Category Archives: Jews and Muslims

Anya Topolski on race after the Shoah

issue cover imageA really insightful and provocative review essay by Anya Topolski on Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? edited by James Renton and me, and Whites, Jews, and Us: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love by Houria Bouteldja. Some really nice words, and makes some important criticisms too.

Opening extract:

Race remains a taboo term and topic in Europe today. This post-Shoah silence is both political and, until very recently, academic.1 The two books under review aim to break this silence by tackling the complex and entangled questions of antisemitism, islamophobia, and white (Christian or secular) supremacy and to demonstrate that racism in Europe cannot be separated from the question of religion (and I would add well beyond Europe). The essays collected in Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?, edited by James Renton and Ben Gidley, provide the rich histories and complexities concerning the race-religion intersection, in terms of [End Page 280] the shared stories of antisemitism and islamophobia, in Europe.2 Whites Jews and Us: Towards a Politics of Revolutionary Love, by Houria Bouteldja, is a passionate political appeal for action against the violence, exclusion, and power games experienced by excluded groups in Europe today.3 Read together, these two books offer a theoretical and applied analysis of racism in Europe today.

Let me first provide the reader with a summary of the contents. When Renton and Gidley selected and edited this volume, based on the proceedings of a 2008 conference, what was their ambition? With the nuance of erudite scholars, nuance sometimes lacking in Bouteldja’s book, Renton and Gidley refuse to take up the question of the complex relationship between antisemitism and islamophobia in a reductive or simplistic manner. Is it possible to focus on similarities without sacrificing differences or vice versa? The approach chosen by the editors is, in this vein, judicious. “We have to excavate and concentrate on a shared story of evolution; in short, we need a diachronic framework, in which we can identify moments of beginning, change, separation (6).” The aim is thus to focus on how this relationship has changed or unfolded over time which leads to the four-part diachronic structure of the book: Christendom, empire, divergence and response. While I welcome the aim, it might have been too ambitious as it would have required more active engagements with the respective contributions and an editorial conclusion. As it is, several of the essays feel rather misplaced. This is unfortunate as the structure and aim creates possibilities that would have been both timely and relevant. One concrete example is that of antizyganism. While the editors, and several authors, mention discrimination against the Roma, none consider how the exclusion and persecution of Roma might be related and entangled in this relationship—precisely because of the diachronic structure, this might have been possible.

READ THE REST.

Details: Continue reading

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MONITOR Event Report: UK Houses of Parliament – Islamophobia & Antisemitism

From Monitor:

In 2017, antisemitism and Islamophobia were, along with other racisms, on the rise around the world. In Charlottesville in the United States, far-right militants marched chanting against the world Jewish conspiracy. In Myanmar, Muslims fled for their lives to Bangladesh. In the UK and Europe, these racisms also continue to flourish. But are they connected? In the aftermath of 9/11, controversy has raged about whether Islamophobia is the new antisemitism.

MONITOR chose this pressing issue for its first public event. The location: the UK’s Houses of Parliament, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism.

The magazine aims to bring cutting-edge research into global public debate, and this collaboration was the ideal place to start. The Editor, Monica Gonzalez Correa, flew in especially from Florence.

[READ THE REST]

Podcast:


Video: On my Monitor parliamentary event report on Islamophobia and antisemitism

This is a trailer for my article in the new website Monitor:

Follow the Monitor YouTube channel.


VIDEO: James Renton on antisemitism and Islamophobia

Details:  Continue reading


Parliamentary event: Understanding Islamophobia and Antisemitism in Europe and the UK in 2018

10 January 2018 10 am-11.30

This event presents recent academic research findings, based on the book Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?, newly published by Palgrave Macmillan and edited by Dr James Renton (Edge Hill University/European University Institute, Florence) and Dr Ben Gidley (Birkbeck, University of London). The discussion, aimed at politicians, policy-makers and civil society, will focus on questions such as:

  • How have antisemitism and Islamophobia related to each other in different European contexts, historically and today? How can we understand this connection?
  • How did the term “Semite” come to refer to the Jews, and how is it connected to the term “antisemitism”?
  • Is Europe a secular continent – or a Christian one? And what does this mean for Jews and Muslims?
  • How can we combat antisemitism and Islamophobia together today? What historical resources can we draw on in building solidarity against racism?

