COMMENT: Proscribing National Action – considering the impact of banning the British far-right group – PQ Blog

PQ-blog-banner-850This was a short comment piece I was asked to write for the PQ Blog (PQ being short for Political Quarterly). It was written to coincide with the arrest of the serving British Army members for being members of the now banned neo-Nazi group, National Action and also the publication of my article in this month’s Political Quarterly journal.

The original comment piece can be viewed here but as ever, the first few paragraphs are reproduced below.

Proscribing National Action: considering the impact of banning the British far-right group

Following the news that West Midlands Police have arrested five serving members of the British army on suspicion of being members of the proscribed neo-Nazi group National Action, we should consider the extent to which the British Government’s approach to banning extremist groups has been successful.

Over the past two decades, the British Government has adopted a range of different legislative and policy measures in trying to address extremism and radicalisation, one of which is proscription. While the majority of those banned have typically adhered to extreme Islamist ideologies, those adhering to extreme far-right ideologies have begun to increasingly concern politicians and others alike. In this respect, the arrests will be far from surprising for some.

Prior to proscription under the Terrorism Act 2000 in December 2016, little was known about National Action. While those such as Britain First and the English Defence League (EDL) had courted media attention and thereby public and political reach, National Action was growing in confidence and numbers. Most concerning, however, was that as Hope Not Hate noted, its supporters were becoming increasingly provocative, ever more erratic and wholly unpredictable to the extent that its greatest threat was physical rather than political. There were also very real concerns about the group’s link with Thomas Mair, the convicted murderer of the former Labour Member of Parliament for Batley and Spen, Jo Cox. At his trial, he spoke only to say was “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”, a slogan that featured prominently on the group’s now defunct official website.

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COMMENT: National Action – what I discovered about the ideology of Britain’s violent neo-Nazi youth movement – The Conversation

Conversation_logoThis was a short comment piece I wrote for the always interesting The Conversation following the arrest of serving British Army members that were alleged to be members of the proscribed neo-Nazi group, National Action. Based around my research into the group, the piece offers some basic insight along with some broader points to think about. In its original form, it can be read by clicking here.

The first few paragraphs from the comment piece are reproduced below.

National Action: what I discovered about the ideology of Britain’s violent neo-Nazi youth movement

The arrest of five serving members of the British army on September 5 under suspicion of being members of the banned neo-Nazi group National Action sends a worrying signal about the recruitment of young people to extremist ideology.

National Action was proscribed using terrorism legislation in December 2016 – the first time in British history that belonging to a far-right group had been outlawed. It is now a criminal offence to be a member of the group, invite support for it or help organise any meetings. It is also a criminal offence to wear clothing linked to the group, and to carry or wear its symbols or insignia.

The group was banned following an assessment that it was “concerned in terrorism”. A few months earlier, the only statement made in court by Thomas Mair – the convicted murderer of former Labour MP Jo Cox – was “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain”, a slogan that featured prominently on the group’s now defunct official website.

I carried out research on National Action before the group was banned and much of its public profile was removed.

Unlike other more prominent British far-right groups, such as the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First, National Action is committed to “traditional” Nazism. Describing itself as a National Socialist movement, the group glorified Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, routinely using quotes from Mein Kampf alongside Nazi images and symbols on its banners and publicity materials.

From this emanated overt expressions of antisemitism, homophobia, racism and discrimination against disabled people, among others. From the words of its leaders and also on its website, the group spoke candidly about the need to “save” Britain, “our” race and “our” generation, along with a stated aspiration of establishing a “white homeland” in Britain.

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COMMENT: Müslümanlar’ın Entegrasyonunda “Çözülmesi Gerekenler” – Perspektif

perspektif_logoHere’s a link to my most recent contribution to the German-published, Turkish language periodical, Perspektif. This month’s contribution is titled “Müslümanlar’ın Entegrasyonunda ‘Çözülmesi Gerekenler'” which loosely translates as “Solving the Needs of Muslim Integration” and focuses on the findings from the Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life that were published in the report, “Missing Muslims: Unlocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All”.

