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Tahir

Tahir

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British South Asian Muslims after 7/7: ethnicity, multiculturalism and political radicalism

PowerPoint presentation to the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations Seminar Series, University of Warwick Dr Tahir Abbas
Senior Lecturer in Sociology Director, Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture University of Birmingham, UK

28 February 2006

1. Contents
An analysis of British Muslim identities, particularly in the light of the events of 7 July 2005. I will cover,

1. The migration and settlement of Muslims in Britain is elaborated upon. 2. The debates in relation to assimilation, integration and multiculturalism are discussed. 3. How radical political Islam has developed globally and how it has impacted in the local context is examined, pre- and post-7/7. 4. The discussion explores the pertinent sociological and policy relevant questions that emerge, identifying key trends and issues for the future.

2. Population (a) 
1m of Britain·s 1.6m Muslims originate from South Asia (two-thirds are from Pakistan, under a third from Bangladesh and the remainder from India). The other half a million or so is from Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and South East Asia. British Muslims remain concentrated in older post-industrial cities and conurbations in the South East, the Midlands and the North The Muslim population of London ² 1 million (total 7.2 million); Birmingham - 150,000 (1 million) ² this includes the world·s biggest expatriate Kashmiri population. Nine per cent of all British Muslims were found to be in Birmingham (ONS 2003) Scotland 60,000 (33,000 in Glasgow); Wales 50,000; N. Ireland 4000 This British Muslim population has grown from about 21,000 in 1951 to 1.6m at present (Peach in Abbas, 2005). 

 



3. Population (b)

4. Nature, significance and orientation 
Muslims are from Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South-East Asia, but the profile is dominated by people from South Asia, and principally Bangladesh and Pakistan.  Independence of former East Pakistan in 1971 and the fact that the vast majority of all Pakistanis in Britain are from the Azad Kashmir region of North East Pakistan masks the true ethnic identity of people ordinarily defined as Pakistanis.  There is a considerable body of people who originate from the North West Frontier but as a result of huge population movements from Afghanistan to Pakistan since the RussianAfghan War and beyond, their ethnic identities as Pukhtan and Pathan are subsumed under the title of Pakistanis.  Furthermore, there are subtle religio-cultural differences between the Sunni, Shia, Wahabi, Ahmadiya sects that groups are a part of.

5. Age 
Around a third of all British Muslims are under the age of fourteen.  33.8 of Muslims are aged 0-15 years (national average is 20.2 per cent); 18.2 per cent are aged 16-24 (national average is 10.9 per cent).  50 per cent of Muslims are born in the United Kingdom.  54.5 per cent of Pakistanis and 46.6 per cent of Bangladeshis are born in the UK.

6. Inequalities 
Education: Ethnic minority candidates found strong evidence of bias against ethnic minority candidates within the ¶old· (i.e. pre-1992) universities. The probability of a white candidate receiving an initial offer was greater (.75) than for Pakistani or Bangladeshi candidate with equivalent qualifications (0.57).[1] Employment: Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are two and a half times more likely than the white population to be unemployed and nearly three times more likely to be in low pay.[2] Health: Self-reported diabetes among Bangladeshi men and women is six times more than the general population. [3] Housing: 77 per cent of Pakistani households are composed of owneroccupiers. They are overwhelmingly concentrated in terraced housing. About 45% of Bangladeshis are owner-occupier. Another report by Peach states that 43% of Bangladeshis live in council or housing association properties - 50% higher than the national average.[4] 

 

[1] National Statistics, Labour Force Survey, Spring 2000.
[2] ¶Help or Hindrance? Higher education and the route to ethnic equality· by Tariq Modood and Michael Shiner, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 2002. [3] The Health Survey of Minority Ethnic Groups, Health Survey for England 1999, Department of Health. [4] ¶Ethnicity in the 1991 Census· Volume 2 edited by Ceri Peach (HMSO); table (5.12) ¶Percentage of households by tenure and ethnicity·.

