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After 9/11: British South Asian Muslims, Islamophobia, Multiculturalism, and the State



In light of the events of 9/11 and the subsequent actions and reactions on the part of nation-states in the West and “terrorists” in the East, this paper discusses the concepts of Islamophobia (political and media-manufactured) and multiculturalism in the British context. Rising Islamophobia, state actions, and media reactions to 9/11 have led to changing definitions of the “good multicultural society.” British Muslims are caught in a quagmire: Their loyalties are questioned by a society and polity that is still in the processes of establishing its “Englishness” from its “Britishness,” while growing Islamic political radicalism undermines the already precarious relations between British Muslims and the state.
After 9/11: British South Asian Muslims,
Islamophobia, Multiculturalism,
and the State
Tahir Abbas
In light of the events of 9/11 and the subsequent actions and
reactions on the part of nation-states in the West and “terrorists”
in the East, this paper discusses the concepts of Islamophobia
(political and media-manufactured) and multiculturalism in the
British context. Rising Islamophobia, state actions, and media
reactions to 9/11 have led to changing definitions of the “good
multicultural society.” British Muslims are caught in a quag-
mire: Their loyalties are questioned by a society and polity that
is still in the processes of establishing its “Englishness” from its
“Britishness,” while growing Islamic political radicalism under-
mines the already precarious relations between British Muslims
and the state.
There has been a Muslim presence in Britain since the beginning of the
nineteenth century, when Muslim seamen and traders from the Middle East
began settling around the major British ports.1Muslims from the British Raj
Tahir Abbas has a B.Sc. (Econ), M.Soc.Sc., and Ph.D. He is a lecturer and director, Centre
for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture, University of Birmingham; editor of Muslim Britain:
Communities under Pressure (Zed: 2004); and author of The Education of British South
Asians: Ethnicity, Capital and Class Structure (Palgrave: 2004) and British Islam: Identity,
Action and Social Construction (forthcoming). This paper was originally presented to the
Annual British Sociological Association Conference, “Sociological Challenges: Conflict,
Anxiety and Discontent,” University of York, 22-24 March 2004 as “The New Sociology of
Ethnic and Cultural Studies: The Experience of British South Asian Muslims.” The author
would like to thank the anonymous referees and editors for making valuable comments on
an earlier version of this paper.
in India also came to England to study or trade. The community’s major
growth, however, dates from the post-Second World War immigration of
Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Indians to fill specific labor demands in
declining industrial cities in the southeast, the Midlands, and the north.2In
the 1990s, there was an intake of eastern European and Middle Eastern
Muslim refugees emanating from such places as Bosnia and Kosovo,
Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq.
Although conceptual overlaps exist, the British discourse on racialized
minorities has been transformed from “color” in the 1950s and 1960s3; to
“race” in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s4; to “ethnicity” in the 1990s5; and to
“religion” in the present climate.6Here, Islam has the greatest profile. British
popular discourse has shifted from seeing minorities as homogenous entities
to discerning differences within and between “Blacks” and Asians; then,
within South Asians, to differences among Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangla-
deshis; and finally among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Religion has
emerged as a major social signifier.
In Britain, the burgeoning interest in religion has come from both an
awareness within the ethnic minority population of Islam and from its
heightened international profile. Comprehensive demographic data on
British Muslims became available only after a question on religion was
included in the 2001 Census of the United Kingdom. Indeed, the vast
majority of Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims are from South Asia (around 1
million, two-thirds of whom are from Pakistan, less than one-third from
Bangladesh, and the remainder from India). The residual Muslim popula-
tion is from North Africa, eastern Europe, and Southeast Asia. Around one-
third of all British Muslims are under the age of fourteen. In addition, the
Muslims remain concentrated in older post-industrial cities and conurba-
tions in the southeast, the Midlands, and the north. Their population has
grown from about 21,000 in 1951 to 1.6 million at present.7
Today, these Muslim groups are more likely to be living in some of the
most inferior housing stock, have the poorest health, tend to significantly
underachieve in education, and are underemployed or, more likely, to be
unemployed in the labor market when compared with their non-Muslim
South Asian peers. Many of them, specifically those from the rural areas of
Azad Kashmir (Pakistan) and Sylhet (northwest Bangladesh), are working
in the declining or highly competitive manufacturing, textile, and catering
sectors; living in inner city housing built at the turn of the twentieth century
(which often needs substantial repairs and maintenance); and live as joint
and extended families in restricted zones of ethnic and cultural maintenance.