The article can be viewed by clicking here.

The report can be downloaded for free here.

Below is the first few paragraphs:

Müslümanlar’ın Entegrasyonunda ‘Çözülmesi Gerekenler’

Birleşik Krallık’ta İslam, Katılım ve Kamusal Yaşam Komisyonu’nun (İng. “Citizens Commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life”) bulguları temmuz ayında yayımlandı. Komisyon raporunun yayımlanmasının ardından Birleşik Krallık’taki Müslümanların entegrasyon konusu kamusal ve siyasi tartışmalarda yeniden gündeme geldi. “Kayıp Müslümanlar: İngiltereli Müslümanların Potansiyelinin Hepimizin Yararına Ortaya Çıkarılması” başlıklı raporda 18 aylık bir araştırma sürecinin sonuçları yer alıyor. Bu süre boyunca, Muhafazakâr Parti Meclis Üyesi Dominic Grieve öncülüğündeki komisyon üyeleri Birleşik Krallık’taki birçok şehir ve kasabayı gezerek, toplantılar düzenledi. Bu toplantılarda 500 saati aşkın bir süre zarfında, 21. yüzyılda Birleşik Krallık’ta Müslüman olmanın ne anlama geldiğine dair katılımcıların beyanları dinlendi. Ben de bu araştırmanın bir parçası olarak, Birmingham’da düzenlenen bir toplantıda yazılı ve sözlü ifadelerde bulundum. İfadelerimde, özellikle sokak düzeyinde İslamofobik nefret suçlarına maruz kalan kurbanların yaşadıkları ve Birleşik Krallık’taki “truva atı” skandalına vurgu yaptım. Birleşik Krallık’taki “truva atı skandalı” 2014 yılının mart ayında, aşırıcı Müslümanların birden fazla devlet okulunu ele geçirmeyi planladıklarının iddia edilmesiyle literatüre geçmişti. Çok değil yalnızca birkaç ay önce, hükûmet bu çılgın öfke seline karıştığı iddia edilen öğretmenlerin meslekten atılmaları yönünde iki yıldır süren çabalarına son verdi. Gerekçe olarak da bu iddiaların mesnetsiz olduğunu ileri sürdü.

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CHAPTER: Islamophobia – Routledge Handbook on Christian-Muslim Relations

RoutledgeThis recently published collection – edited by my colleague here at Birmingham, David Thomas – duly includes a chapter by me, somewhat simplistically titled “Islamophobia”. While the handbook is fantastically broad, it comes with a whopping £175 (hardback) cover price. If you’re so inclined, then you can purchase a copy from Amazon here.

If you want to whet your appetite first, here’s a few paragraphs from my contribution.

Islamophobia

…Whilst Islamophobia is a contemporary socio-political phenomenon, as Allen notes, many of the negative and stereotypical attributions that inform today’s Islamophobia thinking do not have their origins in the here and now, not least because they are irremovable and eternally fixed. In fact, many of the negative and stereotypical attributions that inform today’s Islamophobia somewhat surprisingly have their origins in historical settings where the religious and theological were far more relevant and resonant. This chapter seeks to explore this, to try and illustrate the role that historical notions of religion and religious enmity between Islam and Christianity continue to have in relation to the manifestation and expression of today’s socio-political Islamophobia. In doing so, this chapter begins by reflecting on the extent to which Islamophobia is – or indeed is not – a specifically contemporary phenomenon. From here, and having sought to explain the relationship between the contemporary and the historical, some consideration will be given to early religious and theological encounters and interactions between Islam and Christianity. Focusing on the stereotypes and attributions of Muslims and Islam that evolved out of these early encounters, the chapter will conclude by reflecting on how these continue to shape and inform today’s Islamophobia.
To do this, it is necessary to use – albeit reluctantly – some broad descriptors. The reluctance comes from the fact that they homogenise and simplify the myriad identities and differences that exist within what is being described or referred to, noted previously in relation to ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’. Given the constraints of this chapter, however, this is unavoidable. In recognising this, some explanation is called for. Thus, the term ‘the West’ can be taken as largely equivalent to the medieval ‘Christendom’, or in the current setting ‘Western Europe and North America’ (see Yemelianova 2002: 193). In this chapter, the West’s political and cultural tradition is one that is understood to have been shaped by Christianity.