7. ¶Race·, politics, and religious identity 
Race paradigm shift from ¶colour· in the 1950s, to ¶race· in the 1960s/1970s, to ethnicity in the 1980/1990s, to religion in the current period  Shift in politics from integration, to multiculturalism, to antiracism, to antiracistmulticulturalism, to community cohesion  Questions being asked of multiculturalism in the current period ² ¶community cohesion/cultural adaptation·, ¶loyalty to the state·; is to be English / British / European / Muslim / Kashmiri?·

8. Islam in British Society 
up until 1980s: Muslims were seen as quiet, peaceful, and law-abiding, but also ¶inward looking·  Salman Rushdie Affair 1989: issues raised in relation to religious minorities, cultural tolerance, blasphemy laws, incitement to religious hatred  Collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989; shifting geopolitics towards ¶clash of civilisations·  But then« ¶War on terror· as a response to 9/11  And more recently«. Events of 7/7 ² first ever suicide-bombing on European soil. «a process of acute economic, social, cultural and political marginalisation of British Muslims

9. Political discourse (a) 
Since 9/11 and 7/7, 
There are questions raised about the loyalty of Muslims to Britain as well as the idea of maintaining cohesive communities in both the Cantle (2001) and Denham (2001) reports, which were produced as a response to the disturbances.  Politically, issues of social class, structural and cultural racism are less at the forefront ² unlike the first Labour government of 1997-2001 which helped to bring the Race Relations (Amendment Act) 2000, Human Rights Act (1998)

10. Political discourse (b) 
The 1997 Islamophobia Commission set up by the Runnymede Trust provided a range of important findings more relevant today than ever.  The wholly negative attitude towards Islam in the West has a very long history and has a palpable feel more than ever at the moment. Islamophobia is alive and well.  The mass media, popular culture and the leading forces in world politics are all mostly hostile to and in their representations of Islam and Muslims.  Parekh Report (2001) showed the extent to which racism, discrimination and prejudice is rife in all spheres of society and how important it is to remain conscious of both internal community as well as structural factors.  The idea of a ¶community of communities· provides the most progressive way in which to describe the situation of ethnic minorities in Britain.

11. Political discourse (c) 
In the third New Labour term, many in government suggest that part of the ¶problem· of British Muslims is their unwillingness to release their religio-cultural beliefs and practices, which are regarded by some as especially antithetical to the ways and function of Western-European social behaviour and action.

12. Political discourse (d) 
British Muslims, however, feel beleaguered by recent Home Office statements.  At the same time, elements of the British right-wing target Muslims as the new ¶enemy other·.  Not only are there are questions of integration at one level, at another, is the politically-loaded question of ¶loyalty· to state and society.  There has been a focus away from racism towards ethnic differences, with a concentration on religious markers of distinction.  But, in the post 7/7 period, where the concepts of nation and identity are often intertwined, multiculturalism needs to inform the general consciousness and permit a new sense of Britishness to emerge as part of the changing ethnic identities of British Muslims«. (Modood, 2005)

13. Islamophobia: historical developments 
Defined as The fear or dread of Islam or Muslims.  Although the term is of relatively recent coinage, the idea is a well-established tradition in history.  Since the genesis of Islam in 622, awareness of Muslims in Europe has been negatively smeared. 

Has been convenient for to pain Muslims in the worst possible light, so as to prevent conversions to Islam and to drive the inhabitants of Europe to resist Muslim forces at their borders. Although there have been periods of learning and understanding on the part of the English, there has also been ignorance, conflict and demonisation. 

Muslims characterised as barbaric, ignorant, closed-minded, ¶terrorists· or intolerant religious zealots.  Attitudes still present today in the negative representation and treatment of the Muslim-other, all of which exists as part of an effort to aggrandise the established powers, legitimising existing systems of domination and subordination.

14. Islamophobia: media developments 
      
Role of ¶evil demon· the media. Sharp focus on ¶extremist groups· and ¶Islamic terrorism· has dramatically increased in recent periods. The language used to describe Muslims is often violent, thereby inferring that the movement themselves are violent too. Arabic words appropriated into journalistic vocabulary. Jihad, for example, has been used to signify a military war waged by Islamists against the West. Words such as ¶fundamentalist·, ¶extremist· and ¶radical· are regularly used in headlines across all sectors of the British press. Indeed, the portrayal of British Muslims in the current period is part of a ¶new racist discourse·. ¶New· racism differs from the ¶old·; more subtle but at the same time explicit in the direction it has taken. In the post-9/11 and 7/7 era, politicians have used the fears people have of Islam for their own ends; by focusing on the ¶war on terror· instead of Islam, politicians use the existing anti-Muslim frame of reference but replace it with the idea of ¶terror·.

