Comment: Five Considerations When Refuting The Critics Of Islamophobia – Huffington Post

huffington-post-logoBeen a bit slow at uploading articles of late but here’s the first of a few that I’ve authored over the past few weeks. Published in the Huffington Post, the piece is a follow-on from the oral evidence I gave to the Home Affairs Committee at a session on the impacts of Islamophobic hate crime. The original article can be accessed by clicking here.

Five Considerations When Refuting The Critics Of Islamophobia

Following on from the oral evidence I gave to the Home Affairs Committee at a session on the impacts of hate crime, I was asked to pull together a short briefing paper on how we might move towards establishing a working definition of Islamophobia.

As with any discriminatory phenomenon, the process of definition can be complex and contentious and Islamophobia is no different in this respect. However unlike other discriminatory phenomena such as racism, Islamophobia has a far shorter history. It should be remembered that in its current manifestation, the term Islamophobia only entered the public and political lexicon two decades ago. Consequently, thinking and understanding about the phenomenon remains less developed than it does for other similar phenomena.

Nonetheless, numerous definitions of Islamophobia currently exist ranging from the academic and scholarly, through the community and advocacy sectors, to the policy and political. Few have acquired widespread acceptance however and so the search for ‘the one’ has become something of a search for El Dorado. But as with El Dorado, so too is it a myth to believe that conceiving and establishing a working definition of Islamophobia will simplify the phenomenon’s complexity or overcome its contestation…

To continue reading, click here.

Evidence: Towards a Working Definition of Islamophobia – Briefing Paper

briefing-paperFollowing the presentation of oral evidence to the Home Affairs Committee in December 2016, I have drawn together a short briefing paper on the need to establish a widely accepted working definition on Islamophobia that I have duly submitted. The briefing paper can be downloaded in full by clicking here.

This is not the first time that I have recommended that a working definition be established: among others, I did the same to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia in 2011 (here) and the Cross-Government Working Group on Islamophobia in 2012 (here).

Let’s hope this attempt will be more warmly received.

EVIDENCE: Home Affairs Select Committee on Hate Crime & its Violent Consequences

me-select-cmttee-dec-2016Yesterday I was invited to give evidence at a hearing of the Home Affairs Select Committee as part of its ongoing inquiry into hate crime and its violent consequences. The hearing took place at Portcullis House, Westminster, was chaired by the Rt Hon Yvette Cooper and included among its panel the Labour MP Naz Shah. As well as being broadcast live, the hearing is also available on the Parliament website, available by clicking here (my session starts at around 15:50 in the slide bar under the images).

You can also download an audio file of the hearing directly from the same webpage, the link is available from the bottom right of the screen.


Comment: As Trump Becomes President-Elect, Islamophobic Hate Crimes Surge Across America – El Estudiante

trump-2Here’s a short comment piece I wrote for the newly created El Estudiante website about the sharp rise in Islamophobic hate crimes that has been evident across the US since Trump’s success was announced just over a week ago. To view the piece in its original form, click here.

As Trump Becomes President-Elect, Islamophobic Hate Crimes Surge Across America

Since the results of the US election were announced last week America has borne witness to a sharp increase in Islamophobic hate crimes. For instance, in Ann Arbor, a female Muslim student at the University of Michigan was approached by a stranger who threatened to set her on fire if she didn’t remove her hijab. In Georgia, a female Muslim high school teacher in Georgia was being left an anonymous note. Scribbled on it was a message stating that her ‘headscarf isn’t allowed anymore’. It went on to suggest that once she had removed her hijab, she could use it to hang herself. Likewise in Ohio, a Muslim woman along with her children and elderly parents were threatened by a man while they were stopped in their car at traffic lights. Shouting obscenities at the terrified family, the man told the woman that ‘she doesn’t belong in this country’. In many ways, it is somewhat unsurprising that such an upsurge in Islamophobic hate crimes has coincided with Donald Trump’s emergence as president-elect.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit organisation that tracks hate groups and hate crimes, this post-election upsurge has been manifested in more than 300 recorded incidents of ‘hateful harassment and intimidation’. To give the number some context, the SPLC report that 300 incidents is more typical of the number of Islamophobic incidents reported to them in a five to six month period rather a six or seven day equivalent. In a statement from the SPLC, the catalyst for this unprecedented surge has been “Trump’s hate-filled campaign”.

