Young British Muslims: Between Rhetoric and Realities 2016017507, 9781472475558, 9708420941, 9781315546070

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Table of contents :
Half Title
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
1. Researching young Muslim lives in contemporary Britain
Concluding remarks
2. Child sexual exploitation and young British Muslim men: a modern moral panic?
To categorise, sift and differentiate: the legacy of biological taxonomies
The ethnicity and crime debate: reflections on British Asian-Muslim populations
Tenets of a moral panic
Asian grooming: a modern moral panic?
Concluding remarks
3. Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?
Young British Muslim women and higher education
A note on young Muslim women and marriage
Some final thoughts
4. Urban young Muslims: cross cultural influence in the face of religious marginalisation and stigmatisation
‘The whites [and Asians] have become black’: street culture and its
pervading influence among youth
Urban Muslims – so who or what are we actually dealing with?
Positive peer pressure: STREET – ‘For you from people like you’
Natural born leaders?
5. Finding a voice: young Muslims, music and religious change in Britain
Young Muslims in Britain
A history of Muslim musicians in Britain
Contemporary Muslim music: an emerging generation
British Muslim musical soundscapes
Contemporary nasheeds
Aashiq al-Rasul
Amir Awan
Syncretic styles
Sami Yusuf
Pearls of Islam
Muslim hip hop
Poetic pilgrimage
Quest Rah
6. Religious values and political motivation among young British Muslims
Spiritual ties
Ties that bind
Ties that bond
Facilitating political mobilization
Concluding remarks
7. Virtual youth: Facebook Groups as identity platforms
Facebook as a social action tool
Young British Muslim’s use of Facebook Groups
Evaluating Facebook Groups as public identity platforms
Group observations
8. Digital Orientalism: Muslim youth, Islamophobia and online racism
Online ‘race’ thinking
Orientalism offline
The online community
Amir Khan and online racism
Amir Khan = ‘race thinking’ online
Asda – Muslim ‘baiting’ online
Twacism – online racism
9. Re-fashioning the Islamic: young visible Muslims
Experiences of sartorial alienation
Representing and marketing the Islamic
Integrating ethics and aesthetics
The poetics of spirituality
The exoticism of the East
Urban street style
Islamic through inscription
Islamic and other fashions
Notes on contributors
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Young British Muslims

Young British Muslims continue to generate strong interest in public discourse. However, much of this attention is framed in negative terms that tend to associate them with criminality, religious extremism or terrorism. Focusing instead on other aspects of being young, Muslim and British, this volume takes a multidisciplinary approach that seeks to ‘normalise’ the subjects and focus on their everyday lived realities. Structured into three sections, the collection begins by contextualising the study of young British Muslims, before addressing the sensitive social issues highlighted in the media and finally focusing on a variety of case studies which investigate the previously unexplored lived experiences of these young people. With contributions from scholars of religion, media and criminology, as well as current and former practitioners within youth and social work contexts, Young British Muslims: Between Rhetoric and Realities will appeal to scholars who have an interest in the fastest growing, most profiled minority demographic in the UK. Sadek Hamid is currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Liverpool Hope University. He has written widely about Islam in Britain, young Muslims and Islamic activism. He is author of Sufis, Salafis and Islamists: The Contested Ground of British Islamic Activism (2016) and co-editor of Youth Work and Islam: A Leap of Faith for Young People (2011).

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Young British Muslims Between Rhetoric and Realities

Edited by Sadek Hamid

First published 2017 by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN and by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10017 Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2017 selection and editorial matter, Sadek Hamid; individual chapters, the contributors The right of the editor to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Names: Hamid, Sadek, editor. Title: Young british Muslims : between rhetoric and realities / edited by Sadek Hamid. Description: New York ; London : Routledge, 2016. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2016017507 | ISBN 9781472475558 (hardback : alk. paper) Subjects: LCSH: Muslim youth--Great Britain. | Muslim youth--Great Britain--Social conditions. Classification: LCC BP65.G7 Y68 2016 | DDC 305.6/9708420941--dc23 LC record available at ISBN: 978-1-4724-7555-8 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-315-54607-0 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd.


Foreword Preface Introduction 1 Researching young Muslim lives in contemporary Britain

vii ix 1 15


2 Child sexual exploitation and young British Muslim men: a modern moral panic?



3 Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?



4 Urban young Muslims: cross cultural influence in the face of religious marginalisation and stigmatisation



5 Finding a voice: young Muslims, music and religious change in Britain



6 Religious values and political motivation among young British Muslims



7 Virtual youth: Facebook Groups as identity platforms BROOKE STORER-CHURCH




8 Digital Orientalism: Muslim youth, Islamophobia and online racism



9 Re-fashioning the Islamic: young visible Muslims



Notes on contributors Index

171 173


An article in the Times newspaper by a Bradford imam explains the impact of the ‘War on Terror’ on a generation of young, British Muslims and the incessant media drizzle of vilification and demonisation: Most of them have to negotiate the challenges of identity, integration and inclusion on their own, sometimes having to act as their own parents and influenced by their peers or social media. Imagine their frustrations when no one is listening to you and giving you a voice, when your parents don’t understand, when the mosque doesn’t understand – and the imam definitely does not understand you.1 This is one eloquent window into the lived experience of a section of young, British Muslims. However, as this welcome collection of essays makes clear, alongside the frustrations articulated by the imam, young, British Muslims are not simply passive victims but finding their voice, or better voices. What comes across insistently in this volume of essays is the plurality of Muslim communities in Britain today. Some have been ignored, such as the South London urban community comprising Black and White converts and second generation African Muslims. Here they are given voice, and represented by an insider well placed to describe how the imaginative award-winning project Strategy to Reach Empower & Educate Teenagers – STREET – has employed converted, ex-gang members in outreach programmes to offer a non-violent, Muslim counter-narrative to vulnerable and marginalised young men, susceptible to the preachers of violent extremism. More generally, it is refreshing to read a collection of essays which is not all about 'radicalisation' but rather how across the country, young Muslims are experimenting in myriad ways to empower themselves. This is especially evident in the two chapters which address how an ‘iMuslim’ generation are using the social media to develop an expansive sense of Muslim belonging, whereby they challenge distorted or diminished readings of Islam whether by other Muslims or non-Muslims. The subversive power of humour is part of their toolkit. Other essays reflect on the complex lived experience of young, British Muslims to challenge familiar binaries. So young women are shown as increasingly well-educated



and successful professionals who choose to wear the hijab. They problematise two familiar tropes of Muslim women. The first as either victims of patriarchy or threatening jihadis, the second as facing a choice between ‘secular’ or ‘fundamentalist’. The hybrid identities of many of these young women challenge such binaries. This is illustrated in their dress codes which combine Islamic canons of modesty with fashion. They embody agency and action in moving outside the ethnic norms of their parents in exploring new styles which reflect their multiple identifications. Music is another field which indicates the creativity and experimentation of this new generation. Here we hear of a mathematics graduate who works in the City of London for a major bank and who writes, records and performs his own devotional music – nasheeds – consciously inspired by Michael Jackson. Then there are two Jamaican converts whose Muslim ‘hip hop’ includes lyrics unapologetically political and feminist. Finally, there is the syncretic style of ‘Islamic pop’ associated with the name Sami Yusuf, a music he has termed ‘Spiritique’. Once again, such musical styles point to the growing diversity of tastes and constituencies among British Muslims. The collection also includes an excellent reflective piece on the challenge to academia to capture the complexity and ambivalence of the lived experiences of young Muslims. In the course of which, the author argues, in a wonderful phrase, for ‘an ethical gesture of humility before the ordinary sublimity of “real life”’. In all, this is a valuable volume for policy makers, educators and academics alike. Dr Philip Lewis Author of Young, British and Muslim

Note 1 Alyas Karmani, ‘You won’t gain anything by stereotyping us’, (The Times, 4–03–15).


This volume grew out of a conference that Prof. Linda Woodhead and I co-organised at Manchester Town Hall in November 2011. The ‘Young, British and Muslim: Academic Research and Real Lives’ event discussed the quality of existing research on young Muslim Britons, examined how they are often the subject of negative media coverage and showcased positive examples of their everyday experiences from the findings of the AHRC/AHRC Religion and Society Programme. It was that rare instance that brought together young people, academics, youth work practitioners and other professionals to discuss the topic and share their perspectives. This collection continues the spirit of that meeting by surveying the various aspects of being young, Muslim and British by taking a multidisciplinary approach that interrogates popular perceptions and seeks to ‘normalise’ the subjects’ daily lived realities. Putting together edited volumes can be quite challenging and they are sometimes held up for years due to all sorts of unforeseen circumstances. I am grateful to all of the colleagues who graciously contributed to the project and remained patient through the delays in production. This text would not have been possible without Anshuman Mondal, Muzammil Quraishi, Abdul Haqq Baker, Carl Morris, Asma Mustafa, Emma Tarlo, Brooke Storer-Church, Amir Saeed and Fauzia Ahmed. Some of the authors joined at quite a late stage but enriched the final product with their cutting edge research. I thank Linda for her encouragement, Peta Ainsworth and Rebecca Catto for helping to organise the original event. I am also grateful to David Shervington for his interest in this book and for facilitating its publication. S.H.

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Over the last decade, Muslims in Britain have in many ways become communities living under pressure (Abbas, 2005). No other minority is subjected to the same level of public scrutiny and hostility. Muslims are often accused of holding values that are antithetical to liberal democracy and amongst other allegations, are said to be disinterested in gender equality, distrust the concept of freedom and prefer theocratic modes of governance. This antipathy is sustained by frequent negative media framing of issues related to Islam and Muslims – as journalist Nesrine Malik has pointed out ‘there is now a cycle of Islamic scare stories so regular that it is almost comforting, like the changing of the seasons’, to the point where it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, where ‘Halal meat is on every menu; sharia law is taking over; the niqab is undermining the nation’ (Malik, 2014). This intense focus can be understood within the context of the hyper visibility of Western Muslims and societal fears about violent radicalisation which make Islam the explanatory mechanism for public debate about immigration, crime, and terrorism. Some politicians and commentators (Caldwell, 2009) are concerned that growing Muslim minorities pose a cultural threat to the secular, liberal traditions of Europe where they make between 4–8 per cent of the population in several states such as France and Germany and even greater numbers in some major cities. According to some projections, by 2030 the number of European Muslim communities may increase up to 58 million – many of which will be young people.1 For some hostile observers, this changing demographic profile could possibly reconfigure the makeup of Western societies as young adult Muslims become social actors among ageing populations with relatively lower reproductive rates. These anxieties appear to be vindicated by the disproportionate attention given to extremist voices illustrated in newspaper headlines such as ‘Surge in Muslim youth who want Islamic rule in Britain’ (Daily Express), ‘Extreme youth: the Muslims who would swap law for Sharia’ (The Times) and ‘Young British Muslims “get more radical”’ (Daily Telegraph) (Field, 2011). This type of rhetoric does nothing to increase understanding of what the majority of young British Muslims think or the realities of how they lead their lives, and is clearly misrepresented by sections of the popular media (Poole, 2009, Baker et al., 2013). Sensationalist journalistic coverage of these complex issues unhelpfully stigmatises an entire community (Petley and



Richardson, 2011) and fails to engage the broader social, economic cultural factors that contextualise sensitive issues and has the effect of flattening young Muslim Britons into one-dimensional characters that are objectified and rarely given the opportunities to speak for themselves. According to certain polls, young Muslims are less integrated, have less in common with their non-Muslim peers, possess ambivalent loyalties and indicate a preference for Islamic schools and Sharia law (Mirza et al., 2007). Such surveys suggest self-segregating, religiously conservative attitudes while other findings point to Muslims displaying greater levels of loyalty and identification with Britain than the wider population (Moosavi, 2012). Woodhead (2011) has pointed out that ‘raw data needs to be supplemented by other evidence. Much is commissioned by media outlets and driven by current concerns and impressions such as “radicalisation” and loyalty to Britain.’ In their approach and questions, there is a tendency to treat young Muslims as different, exceptional from other youth. Furthermore, there is need for broader, long-term research grounded in different theoretical and temporal horizons that countervails this exceptionalisation and instead normalises young British Muslims.2 Whilst this normalisation is taking place in some academic research, Gilliat-Ray (2010) has noted that much of the literature produced in the aftermath of the events of 9/11 and 7/7, has focused on a narrow range of topics that either discusses British Muslim identity, multiculturalism, social cohesion or public policy. Many studies continue to fixate on the appearance of Muslim women rather than the issues that are more important in their everyday lives and immediate concerns such as education, equal access to employment, housing, health and childcare (Catto and Woodhead, 2011). Gilliat-Ray also observed that much of what is termed as research on British Muslim communities uses a ‘problemcentred approach’ that has produced influential crisis-driven publications from hostile journalists and right-wing think-tanks which can reinforce prejudice and legitimate existing government policies.3 These representations can be reduced to three ‘main categories: gender (the hijab/forced marriage/honour killings triad), gangs and grooming, and terrorists/extremists’ (Alexander, 2013: 6). These frames exceptionalise and Otherize Muslims, perpetuate the idea of a ‘Clash of Civilisation’, maintain a prejudiced consensus among media and politicians about the ‘Muslim Question’ (Norton, 2013) and can have the real world effect of increasing anti-Muslim hate crime. Conscious of how these negative tropes have become default ways of discussing Muslim youth, this volume instead offers alternative perspectives by humanising their everyday lived experiences. This collection draws upon the empirical research of both Muslim and non-Muslim specialists who offer a range of theoretically informed, qualitative case studies that challenge the dominant representations of British Muslim young people. Whilst illuminating some of these contentious debates, the contributors also draw attention to less well known features of emerging Muslim youth subcultures. Where matters of faith are explored, an ‘everyday lived Islam’ approach has been adopted which seeks to reflect how Muslim young people interpret and practice religious values

Introduction 3 in their daily lives rather than content of scriptural prescriptions (Dessing et al. 2013). The terms ‘youth’ and ‘young people’ are used here for descriptive ease, as analytical categories they refer to a chronological age scale. As social constructs, they suggest certain behavioural characteristics which describe a period of transition between the expectations of childhood and adulthood. Though variations of the phrase ‘British Muslim young people’ are used throughout this text, they are not used in a monolithic way and as will be made clear, the divergences on the basis or gender, ethnicity, religiosity, class and place among other variables are recognised. The Muslims of Britain are a relatively youthful population. Of the nearly three million Muslims recorded in the 2011 census, 33 per cent are under 15 years old (compared to 19 per cent in the overall population) almost 50 per cent are under 24 years old (30 per cent rest of the population) and despite making only 4.8 per cent of the population, overall constitute 8.1 per cent of all school-age children (5 to 15 year olds).4 Like members of other faith communities, they are heterogeneous and interpret and apply faith in varying degrees and therefore, religion influences the lives of their young people in different ways. While most retain some form of emotional attachment to their faith, they are not necessarily observant in their everyday lives. Some alternate between phases of commitment and indifference, while others are deeply observant. The majority subscribe to hyphenated self-descriptors, which most often is the term ‘British Muslims’ – an indigenised identity intended to anchor their faith into the cultural context of Britain. However, an isolationist minority for religious or ideological reasons refuses to see themselves as anything more than ‘Muslims living in Britain’. On the other hand, many also have strong secular outlooks and may instead foreground their ethnic or national identification over a religious one, while others strategically deploy different identities depending upon context. Despite evidence of increasing religiosity among British Muslim young people (Lewis, 2007, GilliatRay, 2010, Field, 2011), the majority appear to be ‘Cultural Muslims’, in that they ‘practice’ their faith in a limited way. This represents perhaps 75–80 per cent of Muslim communities in Western societies (Ramadan, 2010); the remaining 20 per cent or so take their religion seriously on a daily basis. Young Muslims are therefore ‘living Islam’ in various ways, expressed through their values, tastes and individualised levels of personal piety and public practice. Some of the most important studies of minority youth in Britain were pioneered at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) in the 1970s and 1980s. Originally led by social theorists such as Stuart Hall, Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, the scholars at the CCCS became well known for their inter-disciplinary approach to the study of culture. Using post-structuralist, feminist and critical race theories, they produced a number of seminal studies on youth, race and class such as Resistance through Rituals (1977), Learning to Labour (1977), and Policing the Crisis (1978) and were noted for the use of semiotics to interpret the cultural meanings of various youth subcultural forms. For Hall and Jefferson (1976), subcultures represented a form of resistance to parental culture or the dominant culture of society,



sometimes an ideological struggle, but they were often a way of marking individual and territorial difference in spaces of social interaction. For young men this manifested in the performance of acts of machismo, sartorial styles, tastes in music or which football team they supported. Shain (2012: 42) has argued these ‘early subcultural theories focused on the inherent masculinism of youth subcultural research and the invisibility or marginal treatment of girls and women’. McRobbie (McRobbie and Garber, 1976) and other feminists have explained this absence within 1970s youth cultural studies in terms of the gendered specific and segregated forms of leisure adopted by young people and methodological critiques which identified the ‘tendency to “read off” the experiences of young people from various signs without interrogating their “lived” experiences’ (Shain, 2012: 43). In contrast, other ethnographies on African-Caribbean and Asian youth written in the 1970s (Khan, 1977) interpreted subcultural forms of youth resistance in terms of a ‘culture clash’ and effectively pathologised them as victims. For instance, Asian young men were often framed as trying to escape inflexible, restrictive parental cultures and young Asian women were said to be disadvantaged by strict, conservative patriarchal cultures and religious practices. This perception changed in the 1980s and 1990s as more sociological literature reflected the complex, wider socio-economic contexts that shaped these young people’s lives. Up to the late 1980s, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi Muslim youth were identified in terms of their race and ethnicity both academically and by self-description. Until then, religion was associated with ethnicity as families attempted to transmit their ethno-cultural values to their children. However, as the Britishborn generation grew older, they questioned these practices and explored other identities as was most clearly visible after the ‘Rushdie affair’ in 1989. The controversy surrounding the book became a turning point in the self-definition for many young Muslims in the early 1990s. It marked the culmination of other transformations taking place within communities as localised campaigns for the accommodation of faith in state schools became sites of national debate and resistance and the articulation of a politicised ‘Muslim Consciousness’ (Meer, 2010). Global events were also increasingly having local impacts following a series of international crises in the 1990s that included the first Gulf War, Bosnian conflict, Chechnya and Kosovo. Academic literature accordingly reflected the increasing tendency of young people to foreground religion as a primary marker of identity. Hutnik (1985) was one of the first researchers to document the adoption of self-described religious identities that appeared in the early 1990s. Other significant studies to track this change include Islamic Britain (Lewis, 1994), Britannia’s Crescent (Joly, 1995) and Islam in Transition (Jacobson, 1998). This shift became normalised and was an inevitable, organic outcome of young people trying to find their place in society. Knott and Khoker’s (1993) research was among the first to explore young British Muslim women’s perspectives on the relationship between race and religion. Studies of these emerging British Muslim identities proliferated during the 1990s and were well established by the early 2000s. A representative example is Hussain and Bagguley’s (2005) studies

Introduction 5 of Pakistani young men after the riots of 2001. Their work found that a multiplicity of factors contributed to identity formation such as ethnicity, language, gender, culture, personal and social experiences, class and political allegiances, context and time. They also observed that self-description was not fixed to single issues or symbols, but held together in several identifications, some more strongly than others and used flexibly according to circumstance. This reiterates Werbner’s (2002) observations which suggest that even though many young British Muslims feel part of an Ummah – global Muslim community or a specific ethnic diaspora identity – they choose to alternate between them and integrated different elements creatively, generating a variety of hyphenated, bi-cultural self-definitions. Ameli (2002), in his study of the development of British Muslim identities in London, identified an array of different types which he called: ‘Nationalist’, ‘Traditionalist’, ‘Islamist’, ‘Modernist’, ‘Secularist’, ‘Anglicized’, ‘Hybrid’ and ‘Undetermined’. This multiplicity of social identities was extended further by Kabir’s (2010) study of young Muslim Britons and their viewpoints on religion, citizenship and loyalty. Kabir observed that they held highly nuanced understandings of national identity which defined their sense of belonging as primarily British, but also employed self-descriptors such as ‘situational’, ‘dual’, ‘multiple’, ‘single’ ‘ethnic’, ‘single’, ‘national’, ‘religious’, ‘mixed race’, ‘confused’, ‘apprehensive’ and ‘transnational’. This complexity undermines the simplistic false choice which suggests young people should choose to be either Muslim or British and that the two are somehow conflicted. In the area of social interactions, Hopkins (2006) in his research on young Scottish Muslim males observed that Muslim young men enact masculinity through gendered performances, which varied in relation to other men and women, in different places and times. They also held ambivalent positions about gender equality by maintaining that women were equal within Islam but also subscribed to patriarchal attitudes. This resembles the findings of Archer’s (2003) study, which showed how young men combined aspects of Asian patriarchy and popular black ‘gangsta’ subcultures to assert their male privilege. Samad (2004) broke new ground by exploring the relatively understudied social class dimensions of these emerging youth identities, which is an interesting area of British Muslim communities that are increasingly displaying internal economic and geographic stratifications. The visibility of faith identities unintentionally confirmed stereotypes that associate Islam with violence. The inner-city disturbances in Northern towns in the summer of 2001, 9/11, and 7/7, various bomb plots and stories of young people travelling to Syria all appear to justify fears about a ‘Muslim youth problem’. This is in addition to other stories about Muslim men grooming white young women, has created a moral panic making them the new ‘Folk Devils’ (Cohen, 2002) of our times. The stigmatising of young Asian Muslim men in particular, echoes the framing of young Black men as muggers back in the 1970s. The shift in representation of young Muslim males occurred most noticeably after the 1995 riots in Bradford, which changed from them being portrayed as passive, victims of ‘culture clash’ to a problem group that threatened social order. This later solidified into a widespread perception after the 2001



riots when public discourse became permeated with headlines about ‘out of control Asian youth’, ‘segregated communities living parallel lives’, and ‘Asian youths enforcing “no-go” areas for whites’. Rather than engage with socioeconomic factors of poor housing, educational underachievement, high unemployment rates and the provocation of racist groups – these urban crises were said to be the result of insufficiently integrated young Asian Muslim men prone to gangs and violence – which was essentially a rehashing of the cultural deficit arguments used to explain the behaviour of African-Caribbean males after the riots in 1981 (Shain, 2012). The essentialisation of Muslim youth took a religious turn following the 7/7 bombings and has alternatively labelled them as ‘radicals’, ‘extremists’ or ‘terrorists’ over the last decade. With the emergence of the proto-state ISIS, an unexpected recasting of young Muslim women occurred following the stories in the national press of ‘jihadi brides’ travelling to Syria. They are now both portrayed as passive and aggressive, as commentators struggled to make sense of why seemingly well-educated young women from stable families chose to immigrate to a warzone. Analysts have explained that there are both ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors that draw Muslim young people to violent radicalism. In the case of young women, research (Saltman and Smith, 2015) suggests that the push factors include feeling socially and culturally isolated from mainstream British culture, adopting the view that Muslims as a global faith community are being persecuted and anger over a perceived lack of international action in response to this persecution. The pull factors are said to be the pursuit of a Utopic ‘Caliphate state’, the desire for belonging, sisterhood and a romanticisation of this experience. While there is a genuine problem around violent extremism, the scale has been grossly overstated (Kundnani, 2013). The vast majority have no interest in radical religious ideas, are more likely to be pre-occupied with the everyday challenges of adolescence and just being young, Muslim and normal. This being said, they are faced with a set of distinct social, cultural and political challenges to their emotional well being which affects their full participation in public life. According to research conducted by the Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH) (Malik et al., 2007), the top concerns troubling British Muslim young people were: ‘relationships’, mental health issues, religion, committing of offences and rehabilitation after leaving the criminal justice system, sexuality and sexual health. The MYH (2010) later commissioned research specifically on the issue of relationships as this continues to be the area most Muslim youth seek counselling in. Concerns and problems with different kinds of relationships top the reasons young people asked for advice. Marriage-related issues ranged from how to get married, dealing with the pressure to get married, marital problems, to those wanting to talk about matters related to sexuality and child sexual abuse. The latter report also underlines early findings about most mainstream youth support services being inadequately equipped to deal with Muslim young people and the need for more specialist, faith-sensitive agencies. Among the most pressing issues confronting Muslim youth is religious prejudice. Islamophobia has

Introduction 7 demonstrably grown after 9/11 and magnified further after the 7/7 attacks (Allen, 2010). A report by Forward Thinking (2008) found that Muslim young people felt demonised by the media, some felt disengaged from British society and others worried about their increasing marginalisation and effect on career prospects. One of the most penetrating surveys of British Muslim youth opinion in recent years is the Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims report (Ahmed, 2009). It offers valuable insights into young people’s perspectives in the areas of education identity, belonging and citizenship, community leadership, media, policing and crime. Its findings reveal the impact of racial and religious prejudice, why many youth don’t feel fully accepted as British citizens and how they cope with the pressure to prove their loyalty to the state. Many British Muslim youth also feel a deep sense of inequality and often feel unable to voice their concerns or express dissent for fear of being accused of being ‘unBritish’ (Ahmed and Siddiqi, 2014). Evaluating the forces that have impacted upon the lives of young British Muslims in the last decade, the recent report Muslim Youth Speak: Ten Years On (Shaffi, 2015) notes that a generation has grown up in the shadow of 7/7, increasing Islamophobia, rise in far-right racism and disappointment after the Arab Uprisings. Young Muslim women in particular feel vulnerable and are often on the receiving end of anti-Muslim hate crimes. In addition, many young people complain that sectarianism and tribal politics within their communities alienate them from most mosques which are not ‘user friendly’. Instead of being places for inspiration and spiritual development, a significant number of young Muslims view mosques as being stuck in ‘time warps’, which are intimidating spaces, rather than being places of sanctuary, restricted to ‘prayer and sharia law’, instead of responding to the challenges young people face on a daily basis (Shaffi, 2015: 18). The report also reiterates how difficult social problems such as substance addiction, rising involvement in crime and anti-social behaviour, gang-related violence and disproportionately high numbers of Muslim young men in the criminal justice system are still not being adequately addressed within communities. Partly as a response to these growing social problems, a significant number of Muslim youth have turned towards their faith. Public religiosity became visible in the 1990s and grew out of the complex convergence of internal dynamics, external events and the affects of revivalist trends. I have written elsewhere about how a set of global Islamic trends competed to shape the religiosity of second- and third-generation Muslims (Hamid, 2016). Spiritual Sufis, conservative Salafis and politicised Islamists were instrumental in shaping re-Islamisation trends in British Muslim communities between the mid-1980s into the early 2000s. They laid the basis for much of the religious identity politics that were both liberatory and integrationist while others hardened into exclusionary, separatist discourses. They tried to resist cultural assimilation, attempted to respond to the failures of traditional mosques and institutions and provided alternative Islamic youth subcultures. This activism also tapped into a sense of a globalised Muslim consciousness, which enabled these groups to mobilise Islamic symbols and political causes for their work in Britain. They also helped



to democratise access to religious knowledge and created new types of informal popular religious leadership in the West, which are most visibly illustrated in the proliferation of religious programming on satellite channels, websites and social media and increase of institutions and faith-based commercial goods and services. As this activist second generation became older, they helped to shape thirdgeneration Islamic youth subcultures in music, fashion and media. This new trend is simultaneously religiously conservative, experimental and countercultural. Herding in Inventing the Muslim Cool: Islamic Youth Culture in Western Europe (2013), argues that one of the central ideas of this developing subculture is the notion of ‘halal’, or what is religiously permissible. This is no surprise as the essence of faith-based youthscapes attempts to synthesise religious values with non-Muslim contexts. For instance, rap music is ‘Islamised’ to address juvenile delinquency, honour killings and terrorism as well as the redemptive possibilities of faith. Herding also suggests a typology of motivations for participants of Islamic youth culture and provides a four-fold categorisation of ‘Campaigners’, ‘Improvers’, ‘Empowerers’ and ‘Proselytisers’. Young people in the first group share a socio-political objective which broadly intends to challenge the misrepresentation of Islam in the media. The central motif in the second group is to improve the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims through dialogue. The third seeks to help young Muslims to develop an appreciation for their religion and encourage them to creatively respond to the challenges they face. The final type explicitly aims to educate young people about their faith and invite non-Muslims to embrace it. Britain’s new Islamic landscape is shared by those who remain committed to second-generation trends as well as those who developed creative pursuits and civil society initiatives. Examples of the latter include agencies such as the Nafas drug education and rehabilitation project, groundbreaking charities such as Al-Mizan Trust, the National Zakat Foundation and a plethora of themed social events organisations such as the Emerald Network. These developments are suggestive of a generational change of attitude towards religion and changes of interpretation within religion. This volume tackles some of the issues identified above and is structured into three sections. The first provides a context to the study of British Muslim young people as a category, the second addresses some of the most controversial issues and the third provides detailed case studies of the interests and activities that animate their everyday experiences. In the next chapter, Anshuman Mondal offers a reflection on some of the wider theoretical questions pertaining to the difficulties, challenges and opportunities of being young and Muslim in Britain today. He argues that for ‘academic research to be “research”, one cannot simply describe; one must analyse, evaluate and deploy categories and concepts even as one becomes insistently aware that the experiences which we are attempting to analyse are constantly exceeding the horizons of our thought’. Building on the observations developed in his book Young British Muslim Voices, Mondal asks ‘What does being Muslim mean to first and second generation Muslims?’ He argues that intergeneration differences shape how religion is understood and

Introduction 9 practised and that Islam has become individualised and more ideological, though not necessarily political and points to the need for more nuanced, deeper studies that go beyond reproducing static, surface impressions of highly complex realities. The next three chapters tackle some of the most frequently discussed stereotypes that surround British Muslims. In chapter two, Muzammil Quraishi interrogates the alarming Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) stories of recent years and considers these incidents against broader historic and politicised, social constructions of deviant populations. He examines the extent and motivations of the offending behaviour and demonstrates that is a far more complex phenomenon than is projected. The media is also critiqued for its role in distorting public perceptions which associate deviant sexual behaviour with young Asian Muslim males. Moreover, Quraishi demonstrates that ‘as with many forms of crime, that the true extent or incidence of CSE is far greater than officially reported and is likely to cross a wide range of ethnic groups, demographics and vulnerable populations’. This is a crucial fact that needs to be recognised and highlighted in the public debates about ‘Asian grooming’. In chapter three, Fauzia Ahmed asks rhetorically – do young British Muslim women need rescuing? then disrupts various popular representations of young Muslim women and dissects the images of victimhood and securitised narratives around radicalised ‘jihadi brides’, by demonstrating their agency in two particular spheres – Higher Education and personal marital choices. Ahmed contextualises this debate by locating it within ‘familiar racialized and gendered discursive frameworks used to objectify and infantilise Muslim women’ that are used to ‘reify the notion that Muslim women are objects of pity, who do need “rescuing” – from Islam, from their families, from their cultural backgrounds – and that “the West” is the source of their freedom and safety.’ Events over the last 10 years have hardened these perceptions and been exploited in the politics of representation inside communities as well as in the realm of social policy. In the next chapter, Abdul Haqq Baker focuses on some of the challenges facing second-generation African-Caribbean and White Muslim converts from inner city contexts against the back drop of wider social, religious and economic marginalisation. He argues that ‘despite the apparent influence and success of black culture permeating many aspects of youth and street culture, Black Muslims remain – to some degree – marginalised, especially those coming from urban backgrounds’. He suggests that a further layer of marginalisation within Muslim communities displaces African-Caribbean and convert voices which ‘on the whole have been muted in part due to more vocal representations by the larger, predominant South Asian Muslim population in Britain’. This chapter offers an empirically rich account of these struggles and how the youth work of the STREET organisation in South London supports them. This initiative is also important as it offers an example of how religious extremism has been successfully challenged and points to an intervention model which will be of interest to policy makers and practitioners. The case studies section begins with Carl Morris exploring how young Muslims use music to affect religious change by examining some of the key



issues surrounding this cultural phenomenon and broadly outlines the contours of this artistic scene. Morris suggests that contemporary Muslim musicians represent a new and distinctive wave of cultural producers, rooted in the dynamics of contemporary British social and cultural landscapes. He argues that ‘socio-cultural and ethical-religious motivations…are inextricably woven into the sonic and semantic fabric of Muslim music’ and describes the different forms within this subcultural Muslim music scene which includes traditional nasheeds, rap, hip-hop and syncretic styles. He illustrates with a number of examples, such as the performance poetry of two British female converts, Poetic Pilgrimage. The poetic duo confound female Muslim stereotypes and playfully challenge what it means to be hip and happy by offering religious entertainment and telling stories in an experimental way which synthesizes religion, nationality and global pop culture. These musicians are presented as the forefront of a cultural transition that integrates spirituality, political activism and religious practice. In the following chapter, Asma Mustafa discusses the religious and political incentives that drive social activism among British Muslim young people by focusing upon the interaction of three factors: spiritual ties, the concept of Ummah and religious group consciousness and contends that their motivation is driven primarily by religious interest. She explores why this religio-political culture is relevant and how Islam shapes their political outlook, regardless of how or whether they practice their faith. Respondents in Mustafa’s research ‘feel that Islam positively encourages their contribution to the local community and society they are from’. This led to many feeling that ‘being Muslim means that being involved in politics is imperative, it is a duty’. This case study illustrates how religious reference points are mobilised to interpret history and used as the incentive for a shared faith-based transnational consciousness. Given the importance and omnipresence of digital technologies, we have two chapters on how the millennial generation use the internet. In the first, Brook Storer-Church examines the emergence of online architecture and behavioural norms common to Facebook and explores its use in public platforms for identity debates, activism and articulation of British Muslim identities. She finds a plurality of uses which range from ones that bolster identity, provide information on Islam to non-Muslims, to those who use Facebook groups as discussion forum. Overall, these groups intend to ‘disrupt dominant discourses about Muslims and Islam, engaging in both analysis of mainstream media messages’ and also act to help disseminate other online content such as blogs, news stories that ‘express their citizenship in the everyday.’ Virtual activism is probed further in the chapter by Amir Saeed as he captures expressions of online British Muslim youth identity and investigates how Islamophobia is discussed and challenged by young people. He does this by presenting an analysis of how young British Muslim boxer Amir Khan is (mis)represented by racists and reclaimed in social media battles. He notes that people ‘online may feel less accountable to social norms and mores as when they are offline, while ambiguous identities and cyber processes blur notions of authenticity and acceptability in racialized debates’. This process also illustrates how media-literate young people are



‘redefining their own narratives and challenging dominant hegemonic stereotypes’, signaling the shift from being consumers to producers of information. The final contribution is an updated chapter from Emma Tarlo’s important book Visibly Muslim, which outlines the emergence of Islamic Fashionscapes in Britain. Tarlo in the beginning of her chapter asks whether it is ‘possible to look both fashionable and Islamic?’ The affirmative answer traces the various routes by which young British women and men interpret religious texts to justify their sartorial choices. Being ‘Visibly Muslim’ manifests in the way young Muslim women and men express their religious identities and that dressing in this way can fulfil a wide variety of functions that include expressing religious identity, demonstrating solidarity with a global Ummah and ‘looking good’, through the creation of attractive clothing styles which has been described by some observers as producing a ‘Hijabi Barbie’ subculture (Hoque, 2015). All of these contributions demonstrate the multiplicity of young British Muslim experiences and illustrate how their identities are not static but evolving in a continuous state of ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’, and show how their lifestyle choices are remade in the context of wider national and global dynamics. Whilst the literature on this subject is slowly expanding (Ahmad and Seddon, 2012, Kabir, 2010), many other dimensions to being young and Muslim in Britain have yet to be fully explored. These include those who express gay, lesbian and transgendered identities (Yip, 2005) to those who no longer consider themselves as believers and identify as agnostic or Atheists (Cottee, 2015). Also much more research could be conducted on drugs misuse, gang membership or how the rehabilitation of ex-prisoners impacts upon the families and communities in which they live. Most of the current research and policy discussion in relation to British Muslim communities is still focused on the ‘Preventing Violent Extremism’, agenda (Kundnani, 2013). A huge amount of public money has been spent on preventing and countering violent extremism with very little tangible success (O’Toole et al., 2015). The Prevent policy became the means by which governments relate to British Muslims (Kundnani, 2009) so that the dominant social discourse has constructed them as a ‘suspect community’ and security threat. This securitisation of British Muslims is ‘reflected in the widespread questioning by politicians and in the media of whether Muslims can be integrated into European society’ (Hussain and Bagguley, 2012: 5) but sidelines the everyday concerns and achievements within British Muslim communities and neglects more pressing concerns around structural disadvantage and discrimination. As young British Muslim citizens continue to be at the centre of negative public discussion, the need to foreground positive instances of social engagement assumes an increasing urgency. It is hoped that this collection makes a contribution towards this process.

Notes 1 See Grim and Karim (2011: 14). Other demographers have predicted the lower figure of 25 million, see Laurence (2012: 254).



2 See Catto and Woodhead (2011) This was most vividly demonstrated by the backlash to The Sun headline in November 2015 when it claimed that one in five ‘British Muslims Sympathise with Jihadis’. The story was forcefully challenged by academics for its flawed methodology and interpretation of data collected by the Survation polling company. It even led to the researcher who conducted the poll to distance himself from the way the results were used by the newspaper. For further background see Duncan (2015). 3 For example, see journalist Melanie Philips’s writing on British Muslims or reports produced by Centre for Social Cohesion before it was subsumed into the Henry Jackson Society as well as the publication from Policy Exchange. 4 Britain’s Muslim population is relatively young. See British Muslims in Numbers Briefing 1. Muslim Council of Britain. June 2015: uploads/2015/05/BMINBriefing1_1June15.pdf. Accessed 21 January 2016.

References Abbas, T. (2005) Muslims in Britain: Communities Under Pressure. London: Zed Books. Ahmad, F. and Seddon, M.S. (2012) Muslim Youth: Challenges, Opportunities and Expectations. London: Continuum. Ahmed, S. (2009) Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims. Leicester: Policy Research Centre, Islamic Foundation. Ahmed, S. and Siddiqi, N. (2014). British By Dissent. London: Muslim Youth Helpline. Alexander, C. (2013). The Muslim Question(s): Reflections from a Race and Ethnic Studies Perspective. The New Muslims. London: Runnymede Trust. Allen, C. (2010) Islamophobia. Aldershot: Ashgate. Ameli, S. R. (2002) Globalization, Americanization and British Muslim Identity. London: Islamic College for Advanced Studies Publications. Archer, L. (2003) Race, Masculinity and Schooling: Muslim Boys and Education. Buckingham: Open University Press. Baker, P., Gabrielatos, C. and McEnery, T. (2013) Discourse Analysis and Media Attitudes: The Representation of Islam in the British Press. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Caldwell, C. (2009). Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West. London: Penguin. Catto, R. and Woodhead, L. (2011) Young, British and Muslim: Academic Research and Real Lives. AHRC Programme Event Report. 17 December 2011. http://www.religiona research_and_real_lives. Accessed 21 January 2016. Cohen, S. (2002) Folk Devils and Moral Panics. London: Routledge. Cottee, S. (2015) The Apostates: When Muslims Leave Islam. London: C. Hurst & Co Publishers. Dessing, N. M., Jeldtoft, N., Nielsen, J. S., Woodhead, L. (2013) Everyday Lived Islam in Europe. Aldershot: Ashgate. Duncan, Pamela (2015) Monday, 23 November. Does the Sun’s Claim about UK Muslims’ Sympathy for Jihadis Stack Up? The Guardian. reality-check/2015/nov/23/does-the-suns-claim-about-uk-muslims-sympathy-for-jihadisstack-up. Accessed 21 January 2016. Field, C. D. (2011) Young British Muslims since 9/11: A Composite Attitudinal Profile, in Special Issue, Muslim Young People in Britain and Russia: Intersections of Biography, Faith and History. Shterin, M. and Spalek, B. (eds), Religion, State & Society, Vol. 39, Nos. 2/3 June/September 2011. Routledge.



Forward Thinking (2008). Forgotten Voices: Developing More Effective Engagement with Muslim Youth and Communities. London: Forward Thinking. Gilliat-Ray, S. (2010) Muslims in Britain: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Grim, B. J. and Karim, M. S. (2011) The Future Global Muslim Population Projections for 2010–2030. Washington, DC: Pew Research Center Forum on Religion & Public Life. Hall, S. and Jefferson, T. (1976) Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-war Britain. Hutchinson Education. Hall, S. et al. (1978) Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State and Law and Order. London: Macmillan. Hamid, S. (2016) Sufis, Salafis and Islamists: The Contested Ground of British Islamic Activism. London: I. B. Tauris. Herding, M. (2013). Inventing the Muslim Cool: Islamic Youth Culture in Western Europe. Transcript. Germany. Hopkins, P.E. (2006) ‘Youthful Muslim masculinities: gender and generational relations’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 31, 3, pp. 337–352. Hoque, A. (2015) British-Islamic Identity: Third-Generation Bangladeshis from East London. London: IOE Press. Hussain, Y. and Bagguley, P. (2005) ‘Citizenship, Ethnicity and Identity: British Pakistanis after the 2001 “Riots”’, Sociology, 39(3), 407–425. Hussain, Y. and Bagguley, P. (2012) Securitised Citizens: Islamophobia, Racism and the 7/7 London Bombings. The Sociological Review, 60(4), 715–734. Hutnik, N. (1985) ‘Aspects of Identity in Multi-ethnic Society’, New Community, 12(2), 298–308. Jacobson, J. (1998) Islam in Transition: Religion and Identity among British Pakistani Youth. London: Routledge. Joly. D. (1995) Britannia’s Crescent: Making a Place for Muslims in British Society. Aldershot: Avery. Kabir (2010) Young British Muslim Voices. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Khan, V.S. (1977). The Pakistanis, in J. L. Watson (Ed.), Between Two Cultures. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Knott, K. and Khoker, S. (1993) Religious and Ethnic Identity among Young Muslim Women in Bradford, New Community, 19: 596. Kundnani, A. (2009) Spooked: How Not to Prevent Violent Extremism. London: Institute of Race Relations. Kundnani, A. (2013) The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror. London and New York: Verso. Laurence, J. (2012) The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims: The States Role in Minority Integration. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Lewis, P. (1994) Islamic Britain: Religion, Politics and Identity. London: I. B Tauris. Lewis, P. (2007) Young, British and Muslim. London: Continuum International Publishing. Malik. N. (2014) The Random Muslim Scare Story Generator: Separating Fact from Fiction. The Guardian. Monday, 12 May. muslim-scare-stories-media-halal-sharia-niqab. Accessed 21 January 2016. Malik, R., Shaikh, A. and Suleyman, M. (2007) Providing Faith and Culturally Sensitive Support Services to Young British Muslims. Leicester: Muslim Youth Helpline and National Youth Agency.