For details of the book, see http://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9781137412997.

Hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. Co-organised by Monitor: Global Intelligence on Racism, based at the Robert Schumann Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute.

The event introduced and chaired by Nusrat Ghani MP, will include a short presentation of research by the co-editors, followed by a panel discussion and questions. Panellists will be Omar Khan (Runnymede Trust), Karen Pollock MBE (Holocaust Educational Trust) and Danny Stone MBE (Antisemitism Policy Trust).

Please email Ben to register to attend.


James Renton: Does Europe’s Far Right Hate Muslims the Same Way They Hate Jews?

By my co-author James Renton in Ha’aretz. Extract:

Protesters carry Polish flags and a banner declaring 'Islam = Terror' during a rally organized by far-right nationalists to mark 99th anniversary of Polish independence in Warsaw. November 11, 2017

President Donald Trump’s retweeting of anti-Muslim videos propagated by Britain First has made millions more people around the world aware of the European far-right’s crude Islamophobia.

Is this racism a retargeting of familiar tropes of anti-Semitic hatred? Or does anti-Muslim and anti-Jewish hatred have a more complex relationship, both in history and in our current moment?

Prejudice toward Islam and Muslims is endemic in the Europe of 2017. The “Muslim Question” is central to the politics of the far right, which has achieved success unprecedented since WWII at the polls this year, from France to the Czech Republic via Austria and Germany.

More significantly, the fear of Muslims as potential terrorists has become an integral part of mainstream European politics and the European security state, as has been identified by Amnesty International, among others.

Several commentators and academics have argued that this groundswell of Islamophobia, which began in earnest with the “war on terror” after 9/11 and has gathered pace since 2015, has made Muslims the “new Jews” of Europe. They contend that today’s emergency is redolent of the anti-Semitism of the 1930s, or of the late 19th century.

READ THE REST.

For all posts on our book Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Storyclick here.


Florence event: Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe

NYU Florence:

Oct 26, 2017 / 18:00 – 19:00 / VILLA SASSETTI

Are today´s Muslims Europe’s “new Jews”? Is Islamophobia the same as, or an aspect of, Antisemitism? Controversy over this question has raged over the last decade or so. From a historical point of view, is there a dynamic relationship between Antisemitism and Islamophobia and, if so, how has it evolved over time and space? Religion, empire, nation-building and war, they have all played their part in the complex evolution of this relationship. What does Europe have to say about the fact that Jews and Arabs were once called Semites, but are now widely thought to be on two different sides of the “War on Terror”?

Historian James Renton and the EU Coordinator on Combatting Antisemitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, will debate the relationship btween the two racisms and Europe’s response to it.

Moderated by Marcella Simoni, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Moderator


Paris event: Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe

About the book

This is the first book to examine the relationship between European antisemitism and Islamophobia from the Crusades until the twenty-first century in the principal flashpoints of the two racisms. With case studies ranging from the Balkans to the UK, the contributors take the debate away from politicised polemics about whether or not Muslims are the new Jews. Much previous scholarship and public discussion has focused on comparing European ideas about Jews and Judaism in the past with contemporary attitudes towards Muslims and Islam. This volume rejects this approach. Instead, it interrogates how the dynamic relationship between antisemitism and Islamophobia has evolved over time and space. The result is the uncovering of a previously unknown story in which European ideas about Jews and Muslims were indeed connected, but were also ripped apart. Religion, empire, nation-building, and war, all played their part in the complex evolution of this relationship. As well as a study of prejudice, this book also opens up a new area of inquiry: how Muslims, Jews, and others have responded to these historically connected racisms.

Participants:

Benjamin Gidley, Senior lecturer, Birkbeck, University of London

James Renton, Reader in History, Edge Hill University, Visiting Fellow, European University Institute

Lecture organized by Jean-Philippe Dedieu, historian and sociologist, professor in the Columbia MA in History and Literature.