To read on, click here.

COMMENT: Birmingham’s Muslims, A City Of Challenges And Opportunities – Huffington Post

This is a comment piece I wrote to coincide with the conference “Birmingham’s Muslims: past, present and futures, challenges and opportunities” that was held at the University of Birmingham last Friday, 21st October 2016.

To view the piece in its original form, click here. Alternatively, you can read it below.

Birmingham’s Muslims: A City Of Challenges And Opportunities

Perceptions of Birmingham can be oppositional when it comes to Muslims and Islam. On the one hand, Birmingham has been somewhat infamously referred to by a Fox News ‘expert’ as a place that is “totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go”. On the other, it is the “best place in Europe to be pure Muslim”.

Despite such a glowing commendation, Birmingham might not have been the ‘best place’ to be Muslim in recent years. From being securitised by the 220-plus CCTV and ANPR cameras that were positioned around two of the most densely populated Muslim areas of the city under the moniker of the now defunct ‘Project Champion’ to being implicated by Operation Trojan Horse’s hoax allegations of an ‘Islamist takeover’ of a number of the city’s council-run schools, the detrimental impact on Muslims and their communities both inside and outside the city cannot be underestimated.

What we do know however is that outside of London, Birmingham is Britain’s most multicultural city. While the concept of multiculturalism has been attacked in recent years, Birmingham’s multiculturalism is what the former city-based sociologist Paul Gilroy refers to as convivial: ordinary, taken-for-granted and to some extent, unexceptional. Significant within that convivial multiculturalism are the city’s Muslim communities. The most populous outside of London, the 2011 Census states that Birmingham is home to 233,923 people identifying as Muslim. At around 22% of the city’s population, this is significantly higher than the 4.8% of the population Muslims make up in England and Wales. Most striking however is that of those who identified as Muslim, 97,099 – or 41.5% – were under 16 years of age.

To continue reading, click here.

Comment: Radicalisation on campus: why counter-terror duties for universities will not work – LSE Religion and the Public Sphere

lse-1Another comment piece I forgot to add when I wrote it a while ago that was published on the LSE’s ‘Religion in the Pubic Sphere’ website – click here to view.

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

Universities are now 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.

To continue reading, click here.

Comment: By Banning The Burkini, The French Are Blaming Muslims – Huffington Post

France BeachwearHere’s an article I wrote a few months ago that I forgot to add to the website. You can read it below or access it direct by clicking here.

By Banning The Burkini, The French Are Blaming Muslims

The news that Sisco – a village on the French island of Corsica – had decided to ban full-body swimsuits – commonly known in the media as the ‘burkini’ – came as little surprise following similar rulings in Cannes and Villeneuve-Loubet in recent weeks.

In Cannes, the decision to ban the burkini was taken on the basis that Muslim women wearing them had the potential to pose a threat to public order. As a result, the wearing of one would attract a caution and a fine of €38 (around £33). As Thierry Migoule, the head of municipal services in Cannes explained:

“Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order (crowds, scuffles etc), which it is necessary to prevent“

It would be interesting to see whether Nigella Lawson would be cautioned and fined if she was to wear a burkini in Cannes as she did in Australia back in 2011. It is unlikely that she would because when Nigella Lawson – a white, privileged, Western woman – chooses to wear the burkini, it is seen to be her choice to do so, an act of empowerment. Indeed as Madeleine Bunting put it, Lawson’s wearing of the burkini was a “subversive political statement”. When a Muslim woman – stereotypically understood to be brown, other and non-Western – chooses to wear the burkini however, the opposite is quite true. Rather than empowerment, the burkini instead is seen to be a symbol of oppression and thereby something that goes against ‘our’ values, culture, way of life and so on. In reality there is little difference except that we fail to take into account ‘our’ hypocrisy.

To read on, click here.