Islamophobia – looking back, looking round, looking ahead

LECTURES, ISSUES, RESOURCES, LINKS, BLOG

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 https://www.islamophobia2017.org.uk/.

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.

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Muslim foster row – fears, facts and fantasy

TEN USEFUL ARTICLES

Another awful week has just ended in the shocking history of British Islamophobia. The week began with lies on the front page of The Times. It continued with the same lies, plus a few others, being recycled in most other papers. The true facts were reported by the Guardian, Independent and BBC, but not in high-profile ways. The week ended with a senior journalist on The Times claiming the paper had acted responsibly when in fact it quite clearly had not.

If you want to know what really happened you need not only to attend to the Guardian and BBC but also to various well-informed pieces in the blogosphere. This article lists 10 articles which between them show the flagrant falsehoods and simplifications which most of the press circulated, and discuss the damage that has been done.

Briefly, the coverage was a mixture of factual inaccuracy on the one hand and Islamophobic hatred, fear and fantasy on the other. As is customary with racist reporting, it was combined for good measure with attacks on local government, on social workers and on political correctness. One of its many disgusting and sinister features was its explicit and unashamed use of a new ethno-religious category – ‘white Christian’ – to refer to people who are decent, principled, rational.

THEY (Muslims and social workers) are bad. WE (White Christians, readers of British newspapers) are good. This was the unspoken but underlying assumption, the grand narrative that the episode was deemed to illustrate.

The front-page headline in The Times on 28 August was ‘Christian child forced into Muslim foster care’. The opening standfirst summary was ‘A white Christian child was taken from her family and forced to live with a niqab-wearing foster carer’. The ten articles listed below provide the truth, and begin to discuss what should be done in consequence.

How the press lied about the little girl staying with Muslim foster parents: here are the facts
by Tom Pride, Pride’s Purge, 31 August 2017
https://tompride.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/how-the-press-lied-about-the-little-girl-staying-with-muslim-foster-parents-here-are-the-facts/

Muslim foster row – the facts

by Tim Fenton, Zelo Street, 31 August 2017
https://zelo-street.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/muslim-foster-row-facts.html?m=1

The UK’s Islamophobic press grows more damaging by the day
by Shenaz Bunglawala, The New Arab, 1 September 2017
https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2017/9/1/the-uks-islamophobic-press-grows-more-damaging-every-day

The fostering case shows British case has problems reporting fairly on Muslims
by Miqdaad Versi, New Statesman, 31 August
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/media/2017/08/fostering-case-shows-british-press-has-problem-reporting-fairly-muslims

So, it was all a lie
by Matthew Smith, Indigo Jo Blogs, 31 August
http://www.blogistan.co.uk/blog/mt.php/2017/08/31/so-it-was-all-a-lie

Times excuses itself – DISHONESTLY
by Tim Fenton, Zelo Street, 2 September 2017
https://zelo-street.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/times-excuses-itself-dishonestly.html?m=1

Religious and cultural identity in foster care
By Sarah P, Transparency Project, 28 August 2017
http://www.transparencyproject.org.uk/religious-and-cultural-identity-in-foster-care/

The Other Side: my Muslim chidren were fostered by a Christian family
by Louise Butt, Amaliah, 30 August 2017
https://www.amaliah.com/post/30454/christian-girl-placed-foster-care-family-muslim

That Muslim foster carers story
by ‘Suddenly Mummy’
http://suddenlymummy.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/that-muslim-foster-carers-story.html

Why did Andrew Norfolk lie?

by Abdul-Azim Ahmed, Medium, 2 September 2017
View story at Medium.com

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 http://www.insted.co.uk/, 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, http://www.insted.co.uk/learning-to-live-together.pdf

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, http://www.insted.co.uk/challenging-extremism-through-education.pdf

British identity and British values: muddles, mixtures and ways ahead, an article first published in the London Review of Education,  September 2015, http://www.insted.co.uk/london-review-education.pdf

The promotion of British values: a model school policy statement, reflecting ways of integrating fundamental British values into a school’s overall policy framework, http://www.insted.co.uk/values.pdf

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, http://www.insted.co.uk/school-governors.pdf

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 http://www.insted.co.uk/interview-with-robin-richardson.pdf.