Abbas: After 9/11 27
They remain close to kith and kin, extending their religious and cultural
manifestations of life, and thus help to shape their presence in Britain.8
The present is also a period in which subsequent generations of British
South Asian Muslims have begun to question their parents’ religious and
cultural values. Furthermore, the increasing link between local and global
capitalism is an important phenomenon to consider. Deindustrialization,
technological innovation, and the internationalization of capital and labor
have helped to ensure that many of them remain at the bottom of society.
These patterns emerged early on in their immigration and settlement from
the late 1950s right through to the early 1980s. However, these social divi-
sions remain very much alive today – largely as a function of pernicious
structural and cultural racism as well as the fact of increasingly competitive
labor, education, housing, and health markets.9
In terms of anti-discrimination legislation, British state policy toward
Muslims has been inconsistent at best and patchy at worst. They are also
becoming increasingly overrepresented in prisons. On the whole, Muslims
from South Asia have come to represent a minimal contributory role with-
in the socioeconomic and sociopolitical milieu of British society.
Nevertheless, several positive elements have materialized, and it is impor-
tant to build upon them: the provision of halalfood and more sensitive
dress codes in the army, and female members of London’s Metropolitan
Police Service can wear the hijab (headscarf).10
Islamophobia: Definitions, Media, and Politics
In Britain, notions of cultural and social identifications of the “Other” stem
from an understanding and experience of imperialism and colonialism.11
Islamophobia is defined as the fear or dread of Islam or Muslims. Although
the term is of relatively recent coinage, the idea is a well-established tradi-
tion in history. Since the genesis of Islam in 622, Europe’s awareness of
Muslims has been overwhelmingly negative. During this long contact, the
established European powers have found it convenient to portray Islam and
Muslims in the worst possible light, so as to prevent conversion and to
encourage European resistance to Muslim forces on the borders. Although
there have been periods of learning and understanding on the part of the
English, there has also been ignorance, conflict, and the demonization of
Islam.12 Muslims have been portrayed as barbaric, ignorant, closed-minded
semi-citizens, maddened terrorists, or intolerant religious zealots.13 Such
negative characterizations are still present today, as seen in the negative
28 The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 21:3
representation and treatment of the Muslim “Other,” which are designed to
aggrandize the established powers and thereby legitimize existing systems
of domination and subordination.
Just as present-day Islamophobia relies on history to fill in the substance
of its stereotypes, the contemporary fear of Muslims has it own idiosyn-
cratic features connecting it with the more recent experiences of colonial-
ism, decolonization, immigration, and racism. The Runnymede Trust14 stated
that Islamophobia is created analogously to xenophobia, the disdain or dis-
like of all things “foreign.” Seven features of Islamophobia were identified:
Muslim cultures are seen as monolithic, Islamic cultures are substantially
different from other cultures, Islam is perceived as implacably threatening,
Islam’s adherents use their faith to gain political or military advantage,
Muslim criticism of western cultures and societies is rejected out of hand,
the fear of Islam is mixed with racist hostility to immigration, and
Islamophobia is assumed to be natural and unproblematic.
However, it is important not to treat Muslims as an undifferentiated mass,
for there are many ethnic, cultural, social, economic, and political differences
between individuals and groups. This taxonomy of Islamophobia is very rel-
evant today. But while racism on the basis of “race” continues, the anti-
Muslim shift suggests markers of difference of a social and religiocultural
nature. Furthermore, while traditional markers of “race” have been afforded
legislative protection, the same does not hold for “religious” markers, where
protection is restricted only to ethnically defined religious communities
through case law, namely, members of the ethnic Jewish and ethnic Sikh
communities in Britain. (However, it is understood that inciting religious
hatred has been legislatively addressed, and a European directorate outlaw-
ing religious discrimination in employment took effect in December 2003.)
