Islamophobia – looking back, looking round, looking ahead


A new website about Islamophobia has been launched today. Its title is Islamophobia 2017, and its subtitle is Challenges for us all. There are two aims – a) to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Runnymede Trust report published in autumn 1997, and b) to recall major issues that still need to be dealt with. The site’s address is

The site has five sections:

Lectures – brief details about lectures in Leeds (9 November) and London (20 November), chaired respectively by Baroness Saeeda Warsi and Baroness Julia Neuberger.

Issues – links to 60 short articles about Islamophobia that have been published online in the last two years. They are mainly but not entirely from the UK, and are to do with a) concepts and definitions b) the Prevent programme c) media imagery and coverage d) hate crime and e) education and training.

Resources – brief summary of educational materials that have been published online in recent years, including readings, videos, syllabuses, lesson plans, exercises and activities.

Links – the websites of about 25 organisations from which further information, ideas and resources are available.

Blog – articles and posts published by ReOrient: The Journal of Critical Muslim Studies based at the University of Leeds.

The Runnymede Commission on Islamophobia and British Muslims was chaired in 1996-97 by Professor Gordon Conway, at that time vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex. It was not until after the text of their report had been finalised in June 1997 that members considered the report’s title. Discussion went backwards and forwards, and round and round. Eventually someone said in exasperation ‘Look, whatever we call the report we must signal that Islamophobia is a challenge for everyone, it’s a challenge for us all’.

‘Well,’ said someone else, ‘what’s wrong with that?’

Islamophobia: a challenge for us all was published a few weeks later. It was welcomed warmly by a wide range of Muslim organisations and groups in the UK, but was by and large ignored by official bodies. Also it was by and large ignored by antiracist organisations, and by churches and interfaith bodies.

But over the last 20 years Islamophobia has not gone away. On the contrary, it has become more serious both nationally and internationally, and much more complicated. More obviously than 20 years ago it’s seen now as a complex mix of challenges – a perfect storm of troubles, not a single phenomenon. It affects everyone. Everyone, accordingly, has a part to play against it.


A low dishonest year


On Monday 14 November 2016 Alan Bennett jotted a brief note in his diary. There is ‘a nauseating picture,’ he wrote, ‘on the front of the Guardian of Trump and Farage together’. He added: ‘with “nauseating” in this case not just a word. It does genuinely make one feel sick.’

All over the world many millions of other people felt sick too, and felt not only disgusted and nauseous but also fearful and despairing.

in the famous words of W H Auden in 1939, people felt lost in ‘a low dishonest decade’, where ‘waves of anger and fear/ circulate over the bright/ and darkened lands of the earth,/ obsessing our private lives.’

Auden referred to the ‘unmentionable odour of death’ offending and obsessing the lives of millions. A similar odour is around at the end of 2016, this low dishonest year.

In order not to forget the worries and weariness with which 2016 ends, but also in order to help nurture hope and determination to keep on keeping on ( to show ‘an affirming flame’, in Auden’s phrase), here at the end of 2016 are links to a handful of reflections and proposals:

British Values, Brexit and Trump a meditation for today, December 2016

Making our states fair again post-election reflections, November 2016

Grief, anger and re-engagement post-referendum thoughts and action, July 2016

And to help remember some of the background context here are some further pieces:

A multi-storied nation religion and belief in modern Britain, July 2016

Islamophobia, still a challenge for us all ‘what Muslims really think’, May 2016

Learning to live together British values and Prevent, February 2016

British identity and British values muddles, mixtures and ways ahead, autumn 2015


Alan Bennett’s diary for 2016 is published in the London Review of Books, 5 January 2017, at





New in 2016

The blog of the Insted consultancy, previously named Insted Consultancy News, has a new name – The Prose and the Passion. The phrase is derived from a famous plea by E. M Forster (1879—1970) in his novel Howards End (1910). ‘Only connect the prose and the passion,’ he said, ‘and both will be exalted.’

Five papers were added to the Insted website in early 2016, and can be accessed at, or else by clicking on the links below.

