What rough beast slouches towards Birmingham? That’ll be Pegida
The far-right, anti-Islam protest movemement Pegida has so far been largely based in Germany and has had limited success in the UK. But around 300 people are expected to attend a march in Birmingham on February 6.
Having been kept away from the city centre, the group, whose name is an abbreviation for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident, will undertake a “silent march” near Birmingham International train station.
The march will be lead by Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the far-right group the English Defence League (EDL). Its message, so Pegida claims, is “save our country, save our culture, save our future”.
But of course, what the group means by “our country” is hardly inclusive. As a far-right, counter-jihad movement, Pegida’s message on the day will undoubtedly be one that promotes division and hate.
This is a comment piece that I was approached to write for Australian Outlook, an online comment website run by the Australian Institute of International Affairs. Given the Institute has been voted the top think tank in South East Asia and the Pacific in the Global Go To Think Tanks Index in both 2015 and 2016, this was a great honour.
The Rise of Europe’s Far-Right and the Anti-Muslim Tide
The notion of Europe being “invaded” by an Islamic other has gained considerable traction in the past decade and a half.
This rhetoric routinely cites the mass migration that followed World War II as starting the process, and uses more recent migration – in particular the ongoing plight of those fleeing the civil war in Syria – to argue for resistance to this invasion. Perceiving migration as an insidious process as opposed a humanitarian one, the narrative of invasion argues that, once here, those migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers that happen to be Muslim will then go on to “Islamify” the nation states that generously afforded them shelter.
Such rhetoric can be found across various settings. At its most extreme, it was evident with Norway’s Anders Behring Breivik who – shortly before killing eight people with a bomb in Oslo and a further 69 at a summer camp on the island of Utøya – uploaded a manifesto to the internet that called for resistance against the Islamic invasion of Europe as justification for the atrocities he went on to commit. Breivik added he was far from alone in this resistance, citing Germany’s Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund (National Socialist Underground) and Sweden’s Peter Mangs as examples.
That same discourse can be seen in the political mainstream also: the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has stated that Milan would become an ‘Islamic city’ while the Sverigedemokraterna (Swedish Democrats) have called for the need to limit the ‘birth rate’ of Muslim migrants to the country. In relation to the Syrian refugee crisis specifically, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has alluded to the vast numbers of Muslim migrants being part of a ‘master plan’.
Most of you will have seen this by now but just in case you haven’t I reproduced below an article I wrote for the Huffington Post yesterday. To read it in full click here.
Be More British, Speak More English, Dress Like This – Another Normal Week for British Muslim Women
Another week and another barrage of politicians and newspaper headlines place various demands on British Muslims. This week’s disproportionately focus on Muslim women, calling on them to change the way they dress, speak more English more often, and reform Islam. Not asking for much then.
As unnecessary as they are tiresome, the real problem though is that this week’s demands merely regurgitate ideas and approaches that have previously been shown to be unworkable or have categorically failed. More concerning though is that they once again illustrate how British politicians and the British media have been complicit for more than a decade in appropriating Muslim women for political and ideological gain.
From research undertaken with Surinder Guru, we found clear evidence of how successive British Governments had instrumentally used the issue of gender when seeking to engage with Muslim communities. As we put it, far from empowering Muslim women it instead reduced them – as also their concerns and needs – to little more than a novelty sideshow that was being surreptitiously scripted by those with all the power.
To whet your appetite – if necessary – I’ve pasted the abstract below:
The Britishness agenda found in political speeches, reporting and opinion editorials is here posited as a form of ‘new racism’, as it emphasises the difference between ‘them’, Muslims, and ‘us’, non-Muslim Britons, and uses that difference as a defining demarcation. Twenty-first-century political discourse invested in the Britishness agenda works to eradicate distinctions between British Muslims and non-British Muslims, and even the distinction between those guilty of terrorist atrocities and those who have nothing to do with them. Muslims are framed within this discourse as the problem within multiculturalism, and the problem with multiculturalism. The difficulty of a demand to ‘be more British’ is laid bare.
I’ve just had a chapter included in the recently published 2015 Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion. Themed around “Religion and Internet”, my chapter once again focuses on the ongoing furore surrounding the proposed Dudley mosque.
Titled ‘”Stop Dudley Super Mosque and Islamic Village”: overview of the findings from a pilot study’, the publishers have made the unusual decision to allow a copy to be made freely available via personal websites. With this in mind, feel free to download the article by clicking here.