Despite Muslims being targeted by right-wing groups with “more sub-
tle forms of racist prejudice and hatred” after 9/11, they nevertheless remain
outside the domain of anti-racist legislation.15 Concurrently, recent events
have also seen Muslims represented in a range of different media that have
worked collectively to reinforce negative beliefs and perceptions. The social
and religious foundations of Islam, as well as Muslims in general, have
attained such a degree of notoriety that their “visibility” is immediately rec-
ognizable in entirely negative and detrimental frames of reference. Since
9/11, the situation has both deteriorated and intensified. Islamophobia has
gained such a discursive prevalence that western European society is
becoming even more uncritically receptive to an array of negative images
and perceptions about Islam and Muslims.
Abbas: After 9/11 29
Muslims in Britain feel that part of the reason for their continued exis-
tence as an unaccepted and often despised minority is based on the presence
of the “evil demon”: the media.17 The charge of media bias needs to be
taken seriously, as the coverage of “extremist groups” and “Islamic terror-
ism” has increased dramatically in recent periods. The language used to
describe Muslims is often violent, thereby inferring that their movements
are also violent. Arabic words have been appropriated into universal jour-
nalistic vocabulary and invested with new meaning, one that is generally
extremist and aggressive. For example, jihad now signifies a military war
waged by Islamists against the West, whereas its true Qur’anic meaning is,
in fact, far broader and refers more to the idea of struggle. Words such as
fundamentalist, extremist, and radical are regularly used in apocalyptic
headlines across all sectors of the British press.
Indeed, the current portrayal of British Muslims is part of a “new racist
discourse.”18 This “new” racism differs from the “old” racism in that it is
more subtle but, at the same time, explicit in the direction it has taken. In
the post-9/11 era, politicians have used the people’s fear 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.”19 This reporting is compounded by its focus on the “enemy with-
in” or the loyalty of British Muslims to Britain. Reasons for the increased
presence of these themes in newspaper reporting are symptomatic of the
increased fear of the “Islamic terrorist” since the 9/11 attacks (and, subse-
quently, the bombings in Madrid on 11 March 2004).
Islamophobia is also present in British politics. In the summer of 2001,
Britain witnessed some of its worst inner-city disturbances in nearly two
decades. Young British South Asian Muslims, living in the deprived inner
cities of Bradford, Oldham, and Burnley, clashed violently with local
police. Their pent-up fury was a result of generations of socioeconomic
exclusion, as well as a clever targeting of sensitized areas by right-wing
groups working to manufacture ethno-religious tension. However, it was
the government’s responses to the disturbances, in reports published soon
after 9/11, which must be considered.
For example, an illustration of Islamophobia in politics can be seen in
New Labour’s idea of “community cohesion.”20 In keeping with New
Labour’s rhetoric of inclusion, this idea masks what is effectively a case of
“blaming the victim.” Home Secretary David Blunkett MP, while promot-
ing this idea, announced a test of allegiance. He referred to the problems of
the “excess of cultural diversity and moral relativism” that prevents posi-
30 The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 21:3
tive change, and also referred to English language issues and female cir-
cumcision in speeches soon after 9/11. In other words, he conflated many
different behaviors and cultures with that of the South Asian Muslim com-
munity in northwest England. Although these are important issues in their
own right, as well as part of a process of making civil society more demo-
cratically functional, these were not the factors behind the “riots.”
This segregation is thought to be self-imposed and the cause of racism,
rather than a result of it. Alhough economically disadvantaged and socially
marginalized they are, on the whole, willing to participate in society.21 Seg-
regation is the result of racism and discrimination. But at the same time, iden-
tification with Islam is the reason given for segregation. It is relatively easy
to blame people and their values while ignoring processes, institutions, and
wider local area dynamics (though it is recognized that Muslim communities
can mobilize class and ethnic resources to develop religiocultural, social, and
economic infrastructures to support their existence).
As New Labour makes preparations for reelection in June 2005 and an
unprecedented third term in power, and although there have been genuine
shifts in its approach to multiculturalism, citizenship, and social justice, dur-
ing its second term, the policy of assimilation has been rejuvenated.22 Blair’s
Britain is defining a new ethnicity – Englishness as opposed to Britishness
– in an era of globalization and devolution. Eager to embrace the capitalist
project, New Labour is also at pains to offer answers to the economic, polit-
ical, and social anxieties and tensions faced by Britain’s poor, many of
whom are members of various ethnic minorities and Muslim.23 The young
South Asian Muslim men of Oldham, Bradford, and Burnley who confront-
ed the police in such dramatic scenes during the summer of 2001 do not suf-
fer the problems of being “under-assimilated.” Indeed, their predicament is
that of a society divided by racism, discrimination, and Islamophobia.
