Comment: Tenth anniversary of 7/7 bombings – College of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham

COSSThis is a piece for the University of Birmingham’s College of Social Sciences news page that was reworked from my earlier Huffington Post article. To read the original piece, click here.

Tenth anniversary of 7/7 bombings

The tenth anniversary of the 7/7 London terror attacks will rightly focus on the sheer horror of the day’s unfolding events and tragic loss of life. One cannot forget the shocking images of carnage and chaos that accompanied the news that four bombs – three on Underground trains, one on a double decker bus – had killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700 others.

The legacy left by these events has, however, been more far-reaching than might have been expected, having had something of a profound impact on how we live our everyday lives. From more security checks at airports and the increased monitoring of social media, the new counter-terror measures requiring public sector workers to play a greater role in combating extremism, and schools being required to teach ‘British values’, 7/7’s impact has been significant.

A less obvious impact however can be seen in relation to Britain’s multiculturalism and how we perceive our diversity.

To illustrate this, one only has to think about the day before 7/7. On that day, 6 July 2005, Britain won the right to host the 2012 Olympics in London. As celebrations took place in Trafalgar Square, many acknowledged how Britain’s multiculturalism – ‘The World in One City’ – had been a distinctive and critical factor in the decision-making process.

24 hours later and Britain’s multiculturalism was under a very different spotlight. Following the news that all of the 7/7 bombers were British-born, or ‘home-grown’ as it has been commonly referred to since, many began to search for answers about how this could have happened. For many, it was the inherent failings of Britain’s multicultural social model that was to blame, so much so that a forceful political response to it was required.

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Comment: 7/7’s Legacy on Multiculturalism and Muslims – Huffington Post

huffington-post-logoMy latest piece in the Huffington Post can be read in full by clicking here.

7/7’s Legacy on Multiculturalism and Muslims

The tenth anniversary of the 7/7 London terror attacks will rightly focus on the sheer horror of the day’s unfolding events and tragic loss of life. One cannot forget the shocking images of carnage and chaos that accompanied the news that four bombs – three on Underground trains, one on a double-decker bus – had killed 52 civilians and injured more than 700 others.

The legacy left by these events has however been more far-reaching than might have been expected, having had something of a profound impact on how we live our everyday lives. From more security checks at airports and the increased monitoring of social media through to the new counter-terror measures requiring public sector workers to play a greater role in combating extremism, and schools being required to teach ‘British values’, 7/7’s impact has been significant.

A less obvious impact however can be seen in relation to Britain’s multiculturalism and how we perceive our diversity.

To illustrate this, one only has to think about the day before 7/7. On that day – 6 July 2005 – Britain won the right to host the 2012 Olympics in London. As celebrations took place in Trafalgar Square, many acknowledged how Britain’s multiculturalism – ‘The World in One City’ – a distinctive and critical factor in the decision-making process.

To continue reading, click here.

Comment: University of Birmingham expert on 7/7 bombings – ITV Central News

ITVHere’s a short piece I wrote for ITV Central News (a condensed version of my Huffington Post piece). To read the original, click here.

University of Birmingham expert on 7/7 bombings

As we approach the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 terror attacks, attention will rightly focus on the sheer horror of the unfolding events and the tragic loss of life.

The legacy left by these events has, however, been more far-reaching than expected, having a profound impact on how we go about our everyday lives. From more security checks at airports and increased monitoring of social media, to new counter-terror measures requiring public sector workers to play a greater role in combating extremism and schools being required to teach ‘British values’, the impact has been significant.

Maybe, though, the greatest impact is in terms of Britain’s multiculturalism. Blamed by some for having created a raft of different social problems, the past decade has seen many, including David Cameron, call for the death of multiculturalism.

The consequences of this can be seen in research showing that as well as people becoming less tolerant of each other, levels of racism are at a 20-year high.

Similarly, research shows that we are less trusting and more suspicious of different communities, especially Muslims. As a result, Muslim communities feel under greater scrutiny and increasingly marginalised.

With British society becoming ever more diverse, and with new challenges presented by young British Muslims going to fight in Syria and Iraq, the shadow of 7/7 is likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

To read the original, click here.

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

ERSThe article I co-authored with Arshad Isakjee has finally been published in the journal, Ethnic and Racial Studies. You can read it by clicking here.

While a very good journal, access is unlikely to be free unless you are able to go through an institutional provider (I hope that makes sense). This is of course a shame as I would love the piece to be read by as wide an audience as possible.

