Category Archives: Pears Insitute

Islamophobia and Antisemitism in Christian Europe: an Intertwined History

Pears Institute Lunchtime Seminar

Speaker: Ben Gidley, Birkbeck, University of London
Date: Tue, Oct. 10, 2017
Time: 1:00pm – 2:00pm
Venue: Birkbeck, University of London
Free event for scholars: Email pearsinstitute@bbk.ac.uk for further information.
Details: This paper, drawing on a newly published book edited by James Renton and Ben Gidley, explores the changing ways the figures of the Jew and the Muslim have been used to mark the borders of European identity – an identity that remains normatively Christian despite a rhetorical drift to secularism, the “Judeo-Christian” or the multifaith. The paper argues that these two figures have been constitutive outsiders shaping what Europe is. Both forms of racialisation have mutated over time and in different parts of the continent, and understanding this, the paper argues, requires a rigorously comparative and rigorously diachronic perspective. Each form of racialisation has occurred independently of the other, but more often they have taken on meaning in relation to each other, and so analysing both anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racism is enhanced through case studies which excavate their relationship

From the BIH blog: Racism, Antisemitism, Theory

From the BIH blog on a recent event I co-organised.

On April 24 scholars and activists packed out a large room at Birkbeck for a one-day workshop titled ‘Racism, Antisemitism, Theory’. Organised by Dr BrendanDr Ben Gidley and Dr Aaron Winter, the workshop was generously supported by the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities and the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism. The event brought together ten speakers to explore the relationship between racism and antisemitism.

For the organisers, the rationale for holding such an event was clear: across Europe, the United States and other parts of the globe, we have witnessed a resurgence of racism and nationalism, including anti-migrant xenophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism, as well as the mainstreaming of far right and even fascist discourses. Alongside the emboldening of colour-coded forms of racism and racialisation, older forms of antisemitism have returned to the political mainstream – openly in cases such as Hungary’s Jobbik or Greece’s Golden Dawn or just beneath the surface as in France’s Front National – while both traditional and unorthodox forms of white supremacy and antisemitic conspiracism now have a foot inside the White House.

If the task before us is to understand these racisms, old and new, then it is a task that has provided no shortage of challenges. One such discussion that has proved to be especially difficult to navigate is the relationship between racism and antisemitism. The controversies of the racism/antisemitism debate are to be found in many regions of the world, but they have been particularly keenly felt in the UK, where in the last year, the tangled and tense discussion on antisemitism in the Labour Party has continued to rumble on, often generating more heat than light.

What these and other such debates have revealed is that there are a real set of difficulties in thinking about racism and antisemitism together. At the level of the political, those who shout loudest about antisemitism sometimes have little to say about other forms of racism, and the reverse is equally true. Within the academy, scholars of racism and antisemitism are all too rarely in dialogue with one another. What we aimed to do in the workshop was to take a step back from politics towards theory. Or as Stuart Hall once put it, to take a ‘detour through theory’ as a way of renewing anti-racist scholarship.

The workshop addressed three key issues. First, we explored not just the limits but also the possibilities of bridging the conversations on racism and antisemitism. Second, we explored a range of theoretical traditions and their capacities for making sense of the racism/antisemitism relationship. Third, and perhaps most importantly, we identified some of the barriers within our existing theoretical frameworks that prevent a bringing together of these issues.

The day was split into three panels, with two papers and a discussant in each session.

In Panel 1, Professor Jack Jacobs and Dr Christine Achinger explored Critical Theory and the role it might play in helping us think through the relationship between racism and antisemitism. Jacobs offered a close reading of the writings of Frankfurt School theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, arguing that their insights into antisemitism also provide a resource for thinking about racism and other forms prejudice. Achinger drew on more recent developments in critical theory to explore the racism/antisemitism relationship.

In Panel 2, our attention turned to intersectionality and whiteness studies. In the opening paper, Professor Avtar Brah highlighted the way differential racialisations pose difficulties for anti-racist practice. In the second contribution, Professor Anoop Nayak argued for the need to think more critically about the liminal category of ‘white other’. Whiteness, he argued, is not homogenous, but multiple and mutable. Dr Gail Lewis, in her comments, reminded us of the dialogues between black and Jewish feminists in the 1970s. She also raised concern about the tendency to construct equivalences when racism and antisemitism are brought together.

