Comment: Birmingham Isn’t The ‘Hotbed’ Of Islamist Extremism It Was Claimed To Be – El Estudiante

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To mark the one month anniversary of the Westminster attacks, I reflect on some of the claims made about Birmingham not least that it’s the ‘jihadi capital’. To read the original, click here.

Birmingham Isn’t The ‘Hotbed’ Of Islamist Extremism It Was Claimed To Be

It’s been a month since Khalid Masood drove his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge – injuring around 50 people and killing four – before going on to crash it into the perimeter fence of the Houses of Parliament where he stabbed to death a police officer before being shot and killed.

As soon as Masood’s identity was made public, the media homed in on how he was from Birmingham. Following a raid on his flat on the outskirts of Birmingham city centre, camera crews and journalists from the world descended on the Hagley Road address at which time I like many of my peers were called on to give interviews, most asking us to explain that which we didn’t yet know.

My remit included speaking to news outlets from Belgium, France, Switzerland and the US as also the UK. Almost all of the interviews focused on why Birmingham was a ‘capital of jihadism’, the ‘new Londonistan’, and as one a Belgian journalist put it, the new Molenbeek (the Brussels suburb where police raided a number of houses in March 2016 in connection to the Paris terror attacks four months earlier). The same was true of others too.

Among the British news media a similar line of enquiry emerged. Take for instance the Financial Times and a quote describing Birmingham as a ‘hotbed’ for Islamist activity or the Independent when it referred to the city as a ‘breeding ground for British-born terror’. It was the Daily Mail that surpassed itself and indeed all other reports. Under the rhetorical headline, ‘So how DID Birmingham become the jihadi capital of Britain?’ the piece focused on where Masood lived and hired the car used to commit the atrocities. As the Mail put it, both were “in Birmingham. Birmingham. Birmingham. Birmingham. It’s always Birmingham”. For the Mail, the blame for Masood’s actions was undoubtedly Birmingham.

To continue reading, click here.


JOURNAL ARTICLE: Controversy: Is Prevent Harming Universities? – Political Insight


Click here to link to my recently published journal article in Political Insight. The piece offers a critique of the PREVENT statutory duty placed on universities and higher education institutions. I have pasted the opening paragraph or so below for you to have a look at.

As with many academic journals, it’s likely that you will need to either pay or have an institutional username and password to access it. Please accept my apologies if this is the case but as you will be aware from previous posts, I always try and ensure as much of my writing is open access and available to all. Sometimes though it just cannot be avoided.

Controversy: Is Prevent Harming Universities?

In March 2015, Mohammed Umar Farooq was studying for an MA in Terrorism, Crime
and Global Security MA programme at Staffordshire University. Among the
recommended readings was a text entitled, Terrorism Studies. While sitting in the
University’s main library reading that book, a member of the University’s staff quizzed
Farooq about his religion and his attitudes towards homosexuality, and Islamic State
and al-Qaida. Following the conversation, Farooq was reported to University security
guards who proceeded to interview him on many of the same topics. After three months
of investigations, Staffordshire University eventually apologised to Farooq for the
distress caused. It chose, however, not to extend the apology to the fact that the
member of staff in question was suspicious about a terrorism student’s motivations for
reading on a book on terrorism – because Farooq had been identified as a Muslim. As the
University put it, while the member of staff had ‘misjudged’, the sight of seeing Farooq reading Terrorism Studies had raised ‘too many red flags’ not to act. 

To read the rest of the article, click here.

IN THE NEWS: Westminster Attacks – International Coverage

Screenshot_20170328-150002Following on from last week’s attacks in Westminster, just thought that I would share some links to the international coverage my research and/or thoughts attracted in the aftermath:

France 2

Terrorisme : quelles sont les mesures prises par les Britanniques ces dernières années? 24 March 2017

La Stampa

Caccia alla cellula di Birmingham. Raffica di arresti: “Pronti a colpire” 24 March 2017

Washington Post

The London attacker lived among them. Now, Birmingham’s Muslims worry about the consequences 25 March 2017


THINK-PIECE: Shared Values for Birmingham – Social Inclusion Summit, July 2012

PING2-2Given the events of the past week and the less than positive spotlight that has been thrown on Birmingham, it has made me re-think and re-visit some of the things that I and colleagues have been writing about the city over the past few years (hence the earlier post about the research I did into Birmingham’s Muslim communities in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 riots).

Here I’m re-posting a short think-piece I co-wrote with my friend and long-term collaborator Arshad Isakjee. Having been co-opted into the city’s Social Inclusion Summit a few years back, both of us were concerned about the Summit’s pursuance of ‘shared values’ for Birmingham. As such, we agreed to write a think-piece setting out those concerns we had but also, setting out what we thought were a set of more viable alternatives. The culmination of this endeavour was the document that can be viewed by clicking here.

Whilst it is probably worth noting that after we submitted the think-piece to the Summit, we weren’t contacted again I do think that the think-piece remains relevant and might be a resonant resource in terms of the type of questions that will no doubt be raised following last week’s atrocities.


Comment: Being United Is The Best Defence Against All Who Seek to Divide Us – Huffington Post

n-LONDON-AERIAL-628x314Following on from the tragic events in Westminster on Wednesday, I pulled together some of my thoughts for a blog article in the Huffington Post. The original piece can be viewed here.

Below the article is reproduced.

Being United Is The Best Defence Against All Who Seek to Divide Us

“Terrorists have a clear aim and that is to create discord, distrust and to create fear. The police stand with all communities in the UK and will take action against anyone who seeks to undermine society, especially where their crimes are motivated by hate”

These were the words of Mark Rowley, the national lead for Counter Terrorism Policing and the Acting Deputy Commissioner speaking at a press conference about eight hours after the tragic events that occurred in Westminster on Wednesday afternoon. Measured and calm, he went on to add:

“We must recognise now that our Muslim communities will feel anxious at this time given the past behaviour of the extreme right wing and we will continue to work with all community leaders in the coming days”

Continue reading “Comment: Being United Is The Best Defence Against All Who Seek to Divide Us – Huffington Post”

RESEARCH: We Live Together & Can Stay Together – 2011 Report

Report CoverFollowing on from recent events and the scrutiny placed on Birmingham and its Muslim communities, I thought it might be worthwhile re-sharing the findings from some research I undertook in the city in the aftermath of the riots in 2011. Aside from asking about Muslim’s views about the riots and the causes of them, the research also asked about their feelings towards Birmingham as home as also their sense of belonging too.

Some of the things that the respondents said have particular resonance today. As one put it:

“Muslims are tired of being portrayed as something they are not. They are tired of all the lies and bad press. They love their country, they love the gentle nature of most of the British public, they just want to live a peaceful quiet existence”

And of course, the words of Tariq Jahan continue to ring true today:

“If you look around here, there are black, brown, white and yellow people, they are all my community. We live together and we can stay together”

You can download and read the report by clicking here.