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.

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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.

ARTICLE: Brexit, Birmingham and Belonging: Anxieties About ‘Home’ Among Secondary Migrant Somali Families – Sociological Review Blog

sociological+reviewHere’s a link to a piece recently published by the Sociological Review that was co-written with my long-term friend and collaborator Özlem Young. Focusing on new research we undertook in Birmingham with Somali families in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit referendum, the full piece can be read by clicking here.

The first few paragraphs are reproduced below too:

Brexit, Birmingham and Belonging: Anxieties About ‘Home’ Among Secondary Migrant Somali Families

Having obtained full EU citizenship status elsewhere (including in Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden), a significant number of Somalis have arrived in Britain since the year 2000. Research suggests that Britain was preferred as a destination of secondary migration on the basis that it was perceived to be more tolerant of cultural and religious difference. Maybe unsurprisingly, many settled in Birmingham, a city that not only has a long history of welcoming and being home to many diverse communities but one that has also been referred to as being the best place in Europe to be ‘pure Muslim’.

In making Birmingham their home, many of those that have settled have had families while at the same time creating organisations and services that support their cultural, theological and political needs. In doing so, they have established themselves as a distinct ‘community’. Birmingham is most definitely seen to be ‘home’; their sense of belonging to the city being routinely conveyed to us when we began to engage Somali families in the city as part of a research project that sought to explore the impact of Brexit on a number of different minority communities. As one of those we engaged put it:

“The number one factor here is the social life. I grew up in Sweden and Sweden was a very secluded environment where people kept themselves to themselves… But here in the UK, especially Birmingham, people do more outdoor activities, go to restaurants… whether it is sheesha, whether it is the gym, people are always outside. So that’s what I like…And the mosque community in the UK, especially Birmingham, is very active. There are always activities. Not necessarily religious, they could be any sort. People can come from outside, say government or schools, and you can have awareness of different issues. So you’re never bored in terms of that aspect.”

Because the Somalis we spoke to were European rather than British citizens however, the vote for Britain to leave the European Union threw any sense of ‘home’ or belonging they had into disarray.

Continue reading by clicking here.

ARTICLE: Political Approaches to Tackling Islamophobia: An ‘Insider/Outsider’ Analysis of the British Coalition Government’s Approach between 2010–15 – Social Sciences

socsci-logoYou can download my new article “Political Approaches to Tackling Islamophobia: An ‘Insider/Outsider’ Analysis of the British Coalition Government’s Approach between 2010–15” by clicking here.

As you will be aware, I try to ensure that as many of my outputs are freely available whenever possible. The good news is that Social Sciences – the journal this is published in – is entirely free to everyone !

Below is the abstract:

Soon after the Conservative-led Coalition government came to power in 2010, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi announced that Islamophobia had passed the ‘dinner-table test’ in contemporary Britain. Resultantly, the need to address Islamophobia was identified as a priority for the Coalition. This article critically analyses how the Coalition sought to achieve this and the extent to which it was successful. Focusing on the period 2010–15, this article initially frames what is meant by Islamophobia, before briefly setting out how it had been responded to by previous British governments. Regarding the Coalition, a threefold approach is adopted that considers the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia, the Cross-Government Working Group on Anti-Muslim Hate, and the political discourses used by the Coalition about Muslims and Islam more generally. Concluding that the Coalition failed to meet the high expectations set by Warsi’s speech, this article considers why this might have been so.

Download here.

COMMENT: London Nach Dem Terror, Regierung und Muslime müssen miteinander reden – IslamIQ

islamiqFollowing on from writing for the Turkish-language German-based periodical Perspektif, I now have my articles republished – and translated into German – for IslamIQ. The pieces are the same although the titles do vary. This piece is titled, “London After The Terror: the Government and Muslims must talk to each other” and can be read in full by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can read the first few paragraphs below:

London Nach Dem Terror, Regierung und Muslime müssen miteinander reden

Kurz nach dem Attentat auf der London Bridge Anfang Juni ließ Großbritanniens Premierministerin Theresa May verlauten, „genug sei genug“. Nach dem jüngsten Anschlag auf die Londoner Finsbury Park Moschee, bei dem ein weißer Brite einen Kleinbus in eine Gruppe von Muslimen gesteuert hatte, die nach dem Nachtgebet im Ramadan die Moschee gerade verließ, äußerte sie sich ähnlich, betonte diesmal allerdings die Notwendigkeit der Bekämpfung von Islamhass.

Angesichts einer Welle von Terroranschlägen, bei denen binnen vier Monaten 36 Menschen starben und 200 verletzt wurden, sagte May: „Es gibt, um es offen zu sagen, eine viel zu große Toleranz gegenüber Extremismus in unserem Land.“ Unterstützern von Extremismus müsse deutlich entschiedener entgegen getreten werden. Es sei an der Zeit, so May, „ einige schwierige und unangenehme Gespräche“ zu führen.

Continue reading here.

COMMENT: Birleşik Krallık: Konuşulması Gereken “Zorlu” Konular – Perspektif

perspektif_logoHere’s my second piece I’ve written for the Turkish-language German-based periodical, Perspektif. Loosely translated, the piece is titled “United Kingdom: “Challenging” Needs to be Discussed” which doesn’t give much away so to help, it’s some thought in the immediate aftermath of the terror attacks at London Bridge and Borough Market. You can read the piece by clicking here.

The first few paragraphs are reproduced below:

Birleşik Krallık: Konuşulması Gereken ‘Zorlu’ Konular

Haziran ayının başlarında gerçekleşen Londra Köprüsü terör saldırılarından kısa bir süre sonra Başbakan Theresa May, “Bıçak kemiğe dayandı” dedi. İngiliz bir beyaz adam, Londra’nın kuzeyindeki Finsbury Park Camisi’ndeki teravihten çıkan Müslüman kalabalığın üzerine minibüs sürdüğünde de Theresa May aynı söylemi tekrarladı; ancak bu sefer İslamofobi ile mücadelenin altını çizdi. Başbakan ayrıca, üç aydan daha kısa bir sürede gerçekleşen, 36 kişinin hayatını kaybetmesine ve 200’den fazla kişinin yaralanmasına neden olan ve şimdiye dek eşi görülmemiş dört terör saldırısına tepki olarak, “İtiraf etmek gerekirse, ülkemizde aşırıcılığa karşı haddinden fazla müsamaha var.” dedi. Aşırıcılığa müsamahalı olanlara karşı çok daha “sert” tavır alınması gerektiğini de ekleyen May, “bazı zor ve can sıkıcı konuşmalar yapma”nın vaktinin geldiğini söyledi.

Özellikle Müslümanlara atıfta bulunmadığı hâlde, May’in söylemlerinin Britanya’daki Müslüman cemaatleri hedef aldığını düşünen pek çok kişi var. Başbakan’ın konuşmasının hemen bir gün sonrasında, Birleşik Krallık’ın tek Müslüman bakanı ve “cemaatlerden” sorumlu olan Sajid Javid de benzeri yorumlarda bulundu. Javid, “özel bir yükümlülüğe sahip olmaları” nedeniyle, Müslümanların aşırıcılıkla mücadele konusunda “daha fazla efor sarf etmesi” ve bu Müslüman cemaatlerin artık “zorlu konuları konuşmaları” gerektiğini söyledi. Benzeri düşünceler İngiliz siyasi alanında on yıldan uzun bir süredir devam etmekle birlikte Javid, daha da ileri giderek, aşırıcılığın ve aşırıcılığa müsamahanın Birleşik Krallık’taki Müslüman cemaatte yalnızca “zehirli bir azınlığı” beslemediğini, bu oranın Birleşik Krallık nüfusunda daha büyük rakamlara tekabül ettiğini ileri sürdü.

Continue reading by clicking here.