According to the Christmas story in the Gospel of Luke, Caesar Augustus had issued a decree that a census should be undertaken across the entire Roman Empire. It was against this backdrop that Mary and Joseph made the journey to Bethlehem: most will know what happened next.
The census at the time of Caesar Augustus would have been quite different to those that take place today. Instead of trying to keep track of adult males fit for military service, today’s census provide politicians, policymakers and academics – as well as many others – with information and data about the many and varied attributes of the population.
In contemporary Britain, we have a census every ten years. Data from the most recent – the Census 2011 – was released earlier this week and what it presents is clear evidence that the ethnic and religious make-up of Britain in the twenty-first century is changing. But whilst Britain is changing, are we clear about how and what impact it will have?
I’m reproducing below a report from an event I organised and facilitated last Friday as part of the University of Birmingham’s ‘Brum Dine With Me’ research day. To read the report in its original form, click here.
On Friday 28th September, the University took its research ‘onto the streets’ of Birmingham as part of a Europe-wide day of celebrating research. Along with 52 other universities across the continent, the theme of food was used to highlight the wide range of research that is currently being undertaken across the University.
As part of ‘Brum Dine With Me’ – the name given to the University’s celebration – IASS’s Chris Allen hosted an event entitled ‘A Taste of Multiculturalism’ at MAC Birmingham.
As well as inviting those visiting Mac Birmingham to indulge in a range of foods that reflect the diversity of today’s Birmingham – including meals from Britain, the Caribbean, Poland and South Asia – visitors also had the opportunity to participate in a quiz and watch a short presentation on multiculturalism. Those who did were surprised to learn that in today’s Birmingham, people with almost 190 different nationalities are currently resident in the city. Likewise also, that Birmingham is likely to become the UK’s first ‘minority-majority’ city.
I missed the first episode of ‘Citizen Khan‘.
And so after reading reports that the ‘comedy’ show was racist of Islamophobic and that the BBC had received hundreds of complaints, I thought that I’d best watch last night’s show.
Instead of seeing anything resembling a comedy, I found myself instead watching something that was tired, poorly written and produced, and far from anything that might remotely be described as funny. Far from insulting the religion of Islam or Pakistanis, the show insulted the intelligence of its viewers.
Far from being discriminatory or racist, it was just decidedly unfunny.
I am very proud to have been featured in the University of Birmingham’s latest advertising campaign which celebrates the impact of the research we’re doing here in Birmingham. Entitled, “We Are Birmingham” the campaign celebrates how the University has been “pushing boundaries to create impact locally, nationally and internationally for more than a century”.
My inclusion focuses on the impact my research into Islamophobia, anti-Muslim hatred and other forms of discrimination has had and hopefully, will continue to do so.This is of course extremely flattering and something that is a great honour for me.
As well as being featured collectively on the University’s website – view here – the campaign is also being promoted via a series of individually focused advertisements on the London Underground, mainline train services and across a range of different locations in London and the South East as well as in Birmingham and the West Midlands. My advertisements – currently on Great Western trains – is being promoted by the strapline:
“We are throwing the spotlight on the realities of religious discrimination”
And in support this, I am really excited to confirm that the College of Social Sciences here at the University has recently made a firm commitment to fund an exciting and timely project into religious discrimination…but more of that in the coming weeks.
Given that the campaign states that “From our world-class expert academics to our outstanding students – we inspire success, change lives and transform society” then if my research is able to inspire just one person, I’d be very happy…
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’?
In recent months I’ve been supporting in one way or another the Birmingham Social Inclusion Process. As part of its project, the Social Inclusion Process has a website – Fair Brum – which regularly posts about how the project is developing and moving forward.
A few weeks ago however, I was perplexed – and if honest, annoyed – by post on the website entitled, “The Notting Hill of Birmingham”.
The post focuses on the Balsall Heath area of Birmingham and how in recent years, the area has changed. As the author of the post – Deborah Tillsley – puts it:
“…it still wasn’t somewhere I would immediately consider when looking for somewhere to live…[however, since having] recently visited a project run by ‘Saheli Women’, and spoke to residents of Balsall Heath. My previous misgivings have now changed completely.”
As it goes on, residents described the area as ‘a hidden gem’ and – wait for it – ‘the Notting Hill of Birmingham’. Deborah describes these comments as “two of the really positive descriptions that came from the residents”. But in what way is this positive and what exactly was meant by ‘the Notting Hill of Birmingham’?