Reproduced below is a short news report about the Question Time event I organised for students last week at the University of Birmingham. To read the original report, click here.
Around 75 students gathered in the Business School on Thursday 27th September to take part in the ‘QuestionTime@IASS’ event. Based on the popular BBC1 television programme, the IASS event brought together an eight strong panel of politicians, policymakers and commentators.
As well as Gisela Stuart (Labour MP for Edgbaston) and John Hemming (Liberal-Democrat MP for Yardley), students were able to put their questions to James Burns (Chair of the West Midlands Green Party), Alison Garnham (Child Poverty Action Group), Paul Nowak (TUC), and Siobhan Harper-Nunes (Shakti Women). The panel was completed by the inclusion of IASS’s own Professor of Social Work, Sue White and Owen Williams, the Vice-President of the University’s Conservative Futures group.
This post reproduces a short think-piece co-written with my friend and colleague Arshad Isakjee. We were asked to write it following discussions about the establishment of a set of ‘shared values’ with some of those leading the ‘People’ strand of Birmingham City Council’s Social Inclusion Process. As part of this, we submitted it to the Process earlier today.
In pursuit of shared values: a worthy endeavour or waste of time?
What are ‘values’?
Yesterday I was approached to give an interview to the Dutch newspaper De Pers about the riots in Britain and Birmingham in particular. An article relating to this has been published today and can be found by clicking here.
For those who do not read Dutch, I have reproduced a ‘Google Translate’ version below although I am unable to vouch for its accuracy and having read it, I’m not sure the translation exactly captures the points I was trying to make:
No ideals, a new TV
By: Harmke Berghuis, Meike Bergwerff Fieke & Hammers
The British were furious. A group of criminal and greedy people leave their cities in ruins. They feel ignored.
The Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have today published the first edition of its ‘Religion or Belief E-Newsletter’. Included in this is a short review of the Islamophobia and religious discrimination symposium held at the University of Birmingham last December. The review is pasted below:
Islamophobia & Religious Discrimination: new perspectives, policies and practices
A symposium in December at the University of Birmingham – hosted by the Institute of Applied Social Studies (IASS) – brought together key individuals from the Department of Communities & Local Government, the Equality & Human Rights Commission, the Houses of Parliament, Birmingham City Council and the University of Birmingham amongst others, to consider the extent to which religious discrimination was on the rise and whether the current legislation and policies were working.
In a year when the British National Party (BNP) won two seats in the European parliament, the English Defence League have marched in protest against the ‘Islamification’ of Britain in various towns and cities, and more recently, there has been a referendum in Switzerland to ban minarets, the University of Birmingham this week hosts a national conference that explores the timely issue of Islamophobia and religious discrimination (9th December 2009).
Bringing together key individuals from the Department of Communities & Local Government (CLG), the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Houses of Parliament, Birmingham City Council and the University of Birmingham amongst others, the conference – “Islamophobia & Religious Discrimination: new perspectives, policies and practices”  – will consider the extent to which religious discrimination is on the rise and whether the legislation and policies that seek to address these are indeed working.
Dr Chris Allen  from the Institute of Applied Social Studies (IASS) and who convened the event says:
“Despite the fact that there are a growing number of British people choosing to identify themselves in terms of their religion and greater recognition is being afforded to religion and faith in the public and political spaces, research continues to suggest that Islamophobia and other forms of religious discrimination are on the rise – not just here in Britain but elsewhere in Europe too. People are finding it increasingly acceptable and ‘normal’ to be prejudiced and discriminatory about others on the basis of religion or belief.
Sometimes through fear and suspicion, sometimes because of ignorance and a lack of understanding, if left unchecked, these could easily become hostilities and hatreds that result in tensions, unrest and harm between different communities and religions. So if we want to ensure the future wellbeing of a cohesive multicultural, multi-faith Britain, it is vital that we begin to discuss these issues now.”
As the Labour Party goes into meltdown and the end of Gordon Brown’s tenure at number 10 seems to be coming to its timely climax, the country go to the polls today to vote in European and local elections. When the results of the European elections are announced, much of the focus will be on Labour’s share of the vote and the impact this has on Brown’s demise. But what about the number of votes picked up by the BNP?
According to the Institute of Community Cohesion (iCoCo), support for far right parties such as the British National Party (BNP) is smaller in the UK than in other parts of Europe. But following its success in winning a seat on the Greater London Assembly (GLA) last year, the party now has strong hopes of winning seats in Europe.