Category Archives: Muslims and Islam

The vicious circle of Islamist terrorism and far-right extremism

When most people think of the Bataclan these days, it’s not the venerated theater where rock bands have been playing since the 1970s which comes to mind. Rather, it’s Islamist terrorism, after 89 people were killed there during a concert in November 2015.

So when news spread this fall that a rapper named Médine, who once named an album “Jihad” and is openly critical of secularism in France, will play the Paris venue in the fall, the far right was outraged. “Is it normal that a militant, fundamentalist Islamist goes to the Bataclan to express his hatred and defend ideas that I believe are inciting crimes?” asked France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

An article in CS Monitor by  (Correspondent) and  (Staff writer). Colette interviewed me for the article. Here are the extracts with me in them:

“It’s partly about the politics of the spectacle of confrontation,” says Ben Gidley, a senior lecturer of sociology at Birkbeck, University of London who worked on a 2014 study on what drives extremism in British society. “Every time [a far right leader] is on television saying something inflammatory, that fuels the anger about extreme Islamism which gives an opportunity to the entrepreneurs of panic on the right to put their message into the public sphere. Once you have a spectacular appearance on one side, it gives a platform to the other.”

And:

Mr. Gidley in Britain says that labeling far-right violence “terrorism,” whether in political discourse, media coverage, or within civil society, is a solution to breaking the cycle. “It’s really important,” he says, “to challenge the association of terrorism and Islamism which contributes to the anti-Muslim discourses that feed the far right and to have clarity to challenge it properly, that there is a problem with right-wing terrorism.”

He also says policy makers need to create more space for cultural mixing and frank talk about people’s concerns amid demographic change. “There need to be more opportunities for people to air their grievances, to feel listened to,” he says. “If there are concerns about migration or foreign policy, instead of making them into taboo topics, create opportunities to allow people to feel listened to so they don’t get channeled into extremist ideology.”

I think in the first quote, there’s a slight leap out of context. I think where it puts “a far right leader” in square brackets, I was referrring to Anjem Choudary, the British hate preacher the UK mainstream media love almost as much as they love “Tommy Robinson”. My point was that each time he appears on the screen, it fuels the anger about Islamism that feeds the far right (just as every time “Robinson” appears on the screen, it fuels the anger about Islamophobia that fuels Islamism.

In the second quote, I am arguing that the far right and Islamists resemble each other in channeling real (as well as imaginary) grievances in dangerous directions.

These ideas are developed more fully in a chapter I wrote with David Feldman in this report.

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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:


James Renton: Europe’s undeclared war on Islam

In Middle East Monitor:

The ceasefire in Syria has not paused the war being waged by EU member states against Islamic State (IS) in that country. The air forces of France, Britain and the Netherlands have not been put on standby. They continue in their efforts to kill members of the group and destroy its resources and military infrastructure. At first sight, therefore, the war against IS appears to be a special case, something distinct from what is happening in Syria and indeed the wider Middle East. Is, though, the conflict against IS the only, or even the most significant, of Europe’s wars in the region that cannot be interrupted?

When François Hollande stood before the French parliament at Versailles after last November’s attacks in Paris and said, “France is at war,” which enemy did he have in mind? Who, exactly, is France at war with? Hollande did not tell us straight away; the enemy did not require immediate explanation, but he went on to set it out for us: the enemy, Hollande argued, is “jihadist terrorism” which threatens “the entire world.”

[READ THE REST]


Javier Muñoz: Extremismo.com

Dibujo que recrea el asesinato de la emperatriz Sissi a manos del anarquista Luigi Lucheni, a orillas del lago Quai de Mont-Blanc, en Suiza.

Drawing heavily on the article I wrote for La Vanguardia earlier this year, El Correo columnist Javier Muñoz has written a piece on online extremism which quotes me extensively. Here are some extracts.