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
http://labourlist.org/2015/01/je-ne-suis-pas-charlie-hebdo/

2. The moral hysteria of Je suis Charlie
by Brian Klug
http://mondoweiss.net/2015/01/moral-hysteria-charlie

3. Charlie Hebdo and the hypocrisy of pencils
by Corey Oakley
http://redflag.org.au/node/4373

4. I am Charlie, and I guard the Master’s house
by Nadine El-Enany and Sarah Keenan
http://criticallegalthinking.com/2015/01/13/charlie-guard-masters-house/

5. Where monoculturalism leads
by Liz Fekete
http://www.irr.org.uk/news/where-monoculturalism-leads/

6. Why I am not Charlie
by Scott Long
http://paper-bird.net/2015/01/09/why-i-am-not-charlie/

7. No, we’re not all Charlie Hebdo, nor should we be
by Ben Hayes
https://www.opendemocracy.net/ben-hayes/no-we’re-not-all-charlie-hebdo-nor-should-we-be

8. Equal in Paris
by Thomas Chatterton Williams
https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/online-only/equal-in-paris/

9. Mourning the Parisian journalists, yet noticing the hypocrisy
by Michael Lerner
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-michael-lerner/mourning-the-parisian-jou_b_6442550.html

10. The danger of polarised debate
by Gary Younge
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jan/11/charie-hebdo-danger-polarised-debate-paris-attacks

11. Smiling Muslims: leave the gun, take the cannoli
by Hamid Dabashi
http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/c7c085dd-968d-4995-8f1f-314806a0d748

12. We must not forget the responsibility that goes with free speech
by Tariq Modood
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2015/01/12/in-remembering-the-charlie-hebdo-attack-we-must-not-forget-the-responsibility-that-goes-with-free-speech/

13. When blasphemy is bigotry
by Chloe Patton
http://mondoweiss.net/2015/01/recognise-historical-discussing

14. From the radical left towards Islamophobia
by Alain Gresh
http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/18705071-5026-49d5-9bc7-e7c2ab282941

15. Free speech does not mean freedom from criticism
by Jacob Canfield
http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2015/01/in-the-wake-of-charlie-hebdo-free-speech-does-not-mean-freedom-from-criticism/

16. Fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists
by Mehdi Hasan
http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/mehdi-hasan/charlie-hebdo-free-speech_b_6462584.html

17. Piety or rage?
by Seyla Benhabib
http://www.hannaharendtcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Piety-or-Rage.pdf

18. Moral clarity
by Adam Shatz
http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2015/01/09/adam-shatz/moral-clarity/

19. The Charlie Hebdo tragedy
by Christopher Page
https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/charlie-hebdo-tragedy/

20. Heroic but also racist
by Jordan Weissmann
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/01/charlie_hebdo_the_french_satirical_magazine_is_heroic_it_is_also_racist.html

21. West’s sickening moral hijack of Paris massacre
by Finean Cunningham
http://mycatbirdseat.com/2015/01/89159wests-sickening-moral-hijack-of-paris-massacre/

22. Is the Charlie Hebdo attack really a struggle over European values?
by Myriam Francois-Cerrah
http://www.newstatesman.com/myriam-francois-cerrah

23. Free speech is not an absolute value
by Simon Dawes
https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/simon-dawes/charlie-hebdo-free-speech-but-not-as-absolute-value

24. Is solidarity without identity possible?
by Cinzia Arruzza
http://www.publicseminar.org/2015/01/is-solidarity-without-identity-possible/#.VLLvpJIgGK0

25. Unmournable bodies
by Teju Cole
http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/unmournable-bodies

26. Four reasons why I’m tired of Islamophobia
by Khalishah Stevens
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/01/09/4-reasons-why-je-suis-fatigue-from-islamophobia/

27. Rival sanctities
by Glen Newey
http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2015/01/09/glen-newey/rival-sanctities/

28. Us and them
by Matt Carr
http://infernalmachine.co.uk/us-and-them/

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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 http://www.insted.co.uk/beyond-us-them.pdf.

 

 

 

 

Smear, anecdote and hoax – the Trojan Horse reports

A letter in today’s Guardian runs as follows:

The new secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan, makes various pledges following the “Trojan horse” reports on Birmingham schools. Several of her pledges are valuable. The basis for them, however, is unsound. Peter Clarke’s report is not “forensic”, as Nicky Morgan claims (Report, 22 July), but a biased mix of uncorroborated smear, anecdote, hoax and chatroom gossip.

It reflects neoconservative assumptions about the nature of extremism; ignores significant testimony and viewpoints; implies the essential problem in Birmingham is simply the influence of certain individuals; discusses governance but not curriculum; ignores the concerns and perceptions of parents and young people; and is unlikely to bear judicial scrutiny. The Trojan horse affair has done much damage in Birmingham, both to individuals and to community cohesion.

Political leaders have key roles in the urgent process of restoration and support for curriculum renewal. Alas, they will not be much helped by the official reports of Clarke, Ian Kershaw and Ofsted.

They will, though, be helped by the unique strength and goodwill of people in Birmingham itself.