In the final panel, Professor Satnam Virdee and Professor Bryan Cheyette examined whether postcolonialism might help us to think about racism and antisemitism in conjunction. In a paper that argued against ‘supersessionist’ thinking, Cheyette explored the difficulties that postcolonialism has in accounting for ‘Jewish experiences’, and similarly, the inabilities of Jewish studies to come to terms with colonial histories. In the final paper of the day, Satnam Virdee spoke of the important contributions postcolonialism has made to the study of racism, but also its difficulty in capturing the racialisation of the ‘European interior’. This, he said, is a consequence of a flattening of ‘the west’ such that other modalities of racism are elided, including antisemitism and anti-Irish racism.

Given the direction of travel in global politics, it seems that the issues raised in this workshop are unlikely to go away any time soon.


Placeless People: What can History tell us about today’s Refugee Crises?

This wonderful event, organised by Lyndsey Stonebridge and Becky Taylor for the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism  in association with the University of East Anglia, as part of the , is now available as a series of podcasts via Backdoor Publishing. The event is part of the Refugee History project based at UEA.


Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism: parliamentary report launch

Yesterday, the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism hosted a parliamentary launch of our report on integration, disadvantage and extremism, edited by David Feldman and me. David and I presented the report to the integration minister, Stephen Williams MP, and a small audience of MPs,  lords and officials. The event was chaired by John Mann MP. The report was published in May by the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism and COMPAS.

Here is the text of what I said.

My job today is to say a few words about the recommendations made in this report. David finished on the importance of the role of central government in promoting and shaping integration in the UK. Running through our recommendations is a commitment to two related principles: the responsibility of leadership in combating extremism and the importance of evidence in making policy.

One of the central recommendations of the report, therefore, is listening to the grievances that drive intolerance in our society. The evidence collected in this report shows that grievances relating to disadvantage provide fertile ground for intolerance and division. To combat intolerance, therefore, we need to understand and address its social contexts.

For instance, Oxford sociologist Professor Anthony Heath shows that disengagement from the British mainstream is a function of what he calls the “integration paradox”: This paradox sees not Muslim migrants, but their objectively more “integrated” British-born children, becoming more sensitive to the inequalities of opportunity facing them in British society. Similarly, Vidhya Ramalingam, in collecting the evidence on far right extremism, shows that the appeal of the far right is not necessarily to the most disadvantaged among the white working class, but to those who are socially integrated in their communities but feel left behind by a rapidly changing Britain and distrustful of authority. We make a mistake, therefore, if we simply dismiss as ‘prejudiced’ those who are drawn to racist and extremist programmes – whether among the white or Muslim populations – as if they are fantasists. Rather we should see them, in general, as responding to real problems but with the wrong answers.

This points to a second key recommendation too: the importance of a whole community approach to integration, led by national government, to re-engage with those feeling left behind or disengaged. Not by targeting ‘problem’ minorities – an approach which reproduces the flaws of a divisive state multiculturalism: stigmatising groups, driving grievances and competition, promoting division over cohesion. But instead by calibrating mainstream policy levers towards ensuring that no group is left out of a concern for social mobility and social justice. For example, it is not integration policy but housing and schools policy that will stop a drift towards segregation where it occurs; it is not integration policy but employment policy that will reduce the growing gaps in employment outcomes across the population.

As MPs know from their constituencies, integration – or a lack of it – is experienced at a local level, on the streets of Britain’s towns and cities. But a national strategy is critical if we are to have any chance of overcoming the barriers to integration that create the conditions in which extremism festers. A national strategy isn’t necessarily about a new national funding programme. A national strategy is settingout detailed, concrete, substantive actions – for example, to narrow gaps in socio-economic and educational outcomes, or to eliminate segregation in schools and neighbourhoods, or to build a shared civic culture – but also a coherent methodology for measuring progress based on robust data: such a smart approach is the only cost-effective approach to doing social policy in a time of austerity. Again: the responsibility of leadership, grounded in evidence-based policy-making.

A third recommendation to put this responsibility into effect is around the way we communicate these issues. The kinds of grievances which give rise to softer forms of racism are often driven by inflamed discourse, by debates based on perceptions and assertions rather than facts. To this end, we all have a responsibility to promote evidence-based, balanced and open discussion and debate. This means finding a way to re-engage communities while using language that does not alienate, but rather speaks to their concerns about fairness, equality and justice: not lecturing about prejudice or common values, not dismissing grievances as “bigoted”, for example, but instead addressing their substance.