Lessons from History and 9/11’s Impact
Ever since the Iranian revolution of 1979, Muslims have become a focus of
attention.24 Pictures of 3 million men and women on the streets of Tehran,
shown on television screens all over the world, shocked many in western
Europe. The Salman Rushdie affair of 1989 highlighted the extent to which
the media and British Muslims (who vociferously opposed the book’s pub-
lication) became “emotionally unhinged” over the issue, and how Britain’s
South Asian Muslims were shown to be weak and intolerant when, in fact,
they were merely expressing their opinions on The Satanic Verses.25 This
Abbas: After 9/11 31
piece of fiction, which deeply offended Muslims, gave rise to discussions
of freedom of speech, blasphemy laws, and the protection of non-Christian
religions in Britain.
In addition, the first Gulf War (1990-91), the genocide in Bosnia-
Herzegovina (1993-96), the Oklahoma bombing (1995), the Taliban in
Afghanistan (1997-2002), Grozny and Kosovo (1999), the recent Palestin-
ian 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. Samuel Hunting-
ton’s “clash of civilizations” thesis26 – positioning East and West, as well as
Islam and Christianity, as diametrically opposed and irreconcilable has only
served to build upon growing anti-American sentiment and increased
Orientalism through oversimplification and generalization.
Nothing, however, could have prepared the world for the 9/11 attacks on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Reactions were swift, and associ-
ations between Islam, terrorism, and the notion of a “Christian versus
Islamic” conflict only served to further fuel anti-Islamic and anti-American
sentiment. It gave rise to the efforts of British far-right groups to paint
Muslims as epitomizing unwanted difference, and almost excused anti-
Islamic violence. In the days following the attack, an Afghan taxi driver was
attacked and left paralyzed in London. To the murderers, his beard and attire
resembled those of Osama bin Laden – the man thought to be behind the
9/11 attacks. Since then, books and television programs about Islam, the
Qur’an, jihad, international terrorism, international security, political Islam,
radical Islam, and Islamic militancy have been published to explore and dis-
cuss the many elaborated – and often conflated – debates on Muslims and
Islam. There appears to be genuine desire to learn more and deliberate the
issues in relation to a religion that, for many, has remained relatively unfa-
miliar, although this is not always carried out without a value-, power-, or
honor-free agenda.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Prime Minister Tony Blair MP was
keen to present the imminent action against al-Qa’ida as not a war on Islam
(although President Bush’s comment that the war on terror would be a “cru-
sade” left little doubt in the minds of British Muslims that political Islam
was his main target). Blair’s dilemma was how “to balance the bombing of
Muslims abroad with wooing them at home.”27 On 28 September 2001, a
few hours after the attack on Afghanistan, a delegation from the Muslim
Council of Britain (MCB), Britain’s largest single Muslim pressure group
(formalized by New Labour in 1999), was invited to Downing Street.
32 The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 21:3
Paraded to the media were smiles and shaking hands. On 9 October 2001,
the MCB issued a press release strongly denouncing the war, an action that
incensed New Labour. Although the MCB did not support the anti-war
demonstrations, it clearly did not want to further alienate the government –
an important trade-off was taking place with politicians that would ulti-
mately gain the upper hand. This led to the beginning of the end of MCB’s
cozy relationship with Number Ten.
Furthermore, at the time, pressure was applied to the five British
Muslim parliamentarians (namely, MPs Khalid Mahmood and Mohammed
Sarwar, and the peers Lord Ahmed, Lord Patel, and Baroness Uddin) who
apparently were “encouraged” to sign a letter denouncing the events of 9/11
and partly justifying the retaliatory bombings (Guardian, 13 November
2001). Khalid Mahmood MP soon denied, however, that he had signed any
such letter (Guardian, 16 November 2001).28 Regardless of the accuracy of
these claims, it is clear that challenging struggles are taking place over
issues of consultation, dialogue, and the maintenance of the Muslim pres-
ence within New Labour.