The letter is at http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jul/28/rights-and-wrongs-trojan-horse-birmingham. It is signed by Tim Brighouse, Gus John, Arun Kundnani, Sameena Choudry, Akram Khan-Cheema, Arzu Merali, Robin Richardson, Maurice Irfan Coles, Gill Cressey, Steph Green, Ashfaque Chowdhury, Ibrahim Hewitt, Baljeet Singh Gill, Arshad Ali, S Sayyid, Massoud Shadjareh, Abdool Karim Vakil and Tom Wylie. There is information about Nicky Morgan’s pledges at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jul/22/schools-face-curbs-extremism-birmingham-trojan-horse-affair.

Religion and belief in public life

Here’s a handful of media headlines from the first few months of 2014: ‘Religious difference, not ideology, will fuel this century’s epic battles’ (January), ‘Culture, not faith, is the key to continuity’ (February) ‘Is British Christianity under threat from aggressive secularism?’ (April), ‘The British Muslim is truly one among us – and proud to be so’, (April), ‘UK among most sceptical in world about religion’ (April), ‘All schools must promote “British values”, says Michael Gove’ (June).

To consider the issues raised by headlines such as these, a national consultation was launched earlier this week at the House of Lords. It is an activity of the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life,  chaired by the Rt Hon Baroness Butler-Sloss of Marsh Green GBE, formerly president of the Family Division of the High Court. It has 20 members drawn from a wide range of professional, ethnic and religious backgrounds. The topics for consideration include law, education, the media, social action and  dialogue.

Questions for consultation include the following. Do you feel at ease with the diversity of modern British society in terms of religion and belief? Are the current systems of civil and criminal law in the UK satisfactory in relation to issues of religion and belief, and to the overlap between these and issues of race and ethnicity?  Do the media accurately and helpfully portray issues of religion and belief, and communities and groups identified by religion or belief?

 Are issues of religion and belief well handled in the curricula of the UK’s systems of education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and in relevant systems of training and continuing development? Should faith-based organisations be involved in social and political action and, if so, in what ways and to what extent? How should disagreements be handled between and within different traditions and communities, and between these and other interests in public life and wider society?

 There is full information at http://www.corab.org.uk/national-consultation#top.

Trojan Horse Counter Narrative

Much media coverage today, most of it uncritical, of the Trojan Horse narrative concocted by Michael Gove and Ofsted. To remind yourself of what the counter narrative looks like, please read or re-read some of the following articles. They are listed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent first.

Is the Trojan Horse row just a witch hunt triggered by a hoax?,by Richard Adams, The Guardian, 9 June 2014

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/jun/08/trojan-horse-extremism-political-storm-michael-gove-ofsted

If you want to stop extremism in UK schools, try a little understanding first, by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, The Independent, 9 June 2014

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/if-you-want-to-stop-extremism-in-uk-schools-try-a-little-understanding-first-9509345.html

Birmingham has most to lose from the Gove-May extremism row, by Chris Allen, The Conversation, 7 June

http://theconversation.com/birmingham-has-most-to-lose-from-gove-may-extremism-row-27650

 Naming the narratives: the Trojan Horse affair in Birmingham, by Robin Richardson, Institute for Race Relations Bulletin, 5 June 2014

http://www.irr.org.uk/news/naming-the-narratives-the-trojan-horse-affair-in-birmingham/

When did Michael Gove become the government’s expert on Muslims or extremism?, by Mehdi Hasan, Huffington Post, 4 June 2014

http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/5443576?utm_hp_ref=tw

Trojan horses and policing ‘extremism’ in schools, by Gus John, Gus John Consultancy, 3 June 2014

http://www.gusjohn.com/2014/06/trojan-horses-and-policing-extremism-in-schools/

 Where lies sound truthful and murder is respectable, by Ibrahim Hewitt, Middle East Monitor, 30 May 2014 https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/11778-when-lies-sound-truthful-and-murder-is-respectable

 Trojan Horse:conjuring the slave, the witch and the grand inquisitor, by MG Khan, Open Democracy, 2 May 2014

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/mg-khan/trojan-horse-%E2%80%93-conjuring-slave-witch-and-grand-inquisitor

Ofsted’s future at stake after Trojan Horse scandal, by JacquelineBaxter, The Conversation, 1 May

http://theconversation.com/ofsteds-future-at-stake-after-trojan-horse-scandal-25936

An ideological war against Muslims in UK schools, by Assed Baig, Anadolu Agency, 25 April 2014

http://www.aa.com.tr/en/s/318232–an-ideological-war-against-uk-muslims-in-school

This war on ‘Islamism’ only fuels hatred and violence, by Seumas Milne, The Guardian, 24 April 2014

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/23/war-islamism-hatred-violence-blair-cameron-toxic

 A new wave of Islamophobia: where it comes from and how to stop it, by John Rees, Stop the War Coalition, 24 April 2014

http://stopwar.org.uk/videos/a-new-wave-of-islamophobia-where-it-rsquo-s-come-from-and-how-to-stop-it#.U2vjHSO3PFp