Here’s my piece I wrote for MuslimWise, a blog linked to SOAS at the University of London.
RIPOSTE: Dr Chris Allen comments on recent MET statistics indicating a 70% rise in islamophobic attacks in London
In the past couple of weeks, much has been made of the Metropolitan Police data showing that the number of Islamophobic hate crimes recorded increased by 70% in the past year. Amounting to 816 Islamophobic hate crimes in total, this was the second successive year that numbers had risen in London. In 2014, the 478 hate crimes recorded indicated an increase of more than 60% on the preceding year. A particularly concerning trend was that Islamophobic hate crimes increased in every London borough. While the most dramatic could be seen in Waltham Forest and Merton (showing increases of 270% and 263% respectively), notable increases were also evident in Islington (175%), Lewisham (160%), Hackney (137%) and Lambeth (135%).
In trying to explain these increases, the Metropolitan Police’s hate crime lead, Commander Mark Chishty suggested that it was down to the fact that greater numbers of people were increasingly aware of how to report hate crimes. Fiyaz Mughal (CEO of Tell MAMA) however was less convinced. Questioning the epiphany necessary to prompt significant numbers of people to report Islamophobic hate crime to the police, Mughal cited data collected by Tell MAMA to suggest that the increases were simply because “there were possibly more anti-Muslim hate incidents”.
To some extent, both explanations have some truth in them.
My comment piece in the Huffington Post from last week, enjoy.
The Curious Incident Of The Muslim Student in the University Library Who Was Reading A Book (Which Clearly Meant He Was a Terrorist)
The recent experience of Mohammed Umar Farooq at Staffordshire University confirms my worst fears about the statutory duties now placed on universities following changes to the PREVENT programme as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
Farooq was a postgraduate student on Staffordshire’s Terrorism, Crime and Global Security MA. Like all university students, Farooq was required to read a range of texts relevant to his studies. In his case, this included a text entitled, Terrorism Studies. Deciding to read the book in the library on campus, Farooq was approached by someone that he first thought was a fellow student. That individual went on to ask him questions about Islam, his attitudes to homosexuality, Islamic State and al-Qaida among others. To Farooq’s surprise, the individual questioning him was a member of staff who proceeded to report him to security guards as the conversation had allegedly raised “too many red flags”.
After being investigated for three months, Staffordshire University admitted fault and subsequently apologised to Farooq for the distress caused. The University did stress though that Farooq was never accused of being a terrorist and that only “concerns” had been raised. Noting that the member of staff “had only had a few hours’ training in December 2013”, the University added that guidance about the new duties “contains insufficient detail to provide clear practical direction”. Ironic that the University’s Masters programme Farooq was enrolled on includes a focus on “policy responses to terrorism and counter terrorism and their relationship with human rights”.
Following the news that Islamophobic hate crime has increased by 70% in London over the past year, I wrote a short article for the Huffington Post that raises a number of timely considerations. To read the article in full, click here.
Islamophobic Hate Crime up 70% in London, Some Thoughts
Statistics released by the Metropolitan Police reveal that the number of Islamophobic hate crimes in London has increased by 70% in the past year. For the year ending July 2015, the Met recorded a total of 816 Islamophobic hate crimes; in 2014, the number was 478, itself an increase of around 65% on the previous year. Increases were evident across every London borough, the most staggering in Waltham Forest and Merton where the numbers of Islamophobic hate crimes increased by 270% and 263% respectively. Other boroughs of note include Islington (175%), Lewisham (160%), Hackney (137%) and Lambeth (135%).
Three thoughts emerge.
The first was to think about how those on the Islamophobia spectrum have sought to dismiss out of hand the very existence of the exact same phenomenon. Typically justifying such a view on a perceived lack of evidence that ‘proves’ Islamophobia exists, they point to the dearth of Islamophobia-specific official or governmental data that has been historically available. As I have argued here in the Huffington Post, a lack of evidence about ‘numbers’ alone does not mean that Islamophobia is not taking place, quite the contrary in fact. As with my own research, there is now ample qualitative evidence which poignantly illustrates the ugly realities of contemporary Islamophobia, detrimentally impacting the everyday lives of too many ordinary people who become victims solely because they happen to be identified as being Muslim. It will be interesting to see how those who reject Islamophobia will seek to counter these new statistics.