McRobbie, A. and Garber, J. (1976) ‘Girls and Subcultures’, in S. Hall and T. Jefferson (Eds), Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-war Britain. London: Hutchinson Library. Meer, N. (2010) Citizenship, Identity and the Politics of Multiculturalism: The Rise of Muslim Consciousness. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Mirza, M., Senthilkumaran, and Zein Ja’far, A. (2007) Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism. London: Policy Exchange. Mondal, A.A. (2008) Young British Muslim Voices. Santa Barbara: Greenwood World Publishing. Moosavi, L. (2012) Muslims Are Well-integrated in Britain – But No One Seems to Believe It. Tuesday, 3 July. The Guardian. free/belief/2012/jul/03/muslims-integrated-britain. Accessed 21 January 2016. Norton, A. (2013) On the Muslim Question. New York: Princeton University Press. O’Toole, T. et al. (2015) ‘Governing through Prevent? Regulation and Contested Practice in State-Muslim Engagement’, Sociology, 20 February: 1–18. Online First. Petley, J. and Richardson, R. (2011) Pointing the Finger: Islam and Muslims in the British Media. London: One World. Poole, E. (2009) Reporting Islam Media Representations of British Muslims. London: I. B Tauris. Ramadan, T. (2010) What I Believe. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Saltman, M. E. and Smith, M. (2015) ‘Till Martyrdom Do Us Part’: Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon. London: Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Samad, Y. (2004) ‘Muslim Youth in Britain: Ethnic to Religious Identity’. Paper presented at the international conference ‘Muslim Youth in Europe: Typologies of Religious Belonging and Socio-cultural Dynamics’, Edoardo Agnelli Centre for Comparative Religious Studies, Turin, 11 June. Shaffi, W. (2015) Muslim Youth Speak Ten Years On. Leeds: Leeds Muslim Youth Forum. Shain, F. (2012). New Folk Devils Muslim Boys and Education in England. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books. Werbner, P. (2002). Imagined Diasporas among Manchester Muslims: The Public Performance of Pakistani Transnational Identity Politics. Oxford: James Curry. Willis, P.E. (1977) Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs. New York: Columbia University Press. Yip, A. K. T. (2005) Religion and the Politics of Spirituality/Sexuality: Reflections on Researching British Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Christians and Muslims. Fieldwork in Religion, 1(3), 271–289.


Researching young Muslim lives in contemporary Britain1 Anshuman A. Mondal

Introduction Since 2001, the figure of the ‘young Muslim’ has become a prominent object of knowledge within British public discourse. Anxieties that a disaffected and radicalized Muslim youth might become willing recruits capable of perpetrating acts of terrorism on behalf of al-Qaida and its affiliates have compelled government, media, academia and third sector organizations such as think-tanks and charities to commission, produce, publish and disseminate research, analysis, policy reports, narratives and images that constitute the discourse (in the Foucauldian sense – disciplined and regulated by institutional mechanisms of state and nonstate power) about young Muslims in Britain today. Much, indeed most, of this has corroborated and confirmed existing tropes and connotations about Islam and Muslims that have become sedimented into the collective cultural habitus over centuries; some has contested and challenged them. In the course of this chapter, I will reflect on some wider theoretical questions pertaining not just to the difficulties, challenges and opportunities of being young and Muslim in Britain today as reflected by this knowledge, particularly that branch of it that might be called ‘academic research’, but also its relationship to the ‘real life’ that exists both within and beyond the sum of its representations. These are questions I have dwelt upon a great deal, ever since I embarked upon the project that was eventually published as my book Young British Muslim Voices – not least because, as an academic literary critic, my professional training usually concerns itself with fictional as opposed to real lives, although the relation of fiction to reality is, of course, a complex and vexed one2 (Mondal, 2008a). The real lives I encountered during the course of that research problematized for me the very nature of academic research itself for the problem I constantly encountered was the tension between the singularity of individual experience and the necessary abstractions that ensue when those experiences are translated, via our analytical concepts and categories, into knowledge. For, in a strict epistemological – as opposed to, say, existential or ethical – sense, experience does not signify until and unless it is absorbed and understood through categories of knowledge. To put it another way, an experience is not significant until it is seen to be part of a larger pattern or system that speaks to,


Anshuman A. Mondal

and is spoken by, the ideas and concepts that motivate and determine our knowledge. The central problem framing academic research into real life is, therefore, the relation of the general to the particular, of analysis to description. It is one that Dipesh Chakrabarty, in his book Provincializing Europe, characterizes as the tension between the analytical tradition (which operates through abstractions, generalizations, conceptualization and ‘grand narratives’), for whom the paradigmatic figures are Marx and Weber, and the hermeneutic tradition (which concentrates on the particular, the singular, the unique, and operates through a mode of ‘thick’ description), which follows Heidegger and the phenomenologists (Chakrabarty, 2000, p. 18). The other way to put this is to evoke the definitive problematic within social analysis between structure and agency. The point that I take from Chakrabarty, however, is that one cannot choose one or other of these positions but rather both – shuttling back and forth between the analytical and general, the hermeneutic and the particular (Chakrabarty, 2000, p. 107). That is, for academic research to be ‘research’ one cannot simply describe; one must analyze, evaluate and deploy categories and concepts even as one becomes insistently aware that the experiences which we are attempting to analyze are constantly exceeding the horizons of our thought. Experience, then, is always slipping through our fingers, an excess that always remains partially outside knowledge even as we try to bring it into discourse. One might argue that this ‘excess’ is the space of agency, of individuality, of liberty, of desire, of play – and of the necessary failure of knowledge to grasp its object, of truth to be fully present in any given truth claim. Acknowledgement of this fact involves an ethical gesture of humility before the ordinary sublimity of ‘real life’ that is seldom undertaken by those of us who have both invested (government, funding bodies, universities) and have an investment in (researchers and our readers) the truth claims that ‘academic research’ purports to deliver. This is perhaps particularly the case with respect to the purely analytical tradition that constitutes the bulk of contemporary quantitative social research. As an illustration of how the hermeneutic tradition might consistently disturb and unsettle the truth claims of its analytical counterpart, I would like to stage here a reading of Eric Kaufmann’s demographic analysis of religion and religious politics in contemporary Europe, and in particular his critique, using quantitative methodology, of ‘Eurabian’ claims that the population growth of Muslims in Europe will soon result in the chimera of a majority-Muslim Europe (hence the term ‘Eurabia’) sooner or later3 (Kaufmann, 2010a). I should add that I find Kaufmann’s careful scrutiny and forensic demolition of the ‘Eurabian’ thesis entirely welcome. The supposed demographic ‘threat’ of Europe’s growing Muslim population to its culture and identity is a dogwhistle trope in the many contemporary debates about Muslims, immigration, integration and multiculturalism: barely audible at mainstream frequencies, it nevertheless possesses a shrill power to conjure up from the submerged depths of Europe’s collective unconscious all sorts of phantoms and fantasies about

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the Muslim ‘Other’. Such claims invariably prey on ignorance and fear and wither when exposed to the cold light of fact and the illumination of rational analysis. And yet it is the nature of this illumination that I am concerned with here. Kaufmann’s conclusions concerning the veracity of the Eurabian hypotheses rest on the claim that ‘[d]emography is the most predictable of social science, much more so than economics’ (p. 57), and whilst this is perfectly adequate in assessing the Eurabianist arguments since these are made on demographic grounds, other aspects of his wider argument are problematic precisely because there are good reasons to doubt the maxim he proposes that ‘demography is destiny’ (p. 57). Notwithstanding the fact that the hard data of demography – population statistics across a range of criteria – must be translated into and, in a Derridean sense, necessarily supplemented by its other, discursive prose, the science of demography – and, by extension, the discourses of all the human sciences such as sociology, economics, political science, etc. – is subject to the insistent and troubling pressure of questions concerning language, representation and interpretation. Its supposedly objective ‘facts’ can, therefore, never be separated from the subjective nature of these troubling questions. Although demography may be perfectly capable of quantifying and projecting the size and scope of populations and groups, it is much less adequate in analyzing the nature of those populations, especially when it comes to questions concerning culture, ethnicity, identity and ideology. These depend less on the numbers of people per se (the realm of demography) and more on what goes on inside their heads. It would be a crude kind of empiricism that truly advances the idea that demography can analyze and illuminate the more nebulous aspects of social life in the way psychology or the study of ideology and culture can, but that is what Kaufmann seems to suggest (the ‘demography is destiny’ epithet is clearly an allusion to Freud’s ‘biology is destiny’). Unsurprisingly, he addresses the question of ‘integration’ primarily in demographic terms. ‘Intermarriage is arguably the best barometer of assimilation’ (p. 57), he suggests and, leaving aside the many slippages that conflate ‘integration’ with ‘assimilation’, I am inclined to agree: it is arguable. In fact, it is highly contestable since it could be argued that intermarriage represents merely one particular form of integration and not the sum of all possible paths towards it. Of course, intermarriage is exactly the kind of integration a demographer can evaluate because it can be reduced to bare statistics. As it happens, Kaufmann himself acknowledges other – more important – forms of integration that are also demographically analyzable. He notes, for example, the ‘assimilation’ of European Muslim fertility rates to ‘host society norms’ – an ‘integration’ based on the movement towards European family, work and social patterns but not on intermarriage (p. 58). This is just one aspect of the Europeanization of Muslim immigrants that many studies have already noticed (including a Europe-wide survey of Muslim attitudes, opinions and behaviours produced by The Open Society Institute),4 some of which can be measured, whilst others must be observed and analyzed using different methodology.


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Another path to integration that Kaufmann considers is ‘secularism’. Being an ideological issue, this is clearly less comfortable terrain for a demographer, but Kaufmann tackles it anyway. ‘If Muslims are turning into secular Europeans,’ he says, ‘demography is immaterial.’ However, they are not (which is true, although of course, quite a lot are becoming more secular – as Kaufmann’s own data shows later in the article); and Kaufmann points out that Muslims under 25 are as devout as those over 55. ‘There is little evidence that time modifies this pattern,’ he observes (p. 58). The trouble is, there is also little evidence that it does not – Kaufmann’s point here is based on comparing only two generations. Even if the second generation remains as devout as the first, can we therefore conclude that future generations will follow the same pattern? If the data stretched over a longer period – say, over four or five generations – then probably we could, but given the short time that Muslims (as a significant social group) have been in Europe, the evidence is just not available yet to be able to draw such a conclusion (although the synchronic comparison with West Indians remains valid). Beyond that, there is a deeper point to be made. Even if the numbers of devout first- and second-generation Muslims remain the same, it does not follow that the nature of their faith does too. What does being Muslim mean to first- and second-generation Muslims? There is quite a lot of evidence to suggest that Islam is understood and practised very differently by these generations. Islam is more individualized, faith-based, and more ideological (though not necessarily in a political way) for younger Muslims than for their elders, for whom it formed part of the fabric of their social lives and community structures. This is very important because it is central to assessing the validity of the argument concerning the growing conflict between ‘seculars’ and religious ‘fundamentalists’. As I have argued elsewhere, there are emergent ways of being a devout Muslim in Britain and Europe that occupy a variety of positions in the wide middle ground between becoming ‘secular’ (whatever that might mean) and being ‘fundamentalist’ (Mondal, 2008b, 2009). Kaufmann, however, sees no such possibilities, and he prepares the ground for his wider argument by suggesting that if younger Muslims are changing, they are becoming more ‘fundamentalist’. To do this, he cites the (in)famous statistic from the flawed (but not uninteresting) Policy Exchange report on British Muslims published in 2007, which suggested that 37 per cent of Muslims aged 16–24 wanted Sharia law compared to just 17 per cent of those aged over 55 (Mirza et al. 2007). This sort of data, on which Kaufmann bases his wider argument, illustrates very precisely the limitations of quantitative as opposed to qualitative social and cultural analysis because it tells us almost nothing about what those 37 per cent take the question to mean. What does ‘Sharia’ mean to them? In what sense do they ‘want to live’ under it? In Young British Muslim Voices I asked my respondents (aged 16–30) to talk about their attitudes to Sharia law. Of those who did express a desire for Sharia, when pressed to explain what that might mean in practice, all hedged their responses with so many qualifications that the concept of Sharia itself became completely attenuated. It represented nothing more than a utopian

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desire to see some kind of correlation between their faith and the reality of living as a minority in a non-Muslim society (Mondal, 2008a, pp. 130–132). It is a symptom of living amongst what Ziauddin Sardar calls the ‘wreckage of [their] heritage’ (Sardar, 2004, p. 156) – an elegaic yearning for a lost time when Islam was dominant, and also a sign that being a Muslim in Europe is still a work in progress. The lived complexity behind such raw statistics is one of the reasons I find the argument presented in the second half of Kaufmann’s article unconvincing. Another reason is the fact that it rests on a continual conflation of three different terms that can mean very different things in relation to the kind of faith people profess, but which are lumped together as equivalents in order to suggest an ideological faultline between ‘seculars’ and ‘fundmentalists’. The argument rests on the conflation of ‘devout’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘conservative’ and ‘orthodox’ (there is, likewise, a conflation of ‘liberals’ and ‘seculars’). ‘Across all creeds, theological conservatives are expanding at the expense of seculars and liberals’ (p. 59), says Kaufmann, and whilst this may be true does this mean that all ‘practising Catholics’ are ‘theologically conservative’ just because they happen to ‘attend church regularly’? In turn, are they equivalent to the ‘devout’ European Muslim women who ‘pray daily’, and are they, in their turn, really comparable to the ‘women most in favour of Sharia law’ in ‘the large cities of the Muslim world’ (p. 59)? Moreover, when comparing the 86 per cent of ‘practising Catholics’ who voted for John F. Kennedy in 1960 with the 74 per cent of ‘young conservative Catholics’ who opted for George W. Bush, is Kaufmann really comparing like with like? Only if you take ‘practising’, ‘conservative’, ‘devout’, and ‘orthodox’ to be descriptors that are self-evidently equivalent. In turn, these can all only be adduced as composite evidence for a basic distinction between ‘seculars’ and ‘fundamentalists’ if all of the above are equivalent to ‘fundamentalist’. That is highly improbable and unconvincing, both as a matter of fact, and of logic. Even more problematically, having lumped all these various shades of believers together under the rubric of ‘fundamentalism’, Kaufmann argues that there is now an interfaith fundamentalism that augurs the coming ‘culture war’ between ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘seculars’. The strategic alliances he describes are no doubt happening, but the idea that such co-operation between certain organizations somehow prefigures a battle within society at large rests on the dangerous – and totally mistaken – assumption that such groups truly represent all religious believers in their respective faiths (except the ‘liberals’ who are, of course, ‘secular’). Islamists, for example, represent a tiny fraction of Europe’s Muslims, and the same is true of other fundamentalist groups from other faiths. To suggest otherwise is to give such groups unwarranted importance and representative prestige. In effect, these cumulative conflations have the rhetorical effect of emptying out the chaotic, unorganized, highly fluid and mutable middle ground of ‘real life’ in favour of a spurious polarization. It is precisely this middle ground that offers the necessary room for accommodation between different ideological trends in the ‘Pluropa’ that Kaufmann rightly forecasts; in erasing it, Kaufmann


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denies the very possibility of accommodation between different sets of beliefs. Actually, far from relying purely on analysis of ‘hard’ data, Kaufmann’s argument in fact rests on an interpretative metaphor, that of divergence rather than convergence. There are, of course, undeniable trends towards ideological divergence in contemporary Europe, but there are also counter-trends towards convergence. Islamisms, for instance, are declining as an ideological force amongst European Muslims at grassroots level, as other forms of Europeanized Islam emerge to challenge and confront it. These have converged towards rather than diverged from European ideological norms. The point is, in order to penetrate the fog of complexity that surrounds social life in Europe today, demography may help but it is almost certainly insufficient. Quantitative social analysis of this kind has its place – and Kaufmann uses it well where it is appropriate – but a proper understanding of our social relations also requires painstaking qualitative analysis of what people actually think, feel and believe – and the ways in which they express them. Having said that, qualitative social analysis, which does take into account the hermeneutic tradition to varying degrees, is also subject to the failure of knowledge to which I have referred. As with the kind of quantitative analysis epitomized by Kaufmann, we should be careful to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and to acknowledge the rich insights that qualitative research has produced – including insights about precisely the kind of ‘excess’ that demonstrates the limits of the very disciplinary knowledge that produced them. When Reina Lewis, in her analysis of ‘how e-commerce and forms of fashion mediation online are meeting the needs of women who are motivated to dress modestly for reasons of religious belief’, turns to the ‘carefully staged art interventions[s]’ of the ‘Niqabitches’ in Paris, whose intervention into the debates surrounding the introduction of a new law proscribing the wearing of the burqa in France was viewed by a global audience on YouTube, she suggests that they are mocking the ‘fantasy’ of a law which seeks to ‘understand’ the intention behind the sartorial choices of Muslim women (that is, to bring it into a certain kind of disciplinary knowledge) (Lewis, 2011).5 What Lewis is highlighting is their dramatizing – through art, which is part of the hermeneutic tradition – the agency of such Muslims, which resists that understanding by remaining beyond its comprehension. Similarly, the experiences of fashionably modest Muslim women can exceed the authority of traditional religious gatekeepers, and the virtual space of the internet is potentially a space where this agency can be articulated and expressed. Again, when Lewis speaks of modest fashion adopting mainstream clothing rather than ‘items of “traditional” or so-called “ethnic” clothing’ we are not only seeing a younger generation that has grown up with consumer culture co-opting fashion into the discourses of faith, but also an agency that resists the orientalising discourses that ‘fix’ faith identities within categories of Otherness – ‘traditional’, or ‘ethnic’ clothing being markers of an essentialized difference. Kaye Haw’s work on young Muslim women’s ‘everyday’ sense of belonging, religion, and identity is particularly useful for reflecting on some of these

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questions that I am exploring. In particular, her concept of an ‘internal felt contradiction’ is especially illuminating as it dramatizes for me some of the difficulties I am trying to articulate (Haw, 2010, p. 347). Her aim is to explore a ‘fuller notion of agency’ that helps to explain ‘how immediate context and locality is a mediating space actively created by individuals’, which has ‘the potential to explore the external lived worlds of individuals and their internal “felt” worlds’ (p. 347). I am entirely in sympathy with addressing the structure/ agency problem in this way, and the concept of an ‘internal “felt” contradiction’ evokes Raymond Williams’ equally wonderful conceptualization of experience as determined by ‘structures of feeling’ (Williams, 1977). And yet one might also suggest that ‘contradiction’ is a logical concept and is thus part of a system of analysis: at the level of experience, a contradiction is not apparent as a contradiction but rather felt as an anxiety, an ambivalence, a tension or an agony, perhaps.6 How these felt experiences are brought into discourse, both by the experiencing self who articulates them, and the academic researcher who interprets them according to certain parameters of knowledge is a difficult theoretical and ethical problem involving a certain degree of indeterminacy because, to an extent, these feelings exceed the very language and discourse by which they are described. We are invariably left, therefore, with an approximation that is inadequate to the task at hand – a problem that vexed me constantly while I was writing Young British Muslim Voices. But if experience always gives knowledge the slip, knowledge always, to a greater or lesser extent, has its revenge. If, as Foucault reminds us, knowledge is power, then for experience to become empowered it must enter knowledge, and that which may briefly exceed power/knowledge must at some point become absorbed by it. In today’s world, within the jurisdiction of the modern state, appeals to social justice must be articulated with reference to social science and that, invariably, folds experience back into the smothering embrace of power/knowledge (Chakrabarty, 2000, p. 107). As Foucault reminds us in his essay ‘Governmentality’, the word ‘statistic’ carries within it its original purpose as a science that is put to work in the service of the state – statistics are ‘the science of the state’ (Foucault, 1991, p. 96). If we look again, carefully, at the Niqabitches video we can see that the humorous, playful excess of the Niqabitches is stalked nevertheless by the power which they resist – the law, the state, as represented by the policewoman, whose photograph (even if ‘private’) symbolizes the surveillance of power, of the co-option (however partial) of ‘resistance’. For the intervention of the Niqabitches in the political discourse of France to carry any symbolic weight, their playful provocation must sit ambiguously inside (as well as exceeding) that discourse in order to signify as an intervention in the first place. Kaye Haw’s careful delineation of the process of ‘distillation’ exemplifies the wider point very well indeed. Observing a ‘hardening of identity’ amongst the Muslims she interviewed in her recent research, she suggests that such ‘distillation’ of identity often occurs within marginalized groups ‘to both preserve their sense of dignity and survive’ (Haw, 2010, p. 357). The ‘essence’ with


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which they begin to identify – expressed by the tropes, ‘I am a Muslim and nothing else’ or reversion to a ‘pure Islam’ cleansed of cultural influences (whether interpreted in modernist/progressive or conservative/literalist terms) – ‘may or may not’ be chosen by individuals ‘in order to resolve ontological uncertainty but even so it still shapes the notions they have of themselves’ (p. 358). Paradoxically, this can further facilitate and intensify the social exclusion to which they are responding by speaking to and reinforcing the categories of thought which exclude them as ‘Other’ in the first place. Here, all the contradictory, conflicting and singular experiences of Muslims in Britain today are, by the cunning of reason, trapped in the exclusionary discourses of power that they otherwise exceed. It would be a mistake to assume, I think, that the excess therefore no longer remains. To say that experience must become absorbed into the disciplinary paradigms of power/knowledge in order to function within the political apparatus of the state is not to say that all experience is bound to be absorbed by the power structures that govern us – for that would totally negate the concept of agency itself. Rather, it is to acknowledge that the space of agency is never free from the pressure of the power, but neither is it doomed always to be co-opted by it. In that sense, you could say that agency is located neither within the machineries and channels of state power nor outside it, but is the effect of a constant shuttling between empowerment (by which I mean the power that accrues from speaking within the categories of existing discourses) and excess (the singularity of experience that evades such categories). In a recent review of Emma Tarlo’s book Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith, I noted that: her great skill as an ethnographer lies precisely in her ability to read and interpret the variety of sartorial strategies deployed by visibly Muslim women in contemporary Britain with due attention to both the agency they exert over their own self-image and identity and what she calls ‘the agency of the hijab [or niqab etc.]’, which to a greater or lesser extent (depending on context) constrains their room for manoeuvre. Whilst individual experimentations with style may collectively change the ‘landscape of visibly Muslim dress practices’ over time (and has, in fact done so), each individual is not absolutely free to make their sartorial choices. Rather, the sartorial strategies of any given individual are framed and shaped by ‘local and global religious and political forces’, such as those aligned to conservative politico-religious interpretations of Islamic sartorial norms, and the normative pressures in the West on covered women to uncover. (Mondal, 2010) This is not a fixed situation but a fluid one, an encounter that is constantly being replayed on shifting sands. Accordingly, Tarlo therefore favours the term ‘navigations’ when demonstrating how visibly Muslim women encounter and negotiate the conflicting pressures upon them (Tarlo, 2010). Something

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similar, I would argue, is happening with respect to the ‘distillation’ discussed by Kaye Haw. In my research, I noticed this too (not just the ‘I am just a Muslim’ trope, but also ‘Muslim first, British second’), but alongside this I also noticed what might be termed a dispersal of identity – and the two often co-existed within the same individual, and are certainly contemporaneous within British Muslim communities. This dispersal registered a relative degree of comfort with an understanding of identity as multiply determined – 100 per cent Muslim and 100 per cent British, as one of my respondents put it. This is undoubtedly linked to the individualization of religious faith and identity amongst younger Muslims, but is also connected to a positive evaluation of multiculturalism, and live-and-let-live attitude to cultural and religious difference.

Concluding remarks My point is that this, too, is part of the ‘felt’ contradiction of young British Muslims today. Their identities are becoming simultaneously more sharply defined as Muslim and blurred by their ‘felt awareness’ (perhaps recognition in some) that they inhabit many identities all at once. How any given Muslim individual navigates these tensions is difficult for them to articulate because the situation is so fluid and unstable. Perhaps it is, in fact, articulated most eloquently by non-verbal forms of communication such as dressing and fashion. The sartorial ensembles put together by young British hijabi women as examined by Emma Tarlo and Reina Lewis in their research – multi-layered outfits drawing on mainstream non-Muslim fashions as well as Muslim traditions of dress and aesthetics – embody their complex, multiple and hybrid identities; both they and their outfits express a newly emergent British Muslim identity that is itself a multi-layered ensemble. It is quite possible that some of these young women also speak of their identity in ‘distilled’ terms as ‘simply Muslim’, or speak of it sometimes like that, and sometimes otherwise. Others may talk in terms of multiplicity, pluralism, hybridity and so on. The language they use to express themselves is the language by which they come to be known to us – and that language may, or may not, be adequate to the predicament of representing them within knowledge. In other words, Samuel Beckett’s famous dictum in Worstward Ho! holds true for social research as much as it does for literary representation: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’ (Beckett, 2009). In alerting us to the impossible demand ‘real life’ makes of knowledge and representation, Beckett reminds us of the ethical obligation both to acknowledge, in humility, that impossibility as well as to work once more, never endingly, towards the task for which our knowledge is imperfectly equipped. If, like Sisyphus, our perpetual labour is condemned to perpetual failure, it is not doomed to fail always in the same way; we need not always repeat our mistakes. The double-edge of this dictum, which is both utopian and pragmatic, is both a challenge and an inspiration.


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Notes 1 This chapter began as a response to the keynote addresses by Reina Lewis and Kaye Haw at ‘Young, British and Muslim: Academic Research and Real Lives’, AHRC Religion and Society Conference, Manchester, 22 November 2011. I would like to thank Linda Woodhead and Sadek Hamid for inviting me to respond to their excellent work, and to Sadek Hamid for insisting on its publication. 2 I have explored the complex negotiations at stake in representing ‘real’ life in an essay on Ed Husain’s The Islamist. The essay first appeared in the July 2008 edition of the current affairs magazine Prospect and Husain replied the following month, and a subsequent response by me appeared on the Prospect website. For a longer, more scholarly version of the essay, see Mondal (2012). 3 I will be focusing on the article ‘Europe’s Return to the Faith’ published in Prospect in 2010. The article is a segment of Kaufmann’s Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First century (Kaufmann, 2010b). Citations will be from the article not the book. 4 Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities, ‘At Home in Europe Project’, London: Open Society Institute, 2009. 5 The video (French and English versions) can be seen at niqabitch [accessed 23 January 2013]. 6 This is a particularly apposite instantiation of Hegel’s famous aphorism that the owl of Minerva (that is, knowledge) only flies at dusk (that is, after the event).

References Beckett, Samuel (2009) Company / Ill Seen Ill Said / Worstward Ho / Stirrings Still: WITH Ill Seen Ill Said AND Worstward Ho AND Stirrings Still. London: Faber and Faber. Chakrabarty, Dipesh (2000) Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Foucault, Michel (1991) ‘Governmentality’ in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller, eds. The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Haw, Kaye (2010) ‘Being, Becoming and Belonging: Young Muslim Women in Contemporary Britain’, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 31:4, 345–361. Kaufmann, Eric. (2010a) ‘Europe’s Return to the Faith’ Prospect, 169, April, 56–59. Kaufmann, Eric (2010b) Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century. London: Profile Books. Lewis, Reina (2011) ‘Keynote address’ to ‘Young, British and Muslim: Academic Research and Real Lives’, AHRC Religion and Society Conference, Manchester UK, 22 November (unpublished). Mirza, Munira, Senthilkumaran, Abi, Ja’far, Zein (2007) Living Apart Together: British Muslims and the Paradox of Multiculturalism. London: Policy Exchange. Mondal, Anshuman A. (2008a) Young British Muslim Voices. Oxford: Greenword World Publishing. Mondal, Anshuman A. (2008b) ‘A Muslim Middle Way?’ Prospect, 149, August, 24–27. Mondal, Anshuman A. (2009) ‘British Islam After Rushdie’ Prospect, online, http://, accessed 30 June 2016. Mondal, Anshuman A. (2010) ‘Review of Emma Tarlo, Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith’, The Middle East in London, 7:4, 17.

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Mondal, Anshuman A. (2012) ‘Bad Faith: The Construction of Muslim Extremism in Ed Husain’s The Islamist’ in Rehana Ahmed, Peter Morey and Amina Yaqin, eds. Culture, Diaspora and Modernity in Muslim Writing. London: Routledge, pp. 37–51. Sardar, Ziauddin (2004) Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim. London: Granta. Tarlo, Emma (2010) Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith. Oxford: Berg. Williams, Raymond (1977) Marxism and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Child sexual exploitation and young British Muslim men A modern moral panic? Muzammil Quraishi

Introduction This chapter invites the reader to examine recent well-publicised incidents of Asian/Muslim men being convicted of sexual offences committed against children across various locations in the UK including Rochdale, Oxford, Derby and Rotherham. For a prudent academic evaluation, the chapter directs the reader to consider these incidents against broader historic and politicised social constructions of deviant populations, Islamophobia and the role of the media in distorting public perceptions of the extent and motivations of the offending behaviour. The first part of the chapter will explore the pitfalls of categorisation of minority populations and crime leading to a discussion about the processes of racialisation which maintain historic racial hierarchies. The discussion will then address the constituent ingredients of a criminological moral panic before examining whether the same concept applies to the cases of Asian grooming and child sexual exploitation (CSE).

To categorise, sift and differentiate: the legacy of biological taxonomies There exists a well-established theoretical critique of the origins of the modern concept of race which highlights the obsession of some Enlightenment scholars with categorising humans based on pseudo-scientific hierarchies (Immerwahr, 1992; Eze, 1997). Within such hierarchies, White Europeans judged themselves to be the adjudicators of reason, which was the preserve of White Europe, beyond which lay savagery, barbarism and immorality (Pocock, 1999; Quraishi & Philburn, 2015). Biological taxonomies, originally applied to the world of plants, found purchase via the ideas of Charles Darwin, with early anthropologists and biologists to categorise the imagined varied races of mankind encountered by European explorers in Asia, Africa and the Americas. Early biologists claimed that humans could be identified to belong to distinct biological races, within a hierarchy of evolution. The White ‘race’, was deemed to be top within this racial hierarchy, superior in intellect and moral capacity to subordinate ‘darker’ races. Some scholars, particularly those belonging to the Philadelphia Anthropological School even advanced upon the theory of polygenesis, namely that

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subordinate races owed their origins to different animal species along the route of evolution (Sebastiani, 2003). Emphasising physical differences between human beings also fed into the ways in which different cultures, religions and philosophies came to represent types of ‘otherness’ embedded in Orientalist literature and art and spread through European colonial conquests (Said, 1978; 1997). Whilst science, and parts of society, have moved on from the biological fixedness of race, the legacy of these ideas about subordinate, deviant and less intelligent ‘races’ and people are clearly evident in contemporary society, in images portraying visible minorities as irrational, violent or belonging to another less advanced civilisation (Sivanandan, 2006; Kundnani, 2007; Fekete, 2009). Therefore, although the hard scientific determinism of race, as brutally characterised by the eugenics movement for example, may have been dismantled, the attribution of certain negative traits and characteristics to identifiable ethnic or religious groups is a definite part of the new landscape of racism (Kundnani, 2007; Fekete, 2009). Furthermore, scholars have prudently asserted that a distinction could be drawn between the visibility of the ‘race’ of ‘groomers’ versus the invisibility of the same in relation to media and official reporting of high-profile white male celebrity sexual offenders culminating in Operation Yewtree (Miah, 2013; 2015).

The ethnicity and crime debate: reflections on British Asian-Muslim populations We have arrived in the UK at a position whereby there is a statutory duty to record the ethnicity of the offender/suspect/defendant and victim in relation to various stages of the criminal justice system. Whilst the recording of such data may perpetuate racial stereotypes and fuel divisions, the governmental obligation stems from a noble aim to locate and challenge discrimination within the institutions which constitute the criminal justice system. Official Census and population data tends to record ethnicity rather than religion and the earliest studies on Muslim populations began by examining the ‘Asian’ category (Quraishi, 2005). The ‘Asian’ category in the UK refers to persons with origins in the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) and the earliest criminological studies pointed towards a crime rate amongst Asians which was lower than their white counterparts in proportion to their density in the population as a whole. When statistics began to disaggregate the ‘Asian’ population from the Black population and then further to break down the Asian population, we see that Indians were under-represented whilst Pakistanis and Bangladeshis moved to over-representation in official criminal statistics (Quraishi, 2005). Since prison is the only part of the criminal justice system which records religion, scholars have been able to trace the rather sudden burst in the recorded Muslim prisoner population over the last two decades although the ethnic composition of Muslims in prison does not match that of the wider British population with Black Muslims disproportionately represented (Spalek & El-Hassan, 2007; Quraishi, 2008). Elsewhere, in the system, analysts are prompted to interpret


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faith affiliation from ethnicity, on the educated assumption based on Census data that most Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, and up to a third of Indians, claim Islam as their religion (ONS, 2012). The annual release of information about the growing Muslim prisoner population, coupled with the state’s counter-terrorism response following 9/11 has contributed to significant academic interest in the surveillance, policing and treatment of British Muslim populations (Beckford et al. 2005; Marranci, 2009a; 2009b; Patel & Tyrer, 2011; Kundnani, 2007; Spalek & Lambert, 2007; Fekete, 2009; Allen, 2010). The general thrust of this scholarship is to assert that ‘Muslims’, rather than ‘Asians’, are the latest ‘folk-devils’ in Britain used as political scapegoats by the far right and vilified and projected as a deviant enemy within. The securitisation and crime debate around Muslim populations is simply one aspect of the broader phenomenon of Islamophobia in contemporary society. Since the Runnymede Commission’s Report of 1997 on Islamophobia scholars have charted the impact of discrimination and hatred towards Muslims in Britain and Europe across the spheres of education, politics, culture and media as well as within different parts of the criminal justice system (Poole, 2002; Poole & Richardson, 2006; Sayyid & Abdoolkarim, 2010; Petley & Richardson, 2011; Morey & Amina, 2011; Shaik, 2011; Helbling, 2012; Ansari & Farid, 2012; Klug, 2012; Kumar, 2012; Morgan & Poynting, 2012).1 Islamophobia is related to the traditional concept of racialisation, which is the mechanism through which minority populations become the subject of negative discourse (Miles, 1982). More specifically, racialisation describes the interaction of social processes through which people become defined as a group with reference to their biological or cultural characteristics which are then negatively reproduced and compounded by individuals and institutions. A key aspect of the process of racialisation is the significance of class and power relations through which subordinated classes become the subject of detrimental constructions which are then maintained (Quraishi and Philburn, 2015). It is the combining of the concept of racialisation with criminalisation which accounts for the racial loading of certain terms such as ‘riot’ or ‘grooming’ (Webster, 2007). Below we will discuss how such negative projections arise and are maintained within the lens of moral panics.

Tenets of a moral panic It was Stanley Cohen’s research on mods and rockers in the 1960s which firmly established the sociological concept of a moral panic. Cohen examined media reports which depicted youth belonging to distinct organised and affluent gangs engaged in significant violence in Clacton during the Easter bank holiday in 1964 (Cohen, 1973). Cohen’s research found little evidence of organised gangs, and that the youth were largely unskilled or semi-skilled manual workers rather than affluent, and the extent of serious violence and criminal damage was minimal. What is important to grasp here is, that although the initial behaviour may not have been worthy of comment, the media exaggeration of the deviant

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behaviour has the potential to initiate a process which may be termed ‘deviancy amplification’ (Wilkins, 1964: 90). Disproportionate, exaggerated and emotive media coverage of an event, such as public disorder, raises anxiety amongst the general public to which the police become obliged to react via the deployment of more resources and increased or proactive surveillance. The increased police surveillance leads to more suspects being arrested, charged and prosecuted which in turn is used as evidence to justify the initial media concern (Hall et al., 1978). Throughout the decades there have been clearly identified moral panics about a wide range of social and crime problems including skinheads and football hooligans; street crime, drugs, pornography and video nasties to mention a few (Muncie & McLaughlin, 2001). Furthermore, some scholars in the field of social work have also asserted that theories of moral panic provide a useful lense through which the scale of child protection issues can be put into perspective, particularly concerning issues of child trafficking and internet use by young people (Clapton et al., 2013; Cree, 2014). The impact of media constructions, particularly news coverage of crime, and the misrepresentation of crime risks are particularly important for analysing ‘political support for authoritarian solutions to the supposed “crisis” of law and order’ (Reiner, 2002: 383). Further ingredients of a moral panic involve the simplification of the causes of the particular crime issue and the creation of ‘folk-devils’ who are labelled by the media and attributed with criminogenic or deviant traits (Barak, 1994). Another aspect of the media’s role, according to some criminologists, is the correlation between depictions of certain crime, such as sexual assaults or racist attacks and levels of fear of those crimes amongst members of the public. The amplified media depiction is often far removed and exaggerated when compared to the statistical probability of becoming a victim of such personal crimes (Reiner, 2002). The specific impacts or media effects of crime news upon audience perceptions are disputed and remain unresolved despite comprehensive academic evaluation of this topic (Livingstone, 1996). However, there is evidence to confirm a plausible idea that ‘exposure to media images’ is associated with the ‘fear of crime’ (Reiner, 2002: 401; Williams & Dickenson, 1993). For Reiner, an important agenda on this topic should be less about whether media representation has consequences, since this is undisputed, but more about the ‘complex interrelationship between content and other dimensions of social structure and experience in shaping offending behaviour, fear of crime and the politics of law and order’ (Reiner, 2002: 401).