15. Multiculturalism: the state of British Muslims (1) 
Ever since the Iranian Revolution since 1979, Muslims across the globe have become a focus of attention.  The Salman Rushdie Affair of 1989 revealed how British South Asian Muslims were shown to be weak and intolerant when in fact they were merely expressing their opinions in relation to the publication of The Satanic Verses.  The first Gulf War (1990-1991), the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1993-1996), The Oklahoma Bombing (1995), the Taliban in Afghanistan (1997-2002), Grozny and Kosovo (1999), the recent Palestinian Intifda (since September 2000) and the War on Iraq (2003) have all played a part in creating a transnational Muslim solidarity; a genuine and conscious identification with others of the same religion.  Huntington·s ¶Clash of Civilisations· thesis ² positioning East and West, Islam and Christianity as diametrically opposed and irreconcilable has served only to build on growing anti-American sentiment and increased Orientalism through over simplification and generalisation.

16. Multiculturalism: the state of British Muslims (2) 
Nothing, however, could have prepared the planet for the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in the United States.  Reactions were swift and associations between Islam, terrorism and the juxtaposition of Christianity versus Islam only fuelled added antiIslamic and anti-American sentiment.  Gave rise to efforts of far right groups to paint Muslims as epitomising unwanted difference, and excused anti-Islamic violence.  In the days following the attack an Afghan taxi driver was attacked and left paralysed in London.

17. Multiculturalism: the state of British Muslims (3) 
Externally, after 9/11 the international agenda dominated domestic politics, there has been a tightening of security and anti-terrorist measures and citizenship tests for new immigrants, for example.  Internally, young British Muslims are increasingly found to be in the precarious position of being impacted by radical Islamic politics on the one hand and developments to British multicultural citizenship on the other.  Creates tensions and issues, encouraging some to take up the ¶struggle· more vigorously while others seek to adopt more Western values, for example.  This finally came to ahead in the events of 7/7.

18. Multiculturalism: the state of British Muslims (4) 
British multiculturalism is a distinctive philosophy that legitimises the demands on unity and diversity, of achieving political unity without cultural uniformity, and cultivating among its citizens both a common sense of belonging and a willingness to respect and cherish deep cultural differences.  Muslims in Britain are considered by their religion first and foremost. But at the same time, Muslims in Britain are disempowered, disenfranchised, disenchanted, disaffected groups at the margins of economy, society and polity.

19. Multiculturalism: the state of British Muslims (6) 
British South Asian Muslims have reached the third generations: issues have shifted from cultural assimilation and social integration to religious identity and discrimination.  Subsequent generations have grappled with issues of integration and racism in the climate of the early 1960s; cultural pluralism in the 1970s; free-market economic determinism and the rolling back of the frontiers of the state in Thatcher·s and Major·s Britain, through to the ¶third way· centre-left politics of assimilationist New Labour.  At the same time, identification with Islam is strengthening amongst some of the current generations of South Asian Muslims, both as a reaction to racist hostility as well as a desire to understand Islam in more literal terms.

20. Multiculturalism: the state of British Muslims (7) 
Have had to address citizenship, not only within the framework of the legal and political structures of their new home, with its emphasis on democracy, secularism, individual rights and pluralism but also to negotiate and harmonise that in terms of Islamic doctrine.  Muslims need to discover how to ¶participate in a society which has no need for Islam in its public life·.  In addition, British South Asian Muslims have inherited the colonial history of their past relations with Britain.  Combined with racism, which endemic in the host country, this creates an atmosphere of mistrust.

21. Multiculturalism: the state of British Muslims (8) 
British multiculturalism is under severe test, as is how Muslims experience it.  What is apparent, however, is that 7 July attacks have further changed the landscape and, along with it, how Muslims will be regarded, considered and treated for the foreseeable future (¶sleepwalking into segregation·).  Direction based on nation-states and their policies towards different Muslim migrants, minorities and citizens as well as how Muslims work to adapt to majority society.

23. Multiculturalism: the state of British Muslims (9) 
Society even more sensitive to the threat of ¶Islamic terrorism·, while at the same the ¶war on terror· continues to shape government attitude towards Muslim citizens as well as being important foci for political, social and policymaker discussions in the current period here in Britain.  British Muslims are at a crossroads in their history of immigration to and settlement within Britain.  At the same time, a striking feature of the structural experiences of British South Asian Muslims is the economic and social positions they possess.

