’ – The Conversation


the-conversation-logoI was recently invited to write a short article for The Conversation late last week, focusing on the news that more young British Muslims had gone to fight in Syria and Iraq.

What struck me most about the reporting was the coverage about the families of some of the men that had gone to the Middle East, not least that they were for once presented as being ‘normal’. Given that it was so rare, I decided to focus on this for the piece.

To read the article in full, click here.

I’ve pasted the opening paragraphs below to whet you appetite.

Coverage of Britons fighting in the Middle East has moved on from Islamophobia of the past

For some time now, speculation has raged over the number of young British Muslims travelling to Syria and Iraq with the intention of fighting in the ongoing conflicts there.

At the high end, Birmingham-area MP Khalid Mahmood claimed that “more than 1,500” British Muslims have gone to the Middle East to fight. Meanwhile, Peter Fahy, head of the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy for the Association of Chief Police Officers, offered a more tempered figure of around 500. But ultimately, as Fahy acknowledged, no-one really knows what the number is.

Further speculation followed the posting of a 13-minute recruitment video, the trenchantly titled There is no Life without Jihad, on account pages linked to ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), posted highly explicit videos and photos online purporting to show mass executions.

In this particular video, which urges British Muslims to join the fight in Iraq and Syria, three of the six fighters shown are British: Cardiff-based brothers Nasser and Aseel Muthana (aged 20 and 17 respectively) and another man from Aberdeen, Abdul Raquib Amin.

To continue reading, click here.