Asian grooming: a modern moral panic? The topic of sexual deviance and ethnicity should be examined alongside established discussions about the role of the media in perpetuating Islamophobic and racist depictions of Muslims as wife-beaters, fanatics, fundamentalists and book-burners which predate the events of 9/11 and the global war on terror (Runnymede Trust, 1997; Quraishi, 2005). Furthermore, following 9/11 not only have Muslims been the subject of a media rhetoric about home-grown terrorism


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but attention has also been turned to Muslim prisoners as potential recruits for terrorist activity (Quraishi, 2010). The media coverage of young male Asian/ Muslim grooming incidents also echoes anti-semitic constructions of Jewish populations in Europe and America and South America in the early twentieth century in relation to the white slavery moral panic (Bristow, 1982; Mirelman, 1984; Doezema, 1999; de Vries, 2005; Bunzi, 2007). As indicated above, a moral panic distorts the extent and causes of a particular crime problem. Therefore, it is worth noting that when examining the percentages of defendants tried for sexual offences in 2010, Asians accounted for 8 per cent of the total, whilst for Black people the figure was 9 per cent and for white people it was 71 per cent of the 7.4 thousand sexual offences processed up to December of that year (Ministry of Justice, 2010a). Whilst Asians do not represent the largest proportion of offenders here, their rate is double their population density in the broader UK population. However, Asians have the lowest average custodial sentence length in 2010 for sexual offences (Ministry of Justice, 2010b). Caution has to be exercised in interpreting these statistics since they rely upon a whole series of complex interactions as well as being based on the ‘observed ethnicity’ of the defendants rather than self-declaration. Such statistics are only useful if we examine the complete social interactions of which they are products. For example the dynamics which dictate why an incident is reported, acted upon, processed and successfully prosecuted mean that statistics can only ever provide us with a partial picture of the crime or crimes being examined. Furthermore, whilst official criminal statistics may give the impression that particular crimes are committed more frequently by particular ethnic groups, findings from self-report studies tend to illustrate the involvement in crime cuts across all ethnicities (Quraishi, 2012). By way of illustrating the complexities mentioned above, when we turn to the specific offence of grooming a child for sexual exploitation, we also encounter definitional problems. Professionals do not agree upon the definition of sexual grooming of children. Some link the offence to paedophilia but this confuses grooming with a very specific clinical diagnosis which is not applicable to all offenders. Craven et al. argue that a definition which links grooming to paedophilia is unhelpful since it may prevent some offenders from acknowledging their own grooming behaviours. Furthermore, those who know the offender may not identify the grooming behaviour because they do not expect the perpetrator to fit their socially constructed image of a ‘paedophile’ (Craven et al., 2007). For Craven et al., the public perception of people who groom children for sexual exploitation is littered with stereotypes centred upon ‘dirty old men’ or ‘strangers’ although their analysis is silent upon depictions of ethnicity or the faith of perpetrators. The legal definition is contained in section 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and it created a new offence although it does not criminalise an act of sexual grooming per se. The offender must meet a child following grooming for the crime to be committed, which in itself presents the police with the complex task of proving harmful intent to trigger an intervention before a meeting occurs

A modern moral panic?


following grooming (Ost, 2004). One of the most appropriate published academic definitions of child grooming for sexual exploitation is: The process by which a child is befriended by a would-be abuser in an attempt to gain the child’s confidence and trust, enabling them to get the child to acquiesce to abusive activity. It is frequently a pre-requisite for an abuser to gain access to a child. (Gillespie, 2002: 411). Craven et al. expanded Gillespie’s words with their own more comprehensive definition: A process by which a person prepares a child, significant adults and the environment for the abuse of a child. Specific goals include gaining access to the child, gaining the child’s compliance and maintaining the child’s secrecy to avoid disclosure. This process serves to strengthen the offender’s abusive pattern, as it may be used as a means of justifying or denying their actions. (Craven et al., 2007: 297) The media coverage of such offences rarely engages with the complexities outlined above, the nature and motivation of the offenders is often couched in simple terms, the perpetrators as predators or bestial motivated by malice or in the case of young Muslim/Asian perpetrators by conflicting cultures and faith or even endorsed or validated by the same. Daniel Filler has argued that there exists significant evidence in the USA of deliberate media and institutional rhetoric linking Islam, terrorism and paedophilia together which he examines via the lense of both moral panic and risk society panic. In his perceptive article ‘Terrorism, Panic and Pedophilia’, he charts these seemingly disparate issues to provide a convincing thesis about the deliberate demonising of Muslims with the potential for future mass detention of the same for sexual crimes brought about through increased and disproportionate targeting of this population (Filler, 2003). Filler’s article outlines key incidents such as the publicity of comments made by Islamophobic Christian preachers, such as the Reverend Vines at the Southern Baptist Convention in 2002 which contained a rally call to Christians about the primacy of their faith, coupled with an assertion that the Prophet of Islam was an immoral paedophile and finally that the God of Islam created terrorists who killed innocent people (Filler, 2003). Filler also charts numerous media reports and speeches, where the link between Islam, terrorism and child sexual exploitation are asserted which had the effect of normalising the association between them. Furthermore, the backlash and counter discourse in turn has the unfortunate potential to repeat and reify the original distortion and fabricated connections being asserted. The same can be stated about local community responses established to counter the perceived incidents of sexual offending in a particular location where convicted offenders resided. However well-intentioned the local action groups may be,


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such initiatives have the unintended consequence of reinforcing the associations between the offences and culture, ethnicity and faith of the offenders. In 2008 scholars at the University of Cardiff undertook a comprehensive content analysis of 974 newspaper articles about British Muslims in the British Press between the years 2000 and 2008 (Moore et al., 2008). In addition to articles, Moore et al. also examined visual images used in articles about British Muslims in the British Press and included a series of case studies about the same. Whilst 36 per cent of the stories in the sample related to terrorism or terrorism related matters, Moore et al. noted a rise in the stories which focused upon religious and cultural differences between Islam and British culture or the West in general. Simultaneously, the study observed that coverage of attacks on Muslims or on problems facing Muslims steadily declined as a proportion of the coverage over the course of the eight-year study period (Moore et al., 2008). In sum, the Moore et al. study concluded that the bulk (approximately twothirds) of coverage on British Muslims focused upon them as threats (in relation to terrorism); a problem (in terms of differences in values) or both (Muslim extremism in general) (Moore et al., 2008). The dominant rhetoric projected Islam as ‘dangerous’, ‘backward’ and ‘irrational’ and references to radical Muslims outnumbered moderate Muslims by 17 to one. Visuals which accompanied many stories tended to depict young Muslim men in mugshots or via images taken outside of police stations or criminal courts. Muslim people also tended to be presented as a homogenous group and were less likely, for example, to be identified by their profession and more likely to be unnamed or unidentified especially when depicted in groups (Moore et al., 2008: 3–4). A further study by scholars at the University of Leeds has examined the various ways in which Muslim populations have been represented by the British media and includes a focus on the issue of child sexual exploitation and grooming (Sian et al., 2012). An important distinction to note is that not all members of the media are complicit in the construction or maintenance of negative or discriminatory images of Muslim populations. Sian et al. highlight clear differences between the ways in which the national newspaper The Daily Mail and The Guardian report the same stories. Sian et al. provide a critical content analysis of 68 news items on domestic issues involving Muslims over a three-month monitoring period from October 2011 to December 2011. The researchers narrowed their enquiry across two national tabloid newspapers (The Sun and The Daily Times) and two broadsheet newspapers (The Guardian and The Independent). With regard to stories about Muslim populations and sexual offending, Sian et al. pick up on two main news items, young Asian men accused of ‘grooming’ white girls for sex and allegations of sexual and violent abuse towards children in Islamic faith schools often run by mosques (Sian et al., 2012). Sian et al. claim to have found marked differences between the ways in which The Daily Mail and The Guardian covered these stories. With regards to the crime of grooming, The Daily Mail reports were deemed to contain clearly racialised representations which emphasised the link between the ethnicity of the

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offenders and their crimes. According to Sian et al., there was no room in the coverage by The Daily Mail for critical or counter opinion or representations of the Pakistani or Muslim voice (Sian et al., 2012). Reporting by The Guardian of the same issue was, in contrast, more balanced and contained a caveat for readers not to link the ethnicity or culture of the offenders to the crime. Furthermore, Sian et al. clearly illustrate how newspapers with polarised political perspectives interpret official statements and deploy expert opinion in their framing of a social problem. In the reporting by The Daily Mail, a quote from the Children’s minister, Tim Loughton, tends to implicate a ‘closed Asian community’ as essentially complicit in the offending by ‘turning a blind eye to it’. However, The Guardian report provides critical counter-voices and quotes an expert who warns local authorities not to be misdirected by stereotypes around the extent and location of such offending behaviour within particular communities (Sian et al., 2012: 18). With regards to the issue of alleged abuse in Islamic schools, Sian, Law and Sayyid’s analysis asserts that The Daily Mail reports of the issue following a Channel 4 documentary, were ‘Islamophobic’ and ‘sensational’, ‘accusatory’, ‘unbalanced’ and followed an ‘anti-multicultural’ narrative (Sian et al., 2012: 21). By way of contrast, reporting of the same issue by The Guardian over the period of the research provides for a more critical and inclusive representation about the extent and nature of the issue (Sian et al., 2012). The authors concluded that their research exposed a tendency towards Islamophobia in The Sun, The Mail and The Independent, whilst attributing a more balanced and inclusive coverage to The Guardian. The researchers go on to point out that The Guardian has launched a campaign for a public inquiry into anti-Islam press (Sian et al., 2012). It is logical to assume the support for this campaign and the finding of a more balanced reporting of Muslim new stories in The Guardian are inextricably linked. A comprehensive academic evaluation of this area was undertaken as part of the Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups by the Office of The Children’s Commissioner (Berelowitz et al., 2012). This Report reveals some important trends and data which further contextualises the discussion in this chapter. The first important finding articulated by the Report is that the perpetrators of CSE come from all ethnic groups along with their victims (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 5). This is important since it contrasts with the media concentration upon Asian/Muslim perpetrators. Second, the Report emphasises that there are significant data gaps on both victims and perpetrators and so one of many caveats to the findings is that the information contained in the Report may be biased owing to the fact that some agencies go looking for CSE whilst other do not. As with the definitional issues raised with the offence of ‘grooming’, Berelowitz et al. note there are varying definitions of CSE in groups and gangs and also ‘inconsistent recording and collection of data by external agencies’ (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 11). Furthermore, each police force has its own way of coding sexual offences against children. With regard to the ethnicity of victims, the authors of the Report prompt readers to exercise caution since there are


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‘limitations with collecting accurate aggregate data on ethnicity on the indicators of CSE and indeed at a national level…there are differences between the ways in which organisations collect ethnicity data with police predominantly collecting data on ethnic appearance which is not directly comparable with that provided by other organisations’ (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 66). Importantly, some indicators for CSE are more likely to identify White British children, for example use of drug and alcohol services, whilst others such as being excluded from school are more likely to identify Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) children. Hence, practitioners are prompted to use multiple indicators which could avoid neglecting BME children at risk. Furthermore, by way of contrast from the populist media image, the victims of CSE are likely to be from a range of ages, both boys and young men, girls and young women and from a range of ethnicities. Within this picture, BME children have a higher than previously recorded likelihood of becoming victims of CSE and females are more at risk than males. However, ‘individual characteristics’ identified by the study cannot be used to target and identify specific victims (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 82). The Report states that 28 per cent of victims who informed the Inquiry belonged to BME backgrounds, which is significant in the light of general perceptions that sexual exploitation by gangs and groups is primarily a crime against white children (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 94). BME children at risk tended to be identified by BME faith and statutory and voluntary sector youth agencies and were rarely identified by professionals from police forces or local authorities. The latter were more likely to identify children at risk who were White British (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 91). Turning to perpetrators, the Report emphasises that far less is known about their individual characteristics but media attention has focused upon high-profile court cases involving adult males of British Pakistani origin and white British female victims. The authors of the Report assert that it is clear that the police, children’s social care services and other agencies have been ‘effective in readily identifying perpetrators and victims with similar individual characteristics to those involved in such cases’ (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 98). Importantly, the Report continues to emphasise that during the site visits, as part of the methodology for the Inquiry, there was ‘no doubt that data is gathered more assiduously on perpetrators identified by professionals as “Asians”, “Pakistani” or “Kurdish”’. However, White British males were the only perpetrators identified in all site visits (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 98). This data must also be read against the fact that in ‘90 per cent’ of the submissions to the Inquiry, ‘all or at least some of the perpetrators were unknown to the victim’ (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 98). The Report continues to cite a significant range of problems with drawing conclusions about the ethnicity, or indeed other characteristics, of perpetrators claiming it was impossible to confirm whether figures on the ‘ethnicity, age, faith, nationality or disability of identified perpetrators are representative of all perpetrators’ (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 100). Furthermore, since the majority of the perpetrator data collected during the call for evidence for the Inquiry was presented by the police, it is possible this represents a bias against those most

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highly visible to the police (Berelowitz et al., 2012). When examining victim accounts of perpetrators the authors of the Report indicate that some victims would change the ethnicity of the perpetrator during the course of the discussion whilst others confused ethnicity with nationality. Furthermore, the Inquiry was informed in several site visits of groups of perpetrators who were described generically as ‘Asian’, but who, upon further investigation turned out to include ‘Afghan, Kurdish and White British’ perpetrators. (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 107). Significantly, the authors of the Report conclude that it ‘is not possible to extrapolate from this information a definitive statement about the ethnic origin of perpetrators’ (Berelowitz et al., 2012: 107).

Concluding remarks The Asian or Muslim grooming affair needs to be placed against the various contexts discussed in this chapter. First, the process by which racial and religious minorities become framed as ‘folk-devils’ is necessarily linked to negative, crude, exaggerated and distorted depictions by some media outlets driven by institutionalised and politicised racism. Historical analysis reveals the discarded and often resurrected folk-devils of the past, for example Jewish populations faced a parallel moral panic about their alleged role in white slavery and prostitution in the early twentieth century (Bristow, 1982; Doezema, 1999). Second, the counter-rhetoric must tread a very careful line to avoid reifying the determinism which connects certain ethnic and religious groups to particular forms of criminal behaviour. Third, the focus upon depictions of Muslims as sexual deviants must be viewed alongside other examples of essentialist and Islamophobic stereotyping which casts them as an enemy within, dangerous, fundamentalist, terrorist or misogynists (Moore et al., 2008; Sian et al., 2012; Morey & Amina, 2011). The emerging scholarship and official inquiry is revealing that CSE is a far more complex matter than is projected by some parts of the media. Importantly, the research seems to suggest, as with many forms of crime, that the true extent or incidence of CSE is far greater than officially reported and is likely to cross a wide range of ethnic groups, demographics and vulnerable populations. A move towards dissolving the media moral panic around ‘Asian grooming’ is to remove or lessen the connection being asserted between faith, ethnicity, culture and CSE. In a prescient moment, the former Chief Crown Prosecutor for the North West, Nasir Afzal, declared his reasoning for prosecuting the Rochdale case of Asian men involved in CSE. Afzal stated that by instigating and publically supporting the prosecution of the Rochdale case there was the possibility that he would experience a backlash from the predominantly Pakistani Muslim community in Rochdale. Whilst this did not come to pass, he became the victim of a hate campaign, led by the far right, which was incensed by the puncturing of its rhetoric along the lines that ‘all Pakistani men view young, White vulnerable girls in this manner’. If Afzal, a British Pakistani, was the chief agent behind such prosecutions, the hollowness of the far-right mantra echoed by some elements of the media would be clear to all (Afzal, 2012). Nevertheless, since resources


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tend to follow risks, the agencies are now positioned to focus upon young Asian and Muslim populations and they will indeed unearth some sexual crimes which will then justify the original deployment of resources. The findings of the Children Commissioner’s Report on CSE contains some important warnings and caveats about the potential for negative stereotypes and a misleading racial profiling of these offences by official agencies such as the police and local authorities. Such misdirection has the potential to exclude certain vulnerable children and young people which is where the focus of relevant official agencies and the media should be concentrated. The arguments presented here are not apologies for child sexual exploitation or distractions from worthy victimcentred approaches. By illustrating the broader complexities which underpin the debate the injustices of Islamophobia and racism and the falsehoods they create and mask may eventually be checked.

Note 1 I am very grateful to Robin Robertson, Co-Director of Insted Consultancy, for sharing his ‘unofficial’ yet comprehensive Islamophobia Bibliography with me.

References Afzal, N. (2012) ‘The Perspective of a Chief Crown Prosecutor’, Salford Law School Public Lectures Series, 29 November, University of Salford. Allen, C. (2010) Islamophobia. Farnham, UK and Burlington: Ashgate. Ansari, H. and Farid, H. (2012) From the Far Right to the Mainstream: Islamophobia in party politics and the media. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Barak, G. (ed.) (1994) Media, Process and the Social Construction of Crime. New York: Garland. Beckford, J.A., Joly, D. and Khosrokhavar, F. (2005) Muslims in Prison: Challenge and Change in Britain and France. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan. Berelowitz, S., Firmin, C., Edwards, G. and Gulyurtlu, S. (2012) ‘I Thought I Was the Only One. The Only One in the World’. The Office of The Children’s Commissioner’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups. Interim Report. OCC. November., accessed 30 November 2012. Bristow, E.J. (1982) Prostitution and Prejudice: The Jewish Fight Against White Slavery, 1870–1939. Oxford and New York: Clarendon Press. Bunzi, M. (2007) Anti-semitism and Islamophobia: Hatreds Old and New in Europe. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Clapton, G., Cree, V.E. and Smith, M. (2013) ‘Moral Panics & Social Work: Towards a Sceptical View of UK Child Protection’. Critical Social Policy, May, 33(2), 197–217. Cohen, S. (1973) Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers. London: Paladin. Craven, S., Brown, S. and Gilchrist, E. (2007) ‘Sexual Grooming of Children: Review of Literature and Theoretical Considerations’, Journal of Sexual Aggression, 12.3, 287–299 Cree, V.E., Clapton, G. and Smith, M. (2014) ‘The Presentation of Child Trafficking in the UK: An Old and New Moral Panic?’ British Journal of Social Work, 44.2, 418–433.

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De Vries, P. (2005) ‘White Slaves in a Colonial Nation: The Dutch Campaign Against the Traffic in Women in the Early Twentieth Century’, Social and Legal Studies, 14.1, 39–60 Doezema, J. (1999) ‘Loose Women or Lost Women? The Re-emergence of the Myth of White Slavery in Contemporary Discourses of Trafficking in Women’, Gender Studies, 18.1, 23–50. Eze, E. (1997) Race and the Enlightenment: A Reader. Oxford: Blackwell. Fekete, L. (2009) A Suitable Enemy: Racism, Migration and Islamophobia in Europe. London: Pluto Press. Filler, D.M. (2003) ‘Terrorism, Panic and Pedophilia’, Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, 10.3, 345–382. Gillespie, A. (2002) ‘Child Protection on the Internet: Challenges for Criminal Law’, Child and Family Law Quarterly, 14, 411–425. Hall, S., Critcher, C., Jefferson, T., Clarke, J. and Roberts, B. (1978) Policing the Crisis. London: Macmillan. Helbling, M. (ed.) (2012) Islamophobia in the West: Meaning and Explaining Individual Attitudes. London: Routledge. Immerwahr, J. (1992) ‘Hume’s Revised Racism’, Journal of the History of Ideas, 53.3, 481–486. Klug, B. (2012) ‘Islamophobia: A Concept Comes of Age’, Ethnicities, 12.5, 665–681. Kumar, D. (2012) Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire. New York: Haymarket Books. Kundnani, A. (2007) The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain. London: Pluto Press. Livingstone, S. (1996) ‘On the continuing problem of Media Effects’ in J. Curran and M. Gurevitch (eds), Mass Media and Society, 305–324. London: Arnold. Marranci, G. (2009a) Faith, Ideology and Fear: Muslim Identities Within and Beyond Prisons. London & New York: Continuum. Marranci, G. (2009b) Understanding Muslim Identity: Rethinking Fundamentalism. Basingstoke & New York: Palgrave/Macmillan. Miah, S. (2013) ‘The Groomers’ in Z. Sardar, and R. Yassin-Kassib (eds), Men In Islam. Critical Muslim. London: Hurst. Miah, S. (2015) ‘The Groomers and the Question of Race’, Identity Papers: A Journal of Irish & British Studies. 1.1, 54–66. Miles, R. (1982) Racism and Migrant Labour: A Critical Text. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Ministry of Justice (2010a) ‘Defendants Tried at the Crown Court by Ethnicity’, Remand Status and Offence Group. Ministry of Justice Statistics. Quarterly Update to December 2010’. Statistics Bulletin. Ministry of Justice. Crown. Ministry of Justice (2010b) ‘Race and the Criminal Justice System 2010’. October 2011. Table 4.08. Ministry of Justice. Crown. Mirelman, V.A. (1984) ‘The Jewish Community Versus Crime: The Case of White Slavery in Buenos Aires’. Jewish Social Studies, 1.2: 145–168. Moore, K., Mason, P. and Lewis, J. (2008) Images of Islam in the UK: The Representation of British Muslims in the National Print News Media 2000–2008. Cardiff: Cardiff School of Journalism, University of Cardiff. Morey, P. and Amina, Y. (2011) Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representations after 9/11. Cambridge, MA, & London: Harvard University Press. Morgan, G. and Poynting, S. (eds) (2012) Global Islamophobia: Muslims and Moral Panic in the West. Farnham, UK and Burlington: Ashgate.


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Muncie, J. and McLaughlin, E. (eds) (2001) The Problem of Crime. London and Thousand Oaks: SAGE. ONS (2012) 2001 Census Data Tables. Office for National Statistics: Accessed 30 June 2016. Ost, S. (2004) ‘Getting to Grips with Sexual Grooming? The New Offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003’, Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 26.2, 147–159. Patel, T.G. and Tyrer, D. (2011) Race, Crime and Resistance, London: Sage. Petley, J. and Richardson, R. (eds) (2011) Pointing the Finger: Islam and Muslims in the UK Media. Oxford: One World Publications. Pocock, J. G. A. (1999) Barbarism and Religion: Narratives of Civil Government. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Poole, E. (2002) Reporting Islam: Media Representations of British Muslims. London: I.B. Tauris. Poole, E. and Richardson, R. (eds) (2006) Muslims and the News Media. London: I.B. Tauris. Quraishi, M. (2005) Muslims and Crime: A Comparative Study. Aldershot: Ashgate. Quraishi, M. (2008) ‘Researching Muslim Prisoners’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 11.5, December, 453–467 Quraishi, M. (2010) ‘Researching Muslim Ex-Offenders’. Report to the Islamic Foundation. Markfield, The Islamic Foundation. Quraishi, M. (2012) ‘Asian Grooming in Perspective’. The Platform. http://www.the-pla Last accessed 31 October 2012. Quraishi, M. and Philburn, R. (2015) Researching Racism. London and Thousand Oaks: SAGE. Reiner, R. (2002) ‘Media Made Criminality: The Representation of Crime in the Mass Media’ in M. Maguire, R. Morgan and R. Reiner (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. 3rd Ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Chapter 12. Runnymede Trust (1997) Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All. London: Runnymede Trust. Said, E. (1978) Orientalism. New York: Pantheon. Said, E. (1997) Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World. London: Vintage. Sayyid, B. and Abdoolkarim, V. (2010) Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives. London: Hurst. Sebastiani, S. (2003) ‘Race and National Characters in Eighteenth-century Scotland: The Polygenetic Discourses of Kanes and Pinkerton’, Cromohs, 8, 1–14. Shaik, F. (2011) The New Folk Devils: Muslim Boys and Education in England. Stokeon-Trent: Trentham Books. Sian, K., Law, I. and Sayyid, S. (2012) The Media and Muslims in the UK. Leeds: Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies. University of Leeds. Sivanandan, A. (2006) ‘Race, Terror and Civil Society’. Race Class, 47.3, 1–8. Spalek, B. and El-Hassan, S. (2007) ‘Muslim Converts in Prison’. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 46.2, 99–114. Spalek, B. and Lambert, R. (2007) ‘Terrorism, Counter-terrorism and Muslim Community Engagement Post 9/11’, in R. Roberts and W. McMahon (eds), Social Justice and Criminal Justice. London: Centre for Crime and Criminal Justice Studies. Kings College, 202–215. Webster, C. (2007) Understanding Race and Crime. Maidenhead: Open University Press. Wilkins, L. (1964) Social Deviance. London: Tavistock. Williams, P. and Dickenson, J. (1993) ‘“Fear of Crime: Read All About It?” The Relationship Between Newspaper Crime Reporting and Fear of Crime’, British Journal of Criminology, 33.1, 33–56.


Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?1 Fauzia Ahmad

For British Muslim women, ISIS2 may offer freedom. For some, every moment of their lives is dominated by family members, who expect them to live in the West without enjoying many of its freedoms. Many young Muslim women in Britain live, by Western standards, remarkably controlled lives, unable to choose what they wear, where they go, who they are friends with and even who they marry. (Julia Hartley-Brewer, The Independent, 18 June 2015)

Introduction One of the biggest on-going stories of 2015 was the Syrian refugee crisis with families attempting to enter Europe after fleeing the bitter four-year long civil war between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and opposition forces, including jihadist militants from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS).3 Amidst news of atrocities committed by ISIS against minority groups such as the Yazidis including the kidnapping and raping of Yazidi women, and filmed beheadings of kidnapped Westerners, the attraction of ISIS to some young Muslims born in Britain and their subsequent recruitment remains a source of bafflement and dismay. At the time of writing, approximately 700 British Muslims, including around 100 women, some with young children, were known to have left the UK to join ISIS (Witt, 2015). The sentiment expressed above, in response to the news that three schoolgirls from Bethnal Green, Shamima Begum (15), Amira Abase (15) and Kadiza Sultana (16) were believed to have travelled to Syria to join ISIS as so-called ‘jihadi brides’, is representative of the familiar racialised and gendered discursive frameworks used to objectify and infantalise Muslim women in the British media in both right and left leaning media publications. It is used to reify the notion that Muslim women are objects of pity, who do need ‘rescuing’ – from Islam, from their families, from their cultural backgrounds – and that ‘the West’ is the source of their freedom and safety (Abu-Lughod, 2002; Ahmad, 2003; Ahmed, 1992; Cheruvallil-Contractor, 2012; Spivak, 1988). Although this chapter opens with a quote referring to ISIS and its recruiting of young British women – the so-called ‘jihadi brides’ – my aim is not to offer a


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detailed critique or speculate on women’s motives for joining ISIS. Rather, I hope to contribute towards a process that seeks instead to move away from responding to pre-determined tropes of what young Muslim women should or should not do, or how they should or should not act. Instead, my intention here is to reclaim representations of young British Muslim women from the victim-focused and criminalised narratives currently dominating media and political agendas. I seek to do this through highlighting the agency of young British Muslim women through two particular spheres – their active participation in the public arena of higher education and their assertion of their Islamic rights through their personal marital choices. However, it is necessary to appreciate the socio-political context within which young British Muslim women’s lives are currently being interrogated. British Muslims have long been problematised by successive Labour and Conservative governments for failing to ‘integrate’ and held as examples of why multiculturalism is a ‘failed project’. Since the London bombings of 7/7, counter-terrorism strategies aimed at British Muslims through the PREVENT programme have effectively served to divide British Muslim communities and divert funds away from community projects and Muslim women’s support groups (Ahmad, 2013), in favour of ‘de-radicalisation’ and anti-extremist programmes that are widely regarded as having delivered little by way of countering terrorism while at the same time homogenising British Muslims as ‘suspect communities’ (Khan, 2009; Awan, 2012; Kundnani, 2009, 2014; Spalek, 2010). Despite the widely acknowledged failure of PREVENT, one of the first acts of the newly elected Conservative government in 2015 was to attempt to introduce further powers aimed at silencing ‘non-violent extremism’ and from September 2015, made it a statutory duty for schools, universities, hospitals, councils and prisons to ‘prevent extremist radicalisation’ (Wintour, 2015). For universities, the new duty has been criticised for effectively turning university staff into ‘police informers’.4 Plans to extend the duty to include ‘vetting’ of external speakers to campuses were delayed after opposition in the House of Lords and later modified to only allow ‘extremist’ speakers as long as they were openly challenged by another invited speaker holding opposing views at the same event (Travis, 2015a). A number of academics (this author included) signed an open letter in July 2015 warning that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 focused exclusively on religious ideology as the primary factor behind terrorism without supporting evidence, and ignored research highlighting the significance of ‘social, economic and political factors, as well as social exclusion’ as drivers of political extremism and violence (Letters, July 2015). In a further twist, attempts were made to create a ‘culture of spying’ on Muslims and subvert attention away from political and structural contexts associated with extremism; the Metropolitan Police initiated a campaign entitled ‘Working with mothers to prevent tragedies’ (2015), which was aimed at Muslim mothers under the assumption that they were best placed to recognise and challenge any signs of extremist behaviour from daughters. Apart from

Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?


highlighting how responsibility for extremism was placed firmly within Muslim families – and specifically Muslim mothers – as noted by Kang (2015), Muslim women are portrayed as both the source and solution to extremism. Her research with Muslim women students on their views of media and government responses to young Muslims and radicalisation and specifically in relation to the Metropolitan Police’s initiative, showed how young Muslim women had begun to feel personally responsible and concerned for younger siblings and family members. However, there was also irritation at the prevailing stereotypes inherent within media and policy discourses exemplified in this latest attempt to tackle radicalisation, particularly the assumption that Muslim mothers were assumed to be nothing more than ‘mothers’ and were held as singularly responsible for their children’s behaviour, and that fathers were oddly ignored in the campaign material suggesting an assumption of emotional distance between Muslim fathers and their daughters. The impact on Muslim women’s civil liberties as a result of heightened levels of scrutiny is obvious and links into other research on the impact the shootings at the Paris offices of the satirical cartoon ‘Charlie Hebdo’ had on Muslim students’ right to freedom of expression (Grant, 2015; Khan and Mythen, 2015). This was not the first time attempts have been made to co-opt Muslim women into spying on families through superficial programmes (Rashid, 2014). The establishment of the National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group (NMWAG) in 2008 under Gordon Brown’s premiership was initially publicised to support the empowerment of Muslim women in Britain, even though the NMWAG was funded through PREVENT. It attracted widespread criticism from the outset with accusations that Muslim women were being used to ‘spy’ on their families and communities and that the group was not representative and therefore unable to deliver meaningful change at the grassroots. Two-and-a-half years later, the group collapsed coinciding with the public resignation of its Chair, Shaista Gohir, who accused the NMWAG of being little more than a ‘tick box exercise’ and ‘not serious about the role of women in influencing public policy…’ (Gohir, 2010). Here, it is worth drawing on Lila Abu-Lughod (2002, 2013), when highlighting issues around cultural relativism and ‘difference’. She deconstructs the notion of ‘saving’ and offers a timely critique of discourses framed within a concern for human rights typically used to construct an image of Muslim women as ‘needing’ Western intervention or pity. Directly engaging with issues of domestic violence, honour crimes, and female genital mutilation, she highlights how, contrary to Western insistence, disempowerment, inequality and abuse are rooted in – and products of – patriarchal authoritarianism at various levels of society and within the family, and poverty. Speaking within the context of the US-led military assault on Afghanistan in its ‘war on terror’, which it claimed was necessary in order to ‘liberate’ Muslim women, she urges caution regarding who Muslim women form partnerships with and asks us to: […] look closely at what we are supporting (and what we are not) and to think carefully about why. How should we manage the complicated politics


Fauzia Ahmad and ethics of finding ourselves in agreement with those with whom we normally disagree? (2002, p. 787)

The crucial issue here is, how far are Western feminists who claim to be ‘saving’ Muslim women prepared to accept Muslim women’s choices and difference, even when this is not in accordance with their views? Marnia Lazreg (1988) also questions the very nature of the Western ‘feminist project’ criticising it as inherently ‘Western gynocentric’ (p. 96) in that it exerts a ‘power of interpretation’ over ‘different’ or ‘Other’ women which ultimately gives status and credibility to academic feminists. It is this privileging of one (Western) social standard over another (non-Western), which has resulted in the failure of the Western feminist project as an emancipatory venture for Muslim women. She argues instead for ways that facilitate agency to ‘Other’ women that allow them to express their lives in their own terms, without needing validation from the Western researcher or feminist. These articulations need to allow for multiple manifestations of personal, religious and cultural identities, while recognising the ways in which ‘religion’ and ‘culture’ can act as deterministic and hegemonic frames of reference for Muslim women. However, whilst the literature from women based in the Developing World and Black Feminist critiques have made some important theoretical and methodological contributions, Muslim women in their specificity, located in the West, are still largely reliant on, and framed within discourses emanating from Muslim women in the Middle East where the political, social and economic conditions are noticeably different to the ‘West’. However, these insights, though useful in many respects, do not always speak to the localised and particular experiences of Muslim women in the West who remain marginalised across public and private spheres. In order to produce meaningful discourses that remain sensitive to power discrepancies and contemporary, contextualised and varied experiences and realities, theoretical frameworks need to develop critical spaces that allow both shared and particular realities to co-exist. Avtar Brah’s (1996) concept of ‘diaspora space’ is one that appreciates the ambivalence around subjective positionings and is sensitive to the power dynamics that can limit how various gendered subjectivities are articulated and received. Drawing on this framework can facilitate the re-claiming of a Muslim woman’s right to define herself on her own terms at any given moment in her history. Within a British context and against a domestic backdrop of ‘forced marriages’, ‘honour’ based violence and killings, female genital mutilation, debates on the place or not of the niqab in British society, stories of misogynist Sharia councils condemning Muslim women to live with abusive partners, and evidence from a number of sources highlighting a significant recent increase in Islamophobic incidents targeting visibly Muslim women either through verbal abuse or physical violence (Allen et al., 2013; Chakraborti and Zempi, 2012; Hanes and Machin, 2014; Zempi and Chakraborti, 2014; Littler and Feldman, 2015),5 the image of the Muslim woman as ‘victim’ remains persistent and

Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?


demonstrates how repeated negative media and policy framing also influences perceptions of safety among Muslim women and impacts on their civil liberties (Ahmad, 2010). Victim-based discourses appear to be challenged only by the competing discourse of the Muslim woman as both an ideological and actual threat to civil society and British values and as ‘suspect communities’ (Brown and Saeed, 2015). This alternative discursive framework – a variation to the Muslim woman as the ‘fetished Other’, was exemplified in the comment pieces of The Telegraph Women’s Editor, Emma Barnett (2015) on more than one occasion, where the three teenagers were effectively vilified and criminalised. She writes: While I accept they have fallen prey to Isil’s6 digital propaganda machine, these teen girls aren’t stupid. Far from it. In fact they are all grade-A students at the Bethnal Green Academy in Tower Hamlets. We are told by their worried friends and family that they are thoughtful and intelligent people. […] And yet people insist upon dismissing these girls as victims – bestowing them with pity instead of the anger and scorn that is lavished upon the young Western men joining Isil. […] Make no mistake: Shamima Begum, Amira Abase and Kadiza Sultana are not missing. They have joined a murderous cult of their own volition – just like their Western male counterparts. Yes, they happen to be women – but they are still sentient beings – capable of knowing right from wrong. In response to this and other media articles, Chimene Suleyman (2015) argues: We are not allowed to feel concern for three young girls who have joined a horrifying terror group […] Amira, Shamima and Kadiza are judged not only as adults, but as Muslim adults – with all the mythical savagery and brutality that Western society has projected onto them. The irony here centres on the notion of agency. While much of the Western media remains content to write about Muslim women in fetishised, victimfocused terms – as a homogenised and gendered mass without agency, whose adherence to their faith is dismissed as a form of ‘false consciousness’(Ahmad, 2013),7 when Muslim women subvert such taken-for-granted stereotypes, they are portrayed as having assumed a ‘deviant’ positionality and, in such circumstances, are projected as ‘active subjects’ – with agency, but as the case of Muslim women joining ISIS illustrates – this agency exists within the prism of criminality linked to ideology (Brown and Saeed, 2015). This effectively serves to absolve any responsibility for structural or external socio-political factors that may contribute towards feelings of alienation or disenfranchisement and maintains a pathologised figure of young Muslim womanhood. Muslim women, it seems, are


Fauzia Ahmad

thus bound within the limited axis of either victim or criminal, with neither reflecting lived and contradictory realities and multiple positionalities that are allowed to be subject to social and temporal displacements and re-negotiations. That the majority of young women who are known to have joined ISIS were academic high achievers further pathologises Muslim women’s subjectivities. I return to this point below. At a Guardian Live event in July 2015 entitled ‘Queens of Jihad: victims of terror grooming or mistresses of their own fate?’ four self-identified former radicals – two of whom were women now working with young women to prevent radicalisation, spoke about the multiple and complex ‘pull factors’ luring British women to Syria to join ISIS. Of the 700 or so British citizens known to have joined ISIS, it is estimated that around 100 are women, including older, married women with children, and in other instances, families. However, what was evident were the complexities and varied motives that may have influenced women’s decisions to leave the UK for Syria. The significance of a sense of belonging, women’s agency, and identity were singled out during the discussion. Women tended to be ideologically driven, believing they were acting out of faith and hopes for a utopian ideal Islamic homeland – where they would be safe. These ideals were so strong that they necessitated secrecy and deception from other family members, especially if they were perceived to be ‘cultural’ Muslims, i.e., less observant in Islamic practice. This, it was argued, justified a ‘platform to rebel’. The notion of sisterhood was also strong. Similar themes were echoed in the BBC documentary Jihadi Brides (2015). However, the above potential explanations overlook the fact that academic intelligence does not equate to emotional intelligence and maturity, or that agency is not static but is contingent and relational. NonMuslim young women are known to make questionable decisions that they may regret later in life yet they are offered the agentic space to do so but this is currently denied to young Muslim women joining ISIS. Whatever the processes and motives of young women joining ISIS, there are no easy responses but instead, uncomfortable questions: if we are to recognise and accept Muslim women’s political agency, how do we begin to reconcile this with choices that lead to violence, especially against other women? This connects to a broader question: how do we reach a position where Muslim women’s agency is not problematised and pathologised? Where a Muslim woman can simply ‘be’ and on her own terms? Despite easy access to numerous opinion pieces written by Muslim women who do assert their agency and empowerment through an active engagement with their faith, the presence of several research studies highlighting a growing and highly educated and aspirational cohort of second and third generation Muslim women, and the fact that in the recent UK General Election in May 2015 five out of the six new Muslim MPs were Muslim women, making a total of eight Muslim women MP’s out of 13, the key question here is why many media commentators and politicians repeatedly choose to re-iterate tired racialised discourses of victimhood.

Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?


Young British Muslim women and higher education The racialised and pathologised accounts of Muslim women summarised above act to silence and obscure alternative forms of agency and difference, confining Muslim women’s experiences and identities within artificial binaries such as ‘modern’ (Western, educated, secular) and ‘traditional’ (‘Muslim, uneducated, backward, religious) (Ahmad, 2001; 2003). The choices and opportunities that exist within or outside these boundaries become necessarily constrained and negatively problematised. However, there is an alternative narrative that has been subsumed within the rhetoric of preventing extremism and ‘high achieving jihadi brides’, and that is the story of young British Muslim women and academic achievement and the impact their educational experiences have for their religious and cultural identities. These alternative accounts – which I argue are far more representative – challenge assumptions played out in government and media discourses that currently focus on universities as sites of extremism and on educated Muslim women as threats to national security. First, they challenge tired notions of excessively restrictive and controlling Muslim families by highlighting the increasing participation of young British Muslim women in higher education and professional employment (Ahmad, 2001, 2006; Dale et al., 2002a, 2002b; Ahmad et al., 2003; EOC, 2006; Tyrer and Ahmad, 2006; Shah et al., 2010), with recent analyses suggesting that Muslim women are outperforming Muslim men (Khattab and Modood, 2015). These are in direct contradiction to previous studies where an earlier lack of participation in higher education and the labour market was attributed to cultural constraints, that is, that Islam and notions of ‘purdah’ and patriarchy were restricting women’s movements. Second, these studies show how the high educational aspirations among young British Muslim women were shared by their parents, regardless of social class. These women were not using university as an opportunity to rebel or lead a ‘double life’ (Ahmad, 2012). My earlier research on British Muslim women in higher education highlighted the positive role played by fathers in encouraging their daughters’ higher education participation (Ahmad, 2001, 2007) and this was confirmed in several other studies (Tyrer and Ahmad, 2006; EOC, 2006; Hussain and Bagguley, 2007; Ijaz and Abbas, 2010), and studies linking young British Pakistanis’ higher educational aspirations to theories of social capital (Dwyer et al., 2011). The encouragement and support offered by fathers to their daughters represents another challenge to stereotyped notions of distant and oppressive Muslim fathers. Third, as I demonstrate here, these alternative accounts highlight how participation in higher education, rather than act as an overwhelming secularising influence, or as a route towards extremism, facilitated Muslim women’s conceptualisations of themselves as British Muslim women. Although the following quote is from a Muslim woman in a Q-News and Open Democracy debate held after the 7/7 bombings in 2005, it encapsulates many of the views I have come


Fauzia Ahmad

across through various discussions with degree-educated British Muslim women: I am a Muslim youth working on the ground who found her faith at university. Just on reflection, I found my British identity by finding my faith. … So what is about going to university that facilitates this? I look at it and I see that there was infrastructure for debate with Muslims and nonMuslims. The cultural, theological, generational gap, I can relate to it, because we evolve through this when we are at university through education, dialogue and debate. (Audience member, 4 August 2005, Open Democracy) Drawing on some of my research, two interviews with Muslim women graduates about their university experiences and identities reveal how for some, higher education had a profound transformative impact in terms of identity and self-empowerment. For one woman, whose parents had separated when she was a child, her university experience allowed her to feel able to move away from the impact of her parents’ separation – and how their social circle viewed her – and gave her a sense of individuality, agency and confidence to define herself: I think that one thing it (higher education) has done for me is that I have an identity for myself. I no longer want to be identified as the daughter of so-and-so whose marriage broke up because, when people tend to view us, they tend to see me and my brothers and sisters as products of a broken marriage and I no longer like to be associated or defined in those terms. I want to be defined with my own criteria and, being educated was one of the ways of doing that. Now I feel that when people see me, they see me as so-and-so who is studying this or is working there; the first category that they would not use is so-and-so’s daughter. I would say that higher education has definitely been a big influence in my life and, in fact, when I first started I came to university with the hope that it would change me in some way or another, but I never expected it to change me to this extent. I thought that at the end of the three years of my first degree I would come out a better well-informed person about actual matters, but it has shaped me as an individual personality. I feel it has made me more confident as well. … I think it has definitely heightened my sense of identity (Sadia, 26) Shakeela (24), who qualified as a primary school teacher, spoke of her involvement as a teenager, in local Islamic circles in Tower Hamlets in the East end of London, which led to her adopting the jilbab and the niqab. She described this as being the ‘norm’ amongst her peers but her experiences at sixth form college and then in her first year at university caused her to re-evaluate the ‘practicality’ of the niqab and she eventually chose to discard

Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?


it and the jilbab while retaining the hijab and adopted a less ‘Saudi-influenced’ style of dress. […] And other social gatherings, where there were males present, I just couldn’t do things like eat or drink and I found it difficult communicating with people. I did find it difficult approaching people as well. I don’t know whether it was just because of the niqab or more to do with my own personality […] When I started university, I was meeting a lot more people that didn’t come from my community and I started attending circles that were not run by my community and they began to make more sense, especially in terms of practicality of living in a society like this […] I started viewing things differently as well, it was easier to understand those views in that new context, and it made a lot more practical things easier for me. And then I didn’t see the need to cover up so much and I started to have a different perception of myself and how people saw me, especially the male population. (Shakeela, 24) Both these examples here highlight the fluid, complex, contradictory and situation-specific manifestations of identities and the way their time in university helped in rationalising their identities. In the case of Shakeela, her personal decision to eventually reject the niqab demonstrates how her time at university, and exposure to ‘difference’ facilitated a re-evaluation of her positionality but also indicates her desire to interact with a wider community. Some more recent conversations with young educated Muslim women regarding their perceptions of news coverage of ‘jihadi brides’ and extremism in universities, illustrate how Muslim women were acutely aware of the political contexts within which they are currently positioned.8 For some, ironically, when speaking about how their university experiences had positively influenced their identities as Muslim women, there was a noted sense of unease, as this extract illustrates: Heba: I feel awkward talking about how my time at uni (sic) has encouraged me to be more practising; before I didn’t pray that much but as I was away from home, and met other Muslim women I started praying regularly. I do feel much calmer and at peace with myself. FA: Why do you say you feel awkward? Heba: Because at the moment all the media is focussing on the three teenage girls and on universities and extremism. It’s a bit worrying saying publicly that I’ve become more active in my faith while at uni coz I’m afraid people will start thinking that I have become radicalised. Heba (22) was not visibly Muslim in that she did not wear the hijab at the time of our conversation, but with her growing religious observance she was open to


Fauzia Ahmad

the prospect of adopting the hijab and this added to her concerns around how she might be perceived. Comments from Mak Chisty, Britain’s most senior police officer, help to better contextualise this anxiety. In a bizarre interview for The Guardian in May 2015, he warned that Muslims as young as five were being radicalised and advised close observance of Muslim youth in all spheres of their lives for changes that might indicate radicalisation such as the avoidance of alcohol9 and rejecting western clothing (Dodd, 2015). Two other young women, Asma (21) and Laila (22), both final year students, spoke positively of their time at university, stating that they had become more confident in their faith and in their abilities to distinguish between religious and cultural practices. While sensitive to current concerns around Muslim women and radicalisation, they maintained that being a practising Muslim woman was compatible with being British and that it was important to engage with non-Muslims in order to address stereotypes: Asma: I think for me, my time at university has been great. I do feel that I belong here because we are catered for in terms of prayer space and halal food. In terms of my identity, I feel as though I have grown up a lot and my time at university has helped me think through certain things. FA: Such as? Asma: Well, I’ve had some interesting conversations with non-Muslim students about Islam and I think it’s been good for them to talk to a practising Muslim woman and have some of their stereotypes challenged. At the same time, it has forced me to read up more about my religion and so in that sense, I do feel as though being here has helped me become closer to my faith. But despite what the media or government says, I do identify as a British Muslim woman. Laila added: I think it’s important to state that we can be practicing Muslim women while at university without becoming extremists! The media has distorted things to such an extent that anyone else would think that all Muslim women wearing the hijab, or even the niqab for that matter, are dangerous. They (the media) ignore our contributions – so many Muslim women are doctors or teachers, or lawyers. Why don’t we hear about them? Why are we only hearing about Muslim women who have left to join the Islamic State? I agree with Asma, it’s our responsibility to challenge these stereotypes and to do that, we have to be knowledgeable about Islam. As many studies on Muslim women’s identities demonstrate, younger, second and third generation women draw distinctions between ‘religion’ and ‘culture’, and many women I have spoken to had negotiated various strategies in order to assert

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coherent Muslim identities based on personal histories, localised contexts and experiences within wider structures. In addition, the value of higher education as a positive transformative process for Muslim women is one that needs re-affirming. Far from acting to secularise Muslim women (as some parents may have feared), or radicalise them, as the government seems to assume, Muslim women’s university experiences have helped to rationalise multiple identification processes around religion and culture. For some, the availability of Islamic Society talks, and the solidarity and presence of other Muslim women students provided opportunities through which women felt ‘safe’ in ‘being Muslim’ however they chose to express this, but also felt safe to grow as Muslim women. For some others however, their experiences re-affirmed existing beliefs either towards or away from religiously or culturally inclined identifications. ‘Agency’ then, for many of the women I have interviewed, was a process of negotiation and re-negotiation, through which social, cultural and religious identifications (amongst others) were expressed. It also represented a process of personal growth and negotiation, and this was bound up with personal and familial educational aspirations – educational achievement and success was actively encouraged and expressed publicly as a source of family pride or ‘honour’ – one that was very distinct from the type of ‘honour’ prefixed onto violence and abuse against women. Indeed, Muslim women’s academic achievements and aspirations, as recent research by Khattab and Modood (2015) is demonstrating, are now surpassing Muslim men and this has ironically created a surplus of highly educated Muslim women who are now experiencing difficulties finding suitable matrimonial partners (Imtoual and Hussein, 2009; Ahmad, 2012; Mohammed, 2012).

A note on young Muslim women and marriage Assumptions around ‘jihadi brides’ are that their main functions are to bear children within polygamous marriages in order to populate the Caliphate, while their husbands wage violent jihad against anyone who disagrees with them. To maximise their offspring bearing potential, they have to be young, but also obedient and subservient to their husbands, while accepting the prospect of early widowhood (Saltman and Smith, 2015). This imagery again feeds into essentialised cultural and religious constraining discursive frameworks of Muslim women as sexualised and fetishised ‘Others’ destined to live lives of ‘degradation and despair’ where women are objects of the ‘process’ and devoid of agency rather than active participants. They suggest that Muslim women can only exercise individual agency once they have consciously dissented from the familial and cultural group (Bhopal, 1997). These discursive frameworks link into broader pathologised discourses of Muslim families and Muslim relationships between men and women and have become an almost standardised trope when Muslim marriages are under scrutiny. Other common


Fauzia Ahmad

stereotypes regarding Muslim families and marital practices present them as ‘forced marriages’, often with women being ‘married off’ to uneducated first cousins from villages ‘back home’, or tend to link the preference for a Sharia compliant marriage with Islamist tendencies among Muslims. However, some on-going research I have been conducting on British Muslim relationships highlights experiences that I believe, are far more reflective of young Muslim women’s (and men’s) lived realities than the scenarios currently found within media and some policy discourses. Contrary to these stereotypes, young Muslim women are asserting their agency at every stage of the matrimonial process – from their very decisions to look for a marital partner, how they decide which form of matrimonial service(s) they will engage with, to negotiating marriage contracts and asserting their rights as Muslim women and wives within marriage. My earlier work highlighted how Muslim women, along with their parents, viewed the possession of a degree, not just in practical, employment related terms, but also as a means to secure a successful and ‘good quality’ husband. In this sense, a degree acted as an ‘insurance policy’ that would allow women to ‘stand on their own two feet’ if future circumstances, such as financial or marital insecurity, necessitated (Ahmad, 2001). This remains the case for younger cohorts of women, who often outnumber men in terms of attendance at matrimonial events. In recent years, British Muslim marriage practices have witnessed a process of rapid social change. Where parents and extended family networks once played key roles in matrimonial matters, the loss, or weakening of these networks, coupled with a growing professionalisation and individualisation (Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 1995) among second and third generation British Muslim men and women, and the growth and commercialisation of internet-based Muslim matrimonial sites and matrimonial events catering specifically to diverse British Muslim social and ethnic groups, have led to changing concepts of what contemporary Muslim relationships represent and a need to revise taken-for-granted terms such as ‘arranged marriages’ often described in earlier ethnographic accounts of Muslim families (Ahmad, 2006; 2012). Many young Muslim women not only exhibit high educational and employment aspirations, but also high expectations when choosing a life partner. Many parents recognising the limitations of their own networks assume that the education and professional status of their children mean that they are better equipped to find their own partners, and many women have spoken of how their parents were open about them meeting potential partners either at university or work. Parents are effectively devolving responsibility for finding matrimonial partners to their children. Despite the wide choice in matrimonial services and their own academic and professional achievements, many British Muslim women are experiencing difficulties in attracting suitable matrimonial partners expressing concerns around their own perceived lack of desirability, concerns over increased ages while studying and then working, being ‘over-qualified’ and high achieving thus ‘pricing themselves out of the marriage market’, negotiating and contending with ‘male

Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?


egos’, the lack of emotional maturity among Muslim men, and questioning the efficacy and quality of existing and emerging matrimonial networks (Ahmad, 2012). These concerns have been compounded by the perceived tendencies among some Muslim men of either choosing to marry outside their religion and culture, or relying on parental matches with partners from their country of origin, and for expressing preferences for younger women or those who may be less career oriented. As a result, Muslim women often complain about a lack of suitably educated and professionally employed men on matrimonial websites and at the various matrimonial events that are held across the UK, Europe and North America. Marrying ages among educated Muslim women in Britain (and internationally) are increasing, and while this is sometimes attributed to a deliberate desire to delay or eschew marriage in order to further careers, the research suggests that single status among second and third generation Muslim women is the result of a complex interplay of factors and not necessarily an active choice. Some commentators have described the rise in the numbers of single, professional Muslim women, as the ‘Muslim spinster crisis’ (Mohammed, 2012), or more generally as the ‘myth of the happy celibate’ (Imtoual and Hussein, 2009), referring to the very possible reality that some women may not marry at all. Given the significance of marriage and family among Muslim communities, there are considerable emotional consequences experienced by Muslim women associated with perceptions of ‘rejection’ and ‘failure’, increased age, spinsterhood and potential childlessness, and this is one of the areas that is currently being researched. While the above difficulties are very real and contemporary, they should not detract from the fact that this cohort of women are exercising agency in wishing to pursue a ‘halal relationship’ leading to marriage. For instance, many of the practising and hijab-wearing women I have been speaking to did not view ‘love’ within the parameters of an Islamic or ‘halal relationship’ prior to marriage as a contradictory emotion and looked forward to the prospect of ‘romance’. Similarly, observations from my fieldwork reveal women to be highly self-aware in terms of their rights as Muslim women and potential Muslim wives; many talks on rights and responsibilities within Muslim marriages are overwhelmingly attended by young, educated Muslim women who are not afraid of stipulating certain demands when negotiating a potential marriage. A noteworthy example is that a ‘non-negotiable’ for many Muslim women is their refusal to live with in-laws after marriage and an insistence on living away from the husband’s family. Similarly, the fact that many women attending marital events do so without a chaperone also signifies an active agentic choice. In contrast, some Muslim men attending events are intimidated by the process especially when confronted with self-empowered Muslim women with very clear views on their expectations of a husband and married life, and this has resulted in accusations of women being ‘too choosy’, having ‘unrealistic expectations’ and ‘waiting for Mr Perfect’ as exemplified in the following quote:


Fauzia Ahmad I think the girls in UK need to wake up. They are gone over 30 and still dreaming/waiting for Mr Perfect. I am good looking, AAT qualified, house owner, British citizen (not born), 36 and divorced (no kids), mum and dad lives with me. A lot of girls reject me for one of these reasons without even seeing me. They are looking for specs like buying a mobile.

The numbers of men attending events is often disappointing, especially for events catering for older cohorts (over 30s for example), with organisers on several occasions resorting to waiving attendance fees for men in order to encourage a better turnout. This effectively means that women are sometimes subsidising marital events. Organisers of marital events have told me that for some men, the stress of participating is so great that even after arriving at a venue, some have resorted to, in the words of one male matrimonial event organiser, ‘hiding in the toilets’. There are clearly gendered tensions around differing expectations in marriage that I do not have space to elaborate further here, but my aim in highlighting some of these is to stress the significance of young Muslim women’s agency in determining their marital choices – far from being pawns within contemporary marriage processes, they play an active role in shaping how marriages happen. Unfortunately, some feminists and those within policy-arenas continue to vilify Muslim relationships, referred by some of the British media as ‘Sharia marriages’ thus ascribing all the negativity associated with right-wing fears around the ‘Islamification of Britain’. This is especially apparent within media and policy discourses around Sharia councils and their treatment of Muslim women during divorce, which presume an inherent discriminatory bias against Muslim women. For instance, during a discussion on Sharia councils within the second reading of the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill on 19 October 2012 (introduced by Baroness Cox), Baroness Donaghy (cited in Ahmad, 2014) likened referrals to Sharia councils as ‘consensual as rape’, while ignoring the fact that the majority of applicants to Sharia councils are Muslim women actively seeking to enforce their Islamic rights to divorce, and that Sharia councils vary widely in their practice. Such discourses not only infantalise Muslim women but also serve to vilify the Islamic frames of reference they choose to live by (Ahmad, 2014). At the time of writing, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced that the new PREVENT initiative aimed at reviewing public institutions against extremist infiltration included a review of Sharia courts (Travis, 2015b). Concerns were raised from some Muslim organisations (such as the Muslim Council of Britain and the Ramadhan Foundation that the measures would further alienate British Muslim communities. However, perhaps in recognition of potential concerns from Muslim groups about government encroachments into Muslim private spheres, two separate but similar inquiries into the practice of Sharia councils in the UK were recently announced in May and June 2016 respectively; one is to be an independent Home Office review led by respected

Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?


academic Professor Mona Siddiqui with a panel including two Imams and family law specialists (Travis, 2016). The press release announcing the review adopted a more conciliatory tone than some of the debates cited above in recognising that: some Sharia councils may be working in a discriminatory and unacceptable way, seeking to legitimise forced marriage and issuing divorces that are unfair to women, contrary to the teachings of Islam. It will also seek out examples of best practice among Sharia councils. (Home Office, and The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, May 2016; my emphasis) The other inquiry is a Home Affairs Committee which will examine issues around compatibility with British law as well as discrimination, and comparisons with other religious systems operating in the UK such as Jewish rabbinical courts (Commons Select Committee News, 2016; Bowcott, 2016). Both reviews are currently in progress at the time of writing and the findings will be viewed with interest.

Some final thoughts The power relations imbedded in discourses on representations of racialised and gendered groups and minorities, have ensured that women’s rights to define their identities and experiences in their own terms have yet to be realised. Muslim women’s bodies, their dress, their image, and their choices are still viewed both a source of pity and despair in need of ‘liberating’ from the ‘oppression of Islam’, but at the same time are perceived as more than a mere visual threat to liberal, secular, ‘Western values’. Politicians have ‘used’ the socio-economic disadvantage experienced by Muslim women in both domestic and foreign spheres in order to gain personal and political capital. ‘Muslimness’ and Muslim identities continue to be problematised in media and policy discourses, with political agendas overwhelmingly concerned with issues around security and social cohesion with the presumption and perception that Muslim political thought should be viewed with suspicion and seen as a tangible threat to British security and the British way of life. The events of 9/11, 7/7 and the attraction of ISIS to some British Muslims have acted to sharpen this perception and have had distinct implications for the ways social policy and in some instances, higher education and research funding, have responded to Muslims in Britain. I argue that there is, within academia, policy discourses and to some extent, among activists, a ‘Battle for Representation’ and ‘ownership’ around the right to define ‘Muslim women’. In academia, there has been a clear increase in the amount of research and publications now available on Muslims as a faith group in comparison to ethnicitybased studies. I would also argue that as funding priorities have shifted towards


Fauzia Ahmad

more Muslim-focussed research as a result of government securitising agendas, a form of ‘bandwagonism’ has emerged. Muslim issues and research are ‘hot topics’, with funding awarded to some academics for ‘research on Muslims’ when they have had no track record or known expertise in the area. This has resulted in a rapid rise in the number of publications on Muslims particularly within terror-related contexts, with studies on Muslim women and veiling remaining popular. Recent years have also seen the emergence of several ‘think tanks’ focusing on cohesion and security, producing reports on Muslims that are not always particularly well-sourced, contextualised or nuanced, but nevertheless attract significant media and political attention. Unfortunately, these are the sources those working in policy seem to rely on, rather than the sometimes necessarily complex and detailed research found within academia. But more crucially, the voices of Muslims working on the ground – those who are confronting and responding to daily concerns affecting Muslim women and doing so without shying away from difficult issues, are still ignored – unless they are willing to support discourses of victimhood and extremism characteristic of Prevent priorities. Among academics – where a large amount of scholarship on Muslim women is controlled and circulated by non-Muslim women academics – Muslim women are routinely hired as temporary gatekeepers for their knowledge and access, but whose expertise is simultaneously dismissed when attempting to assert their expertise within a noted racist higher education environment. This raises issues around power relations within academia and debates around ‘who’ is best suited to conduct research on Muslims, and results in the further marginalisation of researchers from minority backgrounds. This bandwagonism in some respects, limits ‘us’ and by that I mean Muslim women, as consumers, and not producers of knowledge ‘about us’. We are then expected to refer to and utilise frames of reference that are not of our choosing, and that sometimes reproduce ‘victim-focused’ and pathological discourses. To conclude, I want to end on a more positive note and ask us to consider the following quote from a young woman – Kishwer, a medical student when I spoke to her – about her thoughts on identity: I’m a Muslim. I’m independent and a free spirit. Do you see being a Muslim and a free spirit as being divergent? My free spirit allows me to journey through life with Islam and finding out the facts for what they are rather than just accepting what someone else has said to me in their own interpretation. And I don’t like that. If I didn’t have this free spirit, this freedom of thought, I think that would be restricting my knowledge, my education.

Notes 1 A play on Lila Abu-Lughod’s ‘Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?’ (2002) and ‘Do Muslim Women Need Saving?’ (2013), suggested by the Editor of this volume.

Do young British Muslim women need rescuing?


2 ‘Isis’ as spelt in the original article. 3 Several European countries, including Britain, have been reluctant to accept Syrian refugees; the Hungarian Prime Minister was widely criticised after remarks made defending his anti-refugee stance claiming that the refugees posed a risk to the ‘Christian culture of Europe’ (Cendrowicz, 2015). 4 Mohammed Umar Farooq, a Muslim student studying for a Master’s degree in Terrorism, Crime and Global Security at Staffordshire University was questioned in March 2015 under PREVENT’s anti-extremism initiative after he was spotted reading a book on terrorism studies in the library (Ramesh and Halliday, 2015). 5 To place the rise in Islamophobic incidents in some context, analysing annual data from the Islamophobia monitoring project, ‘Tell MAMA’, Copsey, Dack, Littler and Feldman (2013) cited an interview with a Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchford, who in June 2013 stated that recorded attacks against Muslims in London had increased eightfold in the immediate months following the very public murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London on 22 May the same year by two al-Qaeda inspired sympathisers. The most recent report for Tell MAMA notes that, despite a national drop in crime rates in 2014 according to government statistics, the numbers of religiously and racially motivated crimes had significantly increased (Littler and Feldman, 2015). Enhanced monitoring and recording of religiously motivated hate crimes directed against Muslims suggests a correlation between national and international terrorist offences, such as the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris and a spike in anti-Muslim hate crime. Visibly Muslim men have also been targeted, most notably the murder of Mohammed Saleem, an 82-year-old Pakistani Muslim man as he walked home from his local mosque in Birmingham after evening prayers by a Ukrainian student who admitted the racially motivated murder and the planting of three bombs near three mosques, one of which had exploded (Dodd, 2013). 6 ‘Isil’ is an alternative reference to ISIS. 7 Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a key proponent of this type of perspective. 8 These discussions form part of on-going research on British Muslim relationships. 9 Perhaps the most baffling comment given that Muslims are prohibited from drinking alcohol.

References Abu-Lughod, L. (2002) ‘Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving? Anthropological Reflections on Cultural Relativism and Its Others’, American Anthropologist, 104(3): 783–790. Abu-Lughod, L. (2013) Do Muslim Women Need Saving? Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Ahmad, F. (2001) ‘Modern Traditions? British Muslim Women and Academic Achievement’, Gender and Education, 13(2): 137–152. Ahmad, F. (2003) ‘Still “in Progress?” – Methodological Dilemmas, Tensions and Contradictions in Theorizing South Asian Muslim Women’, in N. Puwar and P. Ranghuram (Eds), South Asian Women in the Diaspora, pp. 43–65. Oxford: Berg. Ahmad, F. (2006) ‘The Scandal of “Arranged Marriages” and the Pathologisation of BrAsian Families’, in N. Ali, V. Kalra and S. Sayyid (Eds), Postcolonial People, South Asians in Britain. London: Hurst Publications. Ahmad, F. (2007) ‘Muslim Women’s Experiences of Higher Education in Britain’, American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Special Issue on Higher Education, 24(3): 46–69.


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Ahmad, F. (2010) ‘The London Bombings of 7/7 and Muslim Women in Britain – Media Representations, Mediated Realities’, in Faegheh Shirazi (Ed.), Images of Muslim Women in War and Crisis, pp. 245–261. Austin: University of Texas Press. Ahmad, F. (2012) ‘Graduating Towards Marriage? – Attitudes Towards Marriage and Relationships among University Educated British Muslim Women’, Culture and Religion, 13: 193–210. Ahmad, F. (2013) ‘Gendering the Muslim Question’, in Claire Alexander, Victoria Redclift and Ajmal Hussain (Eds), Runnymede Perspectives: The New Muslims. London: Runnymede Trust, Runnymede_The_New_Muslims_Perspective.pdf. Accessed 1 August 2013. Ahmad, F. (2014) ‘British Muslims’ Relationship Crisis’, Public Spirit, 22 January, Accessed 24 January 2014. Ahmad, F., Modood, T. and Lissenburgh, S. (2003) South Asian Women and Employment in Britain: the Interaction of Gender and Ethnicity, London: PSI. Ahmed, L. (1992) Women and Gender in Islam, Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Allen, C., Isakjee, A., and Ogtem Young, O. (2013) ‘Maybe We Are Hated’: The Experience and Impact of Anti-Muslim Hate on British Muslim Women. Birmingham: Institute of Applied Social Studies, School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham. Awan, I. (2012) ‘“I Am a Muslim Not an Extremist”: How the Prevent Strategy Has Constructed a “Suspect” Community’, Politics & Policy, 40(6): 1158–1185. Barnett, E. (2015) ‘UK: Stop Pitying British Schoolgirls Joining Islamic State – They’re Not Victims’, The Telegraph, The Muslim Issue, 23 February, https://themuslimissue. Accessed 28 September 2015. Beck, U. and Beck-Gernsheim, E. (1995) The Normal Chaos of Love. Cambridge: Polity Press. Bhopal, K. (1997) Gender, ‘Race’ and Patriarchy, A Study of South Asian Women. Aldershot: Ashgate. Bowcott, O. (2016) ‘MPs Launch Inquiry into Sharia Courts in UK’, The Guardian, 27 June, Accessed 27 June 2016. Brah, A. (1996) Cartographies of Diaspora, Contesting Identities. London: Routledge. Brown, K.E. and Saeed, T. (2015) ‘Radicalization and Counter-radicalization at British Universities: Muslim Encounters and Alternatives’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 38(11): 1952–1968. Cendrowicz, L. (2015) ‘Refugee Crisis: EU Faultlines Revealed as Hungary’s PM Warns of Risk to “Christian” Culture’, The Independent, 3 September 2015. http://www. Accessed 29 September 2015. Chakraborti, N. and Zempi, I. (2012) ‘The Veil under Attack: Gendered Dimensions of Islamophobic Victimisation’, International Review of Victimology, 18(3): 269–284. Cheruvallil-Contractor, S. (2012) Muslim Women in Britain: Demystifying the Muslimah, London & New York: Routledge. Commons Select Committee News (2016) ‘Sharia Councils Inquiry Launched’, 24 June, UK Parliament, ons-select/home-affairs-committee/news-parliament-2015/160623-new-inquiry-shariacouncils. Accessed 26 June 2016.

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Copsey, N., Dack, J., Littler, M. and Feldman, M. (2013) Anti-Muslim Hate and the Far Right, Middlesbrough: Teesside University. Dale, A., Shaheen, N., Fieldhouse, E. and Kalra, V. (2002a), ‘Labour Market Prospects for Pakistani and Bangladeshi Women’. Work, Employment and Society, 16(1): 5–26. Dale, A., Shaheen, N., Fieldhouse, E. and Kalra, V. (2002b), ‘Routes into Education and Employment for Young Pakistani and Bangladeshi Women in the UK’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 25(6): 942–968. Dodd, V. (2013) ‘Ukrainian Man Charged with “Terrorist-Related Murder” of Mohammed Saleem’, The Guardian, 22 July 2013, uk-news/2013/jul/22/ukranian-man-charged-murder-mohammed-saleem. Accessed 25 September 2015. Dodd, V. (2015) ‘Jihadi Threat Requires Move into “Private Space” of UK Muslims, Says Police Chief’, The Guardian, 24 May, 2015/may/24/jihadi-threat-requires-move-into-private-space-of-uk-muslims-says-policechief. Accessed 25 September 2015. Dwyer, C., Modood, T., Sanghera, G., Shah, B. & Thapar-Bjorkert, S. (2011) ‘Educational Achievement and Career Aspirations of Young British Pakistanis’ in T. Modood and J. Salt (Eds), Global Migration, Ethnicity and Britishness, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 177–204. Equal Opportunities Commission (2006) Moving On Up? Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Black Caribbean Women and Work, Manchester: EOC. Gohir, S. (2010) ‘Muslim Women Are Not Political Pawns’, The Guardian, 9 April, en. Accessed 6 March 2013. Grant, S. (2015) ‘The “Charlie Hebdo Shooting”: How Have Muslim UCL Students’ Experienced Their Right to Freedom of Expression and the Portrayal of Islam in the Media?’, Unpublished Master’s Dissertation, Dept. of Political Science, University College London. Hanes, E. and Machin, S. (2014) ‘Hate Crime in the Wake of Terror Attacks: Evidence from 7/7 and 9/11’, Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 30(3): 247–267. Hartley, Brewer J. (2015) ‘For British Muslim Women, Isis May Offer Freedom’, The Independent, 18 June, uslim-women-isis-may-offer-freedom-10329930.html. Accessed 22 September 2015. Home Office and The Rt Hon Theresa May MP (2016) ‘Independent Review into Sharia Law Launched’, 26 May, Home Office, endent-review-into-sharia-law-launched. Accessed 27 May 2016. Hussain, Y. and Bagguley, P. (2007) Moving on Up: South Asian Women and Higher Education. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books. Ijaz, A. and Abbas, T. (2010) ‘The Impact of Inter-generational Change on the Attitudes of Working-class South Asian Muslim Parents on the Education of their Daughters’, Gender and Education, 22(3): 313–326. Imtoual, A. and S. Hussein (2009) ‘Challenging the Myth of the Happy Celibate: Muslim Women Negotiating Contemporary Relationships’, Contemporary Islam, 3(1): 25–39. Kang, T. (2015) ‘Burdened in Britain: Experiences of British Muslim Women in Relation to Media and Government Representations of Female Extremism’, Unpublished Master’s Dissertation, Dept. of Political Science, University College London. Khan, F. and Mythen, G. (2015) ‘Double Standards and Speech Deficits: What Is Sayable for British Muslims After Paris?’ Sociological Research Online, 20(3): 2. http://www. Accessed 16 September 2015.


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Khan, K. (2009) ‘Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) & PREVENT. A Response from the Muslim Community’, The An-Nisa Society. https://muslimyouthskills.files.wordpress. com/2010/05/pve__prevent___a_muslim_response.pdf. Accessed 20 September 2015. Khattab, N. and Modood, T. (2015) ‘What is the Impact of Expectations upon Educational Attainment? Does it Vary by Ethno-religious Groupings?’ Unpublished conference paper presented at ‘Ethnicity and Educational Inequality: The Role of Aspirations’, Symposium, Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, University of Bristol, 19 August 2015. Kundnani, A. (2009) Spooked! How Not to Prevent Violent Extremism. London: Institute of Peace Relations. Kundnani, A. (2014) The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror. London: Verso Books. Lazreg, M. (1988) ‘Feminism and Difference: The Perils of Writing as a Woman on Women in Algeria’, Feminist Studies, 14, Spring: 81–107. Letters (2015) ‘PREVENT Will Have a Chilling Effect on Open Debate, Free Speech and Political Dissent’, The Independent, 10 July 2015. voices/letters/prevent-will-have-a-chilling-effect-on-open-debate-free-speech-and-politicaldissent-10381491.html. Accessed 11 July 2015. Littler, M., and Feldman, M. (2015) Tell MAMA Reporting 2014/2015: Annual Monitoring, Cumulative Extremism, and Policy Implications, June 2015. Mohammed, S. (2012) ‘Why British Muslim Women Struggle to Find a Marriage Partner’, The Guardian, Accessed 19 January 2012. Rashid, N. (2013) ‘Giving the Silent Majority a Stronger Voice? Initiatives to Empower Muslim Women as Part of the UK’s “War on Terror”’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37(4): 589–604. Saltman, E. and Smith, M. (2015) ’Til Martydom Do Us Part’ Gender and the ISIS Phenomenon. London: Institute for Strategic Dialogue. Shah, B., Dwyer, C. and Modood, T. (2010) ‘Explaining Educational Achievement and Career Aspirations Among Young British Pakistanis: Mobilising “Ethnic Capital”?’, Sociology, 44(6): 1109–1127. Spalek, B. (2010) ‘Community Policing, Trust, and Muslim Communities in Relation to “New Terrorism”’, Politics & Policy, 38(4): 789–815. Spivak, G. (1988) ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ in Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg (Eds), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, pp. 271–313. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Suleyman, C. (2015) ‘It’s Time To Talk About Why Our Young People Turn Against Their Country’, Media Diversified, 26 February, 26/its-time-to-talk-about-why-our-young-people-turn-against-their-country. Accessed 20 September 2015. Travis, A. (2015a) ‘Universities Will Be Allowed to Host Extremist Speakers – Within Limits’, The Guardian, 17 July, universities-allowed-host-extremist-speakers-within-limits. Accessed 1 October 2015. Travis, A. (2015b) ‘Government Launches Hunt for Extremists across Public Sector’, The Guardian, 19 October, Accessed 19 October 2015. Travis, A. (2016) ‘Theresa May Launches Sharia Law Review’, The Guardian, 26 May, Accessed 27 May 2016.

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Tyrer, D. and Ahmad, F. (2006), Muslim Women, Identities, Experiences, Diversity and Prospects in Higher Education, Liverpool: John Moores University and ESF. Wintour, P. (2015) ‘Jails and Councils Obliged to Prevent Radicalisation as New Act Becomes Law’, The Guardian, 29 June, 29/jails-and-universities-obliged-to-prevent-radicalisation-as-new-act-becomes-law. Accessed 3 July 2016. Witt, J. (2015) Guardian Live: Why Do Young Women Want to Join Islamic State? 27 July, Accessed 1 October 2015. Zempi, I. and Chakraborti, N. (2014) Islamophobia, Victimisation and the Veil, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Urban young Muslims Cross cultural influence in the face of religious marginalisation and stigmatisation Abdul Haqq Baker

Introduction This chapter aims to address challenges facing young British Muslims from predominantly inner city/urban community contexts against the backdrop of wider social, religious and economic stigmatisation which continues to influence and drive policies that adversely affect them. Despite the restrictive and often counterproductive effects of the above factors, positive developments continue to be witnessed among a significant number of these youth through innovative programmes and initiatives geared towards identifying their potential and, thereafter, empowering them to make effective changes in their lives. The focus of this chapter will be on Muslim converts (black and white) alongside second generation Muslims of African descent. The reasons for focusing on the second group are due to the following factors: 1



Their prevalence among the convert community, particularly in south London, is significant and therefore warrants more attention than previously given by academics and policy makers. The continuing oversight and/or failure of academic researchers to acknowledge this particular section of the British Muslim population in preference for the more visible and larger second/third generations from Asian communities.1 In fact, Peach refers to a ‘lack of provenance’ when reflecting on the 2001 Census data relating to Black African Muslims.2 The increasing concerns of the west regarding the continuing climate in Somalia and emerging counter-terrorist strategy to address ‘Islamist’ extremism following the recent events in Mali and Algeria respectively.3

The chapter will also draw upon the author’s doctoral research in which theoretical frameworks examining stages of conversion to Islam were examined and tested among his interview cohort.4 Two case studies comprised mainly of interviews with young Muslims who experienced firsthand the challenges of growing up within an urban environment of gang culture and violence will illustrate the necessity for youth intervention programmes. Discussion will then ensue around a possible framework for successful youth intervention models.

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The award winning youth initiative – Strategy To Reach, Empower & Educate Teenagers (STREET UK) will form the basis of this discussion.

‘The whites [and Asians] have become black’:5 street culture and its pervading influence among youth David Starkey’s controversial and inflammatory statements regarding a possible catalyst behind the nationwide summer riots of 2011 caused a flurry of debate with many criticising him for tapping into a racial prejudice at a time of national crisis.6 Others defended Starkey, stating he was not referring to black culture in general but to a particular form which represented: the violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture associated with Jamaican gangs and American rap music.7 Beneath the surface of such polarising statements is the long established fact that black culture – the positive and not so positive aspects of it – has actually shaped, dominated and influenced youth cultural landscapes across the UK for decades.8 Youth vernacular has now become ethnically indistinguishable among many young people due, predominantly, to the influence of black culture – this being one of the so-called adverse effects Starkey highlighted. Further evidence of this can be seen from earlier research: As one of the teenagers interviewed puts it: ‘The coolest group at school are the “rude girls” who dress and talk black.’ Researchers found that an increasing number of white youths now talk with a Jamaican patois which they have dubbed ‘Blinglish’ – a reference which suggests the marriage of English to black street culture’s love of ostentatious displays of wealth, known as ‘bling’.9 It has also influenced Asian youth as can be witnessed when observing the cultural ‘fusion’ between them and British black Muslims. The two case studies were definitive in their conclusions regarding second/third generation Asians (and, coincidentally, Somalis and Arabs) following black street culture as a result of the latter being more exposed to it via converts / 2nd generation Muslims of African descent. When asked whether Asian and other culturally based communities were trying to follow the footsteps of black, urban Muslim youth they replied emphatically:10 Case study 1 – Rayhan (pseudonym) I look at it like this, before I was Muslim – we’re talking 2004 and before that, growing up – I never recognised Asians, Somalis, Arabs. I never even acknowledged them in my world. My world was just gang banging, so I never noticed them. Only once I became Muslim, they came out [of] the


Abdul Haqq Baker woodwork. We made it – not, say, cool – but we made it OK for them to show their Islam but they obviously looked at when we was gang banging and Muslim at the same time and looked at it and said, ‘we’re Muslim, we’re born Muslim so we can be involved.’ So they jumped on the wagon and obviously they’re trying to be like us but they wasn’t born like that. We were born – kind of forced into it – I didn’t wake up, choose to say I was gonna be a gang banger. They’re trying to be how we was…11

Case study 2 – Yunus (pseudonym) – expressed a similar view: The black culture was the predominant sort of culture in the gang thing. If you look at the gang thing it’s always going to be looked at as the black culture, coming from south London and stuff like that…the Asians – the other communities – we didn’t even take notice of. If it wasn’t for Islam – this was their pocket to get into the gang thing. This is how we see they start falling into extremism and stuff like that coz this is their window to express themselves…whereas in the gang thing they’re silent – they can’t really say anything coz the black man who’s not Muslim will look at them and say, ‘rar! – you’re just an Asian yout[h] [or] Somali yout[h].’ With Islam, this is how they’ve sort of fallen into extremism in Islam coz they’ve got a voice to speak and [a] black man [is] backing them.12 Despite the apparent influence and success of black culture to permeate many aspects of youth and street culture, black Muslims remain – to some degree – marginalised, especially those coming from urban backgrounds. Potential leadership from among this group continues to go undetected or ignored among civic and political spheres due to socio-economic and/or socio-religious stigmatisation from both wider society and the more culturally embedded Muslim communities. The author previously illustrated the adverse effects of such marginalisation when discussing youth vulnerability and susceptibility to violent radicalisation in his Ph.D. study and subsequent work.13 One of the theoretical frameworks developed in the study has been slightly amended to reflect the current context under discussion in this chapter:

Wider ‘host’ society

Vacuum where ‘hard to reach’ disenfranchised Muslim youth gravitate towards

Figure 4.1 Cross section of Funnel Model14

Culturally embedded Muslim communities

‘Urban’ & marginalised Muslim communities

Urban young Muslims


Figure 4.1 illustrates the vacuum towards which a significant proportion of black and white converts alongside British Muslim youth of African descent are drawn within an urban context.15 Gang, gun and knife crime are prevalent within such vacuums, as shall be seen and discussed later in the chapter. However, suffice it to mention at this juncture that the proliferation of criminality as well as the risk of violent radicalisation within this vacuous context remains a concern, particularly when government funding cuts extended to youth services across the UK: Across England, youth services have been disproportionately hit by government-imposed public spending cuts, with more than £100m axed from local authority youth services by April [2011], according to the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services. A survey of 41 of its members found some councils cutting 70%, 80% or even 100% of youth services. Almost 3,000 full-time staff have been lost, and universal services such as youth clubs have been hit hardest: 96% of members who responded said club activities would be either reduced or stopped altogether by next April [2012].16 These cuts included youth-based initiatives and intervention programmes with proven track records in tackling the above mentioned issues. The resultant effects of these austerity measures were witnessed almost immediately at the grassroots: A teenager who took part in a shooting which left a five-year-girl paralysed was known to youth offending teams as a ‘high risk’ to others, it has emerged… Thusha Kamaleswaran was shot in the chest and Roshan Selvakumar, 35, was shot in the face at a Brixton shop last March [2011]. Anthony McCalla, 20, one of three gang members involved, was a ‘top priority’ for the local youth offending team in Lambeth. Local gang mediator Junior Shabazz claims McCalla fell between the intervention gaps once he turned 18 and ‘the money dried up’.17 While local councils were unable to address increasing disaffection among youth in more urban settings like the London borough of Lambeth, youth programmes continued to yield success via direct engagement with elements of society often considered the most hard to reach. The above report continued to highlight the stark reality of government spending cuts: A number of young men who knew McCalla well say they were encouraged to move away from associating with the gangs McCalla was caught up with by an intervention project called STREET. Michael Gonedro and Abdul Majeed, both former gang members who trained to become STREET youth workers, said the decline in gang mediation in the absence of funding is leading to an escalation of violence.


Abdul Haqq Baker BBC London has seen correspondence between the organisers of STREET and local and national government officials which shows STREET was asked by police and probation services to help McCalla. The project was losing staff and funding so in turn made it clear it was not in a position to help.18

It is important to note that the above request from statutory bodies preceded the almost fatal shooting of Thusha Kamaleswaran by three months. The illustration provided in Figure 4.1 is, perhaps, an accurate reflection of wider society’s, its statutory agencies’ and more traditional communities’ detachment from urban youth culture. Rowan Williams’ conclusion after reading The Guardian’s report on the riots of 2011 supports this assertion: So much of what is recorded here reflects lives in which anger and depression are almost the default setting, thanks to a range of frustrations and humiliations. Too many of these young people assume they are not going to have any ordinary, human, respectful relationships with adults – especially those in authority, the police above all.19 David Cameron’s immediate reaction and response to the riots were, and continue to be, symptomatic of the government’s overall failure to understand the array of challenges facing youth generally and Muslim youth specifically. Following the riots, he signalled a drive to combat gang culture, attributing blame towards gang leaders responsible for coordinating nationwide attacks.20 Many MPs expressed concern that resources had, up until the civil disturbances witnessed that summer, been diverted to surveillance of ‘Muslim extremists’ to the detriment of tackling gangs and their leaders.21 Cameron’s new and ill-devised strategy – which amounted to a knee jerk response following public outcry – was to enlist the help of US experts like Bill Bratten, the former chief of police in New York and Los Angeles, who was well known for his strategies on combating gangs in the US.22 This approach was problematic from the outset due to the differing societal contexts within which these gangs – not to mention youth in general – operated. Reference only has to be made to the ill-fated attempt of the USbased Guardian Angels to transfer their methodologies and skill set to London to tackle crime on the London Underground during the 1980s. This should provide an avid reminder of ineffective publicity drives or strategies in order to assuage public concern: In 1988 the Guardian Angels, the American vigilante group famous for its patrolling of the New York subway, came to Britain to set up a British chapter on the London Underground. Patrols were eventually started in May 1989 and do not seem to have made any impact on robbery… However, an enormous amount of dramatic self-publicity was generated by the New York Angels in their first months in London, coincidental with the sudden drop in robbery… A plausible explanation for the sudden reduction in

Urban young Muslims


robbery on the total Underground system in 1989 seems to be that the publicity generated by the Guardian Angels had the immediate effect of frightening offenders away from the Underground. This is, of course, very different from saying that the actual patrolling activity of the Guardian Angels has been effective…23 It comes as no surprise therefore that Cameron’s plans resulted in a similar fate to the Guardian Angels when reviewing his strategy a year later: David Cameron’s declaration of war on ‘gang culture’ after the 2011 riots is branded a failure in a report that says the police’s focus on arresting gang leaders while failing to act against other members has backfired. The study also accuses ministers of ‘losing commitment’ to the fight, allowing more and more primary schoolchildren to be drawn into gangs, with some now wearing gang ‘colours’ to lessons.24

Urban Muslims – so who or what are we actually dealing with? The author’s doctoral study examined various typologies that typified particular characteristics peculiar to various Muslim communities in Britain.25 For the sake of brevity, discussion will now ensue around typologies considered relevant to the type of Muslims who are the focus of this chapter. Renani provided six categories when defining British Muslim identity.26 Three of them are arguably and, to varying degrees, accurate descriptors for Black British Muslims of African descent and converts within an urban societal context: 1



Anglicised Muslim (Westernised Muslim)/Anglicism – This entity includes those who have assimilated into British culture and have fully immersed themselves into the norms, celebrations and customs of society. Their original language and culture is lost, hence the inability to communicate with parents or first generation family members in their original mother tongue. In short British culture is more familiar to them than their parents’. This often causes conflict among such individuals leading them to what can be described as Undetermined Identities. Hybrid Identity – Renani describes the main characteristic of this group to be the absence of any distinct identity. Individuals in this category are primarily influenced by two major factors: religious and cultural roots alongside the newer more general environment into which they have been placed. This category largely consists of new immigrant communities. Undetermined/Vagrant Identity – Renani suggests this group consists of a young generation that is not inclined towards any particular identity, irrespective of whether it is cultural/traditional or modern. This group is not confused by its identity; its adherents are, however, disordered in the unpredictability of their behaviour so far as loyalties are concerned.27


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The first and second typologies, when applied to Somali communities that have settled in Britain post 1990 can, to some degree, be considered particularly pertinent. The third typology however can be applied as a fairly accurate descriptor of urban-based Muslim converts/second generation Muslims of African descent. This is due to existing socio-religious dynamics they continue to experience with both the non-Muslim/wider society alongside an almost parallel amalgamation into newer cultural environments with predominantly Muslim communities. Although the above categorisations should not be applied too rigidly, they nevertheless provide a basis upon which to develop an understanding of the psychological mosaic of urban-based second generation Muslims of African descent and converts. Another, more ideologically focused typology can also be considered at this stage as it is reflective of a popular strand of Islam among a significant number of the Muslim youth in question. Ramadan refers to three categories of Salafism (Salafiyyah) when discussing Muslim typologies: 1

2 3

Salafi traditionalism: Adherents to this particular traditionalism ascribe themselves to the first three generations of the Muslim era (salafus salih, i.e. the pious predecessors). This group can be distinguished from the first group by its literalist understanding of sacred texts. Salafi reformism: This group is very close to the traditionalists with the exception of their insistence upon ijtihad. Political and literalist Salafiyya: This group’s orientation is towards a more radical interpretation of Islam and with a strong emphasis towards development of an Islamic state. What distinguishes them from other categories is their unequivocal opposition to any notion of collaboration with European/ Western societies, holding such environments to be Darul Harb (realms of war).28

In the author’s previous research, 53.3 per cent of the interviewees professed their ascription to Salafism.29 Wiktorowicz also observed: The Salafis constitute one of the fastest growing Islamic movements and enjoy a global reach in virtually all countries.30 In view of the increasing categorisations of Salafism, it is necessary to differentiate the Salafi interviewees and those being discussed in this chapter according to the ‘non-violent’ category; namely, ‘Salafi-Purists’.31 Interestingly, during previous discussions and meetings with statutory agencies, the author noted a further, more specific categorisation of black and white converts alongside Muslims of African descent emerging – that of ‘Urban Salafism’. This terminology was coined following one such meeting, the rationale behind it emanating from observations that second generation Muslims of African descent and converts more easily engaged and interacted with the wider non-Muslim ‘host’ society than their Asian counterparts or the more rurally based communities. Zebiri’s

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findings regarding British Muslim converts’ continuing affinity with wider society highlighted that: Converts may have greater empathy with non-Muslims because of their non-Muslim past and on-going relationships with their family of origin. They often have a heightened awareness, compared to other Muslims, of how Muslims are viewed by outsiders, so there can be a strongly reflexive element to their discourse.32 Kose’s previous research on British converts also reflects this affiliation: They [converts] still regard themselves as members of their society and they do not favour isolation. On the contrary, they are fully conscious and aware of their own local environment as well as the universal aspects of the faith they have adopted.33 The apparent insularity witnessed among some of the more culturally based, traditional Asian communities was missing within these particular urban contexts whereas instead, a more embracing and integrative approach was evident among ‘Urban Salafi’ communities – particularly in south London. When analysing both Rayhan’s and Yunus’s case studies, characteristics which place them in Renani’s typology of ‘Undetermined/Vagrant Identity’ and Ramadan’s ‘Salafi Traditionalism’ emerge. Case study 1 – Rayhan Rayhan is a young British Muslim aged 27 who converted to Islam in 2004 at the age of 16 while serving a prison sentence. While completing his sentence, he learned the basic tenets of Islam, including the obligatory prayers. He was released in 2005 having spent a total of 21 months incarcerated. However, upon his release he faced immediate challenges due to previous gang affiliations that were non-Muslim conflicting with newly established friendships: When I came out, I was with my old friends who wasn’t Muslim and they was from Peckham and most of the shahadas (conversions to Islam) was taken in Brixton and obviously them times there was still the old school little conflict between Peckham and Brixton – the ‘postcode’ kinda wars – so it was kinda difficult for me to go to Brixton. So I was going to a Tablighi masjid in Peckham [but] wasn’t really learning anything in the religion…so I had to take the step to go Brixton, started going to the masjid – [met] some brothers there [and] started learning more about Salafiyyah, learning about the correct manhaj [methodology] of Islam.34 Despite this progressive, albeit risky step towards learning the religion in an altogether ‘foreign’ gang territory, Rayhan managed to persevere and continue


Abdul Haqq Baker

his initial religious studies in Brixton Mosque. However, he was confronted with an altogether different challenge as a newly established Muslim coming from a background of gang criminality and violence: but that [being in Brixton] still caused problems for me – being around some of the brothers in Brixton who were still on the road – they were not 100% committed to Islam. They were still doing bad things and that kinda caused problems for me from my own home town, Peckham, so I was still hanging round [Peckham] with my old friends – still doing the drug dealing, XYZ – all the other stuff… We were Muslim only by name, we was praying but I didn’t feel we was 100% Muslim…Because how Islam came to us, that means I’m from south but I know a brother in north London, a brother in west London, a brother in east London. What’s gonna bring us together is the religion but we kinda used it in the wrong way. That means I now got drug links in east, I’ve got gun links in west, so for us, when we became Muslim, it opened doors to everything so I could meet people from all over the country under the flag of Islam.35 Despite the above challenges, Rayhan managed to forge ahead and develop his religious identity by slowly distancing himself from some of the influencing factors around him. His strength of character combined with an increasing religious conviction enabled him to completely abandon his former life style. Travelling abroad also provided an opportunity for him to broaden his horizons and ‘actualise’ practising the religion within Muslim majority societies.36 In previous research, the author discussed the theoretical perspective of ‘actualisation’ as it relates to new converts and/or reverts to Islam: [The] respective actualisation of the religion, as opposed to practising it in abstract, means that individuals at this [‘Adult’ – foundational] phase have better understood and experienced the religion as a way of life, i.e. lived or travelled abroad to Muslim countries and engaged/participated in those societies, thereby enhancing his/her understanding and practice of Islam. This is contrary to their previous understanding and practice which…was previously applied in an abstract form, i.e. learned from books, cassettes and videos in a predominantly non-Muslim environment.37 Following his return from abroad, Rayhan redirected his influence and leadership skills among his peers towards more positive endeavours geared towards education, employment and anti-gang initiatives. It is important to note that he, like so many urban youth, had become accustomed to channeling any potential skill or talent towards destructive, nihilistic avenues. Prior to this redirection, Rayhan recounted his role among his cohorts: I was more of a manipulative person, I could manipulate people in terms of – not wind[ing] people up but like I was like the battery in the back – I was

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like the spark for the group, so say there was 20 of us sitting down and something had just happened and we had to do, like a revenge attack, everyone’s able to do it but some people have to be told, ‘do it’, so I’d be that kinda guy…the organiser…some people need that kinda person around them…they need that energy and I was kinda that energy…38 His decision to eschew the former gang life was also as a result of what he continued to witness among peers. His religious cognizance and spiritual development were also fundamental factors that influenced him: the fame, the glory – you love it but when the reality strikes, Allah starts humiliating you in some areas, things are not going too well…Any man whose got some sense of honour and pride, he doesn’t want to be disrespected or humiliated…I couldn’t bear the thought of being humiliated… so I thought I better make a smart move to come off the road but in a way that I’ve left with my respect. So when I started seeing people dying – I see my friend in hospital – five bullets in him – one in his head, just dead, my other brethren – dead… in the space of three months, three of my closest friends all got killed…Things were just going terrible…so I just thought I’ve got to make a move before either I get killed [or] put in jail.39 Individuals like Rayhan can and have become effective conduits for positive change among peers in the urban environments he heralds from and the less urbanised and criminally inexperienced Muslim youth seeking to emulate the ‘gangsta’ life style. However, a paradigmatic shift is still required from existing policy – making processes, introduced by the present government, which result in marginalising individuals like Rayhan who are psychologically equipped to tackle some of the destructive challenges facing inner city/urban sections of society today.

Positive peer pressure: STREET – ‘For you from people like you’40 Rosenberg observes: It is logical, really, that peer pressure can get us out of so many bad situations, because peer pressure is one important reason we get into them…We are all good boys at risk of the bad crowd. Peer pressure is a mighty and terrible force – so powerful that, for the vast majority of people, the best antidote to it is more peer pressure.41 Earlier in this chapter, reference was made to a news report regarding five-year-old Thusha Kamaleswaran who was left paralysed following a gang-related shooting in Stockwell, Lambeth in 2011. The two young men interviewed in this report had managed to eschew gang life and the associated violence that followed it. They are both second generation British Muslims of African descent. As mentioned in the aforementioned report, they gravitated away from peers immersed


Abdul Haqq Baker

in gang culture and, instead of abandoning them completely, began positively engaging with and challenging the self-destructive culture that continued to claim so many lives.42 One significant factor that enabled them to reverse the trend of gang violence and criminality was Strategy To Reach Empower & Educate Teenagers – STREET. Since its inception, STREET has been the focus of case studies, policy makers and governments primarily due to its effective approaches of engagement with individuals often considered hard to reach. Such youth were deemed vulnerable to gang culture, criminality and violent radicalisation. STREET received a government award in 2009 for being the most innovative intervention programme in London during 2008.43 The author is also the founding director of STREET and has attended international conferences to explain the rationale behind the organisation’s multi-pronged strategies deployed among its target audience. Suffice it to highlight a few of the observations from academics and journalists to illustrate STREET’s operational effectiveness. Barclay’s case study describes the organisation as follows: STREET, which was created and is run largely by members of a Muslim community in south London, works with at-risk youth to divert them from involvement in antisocial behaviour, gang violence, and violent extremism, and toward leading more productive and positive lives…The STREET mentoring approach, aspects of which will be familiar to those with experience in countergang work, are combined with deep theological expertise and some innovative counterradicalization techniques to considerable effect, especially in cases where individuals demonstrate support for extremist jihadist ideologies.44 Rosenberg further observes: About 60 percent of the men who come into STREET have been involved with the criminal-justice system at some point…Simon Cornwall, a senior probation officer with the Central Extremism Unit [London Probation], said that STREET has taken half a dozen men on probation for terrorist offenses. His office is planning to begin sending more people to STREET, including Muslim offenders serving sentences for common crimes who also expressed support for violent extremism. He said he hoped that over the course of a year, STREET could grow to be able to take thirty-five of these men at any given time.45 It is important to reflect on the climate within which STREET was established in south London; since 2005, there have been 148 teenage murders in London; 100 are knife related while a smaller but significant number – 27 – have been gun related.46 In 2011, the boroughs of Lambeth (where STREET is located) and Southwark recorded the highest number of knife crimes in London. STREET’s operational structure was designed to be organic, enabling it to adapt

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to the fluidity of urban environments. Engagement involved many of the youth contributing to projects and activities as stakeholders as well as participants. This approach imbued in them a sense of ownership for the various programmes and subsequently, empowerment. STREET’s work streams have been reproduced below to highlight its operational structure. As Figure 4.2 suggests, each work stream provides a range of services that cater to individual needs:






[Youth HQ]



Figure 4.2 Workstreams47

Counseling, advice and mentoring may occur following interaction between target audience members and staff in work streams 1 and/or 2. These work streams cover the more general areas of activities where audiences feel more comfortable to engage and socialise with peers and staff alike. ‘Safe spaces’ which foster a degree of trust and reassurance are created within these two structured remits and it is among these environments that issues are identified and initially assessed before attempting to address individual needs head-on. Once counseling and advice are offered and accepted, work stream 3 provides the necessary expertise to the individuals requiring such engagement and a mutual agreement between the mentor and mentee is devised to facilitate a rehabilitative path towards positive societal re-engagement. Identification of and understanding the stage of the mentee’s religious and social/educational development are essential if s/he is to be successfully engaged with at this sensitive stage.48 During initial engagement with new target audience members, STREET employees assess their respective stages of social, religious and educational development in order to provide a tailored programme of counseling, mentoring, education and religious instruction, etc. These assessments are based on the author’s theoretical framework which charts their respective developmental stages from the conversion (‘Founding’), formative/idealistic (‘Youthful’), foundational (‘Adult’) and the more reflective (‘Mature’) phases.49 Additional evidence of STREET’s effectiveness can perhaps be measured by the experiences of participants of the organisation’s programmes. Case study 2 – Yunus Yunus provides an insight into STREET’s success: There are many factors that pulled us away [from the gang life and violence] – you start to get tired and you’re seeing man dying…you’re


Abdul Haqq Baker getting the phone calls – it’s just ongoing and it makes you depressed. The other thing was the help that we got. Organisations such as STREET – the fact that they were Muslim – I’m gonna highlight that. If they were not Muslim organisations then they would not have been able to get us how they did. Like, we never saw a Muslim organisation that would come to us, come into our estates, say, ‘yeah, we’re gonna take you out to lunch, we’re gonna go on a trip, we’re gonna play football’ and stuff like that. There were other organisations – community centres that were ongoing but the fact that they [STREET] were Muslim…this sort of helped us – we had these brothers behind us – backing us, helping us.50

Yunus continues to describe the empowerment and sense of ownership instilled in him and his peers who participated in STREET activities: The first thing that the brothers [from STREET] did – they did something which was quite smart. They said, ‘this is your centre, you lot are gonna be working here, this is for you lot; it’s not for us…’ Everything you see here is for you lot. They sort of brought us in.51 Rayhan attests to the added credibility that STREET received due to its engagement with peers like Yunus: When they [Yunus and some of his peers] started working there, that gave it [STREET]…a seal of approval for us, to see one of us working there… your own brothers, your own generation – he’s working there and you trust him…52 Yunus confirms the unique engagement approach of the organisation: And that approach, I think that was unique because you didn’t have no other organisation that took man from the grassroots and say, ‘yeah – this is for you lot…’ It gave us responsibility.

Natural born leaders? Rayhan and Yunus have managed to successfully transfer latent leadership skills to provide direction for peers who have remained in the gang, gun and knife crime culture. During a Summit Against Violent Extremism, arranged and hosted by Google in June 2011, the author raised the issue of YouTube’s policy of hosting gang-related videos.53 Eric Schmidt’s, Google’s CEO, response was revealing inasmuch as it reinforced existing perceptions among particular grassroots communities – that of a lack of concern among corporate entities coupled with little or no expertise as it related to gang culture. The inadvertent effect of such apparent corporate ignorance and neglect has been the facilitation of nihilistic videos that continue to perpetuate and glorify urban gang violence:

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Google also came in for criticism at the summit yesterday for failing to take some violent videos off its Youtube website. Dr Abdul Haqq Baker, a former chairman of the Brixton mosque in London, told more than 200 delegates attending the summit that Youtube videos were being used by gangs in south London to organise ‘gang hits’. He [Eric Schmidt] said the team of Google reviewers, who scrutinise video content after it is uploaded on to the website, often did not have the appropriate local knowledge to remove dangerous content.54 Mr Schmidt said Google had regional teams to review videos and inappropriate material was typically flagged by users and removed within minutes of going up on the website.55 Subsequent to the above event, arrangements were made by members of Google management to receive training via a workshop that was to be conducted by STREET. On 28 October 2011, Yunus delivered the workshop and during the session, illustrated the adverse effects of popular videos uploaded by rival gangs. STREET’s ‘Deconstruct’ approach and methodology was applied to decode urban vernacular familiar largely to youth at grassroots levels. He managed to highlight one particular video that was particularly poignant and, arguably, resulted in the death of a 15-year-old youth in south London: [Deconstruct] Summary This video was made by a Gang called TN1. It is mainly a compilation of rap freestyles. The video kicks off with an introduction from one of the most senior Gang members from TN1, firstly introducing himself, and then further promoting his gang. The video then follows on with the younger gang members adding their threats and statements to other rival gangs’ use of rap and coded terms. Past incidents and future intended ones are also described and referred to on countless occasions in this video. This particular video resulted in one of the younger gang members (also present in this video) to be viciously stabbed to death outside his school by the same rival gang being taunted and threatened.56 The above Deconstruct template referred to the murder of Zac Olumegbon outside his school in South Norwood, south London on 2 July 2010. The media report mentioned the gang-related nature of the attack.57 Unfortunately, despite the explicit nature of training and evidence provided on this occasion, it failed to yield any constructive adjustments to the Google team’s policy or approach in tackling such video postings. This was despite earlier intimations of an apparent commitment on their part: to get additional training on gang-related symbols, terms, etc. to give us a better understanding of whether what is being depicted is threatening or potentially dangerous.58


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The point of emphasis at this juncture is the leadership, knowledge and expertise displayed by Yunus in this particular field. These characteristics are often found among the grassroots, particularly as it relates to the ability to positively influence urban culture and trends. Other examples of grassroots, urban expertise can be provided here, such as that of Sean O’Reilly (a pseudonym) – a previous case study of the author. Sean – a white convert – embraced Islam in 2005 and became the only convert to be nominated to join the former government’s Young Muslim Advisory Group – YMAG.59 His participation and involvement in this group provides further evidence of urban-based Muslim youths’ abilities to become role models and conduits across cultural, religious and social spheres within society. Such individuals have the potential to contribute towards socially cohesive policies that aim to address and thereby reduce the challenges that effectively marginalise a small but significant section of Muslim youth.

Conclusion Black British Muslims have an even more important role to play today by virtue of their transcultural identities. Their positioning in an area of society, long since misunderstood and, to a degree, ignored by government due to its inability to control and therefore influence it, provides sufficient enough reason for a review on austerity cuts that have stifled opportunities for social and educational advancement. Despite these challenges, positive role models continue to emerge from among this segment of society, such as two of the individuals featured in this particular chapter recently receiving The Evening Standard’s 1000 Most Influential People in London Award for 2014.60 African–Carribean urban young Muslim voices have, on the whole, been muted in part due to more vocal representations by the larger, predominant South Asian Muslim population in Britain. While this is unsurprising due to the multifarious and complex social dimensions of this largely progressive section of Muslims, their representation of almost everything that is supposed to reflect Muslim ‘Britishness’ should now be reexamined in view of the existence and growing influence of British Muslim converts. Roald raises the following question when examining the impact of converts within a Scandinavian context: How important is the role of new Muslims as intermediaries between Muslim communities and Scandinavian society? Is the particular position of new Muslims who have ‘one foot in each culture’ beneficial for a fruitful dialogue between the two cultures?61 Muslim converts traverse all spheres of British society and yet their voices are seldom heard from among the more urban environments. Consideration must, in general, be given to the fact that: Converts may have greater empathy with non-Muslims because of their non-Muslim past and ongoing relationships with their family of origin.

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They often have a heightened awareness, compared to other Muslims, of how Muslims are viewed by outsiders, so there can be a strongly reflexive element to their discourse.62 This also applies to second generation Muslims of African descent whose influence across urban and wider societal spheres requires more attention than has been given to date. This chapter has endeavoured to highlight challenges among a group of young Muslims that is often difficult to address empirically due to the nature and sensitivity of the subject discussed herein. This chapter is by no means conclusive and further studies are required to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the issues raised. This particular discourse is, in part, a small attempt to evoke further discussion around what must be considered a key issue relating to factors which affect youth development and progress today.

Notes 1 The fact that 6.2 per cent of the Muslim population in Britain considered themselves ‘Black African’ is a significant enough reason to consider second generation Muslims of African descent. 2 Peach, C., Britain’s Muslim Population: Muslims in Britain, Zed Books, 2005. 3 Wintour, P., ‘David Cameron Puts Mali and Algerian Crises Ahead of EU Speech’, The Guardian, 18 January 2013, vid-cameron-algeria-mali-eu. Accessed 30 November 2014. 4 Baker, A. H., Countering Terrorism in the UK: A Convert Community Perspective, University of Exeter, 2010. 5 The Guardian, ‘David Starkey Claims the Whites Have Become Blacks’, 13 August 2011, Accessed 30 November 2014. 6 Ibid. 7 The Telegraph, ‘Was David Starkey being Racist on Newsnight Last Night?’ 13 August 2011, rkey-being-racist-on-newsnight-last-night. Accessed 30 November 2014. 8 Doward, Jamie, ‘Yo Blingland! Hip Hop Culture Rules for British Teens’, The Observer, 22 February 2004. 9 Ibid. 10 Interview with Rayhan (a pseudonym) – Case study 1, conducted 8 March 2013. 11 Ibid. 12 Interview conducted with Yunus, 8 March 2013. 13 Baker, Countering Terrorism in the UK, and Spalek, B., Counter-Terrorism: Community-Based Approaches to Preventing Terror Crime, Palgrave MacMillan, 2012. 14 Baker, A. H., Extremists in Our Midst: Confronting Terror, Palgrave MacMillan, 2011, p. 19. 15 Research conducted and presented in 2009 identified as many as 40 gangs in Lambeth, south London alone – J. Pitt, Reluctant Gangsters: The Changing Face of Youth Crime, University of Bedfordshire, Socio-Legal Studies, 2009. 16 Williams, R., ‘Teens Are Left to Their Own Devices as Council Axes All Youth Services’, The Guardian, 23 August 2011, aug/23/norfolk-axes-youth-services-effect. Accessed 30 November 2014. 17 Barling, K., ‘Stockwell Shooting: Gang Member Was “High Risk”’, BBC News, London, 13 April 2012, Accessed 30 November 2014.


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18 Ibid. 19 Roberts, D., ‘Reading the Riots: Investigating England’s Summer of Disorder’, The Guardian, Guardian Shorts, 2011, Chapter 11. 20 Wintour, P., ‘David Cameron Announces Moves to Tackle Gang Culture’, The Guardian, 11 August 2011, Accessed 30 November 2014. 21 Ibid. 22 Ibid. 23 Web, B. and Laycock, G., ‘Reducing Crime on the London Underground: An Evaluation of Three Pilot Projects’, Crime Prevention Unit Paper no. 30, London: Home Office, 1992, pp. 10–11. 24 Helm, T., ‘David Cameron’s War on Gang Culture has Backfired Says Think Tank’, The Observer, 27 October 2012, eron-war-gang-culture-backfired. Accessed 30 November 2014. 25 Baker, Countering Terrorism in the UK, pp. 64–78 26 Renani, S. R. A., The Impact of Globalization on British Muslim Identity, Royal Holloway, University of London, 2001, pp. 136–138. 27 Ibid. 28 Ramadan, T., To Be a European Muslim, Leicester, The Islamic Foundation, 1999. 29 Baker, Countering Terrorism in the UK, p. 97. 30 Wiktorowicz, Q., The New Global Treat: Transnational Salafis and the Global Threat, Rhodes College, 2006. 31 Wiktorowicz, Q., Anatomy of the Salafi Movement: Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2006. 32 Zebiri, K., British Muslim Converts: Choosing Alternative Lives, One World, 2008, p. 39. 33 Kose, A., Conversion to Islam: A Study of Native British Converts, Kegan Paul International, 1996, p. 134. 34 Interview with Rayhan, conducted 8 March 2013. 35 Ibid. 36 Ibid. 37 Baker, Extremists in Our Midst: Confronting Terror, p. 13. 38 Interview with Rayhan, conducted 8 March 2013. 39 Ibid. 40 STREET’s slogan. 41 Rosenberg, T., Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World, W.W. Norton & Company Ltd. 2011, pp. 350–351. 42 Yunus claims to have lost 10 colleagues over the past five years to gang, gun and knife crime. (Interview conducted with Yunus, 8 March 2013.) 43 Streatham Guardian, ‘Award for STREET Project’, 23 February 2009. 44 Barclay, J., ‘Strategy To Reach, Empower, and Educate Teenagers (STREET): A Case Study in Government-Community Partnership and Direct Intervention to Counter Violent Extremism’, Centre on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation, Policy Brief, 2011. 45 Rosenberg, Join the Club, p. 314. 46 Citizens Report: Mapping the Location and Victim Profile of Teenage Murders in London from 2005 to 2013, Accessed 30 November 2014. 47 Baker, Extremists in Our Midst , p. 224. 48 Spalek, Counter-Terrorism, pp. 91–93. 49 STREET Framework for identifying target audience’s developmental stages and implementation of schedule, 2010, adapted from Baker, ‘Countering Extremism in the UK’. 50 Interview conducted with Yunus, 8 March 2013.

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51 Ibid. 52 Interview with Rayhan, conducted 8 March 2013. 53 Smythe, J., ‘State Censorship of Internet to Increase, Google Chief Warns’, The Irish Times, 28 June 2011. 54 Italics are from the author of this chapter. 55 Ibid. 56 TN1 YouTube Deconstruct & Counter-narrative, STREET, September 2011, p. 6. 57 Blake, M., ‘Teenager Stabbed to Death at School Gates’, Mirror News, 3 July 2010, s-after-a-knife-ambush-115875–22378556. Accessed 30 November 2014. 58 Email exchange between Victoria Grand, Google, and Abdul Haqq Baker, STREET, 15 July 2011. 59 Department of Communities and Local Government, ‘The Next Generation of Community Leaders’, 7 October 2008, te/987399. Accessed 30 November 2014. 60 Evening Standard, ‘The 1000: London’s Most Influential People, 2014’, http://www.–campa igners-9789797.html 16th October 2014. Accessed 30 November 2014. 61 Roald, A. S., New Muslims in the European Context: The Experience of Scandinavian Converts, Brill, 2004, p. 289. 62 Zebiri, K., British Muslim Converts: Choosing Alternative Lives, One World, 2008, p. 39.


Finding a voice Young Muslims, music and religious change in Britain Carl Morris

Introduction On a warm Sunday afternoon, in early September 2011, large crowds are strolling around the grounds of a nineteenth-century non-conformist higher education college in Manchester. As the autumnal sunshine and leafy gardens are enjoyed by all, to the rear of the college, in an old peaked chapel that juts from the back of the bricked building, a man, dressed in a dark, buttoned-up suit and tie, moves across a small stage with microphone in hand. Smiling broadly as he scatters flowers to a swaying crowd, the man sings into the microphone. Supported by pre-recorded backing harmonies and percussion emitted from a temporary sound system, he gently unfolds lyrics praising Allah and the beauty of creation, attempting to evoke notions of love and compassion. This is the 2011 Eid Festival, at the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester and the performer, Khaleel Muhammad, has travelled from London to perform a selection of English-language nasheeds (religious songs) for those at the celebration. He is just one of several celebrity performers that are here to contribute to the nasheed concert, while outside Muslim families enjoy the food stalls, the activity tents and the small funfair. In many respects, this celebration and similar events across the country are part of an emergent Islamic entertainment culture – a culture that incorporates music as a central, distinctive but rather ambiguous practice. The event was typical of its kind: organised by a Muslim civil society and staffed by young Muslim volunteers in jeans and t-shirts, it aimed to combine a religious celebration with the gaiety of a wholesome and popularised entertainment culture. The nasheed concert itself was hosted by a British-Algerian R&B musician, Rahim, and involved performances by Khaleel Muhammad and three other well-known, English-language British nasheed artists. These celebrated musicians are all entertainers, public figures and religious mediators in their own right. They are a familiar presence in the British Muslim media market and across the Islamic events circuit. Often eschewing live instrumentation of any kind, these musicians restrict themselves to vocal renditions, sometimes with synthesised percussion, but otherwise drawing much of their influence from the pop music

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sounds of contemporary Britain. It is an emergent Muslim musical culture – little more than a decade or so old – that attempts to fuse religious observance and spiritual expression with global pop sounds and the faint traces of an Islamic musical/poetic tradition. Amir Awan, for instance, is a smartly dressed mathematics graduate, of Pakistani ethnicity, who works in the City of London for a major bank. In his spare time he writes, records and performs his own nasheeds, guided by his knowledge of tajwid (principles of Quranic recitation), and accompanied by a sound that is consciously inspired by Michael Jackson. Elsewhere in London, Poetic Pilgrimage, an assertive female hip hop duo from Bristol, with Jamaican roots, can be found blasting out lyrics on spirituality, global politics and the rights of women. Meanwhile, Usman Rehman, a young British Pakistani from Bradford, plies his trade across the north of England. As well as reinterpreting popularised qawwali songs (Sufi religious songs), he writes his own Englishlanguage nasheeds, with vocal sounds that are reminiscent of both Western pop music and classical South Asian performance. In Birmingham, the folk-rock group Silk Road combine a number of musical styles – from Irish folk music, to funk, blues and Indian classical music – producing elaborate instrumental music that is overlaid with earnest lyrics inspired by the Qur’an, Hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) and poetry of Rumi. In this chapter I highlight some of the key issues surrounding this cultural phenomenon and more broadly outline the contours of this musical scene. In fitting with the overarching theme of this edited collection, I pay particular attention to the dimensions of youth, discussing the socio-cultural and ethicalreligious motivations that are inextricably woven into the sonic and semantic fabric of Muslim music. I begin the chapter by considering some of the issues that surround the study of young Muslims in Britain, including a brief argument to locate Muslim musicians within this thematic context. This is followed by a history of selected Muslim musicians in Britain – a series of cultural narratives, no doubt incomplete, that crisscross the social soundscapes of twentiethcentury Britain. Using this historical context as a point of reference, I argue that contemporary Muslim musicians represent a new and distinctive wave of cultural producers. They are an emergent generation, deeply thoughtful and religious, as well as rooted in the intricacies and dynamics of Britain’s contemporary social and cultural landscape. In the final section of the chapter I will flesh out this argument by describing in detail the different styles of music that characterise Muslim music in Britain – nasheeds, syncretic styles, and Muslim hip hop – by providing short vignettes of musicians for illustrative purposes.

Young Muslims in Britain While the dynamics of age are relatively complex within this cultural scene – with ‘older’ musicians also producing challenging and innovative forms of music – there is undoubtedly a significant generational imprint. Popular Muslim musicians are relatively young themselves, or at the very least particularly


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influential through their direct engagement with young Muslims. It is telling that the most popular ‘day job’ for Muslim musicians is youth work, followed closely by teaching. To study Muslim musicians, then, is to consider individuals at the centre of a social, cultural and religious milieu that is characterised by religious and generational change. Music is one way – much like comedy and film – through which young Muslims are handling a number of the pressing social and political concerns that are relevant to this emergent generation. It might be argued, then, that this music partially reflects the broader concerns of young Muslims in Britain – and it should be noted that approximately 50 per cent of Muslims in Britain are under the age of twenty-five (Gilliat-Ray, 2010) Many of these young Muslims are now ‘coming of age’ and their influence on Islam in Britain should be considered a crucial factor of study within the field. Indeed, the rise of interest in young Muslims is partly evident through the increasing plurality of monograph-length publications and edited collections devoted to the subject (Lewis, 2007; Herrera and Bayat, 2010; Kabir, 2010; Ahmad and Seddon, 2012) – including from the perspective of youth work practitioners (Belton and Hamid, 2011). There is furthermore a more insidious angle when the unfortunate policy focus on ‘extremism’ and violent terrorism amongst young Muslims is considered (Communities and Local Government Committee, 2010). Philip Lewis manages to aptly capture some of the dynamics at play amongst young Muslims: Policy-makers worry about the existence of ‘parallel worlds’, especially in northern cities. Whatever the precise nature, extent, reasons for and significance of such social, cultural and spatial separation, it is clear that young Muslims within those spaces consider themselves British and share many aspects of popular youth culture with their non-Muslim peers. Their problem is with the many traditionally-minded parents who seek, usually unsuccessfully, to limit their access to it. (Lewis, 2007: 149) In this short passage, Lewis manages to highlight the notion of separation – of the religious and social distinctiveness that is potentially decisive for young Muslims – but also the irresistible pull of a shared national and popular culture. Adding to this, I would also point toward the resurgence of religiosity amongst young Muslims (Hamid, 2011) and the powerful impact of a politically aware young Muslim elite (Edmunds, 2010). These issues are undoubtedly at work amongst Muslim musicians, including within their immediate and overlapping peer groups. To place this argument within the proper context, I turn in the following section to a more sweeping historical overview of Muslim musical practice in Britain.

A history of Muslim musicians in Britain It is perhaps rather misleading to refer to a singular or even coherently conceived history of Muslim musicians in the UK. There are perhaps instead

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multiple musical histories that – while sonically and socially divergent – are only connectable through the tenuous threads of religious and national identity. The experiences and life-worlds of Muslim seafarers at the beginning of the twentieth century, for instance, cannot really be connected in any direct and meaningful sense to the countercultural awakening of the 1960s and 1970s. Yet while these histories might seem distinct and at times unconnected, they do nonetheless mark the stages and interludes within a complex and interwoven past – a fragmented history that can be lived and understood backwards. It is therefore helpful to understand the place of Muslim musicians and Islam within any given historical context. As I shall argue throughout, the role and character of music for Muslims in Britain is ultimately shaped by the social and cultural forces at work during any given historical period. Understanding this enables one to better comprehend the particularities of Muslim musicians and Muslim music in contemporary Britain. While Muslim communities within Britain predate the period of mass migration following the Second World War, such communities were relatively small and transitory, consisting primarily of seafarers who were concerned with securing employment in a hostile environment (Ansari, 2004). I have struggled to find any compelling evidence that these communities practised music, except perhaps (if it is defined as ‘music’) Sufi religious chanting, known as the dhikr (Lawless, 1995). It is nonetheless likely that these seafarers brought with them a range of musical styles and practices – from countries such as Yemen and Somalia – although the legacy of this cultural transposition appears to be indistinct, unresearched and perhaps lost within the vagaries of a forgotten yesterday. In contrast, post–Second World War migration saw the well-documented establishment of large Muslim communities that were predominantly from the Indian subcontinent. The transportation of diverse cultural backgrounds brought, in some cases, ‘traditional’ musical forms to urban Britain – though it should be noted that music did not always play a prominent role in the cultural practice of migrant groups (as with the Mirpuris). Forms of music included, in particular, Qawwali, a type of Sufi religious music unique to South Asia (Baily, 1990); na’at, a form of poetic rendition praising the Prophet Muhammad; and Bhangra, a non-religious music originating from the Punjab region (Banerji and Baumann, 1990). A range of smaller musical traditions and communities were also brought over during this period of migration, including, for example, an estimated 5,000–6,000 strong Khalifa community from Gujarat (Baily, 2006). Regardless of the specific tradition and communal context under consideration, these musical forms remained enclosed within socially excluded migrant communities and contributed to a sense of cultural solidarity (Baily and Collyer, 2006). During this genitive phase, music can be understood as a trope for these communities: spatially located in Britain, yet culturally and emotionally rooted in an ethnic past. During the latter period of this migratory phase and subsequent consolidation – in the 1960s and 1970s – an alternative and entirely disconnected movement was


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taking place amongst a group of folk-rock musicians in the UK. Inspired by the spiritual yearning of a 1960s counterculture, various musicians were exploring their interest in different types of religion other than Christianity. This was sparked by an opening of ideas and possibilities, as well as disdain for the stifling conformity and barrenness of a rapidly developing consumer culture. The physical movement of people and ideas became an essential catalyst for these changes – parts of South Asia and North Africa literally and metaphorically became a ‘spiritual home’ for this restless generation. While some musicians chose a path that drew them toward Buddhism or other esoteric forms of South Asian religion, a small but prominent group of musicians found their own distinctive path through the teachings of Islam. Most notable amongst these were the two musical superstars, Richard Thompson and Cat Stevens: Thompson began practising Sufism with his wife, Linda Thompson, in 1974, while Cat Stevens formally converted in 1977, adopting the name Yusuf Islam in 1978. Other musician converts from this particular time and place included Ian Whiteman and Danny Thompson (a founding member of the band Pentangle). The influence that these musicians have had on Muslims in Britain is varied, and, with the exception of Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, relatively insignificant for any social or cultural bearing on our understanding of Islam in the UK. Richard Thompson, for example, produced a trio of spiritually rich albums, laden with symbolism, before continuing a musical career that largely omitted any direct reference to Islam. That being said, for several years Thompson was a part of the Muslim revert community in Norwich – a community that has grown to become a vibrant exemplar for Muslim converts in Britain (including several prominent Muslim hip hop musicians in London).1 Meanwhile, Cat Stevens became Yusuf Islam and abandoned music entirely for a time, before gradually moving back into the spotlight with reinterpretations of nasheeds and – after picking up his guitar once more – newly written ‘Islamic pop songs’. Yusuf Islam has subsequently become a symbolic figure of inspiration for Muslim musicians in the UK. Running partly in parallel to this countercultural spiritual movement, during the late 1970s and 1980s, South Asian Muslim musicians slowly began to develop out of their own cultural isolation. They essentially emerged alongside – despite being concealed by – a politics of resistance. A common experience of discrimination by all non-white migrant communities led to a politics of antiracism that asserted ethnic minority rights under the umbrella term ‘black’ (Kalra et al., 1996). ‘Asian’ identity featured at best as the neglected penumbra; ‘Muslim’ identity was simply concealed. Thus, the white Left, motivated by anti-racism, celebrated the emergence of ‘black music’, unaware of the blanketing silence that this imposed upon many within that generalisation. It was during this period that certain forms of ‘traditional’ South Asian and Arab music were held up by anti-racism campaigners as the exotic markers of multiethnic Britain. Such musicians could be seen performing alongside a range of exoticised others during the marches and parades that took place in large urban

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centres. While highly visible in a politically symbolic sense, the authentic identities of these musicians – religious or otherwise – were largely ignored. During this time, beyond the public eye, Muslim musicians were keeping alive a grassroots tradition of Arabic nasheeds and Urdu/Punjabi na’ats – songs that would predominantly be performed at a mosque, in the home, or at religious/ community celebrations. This grassroots, paraliturgical musical tradition was extremely important during this period. It kept alive a connection between Islam and music, but it also furthermore inspired a new generation of Muslim musicians – musicians who grew up during the 1980s/1990s, before ‘coming of age’ and beginning to exert varying degrees of cultural influence on Muslims in Britain. It is only in more recent times that Muslim musicians have emerged into the public sphere as Muslims. During the 1990s, motivated in part by the Rushdie affair, a small number of second-generation Muslim musicians began to experience relative success with alternative styles of music – the most notable example being Aki Nawaz’s band Fun-Da-Mental. Combining a mixture of musical styles – including heavy-rock, rap and Qawwali – Fun-Da-Mental were a multi-ethnic group with controversial lyrics and an aggressive image rooted in notions of social justice (Hutnyk, 2000). While Fun-Da-Mental were to some extent self-consciously ‘Islamic’ (Swedenburg, 2001) – producing songs peppered with lines from the Qur’an – they were unable to escape, in either academic discourse or common parlance, being subsumed under the newly recognised category of ‘Asian music’ – a genre that was largely dominated by hybrid styles of Bhangra music. Continuing within a tradition of political resistance, Fun-Da-Mental were perhaps less concerned with expressing their Islamic identity than they were with belonging to a broad anti-imperialist movement, within which ‘Islamic’ motifs often slotted quite comfortably – such as Malcolm X or the Palestinian struggle. It is also worth considering that – despite intense academic interest – there is little evidence that Fun-Da-Mental had a widespread or lasting impact on the mainstream Muslim majority Britain. I would instead argue that Fun-Da-Mental found a niche that straddled an alternative mainstream music culture, on the one hand, and a particular generation of liberal Muslim professionals, on the other. It was toward the end of the 1990s that two styles of music would emerge to have a significant and continuing influence on mainstream Muslim musical cultures in Britain. The first was the contemporary nasheed style. Drawing from both the poetic Arabic nasheed and South Asian na’at traditions, this style of music attempted to express Islamic themes through English, as well as through the inclusion of popular musical styles that would be more familiar to a younger, British-born generation of Muslims. Early examples of nasheed performers in this style include the groups, Shaam (from 1997) and Aashiq Al Rasul (from 1998). It was a musical style that drew inspiration from the notion of an Islamic art tradition – ranging from architecture, through to calligraphy and poetry – with a corresponding desire to transpose and develop this heritage within the British context. The primary drivers of this movement were (and still are) young South Asian Muslims and, to a lesser extent, the children of Muslim exiles, migrants and refugees from the Middle East.


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The second style of music that became significant for some young Muslims, also toward the end of the 1990s, was hip hop. This expressive poetic-musical style, with its emphasis on the idioms of urbanity and of speaking truth to power, was in many respects an ideal vehicle of self-expression for a generation of socially excluded and economically disadvantaged young Muslims. This was coupled with the undeniable reality that saw hip hop gradually become a global sound for young people in a range of diverse and contemporary societies. It is a familiar form of music that has become embedded within mainstream popular culture. Yet beyond the obvious reasons for the success of hip hop amongst some Muslims, there were also additional reasons why hip hop specifically became the music of choice for a certain sub-section of young Muslims in Britain. From the beginning of the 1990s there was a growing interest in Islam amongst the African-Caribbean communities of Britain. The impact of Spike Lee’s biographical film on Malcolm X is often highlighted as a moment when a new generation of Black Britons began to connect Afrocentric ideologies to Islamic belief and Muslim identity. Through the 1990s, then, a gradual process of conversion began to bring young black people to Islam, including young men in prison who were looking for structure and meaning within their lives (Reddie, 2009). When it is considered that hip hop originated in an urban African-American culture and has always had a special place amongst the transatlantic Black diaspora (Rose, 1994), it was perhaps inevitable that these individuals would bring an interest in hip hop with them when they converted to Islam. The connection between hip hop and Islam was anyway already well established in America, with numerous hip hop artists publicly and musically expressing their Muslim faith. It was toward the end of the 1990s that British Muslims began to experiment with hip hop as a means of expression. Early pioneers of this musical form in Britain included Mecca2Medina and the Planets. These two groups were the forerunners for an explosion of interest in Muslim hip hop that was to take place from the beginning of the new millennium.

Contemporary Muslim music: an emerging generation The importance of this historical context lies not just in revealing the progression and development of various musical styles, but also in indicating how music is often fundamentally linked to a situated reality and notions of societal belonging. Early British Muslim musicians remained practitioners of ‘traditional’ musical styles (such as Qawwali) because they, along with their fellow migrants, were rejected by the host society. These communities felt ‘out of place’, separated from their true culture, with which they would (one day) be reunited (Anwar, 1979). Similarly, a second generation of British Muslim musicians were born from the anti-racist struggles of the 1980s. These musicians, along with the migrant communities that they sought to represent, felt a sense of ethnic entitlement that, in the main, often transcended their religious

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identity. However essentialized that movement may have been (Sharma et al., 1996), there was still a sense in which British Muslim musicians felt part of a wider process, whereby a lingering imperialist system was challenged – not just within Britain, but globally. The number of British Muslim musicians releasing recorded material and becoming visible in the Muslim public sphere has increased significantly over the last decade or so. Even a cursory glance at many of the musicians currently making an impact on the British Muslim music scene will support this claim. Sami Yusuf, Amir Awan, Mohammed Yahya, Blakstone, Poetic Pilgrimage – none have released albums before 2000. In fact, even during the 1990s it was not really possible to talk about a popularised ‘Muslim music scene’ in Britain. While it is of course not entirely satisfactory to draw a neat dividing line down between these musicians and those from an earlier era, I would nonetheless suggest that these individuals represent a ‘new wave’ of Muslim music in Britain. These particular forms of music and artistic expression are arguably rooted in the pressing social, political and cultural concerns that have shaped and continue to influence the lives of young Muslims in Britain. While such issues are of course relevant for all Muslims in the UK, they specifically represent a set of crucial ‘environmental’ factors underpinning the social realities of this assertive generation – a generation that cannot remember the early struggles of their migrant forebears or a time predating the contemporary socio-political context of Muslims in Britain. There are two key issues underpinning and influencing this generationally marked cultural movement. First, a general and increasingly heightened Muslim subjectivity has visibly marked the production of British Muslim music over the last decade or more. Many of the musicians that have been active in Britain over the last few years ‘came of age’ throughout the 1990s, a time during which British Muslims were still dealing with the controversy surrounding the Rushdie affair and the Gulf War. It was a period during which British Muslims were increasingly encountering prejudice; a time when discourses relating to identity, integration and national belonging were beginning to heat up. These social trends only intensified following the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., as a series of escalating events placed Muslim communities all over the world under public scrutiny. I contend, then, that just as groups like Fun-Da-Mental arose from the anti-racist/anti-imperialist struggles of the 1980s, so too have a new generation of British Muslim musicians emerged – this time linked to the specific difficulties that Muslim communities have recently encountered in the UK. A second reason why contemporary Muslim music is distinct from an earlier era relates to the linked notions of Muslim consumer markets and public spheres. It appears that there has been the gradual development of a distinct and coherent British Muslim public: that is, there has been an acknowledgement that British Muslims have a unique set of social and cultural requirements that cannot otherwise be satisfied in the ‘public square’. This has manifested itself in the form of a growing consumer market concerned with Muslim events, services,


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goods and cultural products. But it has also involved the formation of a distinctly Muslim public sphere in Britain – a public space that is centred on Muslim media resources (Ahmed, 2005) – through which discourses and cultural narratives specific to Muslims in Britain are deployed. Contemporary Muslim musicians are distinct from an earlier generation, then, in the sense that they operate within and partly shape this consumer market and public sphere – they have become celebrity figures for a particular British Muslim subculture. Unlike earlier manifestations of Muslim music in Britain, contemporary Muslim musicians are contributing toward a wider and coherent culture of ‘British Muslimness’. That is, they are using innovative forms of cultural expression to consolidate notions of Muslim identity, as well as helping shape the Muslim communities, institutions and public discourses that frequently characterise the experiences of Muslims in contemporary Britain.

British Muslim musical soundscapes In the final section of this chapter I will outline the musical realities that constitute the ‘Muslim music scene’ in Britain. It will be clear by the end of this section that a number of different styles and musical genres characterise Muslim music in Britain; these are: contemporary nasheeds, syncretic styles, and Muslim hip hop. While these musical styles often appeal to different subcultural and/or mainstream audiences, they are nonetheless brought together – as Muslim music – within the context of the British Muslim public sphere. To take one example, Muslim hip hop musicians might perform at a mainstream hip hop festival, but they are also invited to perform at Islamic events alongside nasheed artists and other Muslim musicians – this switch in context effectively transforms them from ‘hip hop musicians’ to ‘Muslim musicians’. These intersecting spheres of musical influence are therefore both complex and difficult to map, but they are at the very least indicative of the unsettled and dynamic cultural landscape that young Muslims in Britain are increasingly required to traverse.

Contemporary nasheeds In mosques and homes up and down the UK, religious celebrations and community events are punctuated by the rising sound of voice in song. In Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, Farsi or English, with carefully controlled cadences, stark intonation and simple melody – though nonetheless thrumming with emotion – this is the sound of the ‘traditional’ nasheed (or na’at). Na’at is often used as a shorthand reference to a South Asian Muslim poetic tradition – that is, melodic narration in Urdu or Punjabi, unaccompanied by any instrument. Nasheed is broader in remit but is usually understood to apply to an Arab vocal tradition, with simple songs – potentially accompanied by light percussion – that can stretch back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad. In the UK these two different styles of music/poetry are often understood interchangeably, with the

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general designation of ‘nasheed’ being the most appropriate catch-all term. While somewhat prone to disagreement or confusion over terminology, style and scope, the defining feature of this genre is a clear focus on lyrics praising Allah or the Prophet Muhammad, an emphasis on vocality, and, if not the complete rejection of instrumentation (either as haram or simply unnecessary), then at least a restriction to the use of membranophones (such as a simple hand drum). Praise is given to those with ‘a good, clean voice’, while overwhelming significance is attached to ‘the message’ contained within the lyrics – it is important to understand that which is being sung. There is a vibrant amateur tradition of nasheed within Britain. Different mosque communities often contain a group of men that will perform nasheeds for the benefit of their fellow worshipers – much as a neighbouring church may well host an amateur choir and an organ player or two. Women will also perform, but usually within the privacy of a home gathering for other women and children, and also usually to commemorate a significant or personal event (such as the birth of a child), or during times of celebration (such as Mawlid or Eid). In the British South Asian context, this amateur tradition draws from a rich history of Urdu and Punjabi na’ats, as well as maintaining contemporary transnational links with, in particular, Pakistan. This includes sponsoring na’at performers to visit from abroad, and drawing from a shared song repertoire. The amateur tradition furthermore emphasises a pure, unadulterated style, and the use of any instruments is usually prohibited. The genre also tends to sit quite comfortably alongside the art of Qur’anic cantillation; the two are often performed together at an event and to the unfamiliar ear they can sound somewhat alike in meter and intonation. It is from within this amateur tradition that I would suggest the roots of a growing professional British nasheed genre have emerged. In the public sphere, all of the artists are male and the scene is overwhelmingly constituted by those from a South Asian ethnic heritage. These artists, while often drawing from a tradition of Arabic and South Asian nasheeds, tend to differ from the amateur style. They are experimenting with the genre – pulling away from passive repetition or mimesis of traditional material – in an attempt to make it ‘more relevant’ for a young, British Muslim audience. This includes the imaginative use of vocality – including vocal percussion and a cappella – as well as original English language nasheeds written by the artists themselves. The lyrics nonetheless tend to remain consistent with a focus on praising Allah and the Prophet Muhammad. Compared to the grassroots nasheed tradition, this emerging contemporary nasheed style places more emphasis on the use of percussion instrumentation. A variety of instruments, such as the djembe, tabla and doumbek, are regularly used to ‘get a different sound’. The careful use of percussion highlights one of the many appealing features of this form of music – that is, the avoidance of proscribed instruments. It is this combination of religious permissibility and overt Islamic lyricism that inclines many British Muslims toward the genre. While not necessarily performed or listened to in a religious context, I would describe this music as paraliturgical in the sense that


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it is a form of worship and connects to an orthodox religious sound that stretches from nasheed, through to Quranic recitation (qira’ah) and the call to prayer (adhan).

Aashiq al-Rasul Based in Birmingham, the prolific Aashiq al-Rasul perhaps typify the contemporary nasheed style. They incorporate extensive percussion and are influenced by Arab and South Asian-style drumming. With two percussionists – utilising a variety of membranophones, from an electric drum kit to the doumbek and tabla – their lyrics are often backed by music that incorporates interlocking or polymetric percussion instrumentation, handclapping, and humming. Their songs also include various recorded samples, from religious oratory through to natural sounds (such as the wind). In terms of musical influences, one of the group’s founders, Amran, has highlighted his understanding of South Asian ragas, while another founder member, Osman, talks about influences stemming from rock, jazz and funk. There are eight members of the group (though some are part-time or ad hoc members): all are men, in their thirties and forties. The group have been performing for over ten years now and, remarkably, have released eight albums, with an additional four compilations of one kind or another. Their success extends far beyond the UK, with international events a regular feature – from South East Asia and North America, through to Europe and the Middle East. The group operate out of a converted building that doubles up as a small community centre and Sufi tariqa run by Amran. Indeed, the group’s Sufi influences are notably visible, particularly through their keen utilisation of percussion and the lyrical nature of their songs, many of which place emphasis on praising the Prophet Muhammad and Allah.

Amir Awan A London-based artist, Amir Awan is twenty-nine years of age, with a degree in Mathematics from University College London and a career in investment banking. In his free time he performs as a nasheed artist and has released one album to date. From an early age Amir Awan studied the art of Quranic recitation, at Safar Academy, and would recite the Qur’an at various events across the UK. He has had additional vocal training at the Institute of Contemporary Music and Performance. Amir Awan’s music does not use live instrumentation, but instead incorporates synthesised sounds and electronic/recorded percussion. A richness is given to the sound through careful studio production, with backing harmonies, drones, and looped beats. While certainly located in the contemporary British nasheed tradition, Amir Awan draws from R&B and other pop sounds, citing Michael Jackson as one of the most significant influences on his music. Yet his music remains simple and sparse, providing a platform for prominent English-language lyrics that cover a number of themes, from women

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and the hijab in Western society, to the praise of Allah, to remembrance of historic events (such as the battle between early Muslims and Meccans before Mount Uhud).

Syncretic styles The second genre of Muslim music in the UK is arguably more complex and less easily categorised. While nasheeds are usually typified by a stripped-down musical style and/or a restriction to percussion instrumentation, it is increasingly possible to find syncretic styles of music that – like nasheeds – similarly take overtly Islamic themes as their subject. Indeed, such music might actually find itself being located within the auspices of the British nasheed industry, despite an often radically different sound. These syncretic styles of music perhaps resemble something like ‘Islamic pop’ and they can incorporate a range of musical influences, from classical guitar playing and folk-rock, to Sufi-style drumming, Qawwali, rap, R&B and the utilisation of Arab modal systems. The use of instrumentation can furthermore range from the imaginative use of multiple percussion instruments, to the acoustic guitar, and even a full-blown orchestra. While the mish-mash of musical influences and traditions makes it difficult to clearly conceptualise this genre of syncretic music, a connecting thread seems to be the desire to produce Islamically themed music that is relevant for a predominantly youthful, English-speaking audience, as well as moving beyond the typical confines of the nasheed tradition. The subject matter of such music also tends to vary to a much greater extent. While a focus on Allah and the Prophet Muhammad still remains common, artists also promote political, ethical and lifestyle arguments that, while rooted in a particular Islamic worldview, nonetheless advance ideas that have appeal beyond a specifically Muslim audience. Musicians who practice these styles of music are therefore far more likely to argue that their music is capable of reaching out to non-Muslims and the musical mainstream.

Sami Yusuf Sami Yusuf is an ethnic Azeri, born in Tehran, but raised in London by parents who encouraged musical practice from a very young age. He was trained by a succession of teachers and musicians in both the classical traditions of Europe and the Middle East. His first album was ultimately a product of this training. Al-Mu`allim, released in 2003, combines a variety of membranophones and related percussive styles2 with Western melodies and lyrics that are largely either in Arabic or English. Yusuf’s second album, My Ummah, utilises a range of instruments in an attempt to combine musical traditions3 – it has a resulting sound that is highly polished and often described as ‘Islamic pop’. His third album, Wherever You Are, continues this movement toward a global popsound, with greater reliance on the piano and an acoustic guitar. Having sold


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millions of albums worldwide, Sami Yusuf is usually recognised as the most successful Muslim musician on the global stage (with the possible exception of Yusuf Islam). Sami Yusuf is distinguished by his gradual move away from nasheed-influenced musical styles, to a type of spiritually inclined pop music that he himself has termed ‘Spiritique’. Accordingly, not only has his sound become a little more generic and less rooted in a distinctive Middle Eastern tradition, but he is beginning to write song lyrics that are influenced less by specific religious content and more by a desire to reach out to a general, spiritually sensitive listener (both Muslim and non-Muslim). Both sonically and semantically, it would be reasonable to state that Sami Yusuf is attempting to break into the global mainstream.

Pearls of Islam Pearls of Islam is a London-based duo consisting of two sisters, both in their early-twenties and from an African-Caribbean background. The children of converts to Islam, Rabiah and Sakinah produce gentle, poetic music that incorporates a range of musical styles, including influences of nasheed, folk, soul and rap. Utilising instruments that include the guitar and a selection of membranophones – such as the djembe and doumbek – they cite extensive influences that range from the Malian heavy-blues group, Tinariwen, through to the roots-rock of the American musician, Ben Harper. Through their lyrics they attempt to translate their Islamic beliefs into a universal language of spirituality and morality, with the aim of achieving a wider resonance beyond the boundaries of the traditional Muslim collectivity. Their music correspondingly tends to focus on personal and spiritual journeying – a delicate and at times beautiful evocation of faith, belief and optimism in modern Britain.

Muslim hip hop The third and final musical genre that has emerged in Britain is so-called ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim’ hip hop. The relationship between Muslims and hip hop in America has received long-standing attention – in part because Islam was embedded within mainstream American hip hop from its inception. Yet Muslim hip hop is a comparatively recent phenomenon in the UK, with an increasing number of acts having emerged over the last decade. While the idea of a ‘global hip hop umma’ has been repeatedly highlighted by some (Aidi, 2004; Alim, 2005; Ackfeldt, 2012) it is important to remember that this scene is bounded as much by national and local context as it is shaped by the multiple arcs of transnational creativity and social interaction. In relation to musical style, Muslim hip hop undoubtedly places extreme emphasis on the function of language, cadence and rhyme, positioning itself as the innovative vanguard of an ancient tradition in Islamic poetry. In terms of lyrical content, it tends to be less devotional in the

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abstract, with a greater focus on individual lifestyle and moral practice. Furthermore, there tends to be an overriding concern with contemporary social and political issues, ranging from the status and role of Muslim women, to popularised political campaigns, such as Palestine. So although Muslim hip hop largely tends to articulate itself in terms of an ethical earnestness, it nonetheless ranges from the satirical and the playful through to the challenging and the controversial.

Poetic pilgrimage Poetic Pilgrimage is an assertive hip hop and spoken word duo, based in London. The group consists of two female converts in their early-thirties, Sukina and Muneera, who are both from Bristol and are the children of Jamaican parents. Citing influences that include West African music, soul, jazz and reggae, Poetic Pilgrimage are particularly inspired by the socially conscious hip hop movement of the 1990s – an American cultural and music tradition that includes hip hop musicians such as Mos Def, Common and Nas. In ideological terms, Poetic Pilgrimage consciously attempt to pull together notions of afrocentrism, Britishness and their Islamic faith – ideas that are necessarily filtered through an uncompromising feminist politics. With searing lyrics that tackle issues such as misogyny, global politics, faith and spirituality, Poetic Pilgrimage have made a deep and controversial impact on the Muslim music scene. Resisted by some as too outspoken and incendiary – not to mention the complicating religious issues surrounding female performance – they are nonetheless embraced by others as emblematic of a young and self-confident generation of Muslim women in Britain.

Quest Rah A young and articulate Londoner, Quest Rah writes, produces and raps over his own thoughtful and technically proficient hip hop. With dense electronic beats and a range of intimately blended samples, Quest Rah produces a sound that consciously reaches back to some of the legendary hip hop figures, including Gang Starr,4 who pioneered the ‘East Coast’ sound in New York. Despite this familiar and much admired influence, Quest Rah attempts to develop his own unique sound by reaching toward the musical soundscapes of his father’s country, Egypt. Quest Rah accordingly works a range of classical Arab and other ‘world music’ samples into his traditional sound, leading many to describe his music as ‘East Coast meets Middle East.’5 Perhaps because Quest Rah actively began practising his Islamic faith only a week before the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., as well as recording music shortly after the invasion of Iraq, he acknowledges himself that his early music took on a hard, outspoken edge. Yet his powerful criticism of American hegemony and George W. Bush merely reflected and channelled the undoubted anger that swirled around during that era. Since that particularly acute moment in our shared social and political past, Quest Rah


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now produces music that deals with issues ranging from spirituality and selfknowledge through to the problem of violence among young men and the problems of urban ‘street life’. By weaving religious, historical and mythological themes into his lyrics, Quest Rah provides a unique and refreshing look at a range of contemporary issues.

Conclusion The long-term relationship in Britain between Muslim musicians and a wider Muslim youth culture is unclear. Are we witnessing a religious and cultural ‘flash in the pan’ or a more sustained upheaval of attitudes, experiences and expectations? While the answer to this question cannot be resolved without more sustained observation and research – that is, the ongoing trends are currently unverifiable – it does seem clear that Muslim musicians are at the forefront of cultural change amongst some young Muslims in Britain. These musicians frequently incorporate a range of salient themes into their music – from latemodern notions of spirituality and religious practice, through to political activism, national/transnational identities and gender issues. They also consciously draw on divergent strands of cultural practice in a confident attempt to fuse together multiple styles of music. While the full implications of these dynamics might not be entirely clear, the confluence of these factors does at the very least highlight an important research agenda. That is, there is an ongoing need to more seriously consider the intersecting nature of cultural practice with social and religious change amongst young Muslims in contemporary Britain.

Acknowledgements The research for this chapter was carried out at the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, Cardiff University, with the generous financial support of the Jameel Foundation. Particular thanks are owed to Professor Sophie Gilliat-Ray and Dr John O’Connell for their invaluable contributions.

Notes 1 Accessed 9 June 2012. 2 These included daff, tombak, marimba, tabla and a variety of African and Arab drums. 3 These included piano, violin, flute, drums, oud, santour, tar and tombak. 4 Gang Starr was an influential hip hop duo that heavily influenced the development of a unique ‘East Coast’ hip hop sound rooted in the evolving urban culture of New York. East Coast hip hop placed particular emphasis on multi-syllabic rhymes, intricate lyrics and heavy electronic beats. It is distinguished from the gangster-influenced, musically sparse West Coast hip hop sound. 5 Accessed 3 November 2012.

Finding a voice


References Ackfeldt, Anders (2012) ‘“‘Imma March’ Toward Ka’ba”: Islam in Swedish Hip-hop’. Contemporary Islam 6(3): 283–296. Ahmad, Fauzia and Mohammad Siddique Seddon (2012) (eds.) Muslim Youth: Challenges, Opportunities and Expectations. London: Continuum. Ahmed, Tahira Sameera (2005) ‘Reading between the Lines – Muslims and the Media’ in T. Abbas (ed.), Muslim Britain: Communities Under Pressure. London: Zed Books. Aidi, Hishaam D. (2004) ‘“Verily, There Is Only One Hip-Hop Umma”: Islam, Cultural Protest and Urban Marginality’. Socialism and Democracy 18(2): 107–126. Alim, H. Samy (2005) ‘A New Research Agenda: Exploring the Transglobal Hip Hop Umma’ in m. cooke and B. B. Lawrence (eds.), Muslim Networks: from Hajj to Hip Hop. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. Ansari, Humayun (2004) The Infidel Within. London: C. Hurst & Co. (Publishers) Ltd. Anwar, Muhammad (1979) Myth of Return: Pakistanis in Britain. London: Heinemann Educational Books. Baily, John (1990) ‘Qawwali in Bradford: Traditional Music in the Muslim Communities’ in P. Oliver (ed.), Black Music in Britain. Buckingham: Open University Press. Baily, John (2006) ‘“Music Is In Our Blood”: Gujarati Muslim Musicians in the UK’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 32(2): 257–270. Baily, John and Michael Collyer (2006) ‘Introduction: Music and Migration’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 32(2): 167–182. Banerji, Sabita and Gerd Baumann (1990) ‘Bhangra 1984–1988: Fusion and Professionalization in a Genre of South Asian Dance Music’ in P. Oliver (ed.), Black Music in Britain. Buckingham: Open University Press. Belton, Brian and Sadek Hamid (2011) Youth Work and Islam: A Leap of Faith. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. Communities and Local Government Committee (2010) Sixth Report: Preventing Violent Extremism. London: House of Commons. Edmunds, June (2010) ‘“Elite” Young Muslims in Britain: From Transnational to Global Politics’, Contemporary Islam 4(2): 215–238. Gilliat-Ray, Sophie (2010) Muslims in Britain: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Hamid, Sadek (2011) ‘British Muslim Young People: Facts, Features and Religious Trends’. Religion, State & Society, 39(2–3): 247–261. Herrera, Linda and Asef Bayat (2010) (eds.) Being Young and Muslim. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hutnyk, John (2000) Critique of Exotica: Music, Politics and the Culture Industry. London: Pluto Press. Kabir, Nahid Afrose (2010) Young British Muslims: Identity, Culture, Politics and the Media. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Kalra, Virinder and Sanjay Sharma et al. (1996) ‘Re-sounding (Anti)racism, or Concordant Politics? Revolutionary Antecedents’, in S. Sharma, J. Hutnyk and A. Sharma (eds.), Dis-orienting Rhythms: Politics of the New Asian Dance Music. London: Zed Books. Lawless, Richard (1995) From Ta’izz to Tyneside. Exeter: University of Exeter Press. Lewis, Philip (2007) Young, British and Muslim. London: Continuum. Reddie, Richard (2009) Black Muslims in Britain. Oxford: Lion Hudson. Rose, Tricia (1994) Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.


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Sharma, Sanjay, John Hutnyk and Ash Sharma (1996) (eds.) Dis-orienting Rhythms: Politics of the New Asian Dance Music. London: Zed Books. Stokes, Martin (1994) ‘Introduction: Ethnicity, Identity and Music’ in M. Stokes (ed.), Ethnicity, Identity, and Music: The Musical Construction of Place. Oxford: Berg Pub Ltd. Swedenburg, Ted (2001) ‘Islamic Hip-Hop versus Islamophobia’, in T. Mitchell (ed.), Global Noise: Rap and Hip-Hop Outside the USA, Middletown: Wesleyan University Press.


Religious values and political motivation among young British Muslims Asma Mustafa

Introduction In shaping the political landscape of young British Muslims, religion has been a significant factor. The role of religion, the present chapter argues, is vital in providing inspiration and motivation to Muslim political engagement. Not all Muslims are disposed to political orientation (nor necessarily have an interest in politics), yet the majority of young British Muslims engage in political activities motivated primarily by religious interest. This chapter explores why this religiouspolitical culture is relevant for young British Muslims, and why Islam plays a pivotal role in influencing their political outlook, regardless of how, or whether, they practice as Muslims. The chapter highlights that political motivation is influenced by three interplaying factors: religious belief; the concept of the Ummah;1 and group consciousness. For this chapter, the research draws upon qualitative data from my doctoral field-based research which explored identity in the political engagement among young second-generation British Muslims. Political sociology literature argues that religion provides an important source of social capital and skills that facilitate democratic participation (Putnam, 1993; Putnam and Campbell, 2010; Verba et al., 1995). Faith provides believers with a sense of belonging, concern for the collective well-being of their group, and a sense of moral meaning to the life they lead (Birdwell and Littler, 2012). There are several theories of political motivation,2 defined as the role played by incentives in politically motivating people to engage. People can be motivated by more than one incentive for any given action (for example, an individual may vote for a friend, as well as to fulfil a civic duty) and be motivated differently for each political action they take – individuals may be incentivised to engage in voting and boycotting by different political motivations. People participate in politics because they get something out of it. The rewards take many forms. Participants sometimes enjoy material benefits, tangible rewards that are easily converted into money, like a government job or a tax break. Those active in politics can also receive solitary benefits, intangible rewards that stem from social interaction, like status, deference


Asma Mustafa and friendship. And participation can also yield purposive benefits, intrinsic rewards that derive from the act of participation itself, such as a sense of satisfaction from having contributed to a worthy cause. (Rosenstone and Hansen, 1993: 16)

Studies in political science also indicate how political mobilization, as the act of or process, prepares an individual for political action. Political mobilization includes the resources, networks, and knowledge one possesses in order to prepare for political engagement. The process of mobilization is assisted by having political knowledge, politically active networks, and available resources. The literature on political mobilization has focused on the Socioeconomic Status Model (SES)3 and the impact that resources, recruitment and knowledge have on political engagement (Rosenstone and Hansen, 1993; Verba et al., 1995). Political mobilization alone is not enough to guarantee participation; it explains how much easier it is for people to become politically active, but does not explain what moves a person to politically engage – which is where political motivation is useful. We need to understand why people participate, in order to explore how they do it. Otherwise the assumption may be that all people engage for the same reasons, in the same way. We need to explore ‘why’ young people from disadvantaged or minority groups engage in the political sphere, in order to understand whether they do it for the same reasons as the mainstream majority. Religion as a political motivation is a familiar theme in the social sciences (Wald, 1987; Harris, 1994; Allen et al., 1989; Verba and Nie, 1972; Shingles, 1981). Wald (1987) identified religious motivation as being effective in that religious actors feel they are likely to succeed in their political endeavours through spiritual or divine intervention and support. Furthermore, religious individuals may be inspired to politically engage due to the ‘moral’ issues that are politicized such as abortion, gay rights, etc. Following on in a similar vein, this chapter examines why religious belief is a motivator of political participation for many Muslims. Due to limitations of space, this chapter cannot delve into explaining how different political activities (e.g. voting, boycotting, demonstrations) are incentivized by different motivations. This chapter does not suggest that religion is the only provider of political motivation for young Muslims, but rather that religious belief should be considered an additional incentive in an arsenal of motivations for political action. Other potential political motivations include ‘Material benefits’ (Rosenstone and Hansen, 1993) and ‘Outcome incentives’ (Pattie et al., 2004) which are motivations through material gains (e.g. employment opportunities from engagement), solitary motivations (e.g. recognized as a leader among the group), and purposive motivation (e.g. sense of having done duty). ‘Solitary’ incentives as explored by Rosenstone and Hansen (1993) (also called ‘Selective’ benefits by Pattie et al., 2004) are motivations for participation that stem from situations where the individual alone gains any benefit from the action. These motivations are usually psychological, such as enjoyment, satisfaction, fulfilment, etc. from participation (Tullock, 1971; Opp,

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1990). For example, the majority of the young Muslim respondents were motivated by civic incentives, particularly regarding electoral voting. This ‘Purposive’ incentive (similar to ‘Expressive’ motivations distinguished by Whiteley and Seyd (2002) and Pattie et al. (2004) following Heath 1985) was encouraged (By) an affective attachment to their country, in other words a sense of pride in being British. This has little to do with the benefits they might receive from being an active citizen, either at the individual or collective levels. Rather, such motives for involvement are grounded in a sense of loyalty and affection for their country. (Pattie et al., 2004: 143) These emotional and psychological attachments to the state have long been noted; people vote to fulfil their civic duty because they fear that the democracy would be unhealthy without support (Riker and Ordeshook, 1968). This sense of citizenship is highlighted in many differing ways, but in political participation it is most clearly visible in the willingness to vote and to support an active democracy. The respondents in my research recognize that voting is part of a healthy democracy and they believe it shows their political allegiance towards the state. Civic motivation by most respondents is considered important because it is a right and a privilege. Alongside the concept of voting rights are feelings that, as citizens, it is a duty to vote and engage. The respondents feel it is their obligation to politically participate, both as citizens of the state and as local members of deprived minority communities. Views arise which highlight that as individuals they must be involved otherwise their views will not be considered. It could also be detrimental to them if, through their lack of participation, groups such as the BNP could be elected in their local constituency. This civic motivation does not explain how they vote, but it does explain why they vote. The empirical research employed semi-structured interviews with 67 young British Muslims aged between 16 and 35. The participants came from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and from across Britain. This chapter utilizes only a selection of respondent quotations. It does not discuss the political activities that the respondents are motivated to engage in. The conceptual definition of political activities that was followed during the research included actions that are taken by citizens, not politicians; actual political actions – not simply taking an interest or having views on the subject; and actions that generally refer to government and politics (Verba et al., 1995; Brady, 1999). This included electoral actions (voting, campaigning and donations), boycotting, demonstrations, political discussions, politically violent actions (riots, flag burning, etc.) as well as many other political activities. The political motivation of the vast majority of the young British Muslims in this research clearly encompasses religious reference points. Understanding the political motivations


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of young British Muslims could assist our understanding of the political mobilization of Muslims across the world, many of whom are not politically savvy, and do not have a wealth of available resources, and yet demonstrate their political activism (in various forms) by engaging in demonstrations, riots and voting. It could also help us to discern the impetus behind the political mobilization and wave of protests instigated by religious, yet non-political issues, such as the Danish cartoons and the Anti-prophet Muhammed film The Innocence of Muslims. I will argue that religiously motivated political action is heightened in three ways: 1 2 3

Faith and belief (Spiritual ties) The concept of the Ummah (Ties that bind) Religious group consciousness (Ties that bond)

The process from political motivation to political action is also facilitated by political mobilization through networks and organizations.

Spiritual ties Expressive incentives are used when people are motivated to politically participate out of an attachment to their nationality – it stems from loyalty to the state. Using the same logic, these respondents are motivated by a similar sense of attachment, pride, loyalty and duty – but the nation-state is replaced by religion. My findings suggest that the respondents feel that Islam positively encourages their contribution to the local community and society they are from as well as to global wellbeing. Most British Muslims feel that being Muslim means that being involved in politics is imperative, it is a duty. This ‘expressive’ motivation differs slightly from ‘group’ motivations which will be discussed later in the chapter (people who participate in political activities due to a group consciousness, for the advantage of their group, at a possible cost to themselves). The difference lies in that this ‘expressive’ or ‘purposive’ motivation is specifically rooted in the respondents’ understanding of their deen (faith). It is based on the ideals they extract from their religious belief, the ethos they identify as key to their spiritual wellbeing, rather than the motivation due to religious group consciousness. Islamic scriptural sources such as the Quran and Hadith do not propagate a specific political system. They do however emphasize values such as equality, justice, consultation and fairness which Muslims use in their lives. The concept of ‘shura’ is an Islamic principle meaning mutual consultation, for example ‘Consult with them about matters, then, when you have decided on a course of action, put your trust in God: God loves those who put their trust in Him (Quran, Al Imran 3:159). These terms were used 14 centuries ago, and today Muslim scholars acknowledge that these values are closely connected to that of democracy. This accountability and transparency in leadership is of paramount importance to Muslims, yet historically a tendency towards dynastic rule became entrenched, and continues to this very day. The emphasis on shura

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in Islam is very relevant in understanding the stance of many Muslims who politically engage from a religious standpoint. They believe that in a British democracy, if they are to be represented as British Muslims then they need to engage politically and be counted. This also explains why Muslims are disheartened when large group concerns are ignored, for example when the views of two million British voting protesters (representing the views of far more who did not march) were ignored in the run up to the Iraq war, since the concept of consultation or democratic representation is then perceived as a fallacy. Justice is another valued concept in Islam ‘God commands justice, doing good and generosity towards relatives and He forbids what is shameful, blameworthy, and oppressive’ (Quran, Al Nahl, 16:90); and while justice is an obligation, it is an obligation even when it goes against one’s self-interest, feelings or gain. In supporting justice, one is also fighting against oppression ‘Those who have been attacked are permitted to take up arms because they have been wronged’ (Quran, Al Hajj, 22:39). It is in this juxtaposition that a political perspective is wrought by Muslims on alleviating oppression and injustice against people within their own localities or across the globe as these young people argue: My opinions are obviously influenced by my religious beliefs and the general belief that I have is that standing up for justice even if it’s against your own self which is a verse in the Quran – so wherever I can, that obviously influences my decisions to write petitions…boycott…[Farah] Islam does! Of course it does! Social justice, for me, I’ve developed my own views on Islam and…it splits up into two. One is your personal and spiritual, what you pray, attend a mosque, etc. and secondly is your sense of social responsibility. I believe that humans can and should hold each other responsible for the failure of social justice or responsibility…it reinforces the view that we have to be active…shuhada’ ala al nas…‘witnesses unto mankind’ [Mosab] Equality among all people is a continuation of the values of justice ‘O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other’ (Quran, Al Hujurat, 49:13). Another highly significant moment was in the Prophet Muhammad’s last sermon, where he addressed the people saying ‘…there is no preference of an Arab over a non-Arab or vice-versa; nor for a white person over a black person or vice-versa…’ emphasizing that human equality is paramount among people, regardless of their wealth, race, or status. Muslims may not live up to these ideals, given that many Muslim majority countries are among the most oppressive and unequal, but these ideals are revered by each idealistic, young Muslim attempting to realize them through their political engagement, as one young woman said: Religion is something I’ve grown up with, and the values I’ve had have been influenced by religion…if we want universal peace, then we have to participate in what is happening…[Sana]


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We cannot discuss political concepts in Islam without touching upon the concept of jihad. The meaning of jihad has been misconstrued heavily in recent media and political discourse. ‘The Quranic notion of jihad, striving or self-exertion in the path of God, was of central significance to Muslim self-understanding and mobilization. The term jihad has a number of meanings which include the effort to lead a good life, to make society more moral and just, and to spread Islam through preaching, teaching or armed struggle.’ (Esposito, 1999: 30) Jihad when taken in the sense of striving in the path of God is of key importance to the political motivation of Muslims: the ideal of actively seeking the betterment of society for the pleasure of God, or for the fulfilment of one’s creed. This is a key concept that is acknowledged, but nonetheless overshadowed by terminology referring to jihad as a violent armed struggle. It’s all about tactics, the means and ends…do they justify them. I myself have engaged in stuff like that…As part of a political campaign I was running, I spent all night fly-posting, all day I’d canvass. It was fun, the police would take down all our posters and stuff, and I was absolutely shattered, but what kept me going was the belief that this was jihad. [Mosab] The relevance of faith and doctrine to this debate is important in distinguishing the different root motivations of political engagement. Two voters have the same purpose (to elect an official) but their root motivations may differ. A respondent that is politically engaging but whose intention is to please God and fulfil their religious obligation, is motivated differently from another who is motivated to vote because they enjoy the power rush they gain from electing in a certain official. Some of these young British Muslims engage because they believe it is their religious duty to do so.

Ties that bind Continuing on in a similar thread, young Muslims take seriously the religious obligations they are taught regarding the ummah. This religious teaching is not in essence a political matter, but a social one. However, the principle has strong relevance to the political motivations of young British Muslims and to the persistence and prolonging of historical symbols and stories specifically related to the concept of the ummah as Quranic verses such as these illustrate: And verily this Ummah of yours is a single ummah and I am your Lord and Cherisher: Therefore Fear Me (and no other). Quran, Al-Mu’minun, 23:53

Religious values and political motivation 101 The believers, in their love, mutual kindness, and close ties, are like one body; when any part complains, the whole body responds. [Hadith Prophet Muhammed] The ummah in Islam refers to the community of believers or diaspora of Muslims worldwide. Feelings towards the ummah revolve around a notion of brotherhood, of ties of humanity that link people beyond national borders and that transcend ethnic and linguistic differences. The references that are found about the ummah in both the Quran and hadith refer to Muslims being bound by faith and values, whereby each is responsible for, and has a duty to care for and to support, other members – whether emotionally, economically, socially and so on as these young people explain: You should share the pain of the ummah – if one part is in pain…and I think that’s a reality. I think it’s been used and manipulated, actually politically, which makes me quite sad because…I don’t think it’s about favouring Muslims over other people, I think it’s about…humankind, compassion and unity and just overlooking…the differences that will inevitably exist between peoples spread all around the world, speak different languages, come from different backgrounds…I think it’s just a demonstration of how people all around the world can be united…[Zayneb] I think the ummah…is not this utopian, kind of, mass of people that all hold hands and make human shield against evil – it’s broken people and it’s people who need help and everyone…everyone needs help in their own respect – I need nurturing and development in the same way that a single mother might need some support, in the same way that, you know, someone like a drug dealer might need support and help. [Numan] It is questionable whether the term is conceptual, or constitutes a real community of people. Either way, it does not have direct political connotations. In Imagined Communities Benedict Anderson (1991) held the idea that communities can create imagined consciousness; an abstract connection that has no actual territorial location. Anderson (1998) also criticizes the development of such ‘long distance nationalism’ that is created by this transnational political consciousness. For these respondents, the ummah exists, even if ideationally. They believe that political actions on behalf of the ummah are part and parcel of their belief. Through these feelings for the ummah, and in order to discharge their religious duty, they feel morally obliged to participate and act, otherwise they will be held accountable in their afterlife. The development of the Muslim ‘ummah’ consciousness has, to some extent, strengthened over time, due to the relevance and strength of historical episodes and political injustices which reverberate strongly with this cohort of young Muslims. Young Muslims contextualize the colonial history of their parents’ country of origin, as well as the history of ‘Muslim’ countries under colonial rule, through such events as the conquest of India, the splitting up of the Middle East, the loss of Palestine, and so forth. The language


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of Islam, including concepts of jihad and ummah, played a role in the movement for liberation from colonialism. It is the same dialectic that continues today, that Muslims across the globe need to struggle against the suffocating, persecuting global powers. This history has a strong role to play in the shaping of Muslim identities, and continues to reverberate through the use of stories, myths and factual analysis. This is demonstrated sharply by how young people understand geo-politics: …the hypocrisy is something that I can get angry about a lot – you should be self-critical of yourself before you point the finger at others. I mean…it’s true, Islam…used violence and so have you…the Crusades and all that business – I mean if you look at the current war in Iraq – there’s Bush and Blair, both up there, doing God’s work…[Asif] That’s the part that I’m trying to determine, I feel as a Muslim person that we have…because of the colonial past we are still grappling with our past…I’m not sure if I’m a Muslim, not sure if I’m Asian, is it ok to be Asian, am I Muslim, have we got uniform identities? That’s how I would answer that…I’m not sure what that is. [Sana] The difference between this motivation and that of religious motivation as described above is significant. Ummah consciousness has developed from a social concept to a political one over time, and political socialization has continued this trend. Many Muslim parents teach their children political history, they debate incidents on TV, they explore how countries were lost, and others founded. This political socialization imprints in young Muslims a sense of political knowledge and politicization. When this political knowledge is used as a motivation, it becomes different from the motivation described above where political engagement is due to religious obligation. Young Muslims engaging in politics due to their understanding of political history, in order to politically assist or liberate their fellow Muslims in nations beyond their own borders, is a significant yet different political motivation altogether. In this quotation, a young English Muslim who converted to Islam explains that a political history that she had not grown up with has suddenly become a political history that she associates with, a history she has adopted and made her own: And history’s quite interesting because for me I feel an affiliation with ‘Muslim’ history – which is strange because at the end of the day my actual lineage…has not much to do with the people of Mecca and Medina or the Ottomans or the Andalucians…But at the same time, I’ve got this affiliation with Muslim history and heritage, as a Muslim, although there’s no blood in that…[Leyan] With reference to political engagement, the concept of the ummah, from a Muslim perspective, is argued to signal that Muslims must be involved in the

Religious values and political motivation 103 protection of those who are in a weaker political position, support those who are victimized, and campaign on behalf of Muslims who are politically marginalized and are facing injustice. …I feel the ummah has a certain level of togetherness, if not the togetherness to hope to end oppression, especially when it’s going on around the world, especially on Muslims…because the Holy Prophet said that all the believers in the love and unity are ‘like one body, and if one limb of the body hurts then the whole body hurts’. [Yahya] It’s…it’s [ummah] peaceful because…it’s almost like the heavenly idea… of perfection, of us being a brotherhood all together. Ummah like back in the Prophet’s time, you know, of us…of brotherhood, of looking after one another. I think it’s actually – this whole idea of ummah – is something that we strive for. [Umama] Ummah is something that…I mean, it’s a very romantic type of concept… [Asif] The ummah is a theological concept that transcends national, class, ethnic and racial borders; it encapsulates a feeling of belonging as well as of responsibility for those who believe in it. In the most part it is also a theoretical notion, in that the theological concept of an ummah has not limited Muslim state aggression on its citizens as in Syria and Egypt, nor stopped nations with Muslim governments from antagonizing each other as in Iraq/Kuwait, Iran/ Saudi Arabia or Iraq/Iran. However, for the young British Muslim respondents, the ummah is a core part of their belief, and this belief and knowledge of the ummah as a concept has tangible implications on their political motivations and on their support for certain political causes.

Ties that bond The connection with the ummah around the world is also influenced by the perceived marginalization and disadvantage of Muslims. The international political context that young Muslims of this cohort have experienced, leads to a strengthening of these ties and a stronger connection to their religious group and their perceived obligations. A feeling of alienation together with feelings of discrimination, inequality in political representation, and a feeling that their grievances are not being addressed, builds group resentment. Foreign policy is, without doubt, one of the most significant sources of anger within the Muslim community in the UK and is contributing to the community’s growing sense of alienation. Its ability to provide a connection between personal grievances, conditions in countries of origin and the situation for the rest of the Islamic world make it a particularly potent catalyst for mobilisation. (Briggs et al., 2006: 47)


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This research on second-generation British Muslims found that a majority of the respondents identified as much with their British identity as their Muslim identity. However, when considering political motivation these respondents were more motivated by their religious identity than their national identity. Why? The answer to this question, I believe, may lie in theories on Social Identity. Social Identity theory highlights that not all collective identities are salient at the same time. Some identities are inactive and dependant on the social context. In a context where a religious group identity is threatened, it becomes more evident, salient, valued and emotive. Strong emotional attachment to a group identity is dependent upon which identity group is most meaningful at a given time. Ethnographic studies have shown that among young generations of Muslims, a new revivalist movement is developing in reaction to the cultural alienation and political disenfranchisement they feel in the West (Kibria, 2008). These young Muslims identify politically with a more global community or ummah, due to the marginalization they are experiencing. This sense of alienation and marginalization may not be directly experienced by the respondents themselves, but rather is a response to the perceived alienation of members of their ‘group’ (discussed further below). These feelings for group members are further emphasized and magnified by the concept of the ummah. Yes, whether it be Bosnia, whether it be, you know, whether it’s Chechnya, whether it be Palestine, whether it be Iraq, whether it be Kashmir, whatever it was, you kind of felt ‘yes, it’s Muslims that are getting victimised, Muslims that are getting trampled on’, so you, kind of, almost suddenly develop this idea of an ummah. If there were no problems in the world, if Muslims were not trampled all over, do I think people would have this strong sense of an ummah? – Probably not. [Tufayl] Political motivation in response to feelings of inequality among their group worldwide is not a new concept. There is evidence to suggest that minority group matters can often trump socioeconomic factors in participation. ‘Group’ motivation is stimulus gained through the group (Whiteley and Seyd, 2002; Pattie et al., 2004). People who participate for the benefit of the group, at a potential cost to themselves as an individual, are motivated to do so for the greater benefit of the group at large. Much research has been conducted highlighting the importance of group identity as a factor impacting individual political behaviour (de la Garza et al., 1992; Shingles, 1981; Tate, 1991; Bobo and Gilliam, 1990; Dawson, 1995; Simon and Klandermans; 2001). Ethnic group consciousness is one such focus (Hechter, 2005: 131; Saggar, 2000). Dawson’s (1995) work on race and politics in the USA questions why African Americans remain politically homogeneous to their race even though within the group they are economically polarized. Dawson (1995) argues that before the 1960s, race was regarded as the uniting issue for African American politics, regardless of socioeconomic situation. As a group they focused most efforts on group political preferences rather than individual socioeconomic choices. He argues that

Religious values and political motivation 105 among this vast group were ‘linked fates’, whereby group members identify with other racial group members. Thus, individuals are motivated as part of the group to attain the group objectives. Dawson’s overall argument is that race is still predominantly important in African American politics and thus it cuts across class lines. Dawson (1995) argues that as long as African Americans identify with their group and the community is still disadvantaged, then race will remain imperative in their politics until these perceived inequalities are overcome. As a group, African Americans believe that their personal self-interest and gain is linked directly to that of their group. Simon and Klandermans (2001) theorize that in order for politicized collective identity to function, several elements must work together to build collective consciousness, namely, a shared group identity, the enemy and the context. They argue that awareness of shared grievances among the group, blaming opponents, and the involvement of wider society, are all the ingredients needed for the politicization of collective identity. This could explain why these respondents participate in political actions attempting to alleviate deprivation, injustices, inequality, etc. among their ‘religious’ group worldwide. Gale and O’Toole’s two-year study in Birmingham (2009) describes this mobilization as ‘glocalised’ political actions – mobilizing locally about global issues of justice and Muslim identity. These young British Muslims care about the politics of their fellow Muslims, and about the representation they get. They feel the need to counter negative group feelings that the group experiences: I feel sorry for anyone, but most of the time the underdog seems to be Muslim. I’m not going to not feel sorry for someone just because they are Christian or have no faith, but it just seems that Muslims have always been persecuted in recent history which is why I tend to sympathize with them more. [Banan] My belief as a Muslim that my brothers and sisters are being killed or being affected in a bad way is enough for me to go ahead and do something. [Huma] Issues that I’m very interested in are like influence of British Muslims in politics, is the war in Iraq, war on terror, the stigmatization of Muslim community, and the most important of which is the Israel-Palestine situation, which I think is the core of everything. It needs to be resolved. [Mosab] This group consciousness is also strengthened by the use of stories, traditions, symbols and re-invented myths. Religious culture and meanings can directly motivate members into political action by reminding them of the group cause (Harris, 1994). Harris notes several cases where religious expectations and values are used in a political context in order to influence the political engagement of religious individuals in the African American community: ‘In one example…Danny Davis, the black mayoral candidate for the 1991 Democratic primary…drew on African American religious language, culture and symbols…’ (Harris, 1994: 49). The


Asma Mustafa

same use of religious stories, myths and symbols are passed on through the generations through socialization, encouraging a sense of group belonging, and consciousness and are alive in the memory of young people today: …you’ve only got to look at history, like at Omar how without a drop of blood he was given the keys of Bayt al Maqdis [Al Aqsa mosque, Jerusalem], and as he was marching in…Muslims are stronger than they ever were, but united we stand, divided we fall, we are so divided… [Yahya] The history behind the flag is that they invaded a Muslim country and they killed a Muslim and the flag was done with the blood of Muslims as a sign or symbol… [Yunis] The use of the concept of the ummah is crucial in understanding this group consciousness, but more crucially it is the actual political context that dictates the strength of this group consciousness. This cohort of young Muslims who have experienced decades of gathering Muslim grievances leads them to be motivated through group consciousness to act in the political sphere, especially towards those who they feel are marginalized, victimized, and are facing injustice. So if there is an issue in Palestine, in China or elsewhere, and though the government wants the Muslim community to blindly follow its policy, that’s not going to happen. And it’s not just the Muslim community, if the Muslims in the UK see an injustice – the non-Muslims in Saudi Arabia, then the Muslims must stand up and fight for that cause. So those are the values that Islam teaches us, compassion and mercy, fighting for justice – that applies across the board. [Zain] If there were no problems in the world, if Muslims were not trampled all over, do I think people would have this strong sense of an ummah? – Probably not, because as human beings we’re more interested in our immediate surroundings, and our own individual benefits and interests, and whether they’d be met… [Tufayl] The impact of both the concept of the ummah and that of group consciousness due to the political context is two-fold. One is equity and fairness, since young British Muslims are motivated to engage in political activities in order to ensure a more equivalent and balanced relationship between two or more groups or communities. The second impact of group consciousness on political motivation is the strong, continuous group feelings and sentiments drawn out by duty and obligation which give rise to a sense that loyalty is owed to the group, due to identifying with and belonging to the ‘group’. This group consciousness is continually revived and reasserted whenever Muslims feel the need to take group action, whether it is political demonstrations, email campaigns, boycotts or to orchestrate a revolt.

Religious values and political motivation 107

Facilitating political mobilization Social networks and religious organizations encourage political mobilization. Evidence in research literature argues that Muslim organizations and groups have helped to politically mobilize Muslims through social networks, social capital and political participation (Samad, 1992; Modood, 1990; 2005; Adolino, 1998; Werbner, 1994). However, it is of utmost importance to disentangle the differences between mechanisms that help facilitate political participation (such as belonging to organizations, networks that mobilize action etc.), and those that motivate political action (as discussed above). The effects of network mobilization on individual mobilization receive much attention in research. According to the literature, if individuals are surrounded by others who are politically active and believe in their civic duty, then that relationship is likely to support participation by other individuals in that network. Networks and mobilization do play a crucial role in several varying theories for political motivation, due to the information, social networks and social norms emphasized through those networks (McClurg, 2003; Kenny, 1992; Ellison and Gay, 1989; Zipp and Smith, 1979; Leighley, 1990; McAdam, 1982; Morris, 1984; Harris, 1994). For example, many studies can be found on the mobilization of black Americans by the church (Matthews and Prothro, 1966; Hougland and Christenson, 1983; Peterson 1992). Verba et al. (1995) found that church organizations promoted political participation because they gave people the chance to develop their civic skills. There is also research which suggests that religious institutions assist in the mobilization of group consciousness through increasing people’s identification with the group (Harris, 1994; Calhoun-Brown, 1996; Miller et al., 1981). Jamal’s (2005) research on American Muslim political mobilization via mosques finds that though there are ethnic differences among the Muslim groups, the mosques do generate political messages and increase consciousness leading to civic and political mobilization, especially among Arab and South Asian mosques. The mosques are a vehicle for group consciousness among American Muslims. For Muslims in the UK, mosques may play a subtle influencing role in mobilizing the community, but local and national community groups are more important. My research findings suggest that religious identification and political awareness through childhood socialization encourages responsiveness to political concerns, while social networks encourage respondents to be politically active; these all stimulate political activity. The socialization of children seems to be important for the respondents due to the imparting of political and religious group norms and values. Jamila gives details of how she consciously explains the news to her children in order to influence their perspectives and guide them; while Banan mentions how she remembers her father imparting his views on international conflicts such as Israel–Palestine, which has had a strong influence on her adult views of the conflict. I think that children are groomed from a young age; most of my friends in school were Conservative voters, because their parents are. The children


Asma Mustafa see the news, they see the bombs, they see the dead people, they see it happening, I’m starting to explain what is happening and to build a sense of ummah in him, he’s Muslim. Children are undervalued, not seen for their worth, I value that my grandfather talked to me as a 7 year old of what was happening politically. [Jamila] In my home, in the house, I remember my dad giving speeches in front of the TV, and that has influenced me on an unconscious level, about Palestine and Iraq and such. [Banan]

Network mobilization is also important for the group, through both cultural and religious expectations, as well as peer pressure. The respondents mention that they do face pressure, from friends, peers, parents, and community members in the form of encouragement, persuasion and guilt, to be involved and engaged in specific political activities. An important aspect of the lives of Muslims in Britain is the role of political, religious and social organizations. Organizations are an important aspect of the political mobilization of minority groups (Anwar, 1998; Hussain, 2003; Shaw, 1988); they not only play integral roles in social networks and mobilization, but they also communicate and consult in issues between local community needs and national government institutions. More importantly, they may also be the mouthpieces for religious mandates which influence the lives of British Muslims. Recently, organizations that have appealed to the British-born generations have surfaced. These organizations have developed independently from the mosques, and usually at a national level, to educate, motivate and activate Muslims as Geaves has observed: ‘New leaderships have emerged, with much greater representation of the British born generations. They function away from the mosque, which remains the domain of first generation elder males, engage with the British state and participate in society. New organisations such as…the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) have joined alliances with the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB) and Young Muslims UK, and actively involved their members in issues of living in a plural society; they have opened up new discourses on citizenship that include common values shared by Britain and Muslims. (2005: 67) The following comments from respondents support this contention: I am part of quite a few grassroots organizations, I was involved in the MCB youth committee, I was also involved in the national Young Muslims UK, but I think it’s important to be involved in organizations like this where they bring out the best of young Muslims and bring them to the forefront, because I think Muslims have a lot to contribute to society especially to Britain. [Nabil]

Religious values and political motivation 109 Yeah, so also in my second year of Uni I got involved with FOSIS [Federation of Students of Islamic Societies] and again I took up some key projects, lots of different…[Numan] The role that social networks, political socialization and religious organizations play in encouraging the political mobilization of British Muslims cannot be doubted, but must be disentangled from the effects of religious motivation as a political motivator in order to understand the earliest roots of an individual’s political action.