This approach builds on the record of the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, which has worked to develop guidelines on electoral conduct and on hate speech in campuses.

In widening the focus from antisemitism to other forms of intolerance and extremism, this might mean, for instance, taking care in the use of numbers – inaccurate presentation of information leads to divisive debates and bad policy-making.

It might mean avoiding terms such as ‘native population’ – which can obscure the contribution and strong British identification of long-settled minority populations and conflate nationality with ethnicity.

And it might mean avoiding speaking of Britain’s diverse population as if it is composed of discrete and homogenous entities – ‘Muslim communities’ or ‘white working class communities’ – given that similarities across and differences within such communities are often at least as significant. Such terms, in failing to recognise the diversity and range of voices and positions within such populations, also fail to address the real structures of disadvantage that shape their experiences.

Addressing these structures of grievance is the best – the only – way to take forward the imperative to tackle all forms of intolerance in our society.


Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism: press coverage and commentary

Here is a bit of coverage on the report edited by David Feldman and me, published at the end of May.

From Herald Scotland:

Academics issue new warning on extremism

Tuesday 27 May 2014

RADICAL Islamists and far-right extremists are often two sides of the same coin, leading academics have claimed.

A report also found radical ideologies are embraced by people who feel marginalised as they appear to offer an explanation for, or an answer to, a sense of grievance or lack of opportunity.

The report for the Commons All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Anti-semitism, warns extremism and integration cannot be tackled at a local level alone.

It also says they cannot be addressed in isolation from tackling inequality. The report calls for MPs to implement a national strategy. Co-editor Professor David Feldman of Birkbeck, London University, said: ‘Xenophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism are promoted by leaders to drive many forms of extremism.”

From the CST blog:

A new report (pdf) looking at connections between integration and extremism has been published by the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London; COMPAS, University of Oxford; and the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

The report includes a chapter by CST’s Dave Rich on the relationship between antisemitism and far right or Islamist extremism. Other chapters look at integration, extremism and British Muslims; drivers of far right extremism; and the relationship between ethnicity, economic disadvantage and class.

The full report can be downloaded here (pdf). An extract from Dave’s chapter is below.

The first and most obvious point to make is that far right and Islamist extremists try to use antisemitism for political purposes. It can be argued that this political mobilisation of antisemitism is its defining characteristic, which differentiates it from other forms of bigotry. This is most commonly found in antisemitic conspiracy theories that blame a Jewish ‘hidden hand’ for the ills of a particular society, party or community; and that accuse Jews of ‘dual loyalty’ – the idea that Jews are loyal only to each other or, nowadays, only to Israel.

This political use of antisemitism by far right parties and movements form a familiar and tragic part of European history. In recent years explicit antisemitism has largely disappeared from the public propaganda of Britain’s main far right movements, but the underlying ideas remain in euphemistic references to ‘international finance’ or ‘Zionist businessmen’. In 2000, British Nationalist Party (BNP) Chairman Nick Griffin advised BNP writers to get around the law by using “Zionists” as a euphemism for “Jews” when writing articles. This is not to suggest that anybody who criticises Zionism is antisemitic; just to note that genuine antisemites developed an antisemitic usage of the word “Zionism” a long time ago. Three years later, Griffin blamed the Iraq war on what he called Tony Blair’s “pro-Israeli big business backers”. In 2006 he changed tack, publicly denouncing antisemitic conspiracy theorists as “Judeo-obsessives”; only to return to their ranks a few years later in describing the English Defence League (EDL) as a “Zionist” plot. Continue reading


Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism: report published

This is the report based on the parliamentary symposium we organised last year for the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. The report is introduced by John Mann MP with an afterword by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. Press release:

Report explores what drives far right and radical Islamist movements in Britain

27 May 2014

A new report, ‘Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism’, produced by researchers from COMPAS and Birkbeck, University of London, for the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, examines what drives extremism in British society.

It suggests that Islamist and far-right extremism are often two sides of the same coin with radical ideologies being embraced by people who feel marginalised as they appear to offer an explanation for, or an answer to, a sense of grievance or lack of opportunity.

The report, which offers new insights from ten leading academics and thinkers, says extremism and integration cannot be tackled at a local level alone. Nor can they be addressed in isolation from tackling issues of disadvantage and inequality. It suggests a unified national strategy is required to build community cohesion and integration, incorporating legal and policy responses, and with a renewed commitment to improving social mobility and racial justice.

Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, University of London, who co-edited the report, said: ‘Xenophobia, Islamophobia and antisemitism are promoted by leaders and ideologues to drive many different forms of extremism. Their appeal to followers is rooted in social and political grievances. Intolerance and racism cannot be understood or fought in isolation from tackling their underlying causes.’

Report co-editor Dr Ben Gidley, Associate Professor in the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Integration – or a lack of it – is experienced at a local level on the streets of Britain’s towns and cities. This research suggests a more effective national strategy is needed to overcome barriers to integration; otherwise, there is a risk that we create conditions within which extremism can flourish.’

One of the report contributors, leading sociologist Professor Anthony Heath from the University of Oxford, identifies what he calls ‘the paradox of integration’. He suggests that second generation British Muslims are becoming more aware of inequalities in British society than their parents’ generation were. ‘Simple caricatures of Muslims as leading separate lives will not do,’ concludes Professor Heath. ‘Non-Muslim British citizens must do their part too to live up to the ideal of providing equality of opportunity for their Muslim fellow citizens.’

Professor Heath, who led the Ethnic Minority British Electoral Survey (EMBES) in 2010, found that while 94% of Muslims born in Britain expressed their national identity as British or English, compared with 66% of first generation Muslims who migrated here, their perceptions of discrimination and exclusion have increased: 46% of second generation British Muslims felt there was prejudice against Muslims as compared with 27% of the previous generation; 20% of second generation Muslims also felt discriminated against because of their religion as compared with 8% in the first generation.

The reasons why people support far right organisations, as well as the UK Independence Party (UKIP), in Britain are also explored. Vidhya Ramalingam, from the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), argues that there is ‘a wide reservoir of tacit support’ in Britain for ideas put forward by the far right. ‘The UK has historically been fertile ground for movements thriving on discontent with mainstream political institutions, popular xenophobia and euro-scepticism,’ she adds in the report. She suggests that although the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is not a right-wing extremist party, there are overlaps between its policy proposals and those of the far right. Her review of existing research concludes it is important not to stereotype these groups or their assumed support base as being from ‘the white working class’.

UKIP’s ‘narrative of divide and rule’ is explored by Professor Ben Rogaly from the Sussex Centre for Migration Research and Dr Becky Taylor from Birkbeck, University of London. They explore what is meant by the white working class, arguing that UKIP seeks to separate “strivers” from the “skivers” to justify cuts in benefits, and immigrants and ethnic minorities from the so-called indigenous population. Their research includes case studies in Peterborough of white working class individuals who have moved to the area, and assesses their views of international migrants. The authors suggest that politicians ‘should be bolder in articulating the structures which give rise to common experiences of inequality and disadvantage, rather than focusing on external markers of difference’.

Read the full report

Integration Disadvantage and ExtremisimMay2014FINAL

Continue reading


Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism: parliamentary symposium

On 8 May, with David Feldman of the Pears Institute, I co-organised a parliamentary symposium on disadvantage, extremism and integration, for the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.  You can follow some of the debate on Twitter with the hashtag #IntSym.

Pictures from the APPG:

Here’s the full details on the Pears Institute website:

Details: The Symposium will reflect on the government’s integration strategy and to do so in the light of both contemporary developments and recent scholarship. It will bring the most current evidence-based research to bear on urgent issues of policy for an invited audience of academic experts, policy makers and parliamentarians.Welcome and Introduction

David Feldman, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London John Mann MP, Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism

Session 1: Integration and Disadvantage Today

Introduction: Andrew Stunell OBE MP

Chair: John Mann MP

  • Ben Rogaly, University of Sussex and Becky Taylor, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Rob Berkeley, Runnymede Trust
  • Anthony Heath, University of Oxford

Session 2: Integration and Extremism

Introduction and Chair: Baroness Sayeda Warsi

  • Vidhya Ramalingam, Institute for Strategic Dialogue
  • Nasar Meer, Northumbria University
  • Dave Rich, Community Security Trust

Session 3:  Is Localism Sufficient?

Introduction and Chair: Gavin Barwell MP

  • Maleiha Malik, Kings College London
  • Ben Gidley, COMPAS, University of Oxford
  • Dean Godson, Policy Exchange

Concluding Remarks

David Feldman, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London

UPDATE: READ THE REPORT HERE

 

Podcasts:Click on a podcast to listen,
Right click to save

Session 3:  Is Localism Sufficient? [via Backdoor Broadcasting]