Both external and internal forces affected the positions of British
Muslims before the 9/11 events. After this tragedy, both external and inter-
nal factors have been exacerbated. Externally, the international agenda now
dominates domestic politics, security and anti-terrorist measures have been
tightened, and citizenship tests are required for new immigrants. It is also
important to consider the disturbances in the north in 2001, as the govern-
ment’s reaction to them has had direct implications for British South Asian
Muslims. Internally, young Muslims are increasingly found in the precari-
ous position of having to choose between one set of loyalties in relation to
“the other” (Islamic verses British; liberal verses radical), and being
impacted by radical Islamic politics on the one hand and developments
related to British multicultural citizenship on the other. This creates ten-
sions and issues, which encourage some to take up the “struggle” more vig-
orously, while others seek to adopt more western values, for example.
Although a simplistic distinction, this observation does have a genuine
value in the current climate. Further research is needed to help distinguish
the depth and breadth of the issues involved here.
British multiculturalism is a distinctive philosophy that legitimizes
demands upon unity and diversity, seeks to achieve political unity without
cultural uniformity, and cultivates among its citizens both a common sense
of belonging and a willingness to respect and cherish deep cultural differ-
ences. Although this is an admirable ambition, it is not easily achieved. In
Abbas: After 9/11 33
fact, there are few examples one can use to verify its success. The New
Labour experiment has had both high successes and low failures – the Race
Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, the Human Rights Act 1998, the
Stephen Lawrence Report (1999). But as a result of 9/11 and the northern
“riots,” public policy has focused on domestic security and the war against
Both of these have significant impacts on British Muslims. The impor-
tant point to emphasize here is that the complicated story of integration and
exclusion cannot be understood in the terms set by Home Secretary David
Blunkett MP around “assimilation” and “integration.” Multiculturalism has
strong limitations, because it rejects “cultures” that do not correspond to
nation-states. Cultural nationalism is about present politics, not ancient mem-
ory, although that memory is used as an instrument. Developments to this
philosophy suggest that while the categories of “British” and “English” are
being formed and re-formed, Muslims in Britain are considered by their reli-
gion first and foremost. At the same time, many of them are disempowered,
disenfranchised, disenchanted, and disaffected groups existing at the margins
of Britain’s economy, society, and polity. Furthermore, there are issues at the
inter-generational level, particularly in the current climate of globalization,
that relate to how Islam (and Muslims) is currently being recognized, treated,
and appreciated. In the post-9/11 climate, British Muslims are at the forefront
of questions in relation to what it means to be British or English. The basis of
this rests in issues on the global agenda as well as local area concerns in rela-
tion to community cohesion, citizenship, and multicultural philosophy.
Concluding Thoughts: A New Multicultural Citizenship
The 9/11 attacks and the subsequent reactions seem to have permeated many
areas of everyday life for Muslims everywhere, and no less so than in
Britain. As an event, it has implications that go far beyond merely “interna-
tional terrorism.” In fact, these implications are linked to politics, religion,
and issues of cultural differences in an effort to maintain harmonious soci-
eties and democracies in the West, which contain a significant number of
Muslims (approximately 25 million). In the Middle East, as revealed in the
aftermath of the war on Iraq, further unrest, political turmoil, and violent
action and reaction are the main features of the current climate. In the near
future, as western targets may well become increasingly targeted by extrem-
ist groups, relations between Muslims and their western hosts will continue
to remain problematical, with discussions focusing on citizenship, civil soci-
34 The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 21:3
ety, multiculturalism, and political representation and participation (as com-
ponents of democracy), and identity, gender, inter-generational develop-
ment, radicalism versus liberalism (as components of the individual).
Given that British South Asian Muslims have reached the third genera-
tion, issues of concern have shifted from cultural assimilation and social
integration to religious identity and discrimination. The study of Islam and
Muslims has become more vigorous, and greater emphasis is being placed
on understanding the nature and orientation of British Muslims in more
anthropological, sociological, theological, and political science perspectives.
Indeed, the first generation of South Asian Muslims kept their religious prac-
tices and expressions well within private or community spheres. Subsequent
generations have struggled with issues of integration and racism in the cli-
mate of the early 1960s; cultural pluralism in the 1970s; free-market eco-
nomic determinism and the rolling back of the state’s frontiers in Thatcher’s
and Major’s Britain from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s; and through to
the “third way” center-left politics of assimilationist New Labour ever since
then. At the same time, identification with Islam is gaining strength among
some members of this latest generation, both as a reaction to racist hostility
as well as a desire to understand Islam in more precise detail.