Whilst the majority view among scholars is that Islamophobia is a largely contemporary socio-political phenomenon, there is some difference of interpretation. Ziauddin Sardar (1995), for instance, believes that contemporary manifestations of Islamophobia are little more than a re-emergence of what has occurred from time to time throughout history. As he puts it, ‘Islamophobia and prejudice against Muslims has a long memory and still thrives’, not least because it ‘resides so deeply in [the Western] historical consciousness’ (Sardar 1995: 7, 15). For him, the term (and also the phenomenon) has to be understood as necessarily transitory and used retrospectively to name, describe and conceive all historical expressions and manifestations of anti-Muslim, anti-Islamic sentiment, as well as points of conflict, confrontation and so on. He sees Islamophobia as characterising both historical and contemporary relationships and encounters between Islam and the West. Beverley Milton-Edwards (2002: 33) holds a similar view, that today’s Islamophobia is merely one part of an ever-constant and ever-present phenomenon. For her, this means that the contemporary and the historical are interchangeable and indistinguishable, where the expression and manifestation of Islamophobia today is exactly the same as it has always been. Thus, the backlash against Muslims evident after the 9/11 attacks would have been the same as it was, say, at the time of the Crusades, something which is difficult to comprehend given the completely different conditions and paradigms within which each occurred…

You can buy a copy here.

COMMENT: Müslümanlar’ın Entegrasyonunda ‘Çözülmesi Gerekenler’ – Perspektif

perspektif_logoAs you may be aware, I now write regularly for the German-based Turkish language periodical Perspektif. When I do, I write about issues relating to Muslim communities or the religion of Islam in the British setting. This is a piece I recently had published titled, “Müslümanlar’ın Entegrasyonunda ‘Çözülmesi Gerekenler'” which (loosely) translates as “‘Solving’ the Needs of Muslim Integration” and focuses on the recently published report by the Commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life entitled, “The Missing Muslims – Unlocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All” (download here).

While the first few paragraphs are reproduced below, the full comment piece can be read by clicking here.

Müslümanlar’ın Entegrasyonunda “Çözülmesi Gerekenler”

Birleşik Krallık’ta İslam, Katılım ve Kamusal Yaşam Komisyonu’nun (İng. “Citizens Commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life”) bulguları temmuz ayında yayımlandı. Komisyon raporunun yayımlanmasının ardından Birleşik Krallık’taki Müslümanların entegrasyon konusu kamusal ve siyasi tartışmalarda yeniden gündeme geldi. “Kayıp Müslümanlar: İngiltereli Müslümanların Potansiyelinin Hepimizin Yararına Ortaya Çıkarılması” başlıklı raporda 18 aylık bir araştırma sürecinin sonuçları yer alıyor. Bu süre boyunca, Muhafazakâr Parti Meclis Üyesi Dominic Grieve öncülüğündeki komisyon üyeleri Birleşik Krallık’taki birçok şehir ve kasabayı gezerek, toplantılar düzenledi. Bu toplantılarda 500 saati aşkın bir süre zarfında, 21. yüzyılda Birleşik Krallık’ta Müslüman olmanın ne anlama geldiğine dair katılımcıların beyanları dinlendi. Ben de bu araştırmanın bir parçası olarak, Birmingham’da düzenlenen bir toplantıda yazılı ve sözlü ifadelerde bulundum. İfadelerimde, özellikle sokak düzeyinde İslamofobik nefret suçlarına maruz kalan kurbanların yaşadıkları ve Birleşik Krallık’taki “truva atı” skandalına vurgu yaptım. Birleşik Krallık’taki “truva atı skandalı” 2014 yılının mart ayında, aşırıcı Müslümanların birden fazla devlet okulunu ele geçirmeyi planladıklarının iddia edilmesiyle literatüre geçmişti. Çok değil yalnızca birkaç ay önce, hükûmet bu çılgın öfke seline karıştığı iddia edilen öğretmenlerin meslekten atılmaları yönünde iki yıldır süren çabalarına son verdi. Gerekçe olarak da bu iddiaların mesnetsiz olduğunu ileri sürdü.

