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Between left and right: Islamophobic discourse in the political sphere Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, 6th March 2013


@DrChrisAllen Chris Allen www.chris-allen.co.uk c.allen.2@bham.ac.uk

07940 537691 about.me/drchrisallen


Today’s Presentation  What is Islamophobia...?  Brief introduction, definitions etc

 Between left and right...?  Some examples from the left and right of the political mainstream

 Are these Islamophobic...?  Questioning the validity

 Convergence...?  Some examples from beyond the political mainstream, left and right arguments

 Consequences...?  Re-contextualising the debates, positioning Islamophobia

 Questions & Answers


What is Islamophobia...?


What isn’t Islamophobia...?


“Islamophobia is not about disagreeing, criticising or condemning...�


Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia, 1997  Better known as the ‘Runnymede report’ into Islamophobia  “a useful shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore, to fear or dislike all or most Muslims” (p.1)

 Islamophobia a “part of the fabric of everyday life in modern Britain” (p.11)


Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia, 1997  ‘Closed views’ of Islamophobia:  Islam as monolithic and static;  as 'other' and separate from the West;  as inferior;  as enemy;  as manipulative;  as discriminated against; as having its criticisms of the West rejected;  and where Islamophobia was ultimately becoming increasingly natural


Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia, 1997


Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia, 1997


Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia, 1997


Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia, 1997  Islamophobia – like other discriminatory phenomena – is highly complex yet becomes easily reduced  ‘Muslims’ and ‘Islam’ become essentialised  Value judgments are made about the legitimacy of the victims

 Debates and discussions lack nuance; responses are bland and meaningless; similarities with other phenomena overlooked and ignored


The three components of Islamophobia  A political programme or ideology which becomes largely interdependent with the notion and ideology of nationalism as well as providing knowledge and meaning about other both new and existing relations of power and meaning;  A set of prejudices, opinions and attitudes that may be held by either individuals, groups, communities or society, or indeed a combination of these;  A set of exclusionary practices as a result of prejudice and discrimination in employment, housing and other socioeconomic spheres as well as subjection to violence as a tool of exclusion (Allen, 2010)


Between left and right...?


Between left & right...?  “Quote from EUMC report” (Allen & Nielsen 2002, p. ???)

 “one key observation to have come out of the period since 9/11 is how the gap between the opposite poles of the extreme political right and left, when concerned with attitudes and perceptions of Muslims at least, would appear to have become much closer” (Allen 2010, p.93)  How though does one conclude whether something is Islamophobic or not...?


Between left & right: New Labour  Ruth Kelly, Communities Secretary DCLG:  August 2006  Kelly called for Islamic schools that sought to be isolationist to be immediately closed down  October 2006  Announced that Muslim organisations that refused to defend core British values and failed to be ‘proactive’ in the fight against extremism were to lose access to Government funding


Between left & right: New Labour  Department of Education:  October 2006  DoE issued guidelines to lecturers and university staff urging them to “spy” on Muslim and “Muslim looking” students who they suspect might be involved in Islamic extremism or prone to supporting terrorist violence  DoE suggested that university campuses had become “fertile recruiting grounds” for Muslim extremists


Between left & right: New Labour  Home Secretary, John Reid:  First public speech was to Muslim families in East London, September 2006  Asked Muslim parents to look out for the “tell-tale signs of extremism” in their children  “our fight is not with Muslims generally … [but a] struggle against extremism...There is no nice way of saying this. These fanatics are looking to groom and brainwash children, including your children, for suicide bombings, grooming them to kill themselves in order to murder others”


Between left & right: New Labour  Home Secretary, John Reid:  Abu Izzadeen was known by Special Branch as an ‘extremist’ from a proscribed organisation who later gained notoriety for commending the 7/7 suicide bombers  Following morning, Izzadeen on the BBC called for the establishment of sharia law in the Islamic state of Britain  Race commentator Darcus Howe: ‘the Sky News clash was staged by Reid and his cohorts at the Home Office. They organised the meeting, Abu Izzadeen was invited in advance – his performance guaranteed – and the press was alerted to film and report the confrontation”


Between left & right: New Labour  Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary & Leader of Commons:  October 2006  Stated that Muslim women who wear the niqab could make relations between communities more difficult  “barrier to integration”  Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman & Bill Rammell all voiced their support for Straw


Between left & right: New Labour    

Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary & Leader of Commons: October 2006 BBC News’ Home Editor Mark Easton: “not some reflective little observation from Jack Straw about the protocols of MP/constituent meetings in a multicultural world. This was a quite deliberate foray into what is becoming a real debate within Westminster: Does Britain’s brand of multiculturalism work?”


Islamophobic...?


Between left & right: English Defence League  Website, English Defence League:  July 2010  “...the English Defence League do not ‘fear’ Islam, we do not have a ‘phobia’ about Islam, we just realise the very serious threat it poses…Muslims can have their faith, that is their right, but when that faith infringes upon our hard fought freedoms, our democracy, our right to freedom of speech and expression then we will counter it at every opportunity because it is a threat to our way of life, our customs, our rule of law”


 The EDL: a “…multicultural organisation made up of every community in this country...for all races and faiths…to awaken our sleeping Government to face up to and deal with the Jihad in our country, which threatens the very foundations of the freedoms won so dearly for us by past generations” (Tommy Robinson, Sky News interview Winter 2010)


Convergence...?


Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia, 1997  “organisations and individuals known for their liberalism and anti-racism express prejudice against Islam and Muslims… …What is new [about Islamophobia] is the way it is articulated by those sections of society who claim the mantle of secularism, liberalism and tolerance…They preach equality for all, yet turn a blind eye to the fact that this society offers only unequal opportunities for Muslims” (CBMI 1997, p.15)


Between left & right: consequences  Voices and discourses emerging from both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ have contributed to a climate where:  An immediacy of recognition and acknowledgement of Muslim and Islamic difference is commonplace  That difference is largely associated with Muslims and Islam being ‘probelamtic’  Similarly associated with notions of ‘threat’ to our way of life, our customs, our rule of law  A growing receptivity to anti-Muslim ideas and expressions, and the sense of justification that is recurrently evident, is increasingly being seen to ‘make sense’


Consequences...?


The three components of Islamophobia  A political programme or ideology which becomes largely interdependent with the notion and ideology of nationalism as well as providing knowledge and meaning about other both new and existing relations of power and meaning;  A set of prejudices, opinions and attitudes that may be held by either individuals, groups, communities or society, or indeed a combination of these;  A set of exclusionary practices as a result of prejudice and discrimination in employment, housing and other socioeconomic spheres as well as subjection to violence as a tool of exclusion (Allen, 2010)


Attitudes...?


Nigella’s Burkini: from the left...? Joan Smith, The Independent:  “The only time anything like it has been spotted on a beach since the 19th century is when devout Muslim women wear an outfit idiotically called a burkini, which has a lot more in common with a burka than a bikini… …I once went shopping in west London with a woman who was wearing black robes and a niqab, and I can't say I felt much sympathy when she complained that people were staring at her in the local supermarket”


Nigella’s Burkini: from the left...? Joan Smith: The Independent  “I can't help suspecting that Lawson's decision to cover herself up has something to do with the unwanted attentions of the paparazzi; she knows she's a target and she may feel, perfectly reasonably, that she doesn't want to expose herself to their lenses on a public beach...”  Nigella: “…perfectly reasonably…” chose to cover – autonomous, independent, empowered, individual etc  Muslim woman: “I can’t say I felt much sympathy” forced to cover – victim, controlled, oppressed, passive, indistinguishable etc


The Burqha: from the right...?  EDL Angels Division  “…those that wear the burkha, the hijab & the niqab are showing their unwillingness to mix with the country that they live in and keeping themselves on the outer edges of society…by wearing all three items of clothing as above no one really has any assurances or proof positive as to who is under the apparel and any items could be concealed…”  “Sharia Law...is totally opposed to freedom of dress – for women. This is obviously a huge barrier to the personal development of women, not allowing them to develop sexually and as people”


Exclusionary practices...?


Victims of exclusionary practices...? Allen & Nielsen (EUMC, 2002)

 Europe-wide: verbal abuse, harassment & aggression most widespread - Muslim women most likely victims (pp.6-7) Fundamental Rights Agency (EUMC, 2007)

 26% of Muslim women in Europe had experienced antiMuslim discrimination in the past year  Of those experiencing Islamophobia, they had done so an average of 8 times over the past twelve months (p.3) MAMA Project (Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks, 2013)

 Up to 80% of all recorded anti-Muslim attacks directed at women  Levels of attacks on the increase


Ideology...?


“People talk about the culture of the country changing… it’s all part of the Islamophobia, it’s like everyone else against the Muslims and I think that’s a huge sentiment at the moment. People have already got this fear of Muslims, dislike etc because of the diatribe from the media and I think the far-right have just tapped into that. It’s the easy way to get into people’s heads… …You can kind of tap into that, then drip-feed other things later when you’ve kind of got it all worked out” (Interview in Sandwell, 2010)


Islamophobic...?


@DrChrisAllen Chris Allen www.chris-allen.co.uk c.allen.2@bham.ac.uk

07940 537691 about.me/drchrisallen

Between left and right: Islamophobic discourse in the political sphere (SLIDES)  

Slides from seminar paper. "Muslims in Europe" seminar series, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (6th March 2013)