Concluding remarks This cohort of young British Muslims have experienced an intense scrutiny of their religious identity and practice by wider society. Various international and domestic events have exacerbated this occurrence (9/11; 7/7 London bombings; Iraq war; Afghanistan; Israel/Arab conflicts) and resulted in policy makers and think tanks focusing on both social cohesion and anti-terror measures (CONTEST strategy; PET – Preventing Extremism Together working groups). Pressure from opinion polls and surveys has led to an overwhelming sense amongst Muslims of being scrutinized and unfairly targeted. This was the result of the British Social Attitudes 2010 report: Just when religious divisions were fading into insignificance, these perceived threats to national identity and public order have propelled religion back to the forefront of communal concern. Social class, sex and race may be objectively more important, but religion – and particularly Islam – now appears to provoke more anxiety than these other traditional distinctions. Perhaps in reaction to these tensions, some young Muslims increasingly see religious commitment as a form of cultural assertion and self-defence. (Voas and Ling, 2010: 66) This chapter highlighted how Muslim religious beliefs can become a source of political motivation when religious concepts overlap with the political sphere (such as equality, human rights, consultation, etc. as discussed earlier). The concept of the ummah unfolds as a circular process in that Muslims feel part of this wider international ‘community’ through the theoretical or spiritual meaning of the term, and at the same time belonging to the ‘ummah’ is reinforced through the grievances that Muslims see being committed against fellow Muslims worldwide. This ensures a strengthening of group consciousness and a yearning to act to fulfil political objectives. The three motivating stimuli discussed in this chapter represent the reasons that British Muslims, especially the young, fuse religion and politics in order to engage in the political sphere. The mixture of religious duty, attachment to the ummah and an increased religious group


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consciousness explains the motivations that spur young Muslims when engaging in political activities from a religious premise. Together with globalized media and the proliferated use of social media, a religiously motivated political environment is built which motivates young Muslims and facilitates the process of political engagement.

Notes 1 A theological concept of a perceived global Muslim community that transcends national, class, ethnic and racial borders. 2 There are several theories of political motivation that are based on participant choices. Some of the most influential theories are based on the role that incentives play in politically motivating engagement: such as ‘Solitary’ incentives as explored by Rosenstone and Hansen (1993) and ‘Selective’ benefits by Pattie et al. (2004); ‘Material benefit’ (Rosenstone and Hansen, 1993) and ‘Outcome incentives’ (Pattie et al., 2004) among others. Generally, these incentives could be split into ‘collective’ and ‘selective’ rewards (Rosenstone and Hansen (1993). 3 A popular structural theory for political motivation is the Socioeconomic Status Model (SES). The SES model highlights that higher levels of education, income and occupational status impact the likelihood that citizens vote, contact, organize and campaign (Conway, 1991; Kenny, 1992; Leighley, 1990, 1995; Verba et al., 1993, 1995; for review of all studies), and fits with both the incentive model and the rational choice approach. The model holds certain factors as responsible for political motivation – namely resources (such as education levels, income and time) that assist in ease of participation; psychological values that assist in motivating participation (such as civic duty) (Dalton et al., 2007, Chapter 4; Pattie et al., 2004); and networks (such as belonging to political parties and groups, social clubs and other active networks) that help train people in political skill sets (Verba et al., 1995; Putnam, 2000).

References Adolino, J. (1998) ‘Integration within the British political parties: perceptions of ethnic minority councillors’, in Saggar, S. (ed.), Race and British electoral politics. London: UCL Press. Allen, R., Dawson, M. and Brown, R. (1989) ‘A schema-based spproach to modeling an African-American racial belief system’. American Political Science Review, 83: 421–424. Anderson, B. (1991) Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. London: Verso. Anderson, B. (1998) The spectre of comparisons: nationalism, South East Asia and the world. London: Verso. Anwar, M. (1998) Between cultures: continuity and change in the lives of young Asians. London: Routledge. Birdwell, J. and Littler, M. (2012) Why those who do God, do good…Faithful Citizens. London: Demos. Bobo, L. and Gilliam, F. D. (1990) ‘Race, sociopolitical participation, and Black empowerment’. American Political Science Review, 84: 377–393. Brady, H. (1999) ‘Political participation’, in Robinson, J., Shaver, P. and Wrightsman, L. (eds.), Measures of political attitudes. London and California: Academic Press.

Religious values and political motivation 111 Briggs, R., Fieschi, C. and Lownsbrough, H. (2006) Bringing it home: community-based approaches to counter-terrorism. London: Demos. Calhoun-Brown, A. (1996) ‘African American churches and political mobilization: the psychological impact of organizational resources’. Journal of Politics, 4: 935–953. Conway, M. (1991) Political participation in the United States. Washington DC: Congressional Quarterly Press. Dalton, R., Van Deth, J. and Klingemann, H. (2007) Oxford handbook of political behaviour. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dawson, M. (1995) Behind the mule: race and class in African-American politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press. De la Garza, R., DeSipio, L., Garcia, F.C., Garcia, G. and Falcon, A. (1992) Latino voices: Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban perspectives on American politics. Boulder: Westview. Ellison, C. and Gay, D. (1989) ‘Black political participation revisited: A test of compensatory, ethnic community and public arena models’. Social Science Quarterly, 70: 101–119. Esposito, J. (1999) The Islamic threat: myth or reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Gale, R. and O’Toole, T. (2009) ‘Young people and faith activism: British Muslim youth, globablisation and the umma’, in Dinham, A., Furbey, R. and Lowndes, V. (ed.) Faith in the public realm: controversies, policies and practices. Bristol: Policy Press. Geaves, R. (2005) ‘Negotiating British citizenship and Muslim identity’, in Abbas, T. (ed.), Muslim Britain: communities under pressure. London and New York: Zed Books. Harris, F. (1994) ‘Something within: religion as a mobilizer of African American political activism’. Journal of Politics, 1: 42–68. Heath, A. (1985) How Britain votes. Oxford: Pergamon Press. Hechter, M. (2005) ‘On the 2004 presidential election’. Daedalus, 134, 2: 131–133. Hougland, J. and Christenson, J. (1983) ‘Religion and politics: the relationship of religious participation to political efficacy and involvement’. Sociology and Social Research, 67: 405–420. Hussain, D. (2003) ‘The holy grail of Muslims in Western Europe: representation and their relationship with the state’, in Esposito, J. and Burgat, F. (eds), Modernising Islam: religion in the public sphere in the Middle East and Europe. London: Hurst and Company. Jamal, A. (2005) ‘The political participation and engagement of Muslim Americans: mosque involvement and group consciousness’. American Politics Research, 33: 521–544. Kenny, C. (1992) ‘Political participation and effects from the social environment’. American Journal of Political Science, 36: 259–267. Kibria, N. (2008) ‘The “New Islam” and Bangladeshi youth in Britain and the US’. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 31, 2: 243–266. Leighley, J. (1990) ‘Social interaction and contextual influences on political participation’. American Politics Quarterly, 18: 459–475. Leighley, J. (1995) ‘Attitudes, opportunities and incentives: a field essay on political participation’. Political Research Quarterly, 48: 181–209. Matthews, D. and Prothro, J. (1966) Negroes and the new southern politics. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World.


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McAdam, D. (1982) Political process and the development of Black insurgency, 1930–1970. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. McClurg, S. (2003) ‘Social networks and political participation: the role of social interaction in explaining political participation’. Political Research Quarterly, 56, 4: 449–464. Miller, A., Gurin, P., Gurin, G., and Malanchuk, O. (1981). ‘Group consciousness and political participation’. American Journal of Political Science, 25: 494–511. Modood, T. (1990) ‘British Asian Muslims and the Rushdie Affair’. Political Quarterly, 61 (April–June): 143–160. Modood, T. (2005) Multicultural politics: racism, ethnicity and Muslims in Britain. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Morris, A. (1984) The origins of the civil rights movement. New York: Free Press. Opp, K.D. (1990) ‘Postmaterialism, collective action and political protest’. American Journal of Political Science, 34: 212–235. Pattie, C., Seyd, P. and Whiteley, P. (2004) Citizenship in Britain: values and democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Peterson, S. (1992) ‘Church participation and political participation: the spillover effect’. American Politics Quarterly, 20, 123–139. Putnam, R. (1993) Making democracy work: civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Putnam, R. (2000) Bowling alone: the collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster. Putnam, R. and Campbell, D. (2010) American Grace: how religion divides and unites us. New York: Simon & Schuster. Riker, W. and Ordeshook, P. (1968) ‘A theory of the calculus of voting’. The American Political Science Review, 62, 1: 25–42. Rosenstone, S. and Hansen, J. M. (1993) Mobilization, participation and democracy in America. New York: Macmillan. Saggar, S. (2000) Electoral representation: electoral politics and ethnic pluralism in Britain. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Samad, Y. (1992) ‘Book burning and race relations: political mobilisation of Bradford Muslims’. New Community, 18, 4: 507–519. Shaw, A. (1988) A Pakistani community in Oxford. Oxford: Blackwell. Shingles, R. (1981) ‘Black consciousness and political participation: the missing link’. The American Political Science Review, 75: 76–91. Simon, B. and Klandermans, B. (2001) ‘Politicised collective identity: a social psychological analysis’. American Psychologist, 56: 319–331. Tate, K. (1991) ‘Black political participation in 1984 and 1988 presidential elections’. American Political Science Review, 85: 1159–1176. Tullock, G. (1971) ‘The paradox of revolution’. Public Choice, 11: 89–99. Verba, S. and Nie, N.H. (1972) Participation in America. New York: Harper & Row. Verba, S., Schlozman, K. and Brady, H. (1995) Voice and equality: civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Verba, S., Schlozman, K.L., Brady, H. and Nie, N. (1993) ‘Race, ethnicity and political resources’. British Journal of Political Science, 23: 453–497. Voas, D. and Ling, R. (2010) ‘Religion in Britain and the United States’, in Park, A., Curtice, J., Thomson, K., Phillips, M., Clery, E. and Butt, S. (ed.), British social attitudes: the 26th report. London: Sage. Wald, K.D. (1987) Religion and politics in the United States. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Religious values and political motivation 113 Werbner, P. (1994) ‘Diaspora and millennium: British Pakistani global–local fabulations of the Gulf War’, in Ahmed, A. and Donnan, H. (ed.), Islam, globalization, and postmodernity. London: Routledge. Whiteley, P. and Seyd, P. (2002) High-intensity participation: the dynamics of party activism in Britain. Michigan: University of Michigan Press. Zipp, J. and Smith, J. (1979) ‘The structure of electoral political participation’. American Journal of Sociology, 85: 167–177.


Virtual youth Facebook Groups as identity platforms Brooke Storer-Church

Introduction Online environments present a unique case for the examination of overlaps between private and public in matters of identity because they tend to blur those boundaries (James and Busher, 2009; Waskul and Douglass, 1996). This chapter will examine the emergence, architecture and behavioural norms common to the social networking site, Facebook, and discuss how specific Facebook Groups have been used by some young Muslims.1 It will analyse the extent to which such Groups have been used to mobilize around British Muslim identity and whether respondents have found these Groups to be useful or effective public platforms for identity debates, discussions or actions. First, the chapter will discuss the emergence of the social networking site Facebook within the context of the growth of social media and Muslim-interest websites more generally. It will count the growth of Groups on Facebook and the extent to which the emergence of Groups specifically suggests a movement away from the use of Facebook for simply searching for information on known associates and towards a more political or value-led utilization of the site. Several key events typifying new potentialities of Facebook and other social media are briefly examined alongside the small existing body of academic research into emerging political and social functions of social networking sites more broadly. From the existing literature, three studies are discussed which highlight the potential for the Internet to provide spaces in which dominant discourses may be challenged and, therefore, spaces which may resemble subaltern or counter publics in the virtual sphere (e.g. Cole et al., 2011; Michael, 2012; O’Toole and Gale, 2011). Discussion of that scholarship is intended as an introduction to the empirical examination that follows, itself aimed at the particularities of Facebook which may enable online publics concerned with Muslim identity-based interests and concerns. Second, the range of uses to which respondents put Facebook Groups and Facebook more broadly will be examined. Here, the divergence of use from understood patterns will be highlighted. That is to say that usage of social-networking sites tends to be understood in terms of ‘social searching’, or maintaining contact with previously formed (offline) social networks (boyd and Ellison, 2007). What became clear during interviews and

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observations of Groups was that, while respondents did use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, many of them used Groups to establish novel connections based around common interests or concerns. The extent to which this type of ‘social browsing’ usage is beginning to feature in academic analyses will be noted before exploring that usage both through respondents’ words and through observations of relevant Groups. Third, this chapter will analyse the extent to which those Facebook Groups can be considered useful or effective public platforms for debating the terms of Muslim identities, contesting or reframing representations of Muslims or engaging both Muslims and nonMuslims in collective action. It will do so by evaluating both responses and Group observations against the various framings of public used for this examination: public as collective; as representative; as participative; and as accessible.

Facebook as a social action tool With respect to both extending communication capabilities and expanding the scope of political concern and action, the Internet provides a space for likeminded individuals to coalesce around common issues or interests (Häyhtiö and Rinne, 2007). To that end, websites have emerged which act as gathering places for various groups and collectives: ranging from more light-hearted interests such as dog ownership ( or popular music fan pages (for example, to issues of discrimination and social justice ( For Muslims, there is an extensive list of Islam-related websites. For example, there are sites with wide appeal such as Islam Online (, which claims to be the ‘leading and original Islamic portal on the Internet…the number one source for Islamic content in the Islamic world’, and other smaller, more personal sites such as The Hijablog and Unique Muslimah blogs which several respondents mentioned following. There are also watchdog sites that critique mass media behaviour, particularly coverage of Muslims. Loonwatch ( is one such site, describing itself as ‘a blogzine run by a motley group of hate-allergic bloggers to monitor and expose the web’s plethora of anti-Muslim loons, wackos, and conspiracy theorists’, while Islamophobia Watch (www.islamop sets out to ‘to document material in the public domain which advocates a fear and hatred of the Muslim peoples of the world and Islam as a religion’. Of course, not all sites are focused on anti-Muslim sentiments. There are plenty of Muslim friendship and dating websites (a long list of which can be found at and other social networking sites which provide meeting places for those Muslims (and non-Muslims) with particular interests in issues which may be local, national or global in scope. The presence of social networking sites (SNSs) on the Internet has been growing over the past decade. Some examples of popular SNSs are MySpace, LinkedIn, Bebo, and arguably the most popular site, Facebook.2 Social networking sites are defined by boyd and Ellison as


Brooke Storer-Church web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semipublic profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. (2007: 211)

Despite the emergence of a variety of cultures around these sites, most of them function to support existing social networks, while some go beyond that to “help strangers connect based on shared interests, political views, or activities” (boyd and Ellison, 2007). It is this latter phenomenon which is of interest here as Facebook has become well known for its Groups function, which allows users to gather collectively around particular interests, events or political aims without any pre-existing network or group needed.3 Facebook Groups are advertised as allowing users to ‘share what you care about with the people who care about it most’ (http://www.facebookgroups. com; accessed 11 December 2014). Despite the availability of statistics regarding membership and trafficking figures, Facebook currently provides no statistics regarding the number of Groups within the site.4 Surfing the Internet, however, can provide some unofficial accounts. The website All Facebook claimed in early 2010 that there were 620 million Group pages (O’Neill, 2010). Its method was to search Google for all Facebook Groups as Google now indexes all public Groups for its search engine. A similar search in August 2012 yielded a total of 19,900,000 Groups.5 And a search for Facebook Groups in December 2014 yielded 79,400 results. These figures must be seen as rough estimates which reflect public Groups only, not Groups designated as ‘closed’ or private by their administrators. The figure is further complicated by the fact that it includes people who create Groups to parody Facebook or its format. These Groups, therefore, are not genuine Facebook Groups, though they may constitute similar attempts to publicise an interest or common issue. Despite their increasing popularity, sociological scholarship regarding the ways in which SNSs, and Facebook in particular, may constitute online publics is still in its infancy. The ways in which these sites may provide platforms for the expression of, debate over and re-articulation of group identities or other collective concerns has yet to be fully explored because the various capabilities of social media are still coming to light. Research on social networking sites has evolved over the last ten years and tends to investigate self-presentation and identity performance (Papacharissi, 2009). Studies tend to view use of social networking sites as ‘social searching’, or finding information about offline acquaintances, rather than ‘social browsing’ or using the site to develop new acquaintances and connections (Joinson, 2008; Lampe et al., 2006). In support of that point, boyd and Ellison (2007) argue that users of most social networking sites are not looking to meet new people and are instead interested in maintaining contact with existing friends and groups. Arguments like boyd and Ellison’s (2007) can be located within literature that adopts traditional

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conceptualizations of virtual environments in which online relationships and interactions are mere extensions of previously established offline ones, yet other work is emerging which diverges from those traditions, arguing that virtual environments can and do foster unique and innovative interactivity which can be independent from offline relationships (see, for example, Zhao, 2006). The Internet may encourage a sense of belonging where there was no pre-existing sense of connectedness, thereby suggesting that it can cultivate that belonging while connecting individuals, rather than having a sense of belonging precede such connectedness. It must be noted, however, that recent literature regarding social movements’ use of Internet technology has highlighted the heterogeneous quality of social movements in warning against generic arguments about the impact computer-mediated communication may have. Such work further suggests that the dispersed communication capabilities of Internet technology may aid some efforts more than others (Diani, 2000; Van Laer and Van Aelst, 2010). The studies cited above argue for the Internet’s political potential and the ways in which social media in particular can play significant roles in citizen-based collective action. Nevertheless, political activity is not the only new potentiality linked with social media. Due to the growing importance of Facebook in terms of its political, public and even economic functions, there is a need for deeper understanding of the diverse roles that social media can and will play in evolving social and political environments. British Muslims use Facebook to adopt both dominant and subaltern framings of events, to express their citizenship in ‘the everyday’ and to demonstrate the ‘variety of ways in which people construct and test their public responses to statement (sic) by powerful others’ (Michael, 2012). The work of O’Toole and Gale (2011) looks at the political activity of various UK-based Muslim activists and how the Internet is used as grounds for contestation. They describe the ways some activists use the Internet and communication technologies more broadly to disrupt dominant discourses about Muslims and Islam, engaging in both analysis of mainstream media messages as well as producing and disseminating media communications through blogs, discussion groups and other Web-based forums (O’Toole and Gale, 2011: 74–76). For some Muslims, Facebook provides a platform similar to that sought by the GimpGirl Community; a platform upon which young Muslims can speak to those more powerful than themselves and to contest ascriptive or inaccurate descriptions of their experiences. These online spaces provide a means of access to both consumption and production of alternative discourses and framings of group experience. In this way the Internet allows for the mobilization of group identities, reframing of those experiences and for challenging dominant messages about group identity in line with Squires’ (2002) and Fraser’s (1990) articulations of alternative publics and counter publics, respectively. Michael (2012) herself notes that the multiple online forums she explored on Facebook can arguably be likened to Fraser’s (1990) ‘co-existing public spheres of diverse counter publics’.


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Young British Muslim’s use of Facebook Groups In my research, six Facebook Groups were observed and used as participant pools. All of the Groups represent collective interest in matters of concern to members and host a range of particular interests as reflected in the posts and discussions found there. For example, there are everyday posts between friends about weekend plans or results of university exams. Alongside those are links to recent news articles that members find contentious or announcements of upcoming protests for which members are trying to rally support. In other words, there is a range of uses to which these Groups are put. Before examining the ways in which respondents use Facebook to specifically address matters of identity, I will discuss respondents’ general use of the site as evidenced through their own words, including frequency of use and the reasons for it. However, in examining that use, what will become clear is that much of respondents’ interest in browsing various Groups relates to their Muslim identities: to perceptions of Muslims, to posts about Muslims, or to relevant links or stories about Muslims. The extent to which respondents’ use of Facebook reflects their desire to assert, debate, or define public senses of British Muslim identity will be emphasized where appropriate. Connecting and disconnecting In line with boyd and Ellison’s (2007) argument that users of social networking sites are primarily interested in maintaining contact with their existing social network, several respondents claimed that their main reason for using Facebook was to keep in touch with family and friends. Nazia’s comments were typical of this tendency: [I use it] to keep in contact with friends and family as well as work usage in terms of university… if we have group work, it’s easier to communicate over Facebook as sometimes it’s hard for a group meeting live. While all respondents used Facebook to some degree in this way, several respondents talked about other reasons for using it. Sam spoke about Facebook’s ability to relieve some of the isolation she feels living as an Asian in a non-Asian community: Because I don’t live in a predominantly Asian area so the Facebook page lets me think that I’m not the only Asian person that thinks this way. If they think the same as me and they enlighten me with information and the truth about something. I said before about having conversations, that’s what you need to seek the truth. You need to communicate. For Sam, Facebook adds a degree of communicative connection to others who share her viewpoints. These others are not necessarily people who are already

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familiar to Sam so that connecting with them constitutes ‘social browsing’, or making new connections (Lampe et. al, 2006). Similarly, Layla spoke about the ways in which Facebook allows her to feel connected to other people regardless of whether she has met them before or where they may be located geographically. Such a physical dislocation is mirrored in what she saw as a disconnection from physical identity markers: Facebook is one of my main interactions with the outside world. It’s an emerging thing that, like, a lot of people, like, they can be sitting in one room anywhere in the world and they can be typing out their feelings to a wider community. One of the unique things about Facebook is that that woman who was writing her feelings could be head-to-toe dressed in black and completely covered and everything but she is saying her thoughts and her feelings to the world and she’s communicating them and no one knows that she’s this woman. Everyone is just reading her thoughts and that’s one good thing about Facebook. Here, Layla shares her view that the physical or visible sharing of one’s identity (e.g. through Islamic dress) can impede the sharing of one’s thoughts and ideas. Facebook, as a virtual environment in which one’s physical identity is not necessarily visible to others, is seen as enabling a freedom from that identity, or at least from the perceptions of that identity that others may have. This perspective is articulated in academic arguments (e.g. Bolster 1996; McKenna et al., 2002) which claim that virtual environments allow for the removal of obstacles such as stigmatised appearances, thereby ‘liberating expression via anonymity’ (Papacharissi, 2009: 200) and supported by more general social psychological literature regarding the ways in which the Internet has transformed the ‘traditional conditions of identity production’ in which that disembodiment combines with anonymity resulting in a blank slate upon which individuals may transcend corporeal constraints and create a new self (Zhao et al., 2008: 1817).6 Anonymity from identity was not the only type of freedom mentioned. Ruby spoke of free access and the ability to create messages of her own as contributing to her use of Facebook: Facebook has become a worldwide phenomenon, what we say affects or rather is absorbed by others and it’s hard to deny that this doesn’t have an impact. Censorship is in our own hands and this is a massive factor. This means we can say, show or think what we want, although it’s ‘monitored’ it offers A LOT of freedom to its users. That ability to create messages of one’s own, whether positive or negative, emerged in many of the respondents’ views. They saw Facebook’s open policy as leading to a diversity of users. Despite evidence which suggests that the Internet presents conditions which are conducive to selective exposure to media content and that users gravitate to political perspectives which are comparable


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to their own, some research has been done which suggests that there is potential for users to engage with opposing viewpoints in online discussions (Kushin and Kitchener, 2009). Engaging with similar and dissimilar views The ability to engage both with like and unlike-minded people was a draw for several respondents. It was generally felt that a diversity of views afforded participants the ability to learn about others who live or think differently. This was seen as a positive aspect and one reflecting Facebook’s openness. For instance, creating a space in which opposing views would be welcomed was the drive behind the formation of the United Shades of Britain Group. Here, one of the group administrators, ‘J’, explains that the presence of oppositional viewpoints was taken as an opportunity to debate: There are people that will try to be unnecessarily controversial but you can’t forbid them from having their views because they’ll become even more radical or extreme. So if you give them an outlet and you say, look, how about this, this counter-argument, there can be some sort of discussion or debate, instead of either you believe in this or you can’t get on to the Group. Despite the acknowledgement by some of negative aspects of that openness, typified by encounters with individuals perceived to be misinformed or prejudicial of Muslims or Islam, a common thread through both positive and negative perspectives was that Facebook afforded the opportunity for education; for engaging in a conversation with a wide variety of people; for reinforcing one’s own views or for adjusting those views in light of others’ arguments. Thomas claims his impetus to correct misinformation about Islam is the driving force in his Facebook usage and applies both to Muslims and non-Muslims. He explains that he uses it: To help educate the misinformed. There is much ignorance within the Muslim community, as to what Islam is really about, never mind the wider society as well! Networking, connecting with other like-minded people who want to see a brighter, more spiritual future. The Facebook Groups are used for educational purposes and dialogue too. It is important to note that respondents’ efforts to correct misinformation were not necessarily directed only at non-Muslims. Facebook Groups have also been used as platforms upon which Muslims may debate with other Muslims over various Islamic interpretations or ideas about being Muslim, functioning as one field within the broader cyber-environment through which Muslims engage one another and articulate alternative narratives of belonging (cf. Anderson, 2003; Mandaville, 2001, 2002; Michael, 2012). Here, one respondent talks about the

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ways in which Groups host debate amongst Muslims, as well as how those discussions can lend themselves to reinforcing notions of belonging within British society: There are some misconceptions that some non-Muslims have, and Muslims have, too. I mean, you might have seen, there was a whole thread on the distinction between what secularism is and what the caliphate is, because there are Muslims out there that believe in that but I don’t necessarily believe in that. That’s politically motivated because those that believe in the caliphate believe it’s a religious obligation but it’s a political system, so in that case, you can argue both ways. You can say it’s not a religious obligation and neither is it an effective political system in today’s modern Britain…I think one of the things that will change the minds of non-Muslims and Muslims is promoting the idea that we want to live together and see our values as British values. This respondent explains that he sees his primary concern in engaging in dialogue on Facebook as ‘changing people’s political ideas basically from caliphate to a secular democracy rather than any particular political party or anything’. In wanting to persuade other Muslims and debate the terms by which they define their Muslim obligations, behaviours and identities, he reflects one way in which Facebook Groups can provide a sort of middle ground between public discourse about Muslims which is far removed from individuals’ daily lives and the face-to-face personal relationships which shape individual senses of being Muslim. In this way, these online Groups encourage expansive senses of community noted by Mandaville (2001, 2002) as marked by critical engagement with Islam and the ‘recognition of disparate Muslim voices and alternative articulations’ (Sands, 2010: 140). As a result of that engagement with alternative views and voices, it can also be said that these Facebook Groups resemble Anderson’s (2003) notion of online Islamic public spheres which allow individual Muslims to access alternative interpretations of Islam through greater, individualized access to information, as well as exercise greater agency in defining the terms of their identities, experiences and representations. Activities such as these in which Facebook Group members participate, can be seen as part of a broader expanse of Internetbased reflexive styles of engagement through which individuals may ‘express their own ideas, gather support for their own interests, and deal with their own worries and concerns’ (Häyhtiö and Rinne, 2007: 346; also Bennett, 2004). Sid describes a similar motivation for using Facebook Groups, using them primarily for the purpose of correcting anti-Muslim comments or ideas. When asked why he chooses to use Facebook, he answered: One hundred and ten per cent to answer to anti-Islamic comments. I never comment personally on people or what they’re like. I don’t involve myself in this sort of politics where they say, we’re lefties, you’re righties. All I do


Brooke Storer-Church is respond to these anti-Islamic posts and maybe sometimes I’ll have a bit of banter with some of these guys, like oh yeah, all of us Muslims wants to blow everyone up, but I’m absolutely joking and make sure that everyone knows I’m joking. I’ve never sort of claimed myself to be a scholar, but I have a deep interest in Islam. I’m not someone who just goes on Google, finds a couple of anti-Islamic or pro-Islamic sites and copies and pastes it. I literally do it just to let people know, okay you think that’s the idea of Islam, why don’t you explain this to me then?

Sid spoke of watching various Group discussions without contributing until a specifically negative or misinformed comment was posted, at which point he participated by posting a response in the form of a direct Islamic quotation or citation from the Qu’ran. This sort of interaction between previously unacquainted people is not substantiated by existing Facebook studies, nor by more general work on social-networking sites which argue them to be reflections of offline social networks (e.g. boyd and Ellison, 2007; Joinson, 2008; Lampe et al., 2006), but is beginning to feature in analyses which look into the Group features of Facebook or the ways in which Facebook provides public, political forums for identity concerns (e.g. Kushin and Kitchener, 2009; Michael, 2012). It was observed during the course of fieldwork that many of the respondents participate in Facebook Groups which represent a particular interest of theirs, but in which they have had little or no contact with other members prior to joining the Group. In those instances, the Group itself is the shared connection. Aliyah talks about the value she finds in being able to interact with people who feel or think the same way about things as she does: I read [Group] discussion boards on a daily basis but only contribute on an ad hoc basis. I find it interesting to read what like-minded people have to say on issues such as race and religion. I also find it reassuring when I see that not all people hold negative opinions of Muslims. While Aliyah may not be familiar with or know individual members, Groups such as the ones she discusses afford her a mirroring of her own thoughts and identity as a British Muslim. Conversations she observes and participates in reinforce the sense of British Muslim identity she has cultivated through personal relationships and practices and assuage her fears over negative perceptions of Muslims. This sort of interaction within Groups, though, was not uniquely Aliyah’s. While Aliyah browses Groups to find like-minded views and posts her own thoughts sporadically, Zahra is committed to a more active promotion of her ideas and experiences of being Muslim and so involves herself more heavily in Group discussions: I use Facebook primarily to promote my Islamic and political ideas and views. I tend to contribute considerably to discussions in various Groups

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and I also regularly make comments on postings made by others. I participate on pretty much a daily basis, varying from an hour or two a day to occasionally several hours a day…I hope to influence people’s views and thinking processes – to raise issues, perspectives and questions they may not have considered before and alternative solutions. In attempting to influence others’ different viewpoints, Zahra expresses her own agency to affect the way Muslims are viewed by others and to shape discussions about Muslims in her own terms (Anderson, 2003; Mandaville, 2001, 2002). Zahra is able to do this in Groups with which she feels an affinity as well as Groups with which she feels she is in opposition. Respondents spoke of joining many different Groups, but most of them spoke of joining those which reflected some aspect of their own lives or interests. For example, several students with whom I spoke joined university-based Islamic Society Facebook Groups. Yet there were other respondents, such as Zahra, Abdullah and Alana, who took the initiative to join Groups with whom they felt they lacked common ground, e.g. the English Defence League (EDL) Facebook Group, which was viewed by nearly all respondents as being ostensibly anti-Muslim. Here, Abdullah and Alana elaborate on using Facebook in this way: I recently joined several EDL groups on Facebook and I tried to engage with them, and discuss with them, and debate and show them things about Islam and Muslims they didn’t know but I felt I made little progress because their anti-Muslim views were so entrenched. [Abdullah] …if there’s a Group that makes me really angry…I once, there was a Group ‘Fuck Islam’, they still exist, and I read something that someone wrote that made me so angry. I mean, fair enough if you don’t believe in religion, but then don’t say it’s stupid just because you don’t believe in it. I don’t believe in a lot of things, but that doesn’t make it stupid…I joined the Group, wrote what I needed to and then left the Group…I join Groups when they really get to me. [Alana] The efforts of Abdullah and Alana to expose themselves to alternative points of view resonate with some Internet features highlighted by Norris (2002) in her exploration of the bridging and bonding aspects of online communities. Norris argues that while certain features such as their ‘fragmented hyperpluralism’ ‘should encourage interaction and exchange within social groups sharing similar beliefs and values’, degrees of anonymity afforded by text-based communication allow for certain social divides to be bridged (2002: 4–5); though, importantly, such anonymity may also increase divides or the propensity for abuse, as discussed at the start of this thesis. Despite such possibilities, Norris (2002) contributes an important point with regards to the ways in which participation in online communities such as these Facebook Groups may both deepen users’ experiences of community (i.e. reinforcing existing beliefs and social networks) and widen users’ experiences (i.e. connecting users to others with different backgrounds or beliefs).


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While nearly all respondents here admitted to using Facebook in Norris’ (2002) sense of deepening community, the majority of them also spoke of using it to widen that sense of community: as a platform for educating others about Islam or Muslims; to engage with others holding alternative viewpoints; to correct misconceptions about Muslims. Respondents often focused their Facebook use to specific Groups when talking about the ways they might engage with others on Muslim-related issues, as evidenced already in the comments from Zahra, Abdullah and Alana. Groups function as collections of Facebook users who wish to express solidarity with some idea, issue or event. In the case of these respondents, the idea or issue around which they choose to mobilize is British Muslim identity and its definition, meanings and representation. They participate in Groups which provide them with space to assert, debate, or define public senses of British Muslim identity through their own senses of that identity. In the words of the respondents above, Groups enable users to: address or try to correct misconceptions about Muslims; express their own ideas of Muslim identity; participate in dialogue over the terms of that identity; and remain in dialogue with like- (or unlike) minded people.

Evaluating Facebook Groups as public identity platforms The majority of respondents in my study have used Facebook Groups to observe or address the ways Muslims are seen in Britain and more generally in the world. I will now address the extent to which those Facebook Groups can be considered useful or effective public platforms for debating the terms of Muslim identities, contesting or reframing representations of Muslims or engaging both Muslims and non-Muslims in collective action. I will do so by evaluating both responses and Group observations against the various framings of public used for this research: public as collective; as representative; as participative; and as accessible. Many respondents spoke of their online activities as either having the potential to affect the way Muslims are viewed in society or offering them a sense of agency to engage with others who think similarly and differently from them in order to try to influence what others believe. ‘Foxglove’ is one such respondent. She uses Facebook to address misconceptions concerning the non-profit Muslim-interest organization with which she works: I did sort of comment correcting some of those misconceptions [about Muslims]. And I did the same in this Unite against Extremism Facebook Group where people were saying the same sort of things: ‘Oh groups like yours, they’re just paid to trot out the government line.’ So it was very, very useful in terms of countering those views. As her comments demonstrate, Foxglove finds Facebook a very useful platform for ‘countering those views’ she feels are wrong or misinformed. In Groups, she posts messages that clarify what her organization does and questions the sources of those users she feels are mistaken. She is able to generate some dialogue and

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feels as though she can balance public senses of her organization’s identity. In this instance, her private as individual actions and intentions can also be viewed through the four senses of public detailed in this project. They are public as representative, in that she is addressing the way in which her organization is known and represented in wider society; public as accessible in that she is accessing the terms of her organizations’ identity, and Muslim organizations in a broader sense, as well as accessing others with opposing views in order to address and, hopefully, correct those views; and public as collective and public as participative, in that she is participating in collective conversations with groups of individuals within society in order to affect positive change within it. Other respondents demonstrated similar means of functioning in both private and public capacities in their engagement with Facebook Groups. Many participated in Group discussions about Muslims, thereby engaging publicly in collective, participative and representative senses, while some of those continued to view such participation in private or individualized terms. For example, Sid engages in Group discussions because he believes that he can have some impact by communicating with others through Facebook Groups, but he is cautious about the extent of that impact: Small steps because a few people might change their minds about Muslims, but that’s about it. Nothing on a big scale. Nothing like, sort of, people are going to start mass gathering, not in even 2000 years time. But in terms of changing people’s minds, yeah, it’s a start. Sid goes on to say that the change he does feel he can make is a ‘one person at a time’ type of change. Although Sid does not believe Facebook could enable ‘big scale’ change, he finds value in using Groups to address people’s attitudes towards Muslims, reflecting some degree of faith in being able to affect public senses of British Muslim identity through his own interactions with Groups. As indicated already, when he comes across negative comments or views he thinks are incorrect, Sid is compelled to respond and claims his need to do so stems from his inability to ignore the comments rather than, as suggested above, any belief that such participation can make a real change. Despite his refusal to acknowledge faith in Facebook’s potentially wider positive impact, Sid’s attempts to change people’s views or thwart their ideas cannot be understood as separate from such faith. He must see some value in participation; otherwise, there is no rational explanation for his doing so. In the event that he freely interacts with others but does not recognize such interaction as inspiring ‘big scale’ change, the issue may be one of degree rather than change absolute. In other words, while he may not see his actions as leading to significant shifts in his social landscape, he does acknowledge that his actions may lead others to change their ways of thinking. Here he elaborates on his desire to interact with others and comment on others’ posts: A lot of people in the Group have been influenced but they tend to be people who were not against Islam in the first place. But a lot of it has to


Brooke Storer-Church do with myself. I’m trying to stand up for what I believe is right, not that I’m a martyr or anything like that. It’s something that I believe in, so I stand up for it. But at the same time, I see big problems arising from posts about Muslims, posts about non-Muslims even by Muslims. I see a lot of problems will arise from that and if someone doesn’t try to stop it, we’re going to be in deep trouble in a couple of years. Muslims and non-Muslims alike will be.

Although he fears ‘deep trouble…if someone doesn’t try to stop’ problematic posts and the thinking that generates them, Sid feels that his posts alone cannot make a great impact. When pressed further about posting to Groups, he explains, ‘If I just get one person to think, I’m happy’. Sid was not the only respondent to express ambivalence about the impact Groups could have on public senses of British Muslim identity or the ways in which Groups might afford them agency to affect that identity themselves. Some respondents felt Groups could affect positive change for British Muslims, and Muslims more generally, while others felt Facebook Groups were constrained by either their limited scope or the presence of more negative Groups. Generally, respondents were cautious in their hopes for the reach of such Groups. For example, Sam sees limitations but is hopeful for Groups’ potential as platforms for the vocalization of concerns: I mean, at the moment, it’s no, it’s just a page. But I like to think it could be that way because it’s important that we do have a voice and we want to show people that this is what other people think, this is what British Asians and non-British Asians are like. Likewise, Aliyah sees the potential of Groups to act as platforms, but also sees how those platforms can be used for more negative ends: I think they can – unfortunately this can be both positive and negative. Some Facebook Groups are good for fostering discussion and debate (1 Million United against the BNP is a good one). I have learnt a lot of things myself from reading the discussion boards. On the flip side I can’t help but wonder if Groups such as the EDL would have been able to gain the momentum they have without Facebook. I think people that may hold racist/Islamophobic/homophobic/anti-Semitic, etc. views can easily go to Facebook and find hundreds of like-minded people which, in turn, can contribute towards the thinking that these kinds of views are acceptable as lots of people hold them. A more hopeful view was expressed by Layla, who sees Facebook as having a multiplying effect towards change: I think Facebook is one ripple and ripples have the effect of getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And all it takes is one little tiny touch, or one click

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in this case. So, Facebook is one thing that, everyone that I know almost logs onto their Facebook pages once a week, and, you know, when they’re logging onto Facebook, when they’re scrolling through things or when they’re bored and they come across one comment or one line that might potentially make them think, that, you know, might potentially make them think, hang on a minute, maybe I’m wrong about Muslims. Maybe the media is wrong about Muslims. Maybe the world is wrong about Muslims. Even if one person can maybe think differently – I’m not choosing to convert anyone, but I think that’s a success. Even if one of my lines can make one person think, then it’s a success…I think it starts with changing the minds of individuals and then in effect it grows. And, also, Facebook Groups are groups of people and then you can change the minds of groups which is one step ahead and then you can go like that. As mentioned above, though, not all respondents were so hopeful. Some saw Facebook as limited by either scope or the presence of negative Groups. One respondent who exemplified the latter position was Billy: I don’t think websites such as Facebook will make a difference. I see many Groups on Facebook which are targeted at Muslims as well as Islam. By seeing stuff like that it clearly shows [perceptions of Muslims are] not changing publicly or via the web. While Zahra represented the former: I think Facebook can make a contribution to individual thinking, development of relationships and contemporary socio-political discourse – a “difference” of any significance, maybe not yet. There is insufficient real debate and discussion on Facebook as people do not seem to consider it a place for that. Most material presented is not taken too seriously as it originates generally from amateurs. Zahra believes Facebook can influence people, but explains that she still sees significant limitations. She equates Facebook’s ability to affect change as linked to people’s perceptions of Facebook as an arena for public debate and discussion. As she does not believe people recognize its potential to act as a platform for such debate, she sees its potential to affect change as necessarily limited. Nonetheless, the majority of respondents did indeed use Facebook Groups as arenas for debate and discussion, with many of them claiming the ability to expose oneself to others’ views was valuable in itself, regardless of any broader change affected by a Group. Nasir summarizes this position: With the mass use of Facebook, it can make a huge difference. People can see things and see the views of individuals they may not usually see. I mean, I can see the far-right sympathisers and what they don’t understand and how they


Brooke Storer-Church perceive things. Will it make a difference? In some cases, yes, some people do listen and are ready to change their views, whilst others are not and like to conform to what they believe in, as wrong or incorrect as it may be.

Regardless of whether or not users interacting within these Groups change their views, these Groups host interactions and actions constitutive of counter publics (C. Squires, 2002) and subaltern public spheres (Fraser, 1997). They also reflect contemporary movements towards reflexive political perspectives based on individualized, personal projects through which individuals articulate senses of self reflected in values and interests (Häyhtiö and Rinne, 2007). As my respondents’ words show, Facebook Groups, and profiles themselves, are locations of such value and interest reflections.

