Click here to view a short briefing paper my friend and colleague Özlem Ögtem-Young pulled together from discussions had during a workshop we facilitated here at the University of Birmingham a few weeks ago.
Seeking to explore and subsequently identify the priorities for Birmingham’s Muslim communities in the social, political and public spaces that exist across the city we used the recommendations from the Commission on Islam, Participation & Public Life to focus the discussions. If you’re not familiar with the recommendations or even the report,”Missing Muslims: Unlocking British Muslim Potential for the Benefit of All” for free by clicking here.
The priorities identified are set out below:
To consider providing guidance on accurate reporting on Muslim issues in Birmingham and the West Midlands, to ensure that faith is not conflated with extremism. To seek the support and input of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) as regards appropriate ways of responding and complaining where appropriate.
For Birmingham City Council – and others in the city – to adopt a formal definition of Islamophobia at the same time as making a public statement denouncing all forms of discriminatory phenomena. To work with appropriate authorities in the city to ensure
that Islamophobic hate crime is dealt with in the same way as other hate crimes.
For Birmingham’s mosques to invest in imams appropriate to the city and its Muslim communities, to work towards ensuring that imams are paid a decent living wage funded by Muslim institutions in the UK, and for them to be equipped with the correct pastoral skills to meet the needs of those they seek to support.
For Birmingham City Council schools, colleges and youth clubs to champion and expand opportunities for young people from different backgrounds to meet and share experiences through the encouragement of outreach programmes and other appropriate activities that are attractive to young people.
For Birmingham City Council and West Midlands Police to consider convening a review of its Prevent provision at the same time as establishing an Advisory Group made up of local stakeholders to share best practice.
For Birmingham City Council and other appropriate institutions and actors to consider the creation of a campaign showcasing and championing the city’s diversity, referred to here as the ‘multiple faces of Birmingham’.
For Birmingham’s institutions to consider how to better engage Muslim women. For Birmingham’s mosques and Muslim organisations to consider how to better include Muslim women as also their views and opinions.
Download the full briefing paper here.
Here’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.
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.
Following 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: