Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Robert Lambert becameresearch partners in October 2007. Since then and prior to this current project they have conducted numerousinterviews with Muslim Londoners, especially those withfamily backgrounds in North Africa. This earlier researchproject sought to understand how myths, memories andsymbols of the past affected contemporary forms of politicalactivism – literally how stories that grandparents tell grandchildren about the colonial past make a difference to worldviews and the politics of the ‘street’. What began as aproject to chart how these stories created a basis for violence, through radicalisation, rapidly became a study thatexamined how colonial and contemporary politicalrepression reverberated through European North Africancommunities today. It became apparent that thesecommunities chafed at the popular use of terms such as‘radicalisation’, believing that they unfairly stigmatisedMuslims who feel an obligation to become politically activein the present to prevent what they perceive as the horrorsof the past recurring today.
These research observations suggested that the popular andpejorative notions of politically active Muslim Londoners assubversive and sectarian threats did not match the reality on theground. Instead, according to our research, the small number of Muslim Londoners who in the last decade could be accuratelydescribed as threats to the well being of the city – perhaps AbuHamza a former Khatib at the North London Central Mosque is the most well known figure in this category – had beeneffectively challenged by the very same Muslim Londoners whohad most often been wrongly conflated with them. The authorsrapidly concluded that this was not only grossly unfair, but alsoliable to be tangibly counter-productive in terms of London’ssecurity and the enhancement of community cohesion. For thisreason they have argued that the UK government’s strategy toprevent violent extremism has at times been undermined byadvisors, most notably the Quilliam Foundation, who targetmainstream London-based Muslim organisations as subversive threats when the evidence suggests they are often credible andeffective opponents of violent extremism (Githens-Mazer andLambert, 2009a,b,c and d).Both authors have personal experience of the power andeffectiveness of cross-cultural alliances against bigotry, in one casein support of disadvantaged and alienated black citizens inBaltimore and the other in support of disadvantaged andalienated Muslim citizens in London. It is not surprising therefore that their partnership should be characterised by a notion of empowering marginalised and disadvantaged communities. Thisreport represents the beginning of a research project that isplanned to investigate the adverse community impact of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime across Europe over a ten year period. The authors are determined to influencegovernment, media, police, public servants and public attitudesand thereby contribute to solutions to the problem before itescalates further. In doing so they will maintain a daily presence inLondon, their research hub, in support of which the Universityof Exeter Streatham campus provides an ideal location for supportive reflection and analysis.
About the Authors