Teachers complain about behaviour of Ofsted inspectors investigating plot by Richard Adams, The Guardian, 20 April 2014

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/apr/20/teachers-ofsted-inspectors-investigating-plot-birmingham

No Trojan Horse: the bishop, the chief executive and the knowledgeable journalist agree, Political Concern, 16 April 2014

http://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2014/04/16/no-trojan-horse-the-bishop-the-chief-executive-and-the-knowledgeable-journalist-agree/ 

Crusade against British Muslims in education, by Ibrahim Hewitt, Al Jazeera, 12 April 2014

http://m.aljazeera.com/story/201451018411814899

The Muslim plot that wasn’t by Assed Baig, Huffington Post, 7 April 2014

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/assed-baig/muslim-plot_b_5103347.html

 The inconvenience of the truth: Birmingham schools don’t need a witch hunt, by Tom Bennett, Times Educational Supplement, 9 March 2014

http://community.tes.co.uk/tom_bennett/b/weblog/archive/2014/03/09/the-inconvenience-of-the-truth-birmingham-schools-don-39-t-need-a-witch-hunt.aspx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Islamophobia 10 – Theme Parks 0

A day out at a theme park or amusement park, usually with your family but sometimes with your school or a youth organisation, is a happy experience for millions of children throughout the world. Developed from the travelling and seasonal fairs of a previous age, theme parks dramatise the features of a relaxed society – people of all ages are there together, and so are people from all walks of life and all ethnicities, and there’s a vast choice of enjoyable and educational activities in which to share. You enjoy your own life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and you’re relaxed and pleased that lots of other people are enjoying their lives and freedoms too. Everyone’s ’Us’, no one’s ‘Them’.

Recently the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF), based in East London, announced plans for a families day out at Legoland, the famous theme park near Windsor. What? A Muslim organisation wanting its children to enter and enjoy public space? In the eyes of the Daily Mail, that would never do. The Mail requested its columnist Richard Littlejohn to rubbish the whole idea. Littlejohn’s article was entitled ‘Jolly Jihadi Boy’s Outing to Legoland’ and appeared on 18 February. It was illustrated with large pictures of Abu Hamza and Omar Bakti Mohammed, allegedly respected and extolled by the MRDF, and it consisted of a spoof timetable for the day as a whole.

The timetable contained one vile Islamophobic trope or stereotype after another. In a nutshell, the day would consist essentially of instruction in the ways and methods of terrorism and would, for example, teach children how to disguise Semtex as Lego bricks and to chant in unison ‘Death to America, Death to Jews’. It would culminate in a fireworks display featuring remote-controlled planes made of Lego being flown into a scale model of the TwinTowers, similarly made of Lego. Interweaving with such glorifications of terrorism there would be times of prayer, to remind the children that terrorism has God’s blessing.

There are reports in the media today (27 February) that MRDF’s day at Legoland has been cancelled. A statement from Legoland explains that this follows from advice given by Thames Valley Police in the light of threatening phone calls, emails and social media posts. ‘These alone have led us to conclude that we can no longer guarantee the happy fun family event which was envisaged, or the safety of our guests and employees on that day,’ says the statement, ‘which is always our number one priority.’

There have been protests against the Mail’s outrageous behaviour, but so far these have been almost entirely from Muslims. Barely a whisper has yet been heard from opinion leaders in other faith communities, or from society more generally. But hopefully the voices of non-Muslims will be raised, and hopefully Legoland and Thames Valley Police will change their minds about caving in to the criminal phone-calls which have been made. But will the Mail apologise for the damage it has done and will it pledge not to do anything similar again? Judging by its coverage of the cancellation, no. It writes about the cancellation as if it has nothing at all to do with its own obnoxious and unethical behaviour.

 For more information

Littlejohn’s vile article is at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2561686/LITTLEJOHN-Jolly-Jihadi-Boys-Outing-Legoland.html

Muslim responses to the article are outlined at http://tellmamauk.org/tag/richard-littlejohn/.

There’s an article by Roy Greenslade about the episode at http://www.theguardian.com/media/greenslade/2014/feb/21/islam-dailymail.

There’s coverage of Thames Valley Police’s claim it cannot guarantee people’s safety from Islamophobic extremists at, for example, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-26351500.

The Mail’s own coverage of the cancellation, making no reference to its own part in inciting criminal phone calls, is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-26351500.

There are general discussions of Islamophobia in the media at http://www.insted.co.uk/islam.html.

Racist and religious hate crime

A new pack for schools on racist and religious hate crime, written by Berenice Miles and published by the Crown Prosecution Service in association with the National Union of Teachers and the Anthony Walker Foundation, contains classroom activities, worksheets, PowerPoint slides and video clips, and useful background briefings for teachers.