Ningún país escapa al goteo de jóvenes que un día abandonan la delincuencia, dejan de fumar porros o mandan los estudios y el trabajo a paseo para luchar por el califato en Mesopotamia. Un profesor de la Universidad de Oxford, Ben Gidley, se fijó en uno de esos individuos; una chica criada en el barrio londinense de Lewisham que se marchó a Siria durante el verano de 2014, cuando las cancillerías europeas empezaron a tomarse en serio al Ejército Islámico. Gidley se interesó en el caso porque él reside en Lewinsham, un lugar en su opinión anodino. Revisó lo que la yihadista escribió en Twitter mientras su cuenta se mantuvo activa y lo primero que comprobó es que el perfil era la foto de un niño con un fusil.

Los tuits estaban impregnados de una violencia extrema. La muchacha aseguraba haber visto cómo se esclavizaba a mujeres yazidíes (herejes según los yihadistas) y cómo se decapitaba a prisioneros. Buscaba enlaces para contemplar el asesinato de un periodista británico en la web y expresaba el deseo de ser la primera combatiente del Reino Unido en matar con sus propias manos a un cautivo occidental.

Con relatos como ése, dice Ben Gidley, se pone en cuestión el modelo británico de integración de los inmigrantes basado en el multiculturalismo. Sin embargo, a su modo de ver, los hechos desmienten esa teoría. “En realidad -escribe el docente en un artículo publicado en La Vanguardia Dossier-, los reclutas británicos que han viajado recientemente a Siria para luchar con el Estado Islámico presentan a menudo un alto nivel educativo y unas trayectorias profesionales de éxito”.

Gidley duda de que la chica de Lewinsham pueda ser catalogada como una musulmana no integrada. Se educó en una sociedad libre, se topó con los “comportamientos patriarcales de los ancianos de su mezquita” y se sintió “aburrida por la vida londinense”. Conocía la jerga de las redes sociales, hablaba de tiendas, del tiempo y de su círculo de amigos.

El Reino Unido ha contabilizado más de 700 yihadistas locales, un colectivo que, según el primer ministro, David Cameron, ha surgido por la pasividad de la comunidad musulmana. Sin embargo, su ex ministra Sayeed Warsi, abogada de origen pakistaní y miembro de la Cámara de los Lores (dimitió del Gobierno conservador en 2014 por su política en el conflicto palestino), no está de acuerdo. Admite que las familias y los clérigos musulmanes pueden hacer más, pero se queja de que se responsabilice a estos últimos de la atracción que la violencia despierta en ciertos jóvenes, un fenómeno que recuerda los magnicidios de algunos anarquistas de finales del XIX y comienzos del XX.

Asesinato de Sissi emperatriz

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Multiculturalismo: pros y contras del sistema británico de integración no regulada

LV_20150313_LV_FOTOS_D_54428960971-992x558@LaVanguardia-Web

Vanguardia

I’m published here, in Spanish, along with a few of my colleagues including Carlos Vargas Silva and Matthew Goodwin. Scroll down for the table of contents, and right down for how to buy. In due course, I’ll publish the English version.

VANGUARDIA DOSSIER Nº 55 | ABRIL / JUNIO 2015

El futuro del Reino Unido

Esta monografía de VANGUARDIA DOSSIER analiza el futuro del Reino Unido y sus cuatro naciones: Inglaterra, Escocia, Gales e Irlanda del Norte

IR A LA TIENDA Continue reading


Understanding foreign fighters

This is a short version of my latest COMPAS blog post. Read the whole original here.

This summer, it emerged that a young woman brought up near where I live in Lewisham, South London, had travelled to Syria to join ISIS. I spent some time reading her Twitter interactions with other young British women with ISIS ion Syria and Iraq. Most of the Twitter accounts are now deleted, but on the whole they were little different from any tweets by any South London teenagers: written in the familiar shorthand of social media conversation (“LOL”, “c u l8er”), accounts of shopping trips, mentions of best friends, complaining when the wi-fi was poor, comments on the weather. But the Lewisham woman’s profile picture was of an infant boy, presumably her son, holding an AK-47. Sparsely interspersed among the banal chitchat, were casual references to meeting Yazadi slave women or to beheadings. And, in one of the last posts before the account went offline:

Any links 4 da execution of da journalist plz. Allahu Akbar. UK must b shaking up haha. I wna b da 1st UK woman 2 kill a UK or US terorist

Foreign fighters in ISIS and other jihadi groups are regularly reported in the news media, and our politicians have been increasingly talking tough about them. But what do we really know about them, about their profiles and motivations?

