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.

Journal Article: Resistir a la invasión musulmana – Afkar (Ideas)

afkar50es“Resistir a la invasión musulmana” is my latest article, published today in the Spanish journal Afkar (Ideas). The journal is published in Spanish, French, Catalan and English more details of which are available here.

At present, only a Spanish translation of the article is available online. If you’re not fluent in Spanish, then you can read an early draft of the article in English by downloading a pdf version here.


Open Letter: The Case for Membership of the EU – The Times

remainOn the eve of tomorrow’s vote about whether to remain or exit from the EU, I was one of a number of British Social Policy academics who put their name to an open letter making the case for EU membership.

Given that you need a subscription to read The Times newspaper online, the letter can be accessed via the Social Policy Association website by clicking here.

Alternatively, you can download a pdf copy here.

The text of the letter is copied below:

Dear Editor,

As scholars active in research and practice around social policy, we are concerned that a UK exit will have serious implications for many collective measures to improve wellbeing, counter mushrooming inequality and encourage real democratic participation. First any weakening of the UK’s economy undermines the resources for social spending. Second the EU has always recognised that an open economy requires forms of social protection to prevent trading competition between nations resulting in a race to the bottom. Third most of our leading partners in the EU – notably Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden – are sympathetic allies who have been pioneers in social policy whilst the UK is now in many respects a laggard.

In the modern world the economy is global; nation states can only protect their citizens if they work together. Of course institutions like the EU are imperfect from a simple democratic perspective but to opt out can only reduce our capacity to address issues like deprivation, migration, exploitation, pollution and climate change. We know that EU policy is not ‘dictated’ by Brussels ‘bureaucrats’. It is a protective association, a product of collaboration between nations, something to which modern democratic participation must aspire.

Continue reading “Open Letter: The Case for Membership of the EU – The Times”

News: Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life – School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham

Commission-ChrisAllen-April2016Pasted is some news coverage about my involvement with the Citizens Commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life from the University of Birmingham website. The original piece can viewed here.

The Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life in Birmingham

Chris Allen recently spent two days with the Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life when it visited Birmingham.

Chaired by Dominic Grieve QC MP, the Commission has brought together 20 Commissioners from a wide cross section of British society to consider how Britain’s Muslim communities could better engage and participate in public life. To do so, it has been touring the UK in recent months having held public hearings in a number of towns and cities to hear evidence from Muslim communities and others.

Continue reading “News: Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life – School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham”