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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
... 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). ...
... It is often argued that this contemporary integration policy is discriminatory as it only focuses on certain ethnic (e.g., South Asians) groups or communities for having extremely distinctive ways of life that are at odds with the norms and values of the dominant culture (Flint & Robinson, 2008). Likewise, there are wider concerns that the recent discourse of integration is allegedly based on racialized minorities that focuses more on religion than the previous discourses of color, race, and ethnicity (Abbas, 2004), and particularly, for certain reasons (e.g., Islamophobia, global terrorism), Islam has become the focus of this discourse (Cameron, 2015;Thomas et al., 2017). Communitarian critics condemn such developments on the ground that such a policy approach undermines the democratic process and social justice by eroding trust and common understanding (Bell, 1995). ...
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The contemporary integration policies (Community Cohesion Agenda [CCA]) of the United Kingdom have been criticized for their foundational weaknesses, conceptual inadequacies, myopic views with regard to the complexity of the issue, lack of evidence, and so on. Vast majority of the studies conducted to verify this discourse have been done in the line of theoretical arguments of diversity management rather than exploring their connections to a target community in reality. This study aims at establishing a linkage between the growing theoretical arguments of the integration discourse with empirical data in light of the policy framework of the CCA. We have selected the fastest growing Bangladeshi community of the CCA-adapted Aston City of Birmingham as the representative group of the ethnic minority communities of the United Kingdom. Qualitative data collection approach has been followed, where primary in-depth interviews were conducted on various policy actors, social workers, faith leaders, and Bangladeshi residents of Aston. The entire policy instrument, starting from its broad purposes to operational strategies, has been severely challenged by both residents of the community and relevant policy-implementing bodies in Aston. CCA policies appear to be largely inclined toward the interculturalism/communitarianism ideology rather than to multiculturalism. However, the empirical evidence shows that the need for multiculturalism, to be more specific—Bristol School of Multiculturalism, as a political theory remains in the integration discourse in the context of the United Kingdom. Findings are expected to have implications on practitioners and policy makers in designing diversity management policy instruments by having a wider synthesized view on both theoretical argument and empirical data.
... Like Rudyard Kipling"s verse: "East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet", the relationship between the East and the West is transformative in its nature and has various crises and crossroads such as the Crusades Wars between 1096 to 1291, Iran Revolution (1979), bombing, kidnapping, and hostage taking in the Middle East during (1980)(1981)(1982)(1983)(1984)(1985)(1986)(1987)(1988)(1989)(1990), Salman Rushdie affairs (1989), Gulf Wars, Oklahoma City bombing (1995), the 9/11 attacks in the USA and the 7/7 attacks in London. During this critical period, the image of Muslims has exacerbated from erotic, primitive, barbaric, ignorant, close-minded and semi-citizen to maddened, fundamentalist, blood-thirsty and terrorist after the attacks (Abbas, 2004;Ahmed, 2003;Esposito, 2002;Ridouani, 2011). Whereas, the Muslim women have been referred to as double yoked: subjected to patriarchal male-dominated society and religious bindings constraining her agency to negotiate her identity. ...
... Since the late 1990s, as a way of narrowing the concept of discrimination by focusing on a more specific case in order to highlight an emerging phenomenon, the notion of Islamophobia has been intensively used in public, policymaking, and research. 'Islamophobia' describes 'unfounded hostility towards Islam' (Runnymede Trust 1997), the 'fear or dread of Islam or Muslims' (Abbas 2004), and the 'rejection of Islam, Muslim groups and Muslim individuals on the basis of prejudice and stereotypes' (Stolz 2005), although there is no consensus on to the extent to which Islamophobia is different from xenophobia or racism (Allen 2010;Dekker and Van Der Noll 2012;Helbling 2012). What relative consensus exists states that Islamophobia has become one of the central issues in Western European societies, and Islamophobia cannot be understood without noting the anti-immigrant sentiments and migration penalty that are interwoven in the understanding of discrimination today. ...
With an expanding Islamic presence occurring together with increasing Christian secularism, there is a fast-growing body of literature on Muslim immigrants residing in Western Europe. By narrowing the focus exclusively towards Turkish immigrants, this review aims to selectively examine and synthesize the scholarship in two interconnected debates: (1) decrease versus increase in religiosity, and (2) religion as a source of versus a buffer against discrimination. The former review cluster examines the debate on decrease or increase in immigrant religiosity upon resettlement. The latter review cluster connects social distance and discrimination to the ability of religion to play a buffer against growing exclusion, which will be discussed on two levels: first, the transformative effects of discrimination on social identity, and second, the benefits of religion on immigrants’ lives vis-à-vis their social identity.
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.
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This study aims to trace the trajectory of identity of Changez Khan, a Muslim protagonist in Mohsin Hamid’s Novel: The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007). The protagonist is a Pakistani, cultural Muslim immigrant, who succeeds in getting quality education and subsequent lucrative job in his dreamland – the USA. There occurs 9/11 with heavy backlash, discrimination, profiling and islamophobia that term Muslims as others of America and terrorist or danger indispensable. Media has a significant role in developing the negative image of Muslims, which ultimately change the perception of public at large. This binary oppositional status and backlash at personal, professional and public levels require Changez to negotiate his identity as a member of minority outgroup and adjust his place in the majority ingroup host society. Thus, the course of multiple identities, he was undergoing, gets disrupted and he opts reactive identity construct (Nagra, 2011), which brings him back to his original identity prototype. Though he is a cultural Muslim, he never practices religious orthodoxy, however, treating all Muslims with same approach in the west is the reason which compulsively unites Muslims to retaliate unanimously. Changez being a fresh immigrant returns home, Pakistan. If he had been first or second generation American Muslim, the course of action would have been different. Keywords: Muslim, Identity, 9/11, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid, immigrant. (PDF) The Reluctant Fundamentalist Negotiating Post-911 Muslim Identity. Available from: [accessed Mar 27 2021].
Islamophobia and related incidents of hate‐crimes, religious discrimination and profiling are increasingly being researched to have adverse effects on Muslim adults and children alike. Rising episodes of anti‐Muslim religious bullying are being reported from schools, classrooms and playgrounds across the globe and, hence, need to be accounted for, recognized and mitigated. This study uses child‐participatory research methodology to understand experiences of American Muslim children regarding Islamophobia. It was conducted with 26 children participants (N = 26) studying in Grades 5–8, at an Islamic School in the United States. Drawings and semi‐structured focus group discussions were used for data collection. Findings revealed that Islamophobia should be characterized through a unique child‐centric lens, to recognize how it affects the lives of Muslim children. Narratives and silences of female participants highlighted how gendered Islamophobia has become so common for young Muslim girls that it has become ‘invisible.’ It was seen that children's perception of Islamophobia often becomes a projection of parental influences. Participants put forward resilience techniques, which pave ways for social work interventions with Muslim children. The study ends with a school social work model directed towards prevention and reduction of Islamophobia, which educators, schools and social workers can implement.