Distinguishing the multiplicity, fragility, and diversity of diaspora iden-
tities, and here both as South Asian and Muslim, it is important to appreci-
ate that such a citizenship is not so unsophisticated. To many white British
people, participating in this society as citizens is an uncomplicated fact, “a
set of clothing that fits like a glove, put on at birth, taken off at death,
viewed uncritically and unchallenged.” British Muslims have to address
citizenship not only within the framework of their host country’s legal and
political structures, with its emphasis on democracy, secularism, individual
rights, and pluralism, but also decide how to negotiate and harmonize all of
these in terms of Shari`ah law and various interpretations of and practices
in the Islamic state discourse. They have had to discover how to be “good
Muslims” in a secular society and how to develop appropriate strategies for
living as a minority in a non-Muslim society.
This task has not been easy, given the local, national, and international
focus of attention since 9/11. In reality, it has been necessary to reconcile
religion-based identity and citizenship, as well as individual rights and
community rights, in a setting where the beliefs of others have dominated,
without retreating into isolationism. Perhaps above all, they have needed 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
Abbas: After 9/11 35
colonial history of past relations with Britain. Combined with racism,
which is endemic, this creates an atmosphere of mistrust.29 The recent “war
on terror,” however, is not going to wither away, because it is a war that has
no singularly defined enemy; only a set of ideologies, falsely appropriated
and actualized by the “clash of fundamentalisms” thesis.30
But this global picture is only part of the experience of Islam and
Muslims here in Britain. More immediate are the everyday realities (i.e.,
poor housing, jobs, health, and education). Once many more British South
Asian Muslims have a more determined economic and social presence in
society, only then will their demands, needs, and requests be met. But to be
in a viable position to reach this objective, the elimination of pernicious
structural and cultural racism is crucial. The nature and orientation of
British multiculturalism is undergoing a severe test, and it will be important
to observe closely how Muslims experience it over the next few years.
What is apparent, however, is that 9/11 has changed the world, and, along
with it, how Muslims will be regarded, considered, and treated for the fore-
seeable future – possibly for the remainder of the twenty-first century, as
Akbar S. Ahmed has argued recently.31
What direction this will take is a function of nation-states and their poli-
cies toward different Muslim migrants, minorities, and citizens, as well as
how Muslims work to adapt to a non-Muslim majority society by closely
adopting some of its more central norms and values while challenging oth-
ers to make their new home a more peaceful, interdependent, and secure
place. British society has become even more sensitive to the threat of
“Islamic terrorism,” while, at the same time, wider events in the world,
including the “war on terror,” continue to shape the government’s attitude
toward Muslim citizens as well as to serve as important foci for political,
social, and policymaking discussions.
British South Asian Muslims are at a crossroads in their history of
immigration to and settlement in Britain. At the same time, one striking fea-
ture of their structural experiences is their socioeconomic position. This
group constitutes one of the most marginalized, alienated, isolated, dis-
criminated against, and misunderstood groups in society (although there is
a small but burgeoning British Muslim elite). They are negotiating a set of
identities and realities that are constantly changing, and it will be important
to see how they develop in the near future. As research questions continue
in the areas of race, ethnicity, religion, and culture, as well as public policy
concerns at the local, national, and international levels, the study of British
Muslims will provide important and useful findings.
36 The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 21:3
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Abbas: After 9/11 37
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38 The American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 21:3
... Orientalism was evident in interventions with mainly Muslim communities, invoking what Brown (2013) terms a "maternalist logic," and engaging particularly Muslim women according to assumptions of "their expected gender and racialized role as mothers" (41). This logic also framed Muslim men as the key risk within this "suspect community" (Awan 2012;Abbas 2004;Kundnani 2014;Huckerby 2011). Such countering violent extremism programming also decentered local struggles against Muslim fundamentalism (Bennoune 2014). ...
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... In Australia, pertinent examples include Australia Day celebrations and 9/11 anniversary commemorations, both of which often reduce understandings of complex events to reductionist binaries that are communicated as 'us' versus 'them' (T. Abbas 2004;Gaita 2011). The use of such binaries in framing and interpretive lenses has been instrumental in maintaining and justifying colonial discourses and sustaining 'othering' processes (Smith 2012;Imtoual 2009). ...