Free and open to the public


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

France and England on the verge of a nervous breakdown

From Kenan Malik’s Pandaemonium:

The French journalist Ilana Navaro has made a superb four-part radio documentary series for France Culture on social policies towards immigration and integration in France and Britain. Entitled La France et L’Angleterre au bord de la crise de nerfs (‘France and England on the edge of a nervous breakdown’), the documentary visits a ‘theological cafe’ in Paris and the Cambridge Muslim College, a sharia council in Birmingham, Goutte d’Or, an area in the 18th arrondissement in Paris with a large North African and sub-Saharan population, Brick Lane in East London, and Walsall, in the English Midlands. Among those interviewed are the anthropologist Sam Everett, the sociologists Ben Gidley, Amine El Yousfi and Benoit Coquard, the historian Nazneen Ahmed, Amra Bone of the Sharia Council of Birmingham, Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters, Shaista Gohir of the Muslim Women’s Network, the Parisian imam Mohamed Bajrafil, the religious historian and trainer, Samia Hathroubi, and myself. (My interviews are in episodes 3 & 4.)

Kenan posts the audio too, illustrated by some beautiful Arabic calligraphy.

Here’s episode 3:

https://www.franceculture.fr/player/export-reecouter?content=b93feec0-b60a-4b38-9070-8287ec083796


Sharia Councils: a user’s guide

From France Culture:
Réécouter La France et l’Angleterre au bord de la crise de nerfs (2/4):
Sharia Councils, mode d’emploi
55min | 17.01.2017

Exporter https://www.franceculture.fr/player/export-reecouter?content=eea81f3a-f459-47a8-8d47-5934677510da


LONDON/PARIS JEWS/MUSLIMS

From the Woolf Institute blog:

Woolf Institute research in Paris: “Religion, social action and urban policy: London and Paris face to face” by Junior Research Fellow Dr Sami Everett

Critical comparative perspectives are key to thinking afresh about an object of study. This is why I organised a unique event called “Religion, social action and urban policy: London and Paris face to face” that drew together academics from across disciplines and actors of civil society working on or through faith. Each panel was carefully selected to give expert reflection on the differences and similarities between France and the UK (Paris and London) in terms of managing urban ethnoreligious diversity. Given the heightened suspicion of faith in Europe today, and in particular Islam, the event focused on attitudinal change. It quickly became apparent that central to this discussion is the vexed question of French secularism (laïcité), a key aspect of assimilationist policy, and its relationship to contemporary interaction between faith communities and religious discrimination.

[READ THE REST]

Here’s me:

Capturing faith and ethnicity statistics is another fundamental difference between the UK and France. French Republican ideals of neutrality and equality do not allow for such granularity in census data. Omar Khan Runneymede Trust director (London) gave a statistical overview of racial and islamophobic discrimination in employment using UK census data as a way of appealing to policy makers. By contrast, and in spite of having no data, Estelle Barthelemy, founder of Mozaïk RH  (a recruitment agency of diversity in the Paris region) works with to try and increase the number of ethnically and economically disadvantaged young people in upper tier (graduate) employment. Discrimination though, is also discursive (it permeates peoples’ political speech)  and paradoxically while important work has been done to limit  Islamophobic and anti-Semitic (but not only) hate speech, barrister Arié Alimi  and ethnographer Ben Gidley alerted us to the fine line between what at times people say and their behaviour i.e. people can work together and enjoy each other’s company yet speak in a prejudicial manner about one another.

ben-hanane

Ben Gidley and Hanane Karimi

 

The event was funded by the PSL-University of Cambridge partnership that seeks to strengthen intellectual collaboration between the UK and France. The Woolf Institute and the Faculty of History of the University of Cambridge organised the event with the French National Scientific Research Centre (CNRS) laboratory Groupe Religions, Sociétés, Laïcités (GRSL).

Read the GSRL blog post by Sami Everett and watch the conference videos here.

psl-conf


Religion, Social Action & Urban Policy: London Paris face to face

From the GSRL blog:

Religion, Social Action & Urban Policy: London Paris face to face / Religions, action sociale et politique urbaine: Paris et Londres en face à face

On 17 March 2016, a conference took place in Paris at the GSRL. It was organised within the exchanges between PSL Research University and the University of Cambridge by Samuel Everett (postdoctoral researcher at the GSRL/Woolf Institute). Read the conference program.
My bit:
Secularism Faith & Community

While in London civil society is often openly infused with religious values, social initiative in Paris and its periphery is structured by laïcité. This panel explores these conceptions of state secularism and questions the realities of these ‘models’ within local urban contexts as ideas of class, race and religious identity increasingly intersect.