November’s COMPAS Breakfast Briefing addressed these questions. Our experts were Rachel Briggs, a Senior Policy Analyst with our Breakfast Briefing partner, the Institute of Strategic Dialogue (ISD), and Peter Neumann, a Professor of Security Studies at Kings College London, and the founding director there of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR). The evidence was based on a series of important and innovative research projects at ISD and ICSR (listed at the end of this post), using social media analysis and face-to-face encounters with foreign fighters to build up a rich picture of their actions and their networks.

As is our usual practice, the oral briefings are podcast on the COMPAS site, while the discussion afterwards was under Chatham House rules. In this blogpost, I briefly summarise the key points from the briefings, and then discuss some of the wider issues touched on in the discussion, before finishing with links to information on ICSR’s and ISD’s work in this field. You can listen to the podcast here. Continue reading


#IntSym: Anthony Heath on Muslim integration in the UK

Here is a blogpost at the British Future website, about our Integration, Disadvantage and Extremism symposium.

The black Muslim community is experiencing the highest levels of prejudice in the country, Professor Anthony Heath told a meeting at the House of Commons. Continue reading


The idea of Islam

Second issue of the Muslim Institute‘s Critical Muslim journal/book series now out. It’s excellent: thought-provoking, easy to read, beautifully designed. I’ve got a chapter in it on Jewish ideas of Islam. Also:

Ziauddin Sardar argues why Islamic reform is necessary, Bruce Lawrence sees Muslim cosmopolitanism as the future, Parvez Manzoor declares jihad on the idea of ‘the political’, Samia Rahman gets to the root of Muslim misogyny, Michael Muhammad Knight explains his taqwacore beliefs, Soha al-Jurf has problems with orthodoxy, Carool Kersten suggests that critical thinkers and reformers are often seen as heretics, and Ben Gidley on what keeps Muslims and Jews apart and what can bring them together. Also in this issue: Stuart Sim takes a sledgehammer to the ‘profit motive’, Andy Simons argues that Jazz is just as Muslim as it is American, Robin Yassin-Kabbab meets the new crop of Iraqi writers in Erbil, Said Adrus visits a Muslim cemetery in Woking, Ehsan Masood confesses he spent his youth reading the extremist writer Maryam Jameelah, Iftikhar Malik dismisses pessimism about Pakistan, Hassan Mahamdallie explores what it means to be an American, Jerry Ravetz discovers the Arabic Maimonides, Vinay Lal assesses the legacy of Edward Said, and Merryl Wyn Davies takes a train to 9/11. Plus a brilliant new story from Aamer Hussein and four poems by the celebrated Mimi Khalvati.

Update:

Subscribe on-line here.


British Jews and Muslims: two myths

Part 1 “the myth of Jews as a model minority, blazing a trail that Muslims and other immigrants should follow” and Part 2 “the Islamophobia-is-the-new-antisemitism myth” can both be read at the Muslim Institute, concluding:

“This complex reality requires a complex politics. We need to stop competing in the victimhood stakes and recognise that both racisms are important and dangerous. We need to attend to Islamophobia in the Jewish community and to antisemitism in the Muslim community. And we need to be vigilant about the blurry line between taking sides on Israel/Palestine and taking up antisemitic or Islamophobic themes. Once Jews and Muslims recognise they have a common stake in fighting both racisms then we can begin to build a Britain free of antisemitism and Islamophobia.”

Full text follows. Continue reading