Bir yandan, İngiltereli Müslümanların “sanıldığından daha çok çeşitliliğe sahip olduğunu” -şaşırtıcı bir şekilde- kabul eden “Kayıp Müslümanlar” raporu, “uygulanabilir ve eyleme geçirilebilir on sekiz adet öneri”nin de altını çiziyordu. Her ne kadar sivil toplum, yerel ve ulusal yönetimlere hitap ediyor gibi görünse de, bu öneriler aslında cemaatleri ve inanç kurumlarını, yani Müslümanların bizzat kendilerini harekete geçirmeye yönelikti.

Söz konusu rapordaki kimi öneri maddelerinin doğru ve zaman açısından uygun olduğunu belirtmek gerek. Örneğin, İngiltere hükûmetinin terörle mücadele programı olan “Prevent” programının tarafsız bir şekilde yeniden gözden geçirilmesi ve İslamofobi’ye bir “çalışma tanımı” kazandırılması gibi çağrıların üzerinden hayli zaman geçti. Diğer maddeler ise eskiden beri dile getirilen ancak çok da etkili olmayan önerileri kapsıyordu. Bunların arasında, medya kuruluşlarının İslam ve Müslümanlar hakkındaki yayınlarında, daha dengeli ve hassas haberler yapmaları yönünde öneriler bulunuyordu. Başka bir madde ise, camilerin İngiltere doğumlu, İngiliz kültürünü ve hükûmet tarafından belirlenen –tartışmalı- İngiliz değerlerini daha iyi bilen imamları işe alması gerektiğini öneriyordu.

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COMMENT: Channel 4’s The State: disturbing and accurate reminder of idealism gone wrong – The Conversation

Conversation_logoHere’s a piece I recently wrote for the always informed The Conversation in response to criticisms directed at BAFTA award-winner Peter Kosminsky’s Channel 4 drama series, The State. You can read the piece in full by clicking here.

The first few paragraphs are reproduced below:

Channel 4’s The State: disturbing and accurate reminder of idealism gone wrong

It seems quite unfounded that Channel 4 has had to defend its new four-part drama, The State. The series – written by BAFTA award-winner Peter Kosminsky – follows two British men and two British women who decide to go to Syria and join Islamic State. Encouraged to forget their past lives in the UK in favour of living segregated lives where the men are taught to fight and the woman become their chattels, the series is as compelling and gripping as it is disturbing and discomforting.

It is also the most accurate dramatisation of what life would appear to be like living under the Islamic State to have been produced to date.

Nevertheless, one should be unsurprised that the drama’s subject matter would earmark it for criticism. Christopher Stevens in the Daily Mail describes the drama as “pure poison”. While framing criticisms within the context of the Mail’s regular enemies – liberals (Kosminsky), publicly funded broadcasters (Channel 4), and political correctness (the alleged “racism” shown towards the white people joining Islamic State) – three themes emerge that need refuting.

The first is whether the drama accurately represents what life might be like under Islamic State. From what is known from personal testimonies of those who have either returned from fighting in Syria and Iraq or suffered at Islamic State’s hands, the drama would seem to ring true.

You can continue reading by clicking here.