Ben Gidely [sic!] discussed three historical-social science research projects on which he has worked focusing on his historical and ethnographic work in East and North East London.

He argued that national-level policy can mould how people live together and in the UK.

He discussed the theory attributed to this idea: “conservative pluralism” in which the Church of England maintained overall religious supremacy by mediating for minority faiths.

Space and place nevertheless impact on interreligious relations such as those on Brick lane which fosters neighbourhood narratives of cosmopolitanism.

Finally, somewhat paradoxically, his research has shown that how people interact with one another does not necessarily concur with how they talk about each other i.e. racist speak can belie good relations.

The post includes videos. Here’s mine:

 


Coming soon!

Very excited that two book projects that have been very close to my heart for some time are both moving towards publication. First, in a few months, Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story?, edited with James Renton (actually he did far more of the work than me) will be out with Palgrave.

This is the first book to examine the relationship between European antisemitism and Islamophobia from the Crusades until the twenty-first century in the principal flashpoints of the two racisms. With case studies ranging from the Balkans to the UK, the contributors take the debate away from politicised polemics about whether or not Muslims are the new Jews. Much previous scholarship and public discussion has focused on comparing European ideas about Jews and Judaism in the past with contemporary attitudes towards Muslims and Islam. This volume rejects this approach. Instead, it interrogates how the dynamic relationship between antisemitism and Islamophobia has evolved over time and space. The result is the uncovering of a previously unknown story in which European ideas about Jews and Muslims were indeed connected, but were also ripped apart. Religion, empire, nation-building, and war, all played their part in the complex evolution of this relationship.  As well as a study of prejudice, this book also opens up a new area of inquiry: how Muslims, Jews, and others have responded to these historically connected racisms.

The volume brings together leading scholars in the emerging field of antisemitism-Islamophobia studies who work in a diverse range of disciplines: anthropology, history, sociology, critical theory, and literature. Together, they help us to understand a Europe in which Jews and Arabs were once called Semites, and today are widely thought to be on two different sides of the War on Terror.

Here are the contents:

1 Introduction: The Shared Story of Europe’s Ideas of the Muslim and the Jew—A Diachronic Framework | James Renton and Ben Gidley

Part I Christendom

2 Ethnic and Religious Categories in the Treatment of Jews and Muslims in the Crusader States | Andrew Jotischky

3 Antisemitism, Islamophobia and the Conspiracy Theory of Medical Murder in Early Modern Spain and Portugal | François Soyer

Part II Empire

4 Fear and Loathing in the Russian Empire | Robert D. Crews

5 The End of the Semites | James Renton

Part III Divergence

6 The Case of Circumcision: Diaspora Judaism as a Model for Islam? | Sander L. Gilman

7 Islamophobia and Antisemitism in the Balkans | Marko Attila Hoare

8 Antisemitism and Its Critics | Gil Anidjar

Part IV Response

9 Antisemitism, Islamophobia and the Search for Common Ground in French Antiracist Movements since 1898 | Daniel A. Gordon

10 The Price of an Entrance Ticket to Western Society: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Heinrich Heine and the Double Standard of Emancipation | David J. Wertheim

11 The Impact of Antisemitism and Islamophobia on Jewish–Muslim Relations in the UK: Memory, Experience, Context | Yulia Egorova and Fiaz Ahmed

Further in the future, my first sole-authored monograph, Citizenship and Belonging: East London Jewish Radicals, has a publication date with Manchester University Press in the Racism, Resistance and Social Change series edited by John Solomos, Satnam Virdee and Aaron Winter.

Racism, Resistance and Social Change is committed to providing a forum for the publication of challenging and innovative scholarship on questions about race, racism and ethnic relations. We have seen intense debate about these issues both globally and within particular geopolitical environments. Our main objective in this series is to provide a forum for scholars from a range of theoretical and political perspectives to publish their work and to develop a dialogue that has an international and multidisciplinary focus. We aim to publish both theoretically driven research as well as research with a more historical and empirical frame.