To whet your appetite, I have pasted the abstract below:

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 find out more, click here.

Article: APPG Universities, A Comment – College of Social Sciences, University of Birmingham

COSSTo read the original piece, click here:

APPG Universities: a comment

I was invited to the House of Lords to talk to the All Party Parliamentary University Group (APPUG) on Tuesday 23 June about the impact of counter-terror policies on the experience of Muslim students. Established since 1994, the APPUG brings together Members of the House of Commons and Lords with Vice Chancellors and other university representatives to discuss matters affecting Higher Education.

Yesterday’s meeting was in response to the new statutory duties that are to be placed on universities following changes to the Government’s PREVENT programme by the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. Identifying universities as ‘special authorities’ in trying to prevent people from being drawn into violent extremism and terrorism, universities will – among other things – be required to provide specialist counter-terror training for staff, carry out risk assessments on students that are identified as being vulnerable to extremist ideologies, and provide appropriate welfare programmes for them.

The rationale for this is that university staff are uniquely placed to see the ‘changes’ in the behaviour and outlook of those who have been radicalised. 

As I told the APPUG, this was not the first time that the notion of identifiable ‘changes’ had been posited. In fact it was a decade ago that the then Home Secretary, John Reid informed Muslim parents of the need to be vigilant in watching their children for the ‘tell-tale signs’ of extremism. Oft repeated since, no politician has yet come up with a definitive list of what these ‘tell-tale signs’ might be. Unsurprisingly, neither does the new PREVENT guidance.

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Article: Radicalisation on campus – why new counter-terror duties for universities will not work, The Conversation

Universities - ConversationFollowing my invitation to present evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Universities Group (APPUG) on Tuesday, I was invited to write this short piece for The Conversation, click here to read in full.

Radicalisation on campus: why new counter-terror duties for universities will not work

The government’s attempts to prevent university students from being drawn into violent extremism and terrorism could backfire. From July 1, there will be new duties placed on universities following changes to the government’s PREVENT programme in the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.

Universities will now be required to provide specialist staff training on radicalisation, carry out risk assessments on the vulnerability of students and have appropriate welfare programmes in place, among other things. While I am acutely aware of the dangers of students being drawn towards extremist ideologies of any persuasion, my concerns are that these new measures will be counter-productive.

One rationale for the new duties is that university staff are uniquely placed to see the changes in the behaviour and outlook of students who have been radicalised. The notion of easily identifiable “changes” have been around for a while, first posited by the then home secretary, John Reid a decade ago. Back then, he was telling Muslim parents about the need to be vigilant in watching their children for the “tell-tale signs” of extremism.

Oft-repeated since, no politician has yet set out exactly what these “tell-tale signs” might be. Neither does the new PREVENT guidance. Unsurprising because in essence, when “changes” or “tell-tale signs” are referred to they are in many ways little more than mere code for becoming “more Muslim”. Whether visual – growing a beard or wearing the niqab for example – or vocal – practising your religion more openly or developing political views about British foreign policy or Palestine for instance – it is the recognition of more Muslim-ness that is problematic.

Read on by clicking here.

Article: A Post-Election Call to Arms Against Simplism – Huffington Post

huffington-post-logoMy new article titled “A Post-Election Call to Arms Against Simplism” has today been published on the Huffington Post website. A response to how annoyed I’ve become as a result of everything being presented in overly simplistic frames, the full article can be found by clicking here.

A Post-Election Call to Arms Against Simplism

Do you remember when George W Bush declared that “You’re either with us or against us”?

Stressing there could be no neutrality in the ‘war on terror’, not only did his statement effectively shut down any opportunity for challenge but so too did he mask an extremely complex and dangerous situation behind a façade of overt simplism. Impressive.

In the intervening years, it seems that a whole host of other issues have been similarly masked; a façade of simplism now appearing to be part and parcel of much of our everyday understanding.

This has been especially pronounced since last week’s General Election. Having gained a majority of MPs in Parliament – significantly different to a majority of votes from those eligible to do so – the past week has been marked by ‘no longer shy’ and increasingly belligerent Tory supporters falling over themselves to tell those of us on the left to just put up and shut up. For some on social media, merely expressing disappointment at Labour’s capitulation is evidence that we’re enemies of democracy. Some even inferred that Labour voters need to accept collective responsibility for the idiot who decided to deface the Women of World War II memorial in Whitehall.

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