24. The question of Islam and radicalism
Young people are marginalised, ostracised, subjugated, oppressed« 
Economic (education, labour market)  Social (inter-generational, gender/masculinity)  Political (lack of representation in mainstream politics)  Cultural (identity, citizenship)  Religion (local, national and international Islamophobia)

25. The reality« 
Radicalism in British Muslim is partly myth, but«  ¶Seven in Yemen·, ¶Tipton Three·, Mike·s Place Bombers, Richard Reid and Saajid Badat (both would-be shoe-bombers).  Under the 2001 anti-terrorism legislation, there have been 700 arrests, with 15 charged and two convictions (more have been convictions of Irish republicans)  Presently, decline of habeas corpus, emergence of control orders and the possibility of ¶internment·.  Currently, al-Muhajiroun, Hizt-ut-Tahrir and other organisations to be banned«

26. Radicalism analysed 
¶Islamic· radicalising forces of emerge outside many of the South Asian Muslim traditions found in Britain (i.e., Deobandis, Brewlvis, Hanifis)  Young people of South Asian origin are affected by ethnic, cultural and religious prejudice/discrimination/racism ² leading to a process of acute alienation  Alienation encourages young Muslims (men) to seek alternative forms of expression ² issues to do with 
 
Masculinity in western settings Information/communication technologies Reaction to individual, community and group Islamophobia, which is in part ¶theologically abstracted· 

The problem is not of the faith of Islam, it·s more to do a reaction of lived experience ² the interaction with secular, liberal society  Future: debates around social (community) cohesion, multiculturalism, civil society and citizenship will inform the next steps but crucial remain the factors of the economic and the social.

27. Conclusions (a) 
    Overall, A striking feature is the economic and social position Muslim possess. This group constitutes one of the most marginalised, alienated, isolated, discriminated and misunderstood groups in society. South Asian Muslims experience the highest rates of unemployment, with up to three times overall the city or town levels. These inner city areas show relatively clearly that it is Muslims (largely Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) that occupy them in abundant numbers and that it is they that are at greatest disadvantage. It begins to outline the deprivation that many Muslims are becoming accustomed to. The examples of high youth unemployment, lack of space in households and the limitations of central heating all suggest severe deprivation« Furthermore, apart from structural issues of social class, there are matters of housing, health, entrepreneurship, political representation.  

28. Conclusions (b) 
In the end, we have 
    Acute socio-economic inequalities Questions raised about citizenship and loyalty to the state Limited formal and Islamic education« which leads some to become radicalised (sociological, criminological, and theological explained) Reverberating in discussion about multiculturalism ² and the Muslim other and their ability to co-exist in a liberal, secular state In the long-run Muslims and non-Muslims will find a solution to the malaise, as there are plenty of positives: 
    increasing number of Muslim MPs greater wealth and cultural capital among some the development of progressive outlook among the professional classes changing marriage patterns and the realisation of the position in Britain compared with the rest of Europe are all contributing factors in the development of the British Muslim community«

29. Conclusions (c) 
Problems of identity crises of Muslim groups who are most vulnerable in society.  Loss of a British identity; shift towards radicalised political Islamic identities for some«  For others, a move towards secular politics and development of broad alliances with centre-left anti-globalisation politics  For others still, greater attempts at integration (the ¶two-way street· variety)«

30. Conclusions (d) 
Problems of leadership: political, cultural, intellectual and theological  State dismiss any links between ¶war on terror· and ¶home-grown terrorism·.  Meanwhile, inequalities widen and cultural, economic, social and political alienation intensifies.  Eventual subsidence of millennial radical political Islam in favour secular politics.  Greater integration an inevitable results of intergenerational social mobility and economic prosperity.

3.1 The way forward 
Politicians will be looking at initiatives in response to 7/7. Policy might seek to achieve five things. 
Ensure that Muslim communities become more culturally and politically included than they have been;  Provide genuine educational and labour market opportunities for the young;  Make certain that community leadership is reflective and capable;  Certify religious instructors in mainstream mosques, ensuring they are properly connected with local and national institutions;  Help ensure that international issues at the international level that impact on British South Asian Muslims, namely Iraq Palestine, and Kashmir, are resolved bringing peace and hope to the affected regions.

The Rushdie Affair 1989

Northern Disturbances in 2001 Bradford

11 September 2001 New York

March 2003 2m protest in London

7 July 2005 London

Madrid 2004

Netherlands 2004

7 July 2005 London

Relevant texts and work in progress
Abbas, T. (ed) (2005) Muslim Britain: Communities under Pressure (London and New York: Zed). Abbas, T. (2005) ¶Recent Developments to British Multicultural Theory, Policy and Practice: The Case of British Muslims·, Citizenship Studies 9(2): 153-166. Abbas, T. (ed) (2006) Islamic Political Radicalism: A European Comparative Perspective, forthcoming (Edinburgh, University Press). Abbas, T. (2007) British Islam, forthcoming (Cambridge, University Press). Abbas, T. (2007) Islam in Britain, forthcoming (with Salma Yaqoob and Tariq Ramadan, London: Pluto).

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