 

Authors will be asked to address at least one central theme:

  • Mapping the changing forms and nature of racism in the contemporary age
  • Understanding racism over the longue duree, or re-connecting the present to the past
  • Anti-racism as intellectual and social movement

Forthcoming Books in series:

  • Margarita Aragon, African and Mexican American Men and Collective Violence, 1915-1965: Racial problem headaches (Autumn 2017)
  • Ben Gidley, Citizenship and belonging: East London Jewish Radicals 1903-1918 (winter 2017)

Series Editors: John Solomos, Warwick University, Satnam Virdee, University of Glasgow and Aaron Winter, University of East London,

 


Yulia Egorova on Jewish-Muslim relations

At the LSE Religion and the Public Sphere blog:

Jewish-Muslim relations are often constructed in the public discourse as problematic due to the conflict in the Middle East. Based on her recent study conducted with Jewish and Muslim participants in the UK with Fiaz Ahmed, Yulia Egorova suggests that Jewish-Muslim relations are instead shaped by and, at the same time, reflect wider public attitudes towards ‘minority communities’ in general and towards Jews and Muslims in particular.

synagogue.and.mosque_670x335

It appears that for many British Jews and British Muslims, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia constitute a significant factor that determines their place in the vexed picture of Jewish-Muslim relations in Europe, and it can be argued that the social hesitation that some British Jews and British Muslims have against each other is a symptom of wider problems in the way ‘minority’ groups are perceived and treated in society.

Both personal and historical experiences of discrimination were frequently referred to in our respondents’ accounts of their view of Jewish-Muslim relations and of their perception of the other group. In the case of the Jewish communities, historical and personal memories and experiences of discrimination, combined with exposure to public and mass media discourses that construct Muslims as a security threat in general, and a threat for Jewish persons and organisations in particular, forces some members of the Jewish constituency to view Muslims with suspicion. The responses that we received from our Jewish interviewees about their experiences of interactions with British Muslims were positive, however, almost every respondent talked about the concern present in their congregations. It is clear that some of their hesitation stems from the rhetoric of the ‘war on terror’ that is common in the mainstream mass media and public discourse, and is not at all limited to the Jewish constituency.

READ THE REST

This article is based on a paper by Yulia Egorova and Fiaz Ahmed, “The Impact of Antisemitism and Islamophobia on Jewish-Muslim Relations in the UK: Memory, Experience, Context” in Ben Gidley and James Renton, eds., Antisemitism and Islamophobia in Europe: A Shared Story? due out in December. 

About the author
yuliaDr Yulia Egorova
is Reader in Anthropology at Durham University and the Director of the Centre for the Study of Jewish Culture, Society and Politics.

 


The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations

routledgehandbookNewly published:

Edited by Josef Meri

The Routledge Handbook of Muslim-Jewish Relations invites readers to deepen their understanding of the historical, social, cultural, and political themes that impact modern-day perceptions of interfaith dialogue. The volume is designed to illuminate positive encounters between Muslims and Jews as well as points of conflict within a historical framework. Among other goals, the volume seeks to correct common misperceptions about the history of Muslim-Jewish relations by complicating familiar political narratives to include dynamics such as the cross-influence of literary and intellectual traditions. Reflecting unique and original collaborations between internationally renowned contributors, the book is intended to spark further collaborative and constructive conversation and scholarship in the academy and beyond.

Reviews:

‘This volume [is] an important contribution to the growing literature on Muslim-Jewish relations’ — Mark R. Cohen, Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East, Emeritus, Princeton University, USA

‘Josef Meri and thirty-five other scholars lift a reader’s imagination above the current quagmire to the richness and complexities of Muslim-Jewish Relations over 13 centuries. This text is a post-modern exercise confronting the absolutes of power rhetoric with multiple perspectives from an ancient narrative. — Professor Joseph T. Kelley, Center for the Study of Jewish-Christian-Muslim Relations, Merrimack College, USA


James Renton: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are Dynamic Phenomena

At Promosaik blog:

by Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik e.V. – My interview with Dr James Renton

Dr James Renton is Reader in History at Edge Hill University, UK, and co-editor, with Ben Gidley, of Antisemitism and Islamophobia: A Shared Story?, which is forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan.