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This article reflects on the ethical and epistemological challenges facing researchers engaged in contemporary studies of Islam and Muslims in the West. Particularly, it focuses on the impact of the constructions and categorisations of Muslims and Islam in research. To do this, it considers the entwinement of public discourses and the development of research agendas and projects. To examine this complex and enmeshed process, this article explores ideological, discursive and epistemological approaches that it argues researchers need to consider. In invoking these three approaches alongside an analysis of a collection of recent research, this article contends that questions of race, religion and politics have been deployed to reinforce, rather than challenge, certain essentialist/orientalist representations of Islam and Muslims in the West in research. As this article shows, this practice is increasingly threatening to compromise, in a Habermasian communicative sense (i.e., the opportunity to speak and be heard for all concerned), the ethical and epistemological underpinnings of social science research with its emphasis on inclusion and respect.
... In the period following 9/11, this effect could be seen within media outlets, government entities and the public more broadly, with South Asians and other minorities often framed as a deviant group rather than an active part of the American population (Cainkar and Maira 2005). Further complicating the notion of identity, British South Asian Muslims have found their loyalties called into question within a population that still seeks to find its own identity in an era following the eroding and subsequent dissolution of the British Empire (Abbas 2004). Similarly, in a sample of South Asian women in the US, respondents reported feeling watched and surveilled and they felt "marked" as potential terrorists because of the way they looked (Finn 2011). ...
The Grenfell fire catapulted North Kensington into the spotlight, an area both synonymous with immigration and social policy innovation for over a century. However, it remains under examined how this extraordinary event re‐defined the discursive landscape around British Muslims and how they have been situated in the national landscape. To do this it analyses the twitter activity in the 96 hours after the fire and also the victim profiles published in the Guardian Newspaper. It finds that the narratives that emerge blur British Muslim social boundaries through narratives both around the exceptional and banal narratives which emerged during and after the fire. This constructs British Muslims as both saviours during Grenfell, and also as a super‐diverse population that resists topologizing as pre‐dominantly South Asain. This article also raises broader questions about the not only the role that social media has in the creation of vernacular memory, and also that in this case twitter was importantly not a conduit for the fake news and hate speech created against British Muslims during Grenfell.
This paper analyses one of the problems of American Muslims with Islamophobia while examining (i) how Islamophobic discourse has become an integral part of American politics, (ii) how American political discourse on Islam and Muslims has affected the increase of Islamophobia, especially after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, (iii) and more importantly, how Islamophobia is used as a political tool to garner the support of Americans and justify American imperial ambitions including the U.S. invasions and military occupations. According to various reports and surveys, Islamophobia has constantly risen since 2001. This makes it even more difficult for American Muslims to cope with the ever-increasing anti-Islamic sentiment and hatred. A question arises: Does the history of Islamophobia in the American context begin with the 9/11 terrorist attacks? Although 9/11 gives a fresh impetus to Islamophobia, and since then, it has been on the rise, its history is as old as the history of Orientalism in America. Thus, the paper investigates the continuities between accepted Orientalism and American political rhetoric on Muslims and Islam. After 9/11, not only American political discourse on Muslims but also regulations and laws signed by presidents are manifestations of the continuity of accepted Orientalism. Remarkably, there is a parallelism between the major tenets of Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism and the Islamophobic political discourse that emerged after 9/11. On this score, the paper draws on Edward Said's discourse analysis of Orientalism with power in order to indicate how the rise of Islamophobia among Americans and American political discourse (power) on Muslims and Islam post 9/11 are interconnected and inextricably linked. More specifically, political discourse, while reframing the discourse of “we” versus “they,” has stigmatized Muslims as “terrorists,” “extremists,” and “enemies.” Muslims, moreover, have been categorized as “good” Muslims who serve American interests and imperial policies and “bad” Muslims who are reluctant to serve imperial interests. In this framework, orientalist colonial representations of Muslims have become part of American politics. These discriminatory and derogatory discourses on Muslims and Islam rooted in politics normalize Islamophobia in American society and marginalize Muslims and create second-class citizenship for Muslims. As this study analytically explains the relationship between Orientalism, an essential tool of the Western colonial mentality, and the American political discourse, which became harsher with anti-Islamic expressions after 9/11, it shows how the American political discourse of Muslims promotes Islamophobia.