Learning to live together in 2016: British values and preventing extremism, introductory remarks at a conference for headteachers, January 2016,

Challenging extremism through education: reflections, responses and resources, details of about 70 recent items in newspapers and the blogosphere, including several which propose constructive ways ahead in the education system,

British identity and British values: muddles, mixtures and ways ahead, an article first published in the London Review of Education,  September 2015,

The promotion of British values: a model school policy statement, reflecting ways of integrating fundamental British values into a school’s overall policy framework,

School governors and British values: a statement of concern,  notes on the apparent failure of the Department for Education to have due regard for natural justice and the rule of law in its dealings with Trojan Horse schools in Birmingham, summer and autumn 2015,

The Prose and the Passion blog is managed by Robin Richardson. An interview with him about his career and work over the years, conducted in 2012 on behalf of the International Association for Intercultural Education, can be read at

Charlie Hebdo, free speech, us-and-them thinking

First reflections on what is happening

Headline writers and politicians throughout the western world have been in agreement – the attack on Charlie Hebdo on 7 January was part of a war on freedom, a war on the foundations of western democracy. Anyone who does not express total solidarity with the victims by, for example, holding up a Je suis Charlie slogan, and does not declare their unwavering commitment to freedom of speech, is on the side of the terrorists. This has been the dominant narrative in virtually all the coverage so far in the mainstream media, and in the vast majority of speeches and statements by political leaders.

Only a handful of voices have so far queried this dominant narrative – only a handful have stressed that you can NOT ONLY have profound sympathy for the victims and for their families, friends, colleagues and close followers; and can NOT ONLY deplore the cruelty and callousness of the murderers; and can NOT ONLY care about freedom of expression; but can ALSO deplore the simplistic, hypocritical, racist, Islamophobic and deeply damaging us-and-them thinking that has been at the heart of the mainstream media coverage, and of most political speeches.

Here are links to 28 fine articles that query and deplore the dominant narrative, and that indicate alternative approaches to understanding what is going on. They are listed in no particular order.


1. Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo
by Jon Wilson

2. The moral hysteria of Je suis Charlie
by Brian Klug

3. Charlie Hebdo and the hypocrisy of pencils
by Corey Oakley

4. I am Charlie, and I guard the Master’s house
by Nadine El-Enany and Sarah Keenan

5. Where monoculturalism leads
by Liz Fekete

6. Why I am not Charlie
by Scott Long

7. No, we’re not all Charlie Hebdo, nor should we be
by Ben Hayes’re-not-all-charlie-hebdo-nor-should-we-be

8. Equal in Paris
by Thomas Chatterton Williams

9. Mourning the Parisian journalists, yet noticing the hypocrisy
by Michael Lerner

10. The danger of polarised debate
by Gary Younge

11. Smiling Muslims: leave the gun, take the cannoli
by Hamid Dabashi

12. We must not forget the responsibility that goes with free speech
by Tariq Modood

13. When blasphemy is bigotry
by Chloe Patton

14. From the radical left towards Islamophobia
by Alain Gresh

15. Free speech does not mean freedom from criticism
by Jacob Canfield

16. Fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists
by Mehdi Hasan

17. Piety or rage?
by Seyla Benhabib

18. Moral clarity
by Adam Shatz

19. The Charlie Hebdo tragedy
by Christopher Page

20. Heroic but also racist
by Jordan Weissmann

21. West’s sickening moral hijack of Paris massacre
by Finean Cunningham

22. Is the Charlie Hebdo attack really a struggle over European values?
by Myriam Francois-Cerrah

23. Free speech is not an absolute value
by Simon Dawes

24. Is solidarity without identity possible?
by Cinzia Arruzza

25. Unmournable bodies
by Teju Cole

26. Four reasons why I’m tired of Islamophobia
by Khalishah Stevens

27. Rival sanctities
by Glen Newey

28. Us and them
by Matt Carr

This list was compiled in partnership with Bill Bolloten, 14 January 2015. It was later expanded to contain 80 items, and the longer version was published at