Milena Rampoldi: How would you define anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Which are the common aspects, what are the main differences between them?

James Renton: At base, we can use the terms anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as straight forward labels for anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim racisms. But can we offer a fixed definition of these two fields of prejudice? The histories of the terms themselves tell us something of value in this connection. Within these stories, we find helpful insights into the complex relationship between the two: their differences, similarities, and, significantly, connections. It is essential, however, that any such discussion of this subject acknowledges that European ideas about Jews and Muslims, about Judaism and Islam, do not stand still. They are dynamic, like any field of human thought. We must not treat them as fixed prejudices that operate outside of time, or indeed place. Certainly, both racisms possess very powerful continuities, which are hugely important. But the interplay between these underlying structures of thought and the dynamism of cultural, political, social, and economic change must not be ignored.

The word ‘anti-Semitism’ was invoked at the end of the nineteenth century, at a time in which the pseudo-science of race predominated in European political thought. Jews and Judaism were at the forefront of Europe’s imagined political problems in this period— or Questions to use the terminology of the day— that demanded solutions. The process of Jewish emancipation (incomplete as it was) in central and Western Europe became a focus of ire in these zones as societies grappled with profound economic and political crises and transformation: from depression and warfare in Europe (particularly Germany’s defeat of France in 1870) to concomitant escalating conflict between European imperial states over resources and territory in Africa and Asia.

READ THE REST


Shifting markers of identity in East London’s diasporic religious spaces

A new article in The Impact of Diasporas: Markers of Identity, a special issue of Ethnic and Racil Studies produced by the Leverhulme diaspora programmes at Oxford and Leicester universities. The issue is edited by Joanna Storey and Iain Walker.

Ethnic and Racial Studies Vol. 39 , Iss. 2,2016

This article discusses the historical and geographical contexts of diasporic religious buildings in East London, revealing – contrary both to conventional narratives of immigrant integration, mobility, and succession and to identitarian understandings of belonging – that in such spaces and in the concrete devotional practices enacted in them, markers and boundaries of identity (ritual, spatial, and political) are contested, renegotiated, erased, and rewritten. It draws on a series of case-studies: Fieldgate Street Synagogue in its interrelationship with the East London Mosque; St Antony’s Catholic Church in Forest Gate where Hindus and Christians worship together; and the intertwined histories of Methodism and Anglicanism in Bow Road. Exploration of the intersections between ethnicity, religiosity, and class illuminates the ambiguity and instability of identity-formation and expression within East London’s diasporic faith spaces.


Historicising Diaspora Spaces

A new chapter

Image result for Religion in Diaspora Cultures of CitizenshipIn: Religion in Diaspora: Cultures of Citizenship, edited by Sondra Hausner and Jane Garnett

Part of the series Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship pp 55-79

Historicising Diaspora Spaces: Performing Faith, Race, and Place in London’s East End

Nazneen Ahmed with Jane Garnett, Ben Gidley, Alana Harris, Michael Keith

Abstract:

From the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first century, there has been a prevailing tendency to orientalise the East End of London. The idioms have changed, but underlying distortions of perspective have remained, from ‘darkest London’ through myths of the Blitz to ‘the new East End’ (Dench et al., 2006; Gidley, 2000; Walkowitz, 1992). This orientalised east London has been framed through (and served as an icon for) two conventional narrative tropes in the history and social science of migration in Britain, one temporal and one spatial. Both narratives are embedded in often-unspoken assumptions about the exercise and practice of citizenship. In particular, east London histories privilege the trajectories of migrant minorities that arrive in London’s lower echelons and are rescued from the abyss through self-improvement and civic engagement. The stories of Huguenot refugees, the Jews of the East End, the Maltese, the Indians, and the Irish are all in some ways redemptively showcased as plot lines of model minority integration. This familiar chronological script is mapped onto an equally familiar cartography as migrants move up, move out of the ghetto and into the suburbs, and leave space for the next wave of settlement. In spatialised Chicago School geography, stories of invasion, succession, and neighbourhood change, as, in chronologies of ladder-climbing minorities, we tend to find cast lists that are relatively unblemished by the presence of traces of difference. The ethnic mosaic is the key metaphor here: it implies social worlds that pass each other by relatively untouched.


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.