This chapter provides an overview of the politicisation of Muslim identity in the West, particularly post 9/11 (Sect. 2.1), with special attention paid to the UK context. The second section focuses on the politicisation of language practices of migrants and other minoritised groups (Sect. 2.2). It particularly highlights the process of racialisation that takes place in the discourses of political elites. The third section connects the materialisation of discriminatory language ideologies in language testing for citizenship (Sect. 2.3). It highlights the recent scholarship on language testing for citizenship against the background of the problematisation of migrants’ presence in the West and explicates how such testing regimes result in social differentiation.KeywordsRacialisationLanguage practicesMigrationCitizenshipLanguage testingSecuritisation
Islamophobia is a reality today that finds its manifestations at different levels of society and has been researched through diverse gendered, ethnic, and regional perspectives. The sensitivity of the topic has resulted in limited work around exploring consequences of Islamophobia on Muslim children. As religiously charged crimes against Muslims in the West continue to grow, Islamophobia has crept into the schools, classrooms, and playgrounds of many countries and needs to be recognized and effectively mitigated. Based in a child rights-based context, this chapter is a review of empirical literature that attempts to characterize and theorize Islamophobia to understand why and how it affects the lives of Muslim children. It accounts for varied Islamophobic experiences that children encounter in regions of North America and Europe. It is inferred that educational institution cannot be isolated from global incidents of Islamophobia and become sites for further propagating racist sentiments. The chapter ends with school social work model directed towards prevention and reduction of Islamophobia.
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Abstract: The Muslim communities in the West have acquired unprecedented visibility in the aftermath of 9/11. For such a disadvantaged faith minority, coming to the spotlight of public, political, and media attention was expected to open up new opportunities for empowerment. Their new visibility, however, was exploited to fan the flames of anti-Muslim hatred. Drawing on some media case studies and the analyses of some political reactions, this paper explores the implications of this visibility for Islamophobia and the Muslim struggle for empowerment, with a focus on the British context. The paper traces back the origins of Western animosity to Islam and Muslims and highlights the contribution of relevant media coverage and political discourses post-9/11 to promoting the myth of "the Islamization of the West "and "the imminent Muslim takeover of Britain".
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Western Europe has been confronted with several terrorist attacks over the past years. This dissertation investigates what happens after such attacks. Scholars emphasise that terrorism is not just about killing, as terrorists want to capture the attention of the audience. Yet, what these audiences do after attacks has remained understudied. This dissertation looks into the meaning-making process after jihadist attacks in Brussels, Nice, Berlin and Manchester (2016-2017). The study focuses on two core actors groups - the authorities and citizens - and the use of frames, rituals and symbols. Special attention is paid to the first day, the first week and the first anniversary of the attack, for which the author has visited the commemorations. Overall, this dissertation shows how terrorism is not a successful communication strategy. After performing the opening acts, the terrorists are quickly pushed off stage, doomed to stand behind the curtains and watch a different play unfold.
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Over the last few decades, the term ‘multiculturalism’ has been in debate. This is not only because of issues surrounding cultural diversity, racism, or ‘the minority versus the majority’, but also because of religious differences, especially regarding Muslims in the West. Many queries have been raised about the inclusion of Muslims in European society as they seem to be barbaric and alien, especially after the events of 9/11 in the USA and 7/7 in London. This paper discusses the various complex debates surrounding the term ‘multiculturalism’ in the work of political philosophers like Tariq Modood, Bhikhu Parekh, Will Kymlicka, and others. It first introduces the term ‘multiculturalism’ as interpreted by different scholars and discusses the reasons for its current retreat. Multiculturalism is said to be challenging for religious groups, especially Muslims, because of its incompatibility with liberalism, considered to be the key element of Western civilisation. Therefore, this paper attempts to describe multiculturalism’s relationship with citizenship and the long-term effect of national identity on civil society. It also discusses some basic concepts, like equality and dialogue, in relation to multiculturalism and tries to bring out the differences between liberal equality and the equality experienced under multiculturalism. This paper concludes with some policy recommendations for the adjustment of illiberal minorities (Muslims) within liberal societies (Europe) in the present world of super-diversity.