Group observations The potential of Facebook Groups to function as counter publics or alternative publics for British Muslim identity interests and concerns was not only observed through the words of respondents. Despite some respondents’ scepticism about the impact that Groups could have, and specifically Sid’s doubt that Facebook Groups could contribute to bigger change in the form of ‘mass gathering’, Facebook Groups were observed as being used for collective organizing and campaigning during fieldwork. There were several offline demonstrations against the English Defence League (EDL) and the British National Party (BNP) organized by Groups via Event pages on Facebook, through which transport was organized, times were confirmed, and locations were shared. An example of collective organizing for both online and offline actions was evidenced in an email I received from one of the Groups during fieldwork. The Group United Against Religious Discrimination sent an email on 30 May 2010 asking that all members copy and paste a letter to the Foreign Commonwealth Office. The letter described a level of fear surrounding an upcoming aid delivery to Gaza and requested the assurance of ‘safe passage of the Flotilla, along with the British Citizens who are on board’. While it is not possible to quantify the number of members who may have forwarded this letter as requested, nor is it possible to measure the impact of any sent letters, this example typifies the organizational and communicative capacities of these Facebook Groups. More importantly, these capacities point to two ways in which the Groups may be considered public. One, they are public as collective in the sense that they represent concerns common to their members and sites through which users may take collective action. Two, they are public as participative in that they increase the capacity of Internet-active users to participate as democratic citizens by exercising their collective voice about issues of concern. The participative quality of Facebook Groups was acknowledged by several respondents. Here, Rumi explains how Groups and Facebook more generally enable communication about specific issues at a much greater speed and reach than otherwise possible:

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It’s the quickest way to access the largest number of people at any one given time. That’s amazing for, if you’ve got an event or something. But it’s also an amazing resource to mobilize groups for the good and the bad. The evil forces are on Facebook as well…and they’ve been quite active and they’ve done most of their planning and plotting online. His thoughts are echoed by J, an administrator of one of the largest Facebook Groups I observed. He felt that Groups such as his enabled more participation and debate amongst young people who were concerned about particular issues, explaining: …there are discussions of particular issues [on Group walls] and there are instances where they’ve had some effect in public policy because of mass public support. I can’t think of particular examples at the moment. But they’re an easy way to get a number of people together that share ideas, rather than trying to organise rallies or demonstrations. It’s really easy to organise people who share a particular ideas. Although J could not cite an event which demonstrated Facebook’s potential to affect public policy, the 2009 Facebook campaign to place Rage Against the Machine (RATM) as the number one-selling Christmas album can be seen as exemplifying one way in which Facebook can be used to rally ‘mass public support’ or organize people towards social or political action. While a music campaign does not argue for Facebook’s relevance to public policy or Muslim identity concerns, it does demonstrate Rumi’s point about its capability to spread information quickly and J’s point regarding how Groups allow for easy organization of like-minded people, as well as a broader point about the impact Groups such as these can make in the offline world. The focus initiated by the Facebook campaign above is illustrative of a reflexive style of politicking witnessed in contemporary democratic environments in which ‘subjective values, lifestyle, attitudes and motives are increasingly steering the willingness and scope of political activity, and especially the motives of participation’ (Häyhtiö and Rinne, 2007: 353). For most respondents, that activity concerned Muslims’ location in British society or the wider world. While nearly all respondents spoke of Facebook Groups as being capable of affecting positive change in the ways Muslims are seen by wider society, their perceptions varied by degrees. The sense of agency, however, afforded by Groups in allowing individuals access to discussion and debate over the terms of Muslim identity was a constant value shared by respondents.

Conclusion The aim of this chapter has been to explore more deeply respondents’ use of Facebook Groups, with a specific focus on the ways they have used those Groups to mobilize around British Muslim identity. Such an exploration has


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included questions about the extent to which respondents believe such Groups can affect the ways in which Muslims are seen, as well as questions about the extent to which such Groups can function as useful forums for identity debates and discussions. Through Facebook, respondents have engaged in dialogue and action with unknown others. Such usage challenges some social movement literature which argues that such collective action derives from previously established senses of belonging. On the contrary, respondents’ use of Facebook Groups suggests ways in which the Internet may encourage a sense of belonging where there was no pre-existing sense of connectedness, thereby suggesting that it can cultivate that belonging while connecting individuals rather than having a sense of belonging precede such connectedness. Respondents’ own words about the reasons for participating in Groups illustrate the capacity of those Groups to provide interest points around which members coalesce to combine agency and action. For many respondents, the interest point around which they have gathered is British Muslim identity. Respondents’ descriptions of their own regular interactions within Groups reflect use of them as identity platforms, instilling respondents with greater agency to address misconceptions about Muslims, to express their own senses of Muslim identity, and to participate in dialogue over the terms of that identity with both like- and unlike-minded people. Importantly, observable discussions were not only between Muslims and non-Muslims, but also between Muslims themselves as they strove to debate varying interpretations of Islamic prescription or debate their individual views about Muslims’ presence in Britain. Facebook Groups thus provide a middle ground of sorts between public discourses about Muslims and the face-to-face, personal interactions that comprise the lived experiences of young British Muslims. Responses regarding the effects that Facebook Groups could have in countering negative views of Muslims, however, were varied, ranging from confident and hopeful to pessimistic. Despite that range, the majority of respondents have actively and regularly used Groups to either observe or address both benign and more problematic views. It was observed that Facebook Groups in particular provide a point around which respondents can gather, debate and discuss the terms of British Muslim identity and representation, as well as participate in collective action as documented through several campaigns. Through respondents’ own words, Groups can be seen as both public as representative and public as accessible because they allow individuals access to platforms of debate over the terms of group representation; in this case, how, when and why British Muslims are portrayed in the media and the effects of those portrayals on the ways Muslims are perceived in wider British society.

Notes 1 This chapter draws upon my unpublished Ph.D. research at the University of Bristol, investigating the use of Facebook as a political platform for young British Muslims. Names of respondents have been changed upon request.

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2 MySpace: founded 2003; users aged 13 and over; 130,000,000 registered users. LinkedIn: founded 2003; users aged 18 and over; 80,000,000 r.u. Bebo: founded 2005; users aged 13 and older; 117,000,000 r.u. Facebook: founded 2004; users aged 13 and over; 800,000,000 r.u. These figures are taken from market research conducted by Alexa. com and listed on Wikipedia: websites; Last accessed December 20, 2011. Facebook member figures have been updated to reflect current statistics available on own website. boyd and Ellison (2007) claim that there is still no reliable data on how many people use SNSs beyond market research, which suggests they are growing in popularity at a rapid rate. 3 See also Feezell et al. (2009) for a description of the Groups feature. At the time of my fieldwork, Groups were unrestricted and the largest Group involved in this project had membership in excess of 13,000 members (United Shades of Britain). However, starting in the winter of 2011, Facebook began limiting Group membership numbers and requiring collectives with more than five hundred members to form Fan Pages instead. 4 Official Facebook statistics are available at php?statistics. 5 The discrepancy between the 2010, 2012, and 2014 figures may have to do with Facebook’s restructuring of Groups. The restructuring took place after fieldwork concluded and presents a number of interesting implications for Groups’ communicative and organizational capacities that are relevant to the private and public qualities of Groups. To search for current figures on public Facebook Groups via Google, enter ‘’ into the search window. This technique was cited as most accurate by the team at All Facebook in lieu of any official statistics from Facebook itself, but only reflects those groups which have been categorized as ‘public’ by their creators. 6 Such academic arguments typically reside in literature concerned with anonymous online environments, like multi-user dungeons or chat rooms (Zhao et al., 2008). Although Layla imagines other users’ abilities to escape their identities through their Facebook use, Facebook has been called a ‘nonymous’ environment; one in which online interactions are largely based on offline, anchored relationships (Zhao et al., 2008: 1819–1820). As such, identity ‘escape’ is more difficult. It is important to note, however, that Zhao et al.’s (2008) interest in Facebook as ‘nonymous’ relies on the institutional affiliation which was mandatory for Facebook membership at the time of their study. That constraint no longer exists as Facebook opened membership to any email address in September 2006 ( AreaId=20), though lack of institutional affiliation should not be mistaken for anonymity since users are still required to verify real names and email addresses to establish a profile.

References Anderson, J. W. (2003) ‘New Media, New Publics: Reconfiguring the Public Sphere of Islam’ in Social Research, 70:3, pp. 887–906. Available at: sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1451456. Last Accessed 23 January 2012. Bennett, W. L. (2004) ‘Communicating Global Activism: Strengths and Vulnerabilities of Networked Politics’ in Cyberprotest: New Media, Citizens and Social Movements. W. van de Donk, B. D. Loader, P. G. Nixon and D. Rucht, eds. London: Routledge. pp. 123–146. Bolster, J.D. (1996) ‘Virtual Reality and Redefinition of Self’ in Communication and Cyberspace: Social Interaction in an Electronic Environment. L. Strate, R. Jacobson and S.B. Gibson, eds. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press. pp. 105–120.


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boyd, d. and N. B. Ellison (2007) ‘Social Network Sites: Definition, History and Scholarship’ in Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13:1, pp. 210–230. Available at: Last Accessed 31 November 2011. Cole, J., J. Nolan, Y. Seko, K. Mancuso and A. Ospina (2011) ‘GimpGirl Grows Up: Women with Disabilities Rethinking, Redefining and Reclaiming Community’ in New Media and Society, 13:7, pp. 1161–1179. Diani, M. (2000) ‘Social Movement Networks: Virtual and Real’ in Information, Communication and Society, 3:3, pp. 386–401. Feezell, J. T., M. Conroy and M. Guerrero (2009) ‘Facebook is…Fostering Political Engagement: A Study of Online Social Networking Groups and Offline Participation’. Paper presented at the American Political Science Association meeting, Toronto, Canada, September 2009. Fraser, N. (1990), ‘Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy’ in Social Text, 25–26, pp. 56–80. Fraser, N. (1997) Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the ‘Postsocialist’ Condition. New York and London: Routledge. Häyhtiö, T. and J. Rinne (2007) ‘Hard Rock Hallellujah! Empowering Reflexive Political Action on the Internet’ in Journal for Cultural Research, 11:4, pp. 337–358. James, N. and H. Busher (2009) Online Interviewing. London: Sage Publications Ltd. Joinson, A. N. (2008) ‘Looking at, Looking up or Keeping up with People? Motives and Uses of Facebook’ in Proceeding of the Twenty-sixth Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. New York: ACM Press. pp. 1027–1036. Available at: Last accessed 4 December 2011. Kushin, M. J. and K. Kitchener (2009) ‘Getting Political on Social Network Sites: Exploring Online Political Discourse on Facebook’ in First Monday, 14: 11, November. Lampe, C., N. Ellison and C. Steinfield (2006) ‘A Face(book) in the Crowd: Social Searching vs. Social Browsing’ in Proceedings of 2006 20th Anniversary Conference on Computer Supporter Cooperative Work. New York: ACM Press. pp. 167–170. Available at: Last accessed 4 December 2011. Mandaville, P. (2001) Transnational Muslim Politics: Reimagining the Umma. New York: Routledge. Mandaville, P. (2002) ‘Reimagining the Ummah? Information Technology and the Changing Boundaries of Political Islam’ in Islam Encountering Globalization. A. Mohammadi, ed. New York: Routledge. pp. 61–90. McKenna, K.Y.A., A.S. Green and M.E.J. Gleason (2002) ‘Relationship Formation on the Internet: What’s the Big Attraction?’ in Journal of Social Issues, 58:1, pp. 9–31. Michael, L. (2012) ‘Frames, Forums and Facebook: Interpreting British Muslim Understandings of Post-7/7 Militarist Media Narratives’ in Violence and War in Culture and the Media: Five Disciplinary Lenses. A. Karatzogianni, ed. London: Routledge. pp. 148–162. Norris, P. (2002) ‘The Bridging and Bonding Role of Online Communities’ in The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 7:3, pp. 3–13. O’Neill, N. (2010) ‘Google now indexes 620 Million Facebook Groups’ website. Available at:–02. Last Accessed 12 Jan. 2012. O’Toole, T. and R. Gale (2011) ‘New Grammars of Political Action Among Urban Muslim Youth’ in Creative Participation: Responsibility-taking in the Political World.

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M. Micheletti and A.S. McFarland, eds. Boulder and London: Paradigm Publishers. pp. 67–81. Papacharissi, Z. (2009) ‘The Virtual Geographies of Social Networks: A Comparative Analysis of Facebook, LinkedIn and ASmallWorld’, in New Media and Society, 11:1–2, pp. 199–220. Sands, K. Z. (2010) ‘Muslims, Identity and Multimodal Communication on the Internet’ in Contemporary Islam, 4, pp. 139–155. Squires, C. (2002) ‘Rethinking the Black Public Sphere: An Alternative Vocabulary for Multiple Public Spheres’ in Communication Theory, 12:4, pp. 446–468. Van Laer, J. and P. Van Aelst (2010) ‘Internet and Social Movement Action Repertoires’ in Information, Communication and Society, 13:8, pp. 1146–1171. Waskul, D. and M. Douglass (1996) ‘Considering the Electronic Participant: Some Polemical Observatios on the Ethics of On-Line Research’ in The Information Society: An International Journal, 12:2, pp. 129–140. Zhao, S. (2006) ‘The Internet and the Transformation of the Reality of Everyday Life: Towards a New Analytic Stance in Sociology’ in Sociological Inquiry, 76:4, pp. 458–474. Zhao, S., S. Grasmuch and J. Martin (2008) ‘Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships’ in Computers in Human Behavior, 24:5, pp. 1816–1836.


Digital Orientalism Muslim youth, Islamophobia and online racism Amir Saeed

Introduction In the past two decades a virtual Ummah has evolved in cyberspace. While some of these websites are directed explicitly at Muslims, others attempt to provide outreach on Islam or counter Islamophobic bias. As noted by Anderson and Eickelman (Anderson, 2003), in groundbreaking research on Islam in cyberspace, Muslims were among the first engineering students to create websites at the dawn of the Internet, before mainstream Islamic organizations posted official websites. Recent researchers (Varisco, 2010) have described the emergence of a ‘transnational Islamic public sphere’, building upon the concepts of a new media public sphere (Gerhards and Schäfer, 2010). Gary Bunt’s extensive research on Muslims and new media clearly demonstrates how the Muslim world and diaspora are actively engaging with new/digital media in a variety of ways from social to cultural to political (Bunt, 2000, 2003, 2009). This chapter explores expressions of young British Muslim identity and how they are played out online in what has been argued to be an egalitarian, post ‘race’ space. It will specifically examine how Islamophobic/anti-Muslim racism is challenged and discussed by young Muslims online. It considers how those online may feel less accountable to social norms and mores as when they are offline, while ambiguous identities and cyber processes blur notions of authenticity and acceptability in racialized debates. To explore these issues examples are drawn that are not overtly about Islam or even ‘race’ but these examples show how religion/ethnicity operate as ‘floating signifiers’ (Hall, 1996) that influence understanding and discourse of everyday situations. It appears that research both at an academic and policy level has focused mainly around tackling the issue of online radicalisation and therefore the literature regarding online Islamophobia as a result remains less developed. First, it will be argued that the new social media reflect social reality. So just as minority representation in media is related to structures of ideology and power it can be reasonably assumed that the wider public sphere influences equivalent depictions/discourses about cyber culture. In short, if media images articulate the histories and discourses of inclusion/exclusion then one could

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speculate that the Web may be the logical successor of these ideologies. Hence even young British Muslims’ use of the new media is seen in some quarters as suspicious and possibly harboring ‘terrorist’ sentiments. This can be seen most clearly in the UK’s response to terrorism and radicalization under the auspices of the Prevent Strategy. Since July 2006, when the British government made public its strategy to counter international terrorism (CONTEST), the Internet has been identified as a domain ‘where many types of radical views are strongly promoted’ (UK Home Office, 2006). The growth of the use of the Internet, with its ability to connect people and to facilitate dissemination of information and ideas, has had a significant impact on the accessibility and flow of radical ideas. The shift in activity to the Internet supports the observation of the former Chief Constable of West Yorkshire and ACPO lead on Prevent, Sir Norman Bettison, that ‘the internet features in most, but not all, terrorism cases’ (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 2012). Awan (2014) notes that although Prevent in principle covers all forms of far right extremism from animal rights groups to anti-capitalists, it has by implication only targeted Muslim communities. Counter-terror legislation such as pre-charge detention, control orders, and stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000, were too broad and had been used disproportionately against Muslim communities and revealed that British Muslims, and young British men in particular, feel a sense of victimization and stigma (Thomas, 2011). Second, the nature of racist abuse online relates to types of racisms. A cultural racism is evident that implies Muslims are incompatible with the West and indeed pose a threat to secular multiculturalism. Thus in relation to Islam and young British Muslims it could be suggested that ideas, thoughts and concerns about Muslims/Islam in wider culture are reproduced online. It has been suggested that the destiny of multiculturalism itself in Britain has become interweaved with the political and social identities of Muslims (Meer and Modood, 2009), especially the manner in which Muslims assert identity ‘claims’ such as Sharia Law, right to worship and halal meat and so on. This is seen as particularly assertive, difficult to accommodate and at times contrary to ‘British values’ (Saeed 2004; Joppke, 2009; Meer, 2012). Meer and Modood (2012) note that this need to uphold ‘British values’ is particularly applied to Muslims, who are alleged to have breached liberal discourses such as individual rights and secularism. However, what is also worrying is that there appears to be a resurgence of almost primate biological racism that is apparent in the online postings (Farrington et al., 2015). The relative anonymity that social media provides allows the possibility for explicit statements to be posted (whether they are firmly believed or not) knowing that justification for these comments will be rarely required on a personal or face-to-face basis (Leung, 2005). Finally it will explore how young Muslims are employing the power of new media to challenge Islamophobic sentiments whilst also asserting an Islamic identity that is progressive. Indeed it could be suggested that these Muslims are the embodiment of active ‘citizens’ (Wayne et al., 2010) in the modern new media public sphere.


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Online ‘race’ thinking Racism has both ‘whitened the national narrative’ and ‘whitened our technological stories’, and we must interrogate this. (Daniels, 2013: 34)

In recent years much of this ‘race’ debate has been constructed on the Internet and in new media. The hype around the freedom of cyberspace – including identity changes, surfing, the collapsing of time and space, the blurring of physical boundaries – recalls the tropes of the colonial period when mobility was always associated with the European colonizer taking up the ‘white man’s burden’, whilst simultaneously civilizing and Christianizing the globe. Some argued that the Internet could bring about the achievement of an electronic global village in which differences would not matter – a ‘post race’ space. In this view, the social problems and negative connotations that often go together with physical indicators of difference would potentially also disappear. Cyberspace at times was regarded as a utopian socially neutral space where inequalities associated with ‘race’ gender, age, religion and other social factors will be ironed out on a level playing field (Hylton, 2013) and as Nakamura (2002: xi) concurs that even ‘transcending racism’ was opined as a likely outcome of the advent of the Internet.

Orientalism offline In reality, this is far from the case. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the Internet can and does enable new and insidious forms of racism. While ‘new media’ are indeed new in many ways, they too often fall into quite old models when dealing with issues of ‘race’ and ethnicity. Biologists, social scientists and social activists have helped us to understand race as a socially constructed process, rather than a natural fact, but racial categories, racist structures and racist representations remain very much a part of society. A basic question with regard to ‘race’ in cyberculture remains: if online identities can be/are masked and invisible, why does ethnic, racial or religious identity matter? The response to this is quite simple – cyberspace, online identity and social media are rooted in and recursively linked to and informed by the real. If ‘race’ is less a biological category than a social construction, it follows that wider social structures such as the public sphere inform technology discussions that in turn determine, inform and alter racial/ethnic/group identities. As various studies demonstrate, the typecasts of ethnic minority groups in Western media are often negative and at best, contradictory (Saeed, 2015), and often Islam and Muslims are treated homogenously and depicted as the opposite of the West (Akbarzadeh and Smith 2005; Poole 2002; Sardar and Davies 2003). There are a variety of reasons why the Western media has unsympathetic views towards Islam (Poole 2002), and as Said (1981) has argued, the main reason that the West has its ‘own’ ‘experts’ (reporters, commentators, academics/scholars) commenting on Islam is that

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‘we’ the West, represent ‘them’ (the East), hence, ‘they’ are not representing ‘themselves.’ For instance, Drainville and Saeed (2013: 832) suggest: Binary conceptions not only depict all things oriental as ‘other’, but also define Islam as the ‘other’ religion to Christianity. With the ‘other’ constantly described as inferior, even barbaric, it is easily accepted by a Western audience that terrorism stems from Islam. Solomos (2003: 186) suggests that this follows a wider tradition of media representations that depict ethnic minority communities as ‘endangering the cultural and political values of the nation.’ The news media’s focus on non-white immigration into the UK and other parts of Europe has re-awakened debates of ‘Otherness’ and ‘culture clash’. Too often, these debates ignore the reality of the existence of the marginalized groups and concentrate on the ‘fear of the outsider’ rather than on the contribution immigrants can make. This new media like the web, social media, chat forums and even and video games have the opportunity to challenge old forms of established racist thinking and in some areas they are doing so. Indeed, the concept of ‘post race’ has entered the dictionary of those excited by the World Wide Web and cyberspace. But too often instead they rely upon and reinforce racial and ethnic stereotypes, and leave structural inequality of race unchallenged or reinforced. Lisa Nakamura has referred to some new versions of old representations of race/ethnicity as cybertypes. As Beth Kolko, Lisa Nakamura, and Gilbert Rodman (2000) explained in the introduction to Race in Cyberspace: Race matters in cyberspace precisely because all of us who spend time online are already shaped by the ways in which race matters off-line, and we can’t help but bring our own knowledge, experiences, and values with us when we log on. (pp. 4–5) She goes on to argue that, We continue to scrutinize the deployment of race online as well as the ways that Internet use can figure as a racialized practice if we are to realize the medium’s potential as a vector for social change. There is no ignoring that the Internet can and does enable new and insidious forms of racism. (Nakamura 2002: 30)

The online community For young people today, there is nothing ‘new’ about digital media; for them, digital media has always existed. Whether accessing the Internet through a desktop computer or connecting through short message services (SMS) via mobile phones, digital/electronic media are omnipresent in Western contemporary


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society. New media specialist and pioneer Howard Rheingold has argued that ‘search engines have replaced libraries’ for young people in the digital age (Daniels, 2008). Social and New Media forums can function as a useful method for distributing information, ideas and opinions. Research conducted on the political impact of virtual communities has often concluded that much conversation is involved with people merely asserting opinions without substantial reason (Chadwick, 2007; Jankowski, 2007; Rheingold, 2000). This has tangible significances for ‘race’, civil rights, and hate speech, because it means that the first, possibly the only, place that young people go to ‘do research’ about race is the Internet. Thus it can be a useful, cheap and influential method for disseminating offensive material to a potentially global audience with some degree of personal safety (Gerstenfeld et al., 2003; Glaser et al., 2002). Other observers such as Hylton (2013) argue that that an unregulated Internet also presents ideal conditions for enabling and facilitating racists who can share ideas and information at will and very quickly. Kang (2003: 39) takes this analysis further by suggesting that ‘race’ is also socially constructed in cyberspace. Hylton (2013: 5) summarises online ‘race’ thinking in the following way: Online, three elements interact as individuals map (rules used to classify people into categories: physical or discursive signals) others into preconceived racial categories (through which basic concepts of race are understood) that stimulate racial meanings (cognitive beliefs about and affective reactions to the categories) for the user. Because public opinion has shifted to condemn overt racist attitudes and racism and behaviours in public settings (Picca and Feagin, 2007), explicit expressions of racist attitudes have begun to find a home in the various social/new media channels (Bargh and McKenna, 2004; Melican and Dixon, 2008). Therefore, all kinds of racist messages and language, possibly due to the ‘freeness’ of the private Internet sites (e.g., blogs, online forums), are able to spread out to a larger audience, with greater ease. In summary, though visual signifiers of ‘race’ may be absent online, recent research suggests that ‘race’ takes on a linguistic form. Racial and social divides that exist offline are, in some cases, even more apparent in the digital media space. It is therefore important to consider Internet and social media content from the same critical perspective from which we should examine offline content. The attitudes and ideologies about ‘race’ found offline are often reproduced and disseminated in social media and online.

Amir Khan and online racism Boxing is still perhaps one of the most widely known sports in the world. It has transcended the globe and is practised in various guises, such as gypsy bareknuckle boxing in Europe, the various styles of kick boxing in the Far East and even what has been termed ‘dirty’ boxing in the US. Hence, boxing can carry social meaning and economic cultural value for some people. As a result, it has

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an impact upon people’s identity and their understanding of the world that surrounds them. Early (1994) argues that the reason for boxing’s enduring popularity can be understood as a metaphor for the human condition in wider society. Boxing can provide discipline, respect and some level of personal control that can lead to the development of a positive social identity. The association of boxing with primate cultures can be related to Said’s (1978) conception of Orientalism – that is, boxing is both native and foreign to the Western world. It is native in that authors have noted the historical development of boxing in Europe (Sugden, 1996), but also foreign in that is practised successfully in large numbers by fighters who are perceived as the Other. Boxers are in many ways ‘Othered’ because they are overwhelmingly from the lower social classes and historically oppressed ethnic groups. Amir Khan was inspired by Muhammed Ali and took up boxing as a child. He shot to fame after winning a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He embraces a complex identity and has a widespread appeal. A proud British-Pakistani Muslim, he has for many people become an exemplary product of contemporary multicultural Britain – an achievement when considering the current climate of Islamophobia (Saeed, 2011, 2007a). Indeed Amir Khan is now one of a handful of British-Asian sport stars that challenge the notion that ‘Asians can’t do physical sport’ (Kilvington et al., 2012). He won the 2013 British Asian Sports Award (BASA) of the decade and the massive surge in popularity of boxing amongst British-Asians in recent years can be credited to him. As Armstrong (2008) notes: The rise of young Asians in combat sports stems, inevitably, from street racism. ‘People got into self-defence in the Seventies and Eighties because we had to,’ says the awards organiser, Rajan Singh. ‘We all started taking karate and judo, then gradually you’d find Asian black belts or boxers opening their own gyms.’ Once you saw a role model like Amir Khan come along, all the enthusiastic youngsters started pursuing the sports side as well as the self-defence.’1 Thus Khan’s appeal can be understood beyond his boxing ability. Sardar (2006) notes that Khan exemplifies what it means to be British in modern multicultural Britain: Every component of Amir Khan’s compound identity is demonstrated in his boxing. As a Muslim, he prays before each bout and again on entering the ring. He is at home in his religious identity despite all the stereotypes and suspicions of Muslims as being ‘fifth columnists’. And he emphatically defies Norman Tebbit’s ‘cricket test’ of allegiance to the home country. Khan represents Britain. His parents and his supporters wave the Union flag. But he also acknowledges his Pakistani heritage: the Pakistani flag is there in evidence as well. It represents something extra that enhances his Britishness.2


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However, Khan still stresses his pride of his religious and ethnic background. This conditional belonging by Khan has made him a role model for British Muslims, while simultaneously more acceptable to the mainstream British public (Burdsey, 2007). However, Burdsey (2007: 623) does not acknowledge that the acceptance of Khan hides or even consciously conceals the increased prejudice towards British Muslims in society: In other words, Khan is seen as filling lacuna in communities that are believed to lack positive role models. This serves to further position Khan as the ‘acceptable’ or ‘desirable’ face of British Islam. This stance is perhaps best epitomised by the Daily Mail’s Jeff Powell who, in distinguishing Khan from the ‘other’ Muslims that his paper continues to admonish, suggests that ‘this charming son’ of Islam is doing the power of good for Anglo-Asian relations. However, what can also be gleaned is that, at times, Khan has had to face overt racism. Khan himself notes that some British fans have not accepted him and occasionally the abuse has been racist and Islamophobic (Mitchell, 2010). BBC boxing journalists have noted that in several of Khan’s fights a racist climate was clearly apparent. A number of debates on the BBC boxing blog have fans considering whether the animosity by some sections of the British public and British boxing fans was based on racism or Islamophobic sentiments (Mitchell, 2010). Indeed, one of the comments notes that no matter how hard Khan tried to emphasize his British identity, he was always faced with a considerable element of racism: Just before Ricky Hatton fought Mayweather in America, during the buildup, Amir Khan was introduced to the crowd in the US and there were raucous boos from British fans of Ricky Hatton. Amir Khan looked embarrassed, I remember Oscar Del Hoya looking shocked, here were British fans booing a British boxer in America. When Khan fought Mexican Marco Barrera in Manchester he was met with booing from a few hundred British fans wearing Mexican sombreros and cheering for Barrera. This sort of thing really got to him because he was very patriotic and really proud of having won silver for Britain in the Olympics.3

Amir Khan = ‘race thinking’ online I can only say that sometimes skin colour does make a difference. I know for a fact if I were a white English fighter maybe I would have been a superstar in Britain, and the world. If you go on the message boards and chat forums there are always people who have to get the religious thing in.4

If one were to analyze the online material describing/responding to Khan’s ability, lifestyle and identity, one quickly notices a discourse that is dominated

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around issues of ‘race’, ethnic and national narratives and counter narratives (Saeed, 2011, 2004). These arguments have taken on a global sphere with the ease of access to social and new media. Furthermore the anonymity that new media provides gives a fascinating commentary on the language of contemporary racism. The following reflection provides one example of bigots taunting other readers with overtly nationalistic language when Amir Khan complained about perceived anti-Muslim racism. In 2011 whilst on route to train for a fight, Amir Khan tweeted that: Landed in LA safe, but the customs took the ___ again because I’m Muslim. Kept me in some holding room for over two hours. They were so arrogant and unprofessional. Didn’t know how to talk to people. Well I’m out now and it can’t get any worse.5 His manager was quoted in the article as saying that: Names like Khan and Muhammad are commonly stopped. There are seven levels of security threat, with seven being the highest, and Amir has come in at the full seven. His name is Khan; he is a Muslim; between visits to the United States, he visits Pakistan; and he recently went to another Muslim country, Egypt, on holiday. All these things are taken into account by US Homeland Security. The Telegraph newspaper, like many UK national newspapers allow readers to make online comments. What followed were 45 comments that discussed this issue. Some of the comments were supportive of Khan but some also followed ‘online race thinking’ as mentioned previously (Hylton, 2008). One reader posted a number of comments about the story and in response to other readers. The reader’s name and tone suggest that ‘race baiting” and ridiculing Khan’s experience was his clear intention. Empire_Loyalist: (sic) So he’s been there countless times and countless times he’s been stopped, yet continues to go knowing he’ll be stopped…and then moans about it. Either stay at home or abide by the rules of the guest country you’re visiting, in much the same way your forefathers were meant to in Bolton. You’d have a lot more sympathy if you could bring yourself to mention the cancer that is Muslim Terror and the shame you feel by being delayed by immigration because of the actions of a lot of the people who claim to be of the same religion as yourself. If you don’t like it, set up camp in Bognor and have your fights at Butlins. This comment was ‘most recommended’ by readers of this story. The comment clearly echoes contemporary racist discourse. People with non-white skin in Britain have habitually been designated as outsiders (or other), as ‘ethnic


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minorities’ whose culture is alien and incompatible with that of the host nation (Saeed, 2007b). Furthermore, it could be suggested that the issues of asylum seekers and refugees have been conflated with the issue of Muslim terrorism, to create a new form of racism. Racism, as many authors have noted, does not remain static but evolves and adapts to circumstance and situation (Mason 2000; Solomos 2003). Hence Islam is equated with terrorism and despite being British born and representing the UK in the Olympics, Khan is told that he is merely a ‘guest’ in this country. Thus regardless of Khan’s previous assertions of being proud to be British his religious identity is seen as being incompatible with being British. The current political climate with the ongoing ‘War on Terrorism’, has brought Muslim minority groups into the media spotlight and adversely affected British Muslim communities. New components within racist terminology appeared, and were used in a manner that could be argued were deliberately provocative to bait and ridicule Muslims and other ethnic minorities. Many social commentators have noted that media language has been fashioned in such a way as to cause many to talk about a ‘criminal culture’ (Poole 2002; Saeed 2007b). The perceived support among British Muslims of Usama bin Laden, Palestinian suicide bombers and Kashmiri separatists have been further fuelled by these recent events in the North of England. The disturbances in the North of England have in some quarters been presented as a particular problem within the Muslim community and not with the British Asian community as a whole (Saeed 2004). Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities in particular have been represented in the media as separatist, insular and unwilling to integrate with wider society (Saeed, 2015, 2011). Furthermore, the old stereotypical image of ‘Asian passivity’ has been replaced by a more militant aggressive identity that is meant to be further at odds with ‘British secular society’. The concept of ‘culture clash’ has been highlighted to imply that British Muslims are at odds with mainstream society (Ansari 2003; Modood 1994,). This comment also echoes the concept of trivialization that can help marginalize and ignore the very obvious effects of racial prejudice. It is evident that this denial of racism is expounded from a position of perceived cultural privilege where racist experiences are undermined by the ‘common sense’ approach that tackles ‘political correctness’. These comments are not just a product of online communities, but are a product of wider society. Hampton and Wellman argue that ‘the study of virtual communities should not be restricted to interactions that take place online, but should include observations of how online interactions fit into the entire set of social ties that make up the multiple communities in which we are all involved’ (Hampton and Wellman, 1999, p.12). Thus it can be argued that online life blends in with and is influenced by offline life. Furthermore the incident itself involving immigration officials and US homeland security leads to overtly political discussions as when Amir Khan is involved in the actual sporting arena, discussion of his career often moves to debates about race and religion (Burdsey, 2007). A routine search on YouTube or various online boxing forums indicates a plethora of comments that display overt racist abuse directed to Amir Khan, his fans or his

Digital Orientalism


ethnic/religious background. For example, on a video posted on YouTube of Khan’s victory of Marco Barrera (2009), the following comments were posted by YouTube users: ‘IrontoughItalian’ (sic) Europeans, South Americans, Africans they have the genes with muscles and strength. The Paki/Indian gene is very weak and there penis is very small. It’s a fact. How many medals have India won at the Olympics with 1 billion people and then look at China how many medals the rack up with there billion. Its the weak gene. In response to this another user posts: ‘johnosandra’ (sic) That’s one thing your right on they need to slow down their population growth, its unsustainable for earth. They all have so many kids they don’t have the money to feed them and expect western countries to on board unsustainable population growth. Why did we have wars? If they halve their population they’re all worth twice as much. They need more abortions and contraception widely available. Poor children growing up in disgusting conditions because of human stupidity, disgusting. Both of these comments are noteworthy in the respect that they echo ignorance of the developing world whilst simultaneously alluding to biological racism. Again allowing for the possibility that these comments were posted to goad others, they do display the strong characteristics of the three elements of online race thinking as previously discussed (Hylton, 2013). Mills (2007) has previously defined this as a facet of the performance of ‘white ignorance’ where the interests of whiteness are preserved through a multifaceted assortment of strategies, one of which is the practice of ignoring major social and global issues. Furthermore, Cashmore (1982) argues that in many ways sport is regarded as a reflection of social life and notes that Black sporting success does not equate with reduced prejudice in wider society. The utopian dream of cyberspace as a ‘post race’ sanctuary has clearly not been the case, just as access to the Internet is dependent on economic and social factors and is inflected with racialised actions on virtual platforms. In this regard, Hylton (2013: 14) notes: The implicit whiteness of the Internet also facilitates a different kind of backstage arena for many willing to act upon a racially biased ideology. Through the seeming privacy of the Internet, its individualistic communications process and the relative anonymity of the interactants, cyberspace becomes a ‘safe space’ for normally borderline and more abhorrent views. To illustrate this, consider the following comments that were posted when Khan lost to Danny Garcia in the US in 2012:6


Amir Saeed like most muslims from england all mouth no chin skinny ass weak legs hate that paki prick Amir Khan should go back to working in a corner shop. Those rag heads shouldnt be boxing! Hahahahaha (sic)

These overt racist comments supported by a combination of racial ideologies and learned social ignorance, continue to make cyberspace a challenging arena. The idea or possibility of a post-race utopia leaves many cynical of the possibility of truly egalitarian colour-blind space. It could be suggested that unless racism and ‘race’ think is adequately tackled in ‘offline’ society, racism will remain a problem in online society – even when discussing the sporting arena and confirms what Sharpe calls ‘nonconsensual racial fantasies’ (Sharpe 1999, p.1094).

Asda – Muslim ‘baiting’ online It could be suggested that Khan’s ‘celebrity’ status has opened himself up for these online attacks that replicate offline public discourses about Islam/ Muslims. However, employing Islam as a contemporary ‘floating signifier’ can also be witnessed in the following example that is not explicitly about Islam/ Muslims or even ‘race’. In March 2014, a woman walked into an Asda store in Yorkshire and stabbed herself in the neck. The Daily Mail story that followed identified the woman as being of ‘Asian appearance’, and suggested that she stabbed herself in the neck following the loss of her daughter to a terminal illness.7 This tragic incident almost screams for understanding and sympathy, but Far-Right supporters used it as an opportunity to vent the following: I know asda is cutting prices but this is taking the piss! Good god is the food ok? Was it because the pork chops are cheaper at Tesco At least there’s one less able to breed8 These comments allowed the names of the posters to appear. Hence anonymity was forsaken but what appears to be case is that these posters felt ‘safe’ to publish these comments as they were in the Far Right EDL Facebook page. They clearly felt comfortable espousing these views on this forum and had no regard for the racist mocking and trivialization of that person’s death. The presence, indeed the dominance, of racist comments in the cyber-public sphere, emphasize a difficulty that Howard Rheingold has referred to as a ‘classic tragedy of the commons dilemma’ in which ‘flamers, bullies, bigots, charlatans, know-nothings and nuts in online discourse take advantage of open access to other people’s attention’ (Rheingold 2000, p.121). These comments reflect an almost primal racial fear alongside the dismissive attitude towards British Muslims in general.

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Twacism – online racism Bartlett et al. (2014) found that 10,000 racial, religious and ethnic slurs are posted every day on 26 Twitter accounts. However, it is estimated that up to 70 per cent of these posts use 27 such terms in non-derogatory ways. Nonetheless, these figures still emphasize that ‘Twacism’ is worthy of serious attention and debate as 2,000 racist tweets occur daily. The idea or possibility of a post-race utopia leaves many cynical of the possibility of truly egalitarian colour-blind space. This further opens up debates on how should the Internet be regulated and what constitutes ‘hate’ crime online given the ever changing nature of social media (Farrington et al., 2015). A push back to this online prejudice has been occurring by what Bunt has called ‘i-Muslims’ – the new generation of media savvy Muslims. For instance in September 2014 a Twitter Hasthtag called ‘Muslim Apologies’ appeared and quickly turned viral as it was used almost 30,000 times within 48 hours. The Hashtag was originally a response to President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly in which he noted, It is time for the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL.9 Some of the tweets express anger and weariness about the pressure to apologize after each terrorist incident. Most employed humour to challenge the premise that ordinary Muslims must disassociate themselves from violent extremists. Sorry for Algebra, cameras, universities, hospitals, oh and coffee too, I‘m so sorry for coffee, cheques, parachutes, chemistry, inoculations, soap, shampoo, cameras, I‘m sorry it was a Muslim woman, Fatima Muhammad Al-Fihri, established the world’s first university,10

Conclusion As the introduction alluded, British Muslim young people are employing social media to tackle racism in novel and even humorous ways, thus a more positive aspect of online media is that racism and prejudice can be challenged quicker. Minority groups and progressive communities are quick to employ the new media to tackle racism and challenge what they regard as offensive behaviour. Mills et al. (2011) highlight the importance of powerful right wing think-tanks which have successfully managed to influence the mainstream media with a succession of ‘Muslim scare’ stories that suggest Muslims in the UK are attempting to undermine secular democratic institutions ranging from local governments to Higher education. A more sinister example of ‘Islam-baiting’ that was scrutinized by a British Muslim online chat forum clearly showed an


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anti-Muslim agenda at work. A ‘new member’ of the Online Muslim group introduced himself to the forum with an entry headlined ‘I am pledging allegiance to the Caliphate’ His post then states: Salam my sisters and brothers we should get out of this evil country and pledge our allegiance to the Muslim sharia law and get out of the evil West. Who wants to join me so we can wage war and jihad against the corrupt west?11 Some of the regular members of the forum were highly suspicious by this provocation and decided to check the new member’s IP address. Checks of the IP address by other members of the forum showed the comment was posted by someone working at the Daily Mail Group (the Evening Standard used to be part of the Daily Mail Group). The above example shows how the ‘suspicious comment’ clearly influenced by events in the Middle East and the proclamation by the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) attempted to bait Muslims into making extremist comments. This would have allowed the neo-Orientalist representation of Muslims as being terrorist sympathizers and incompatible to live peacefully in the West to continue. However as researchers have noted the current Muslim community is ‘new media literate’ and by employing these skills the ‘source’ was quickly identified. This ‘bust’ was quickly tweeted, blogged and shared across the online community. Encouragingly, this trend demonstrated that British Muslims are responding to racism and Islamophobia with optimism and humour. They are proudly redefining their own narratives and challenging dominant hegemonic stereotypes. By employing the power of social media they reveal a skillful synthesis of British and religious identities, hybrid identities that are emerging in a dominant society which has mainly considered them separate and excluded (Hamid, 2011; Ahmed, 2009; Saeed et al. 1999). The employment of the Internet to seek alternative news and viewpoints is indicative of a paradigm shift amongst young Muslims from consuming news that has been collected and reported by non-Muslim sources, to the collection and directing of specific and desired information from both Muslim and non-Muslim publications that may be geographically dispersed from the user’s physical location. The use of the Internet by young Muslims cannot be categorized as purely political, purely religious, or purely social. Muslims use the Internet for all three purposes and may well prove to be the means by which young British Muslims integrate Islam’s grand narrative and all-inclusive life principles within the precepts of Western society.

Notes 1 2,1699541,00.html. 3

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4 5 6 7 8 l-edl-facebook-page. 9–43f4–11e4-b437–1a73682 04804_story.html. 10 11

References Ahmed, Sughra. Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims. Markfield, Leicestershire: Islamic Foundation, Policy Research Centre, 2009. Akbarzadeh, Shahram and Bianca Smith. The Representation of Islam and Muslims in the Media. Melbourne: Monash University School of Political and Social Inquiry, 2005. Anderson, Jon W. ‘New Media, New Publics: Reconfiguring the Public Sphere of Islam’. Social Research: An International Quarterly 70.3(2003): 887–906. Ansari, Humayun. Muslims in Britain. London: Minority Rights Group, 2003. Armstrong, Stephen. ‘Is British Sport Still Racist?’. New Statesman, 14 February 2008. Awan, Imran. ‘Islamophobia and Twitter: A Typology of Online Hate Against Muslims on Social Media’. Policy & Internet 6.2(2014): 133–150. Bargh, John A. and Katelyn Y.A. McKenna. ‘The Internet and Social Life’. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 55(2004): 573–590. Bartlett, Jamie, Jeremy Reffin, Noelle Rumball and Sarah Willliamson. ‘Anti-social Media’. Demos (February 2014): 1–51. Bunt, Gary R. Virtually Islamic: Computer-Mediated Communication and Cyber Islamic Environments. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000. Bunt, Gary R. ‘Islam in the Digital Age’. E-Jihad. Online Fatwas and Cyber Islamic Environments, London: Pluto Press 2003. Bunt, Gary R. iMuslims: Rewiring the House of Islam. Durham, NC: Univ of North Carolina Press, 2009. Burdsey, Daniel. ‘Role with the Punches: The Construction and Representation of Amir Khan as a Role Model for Multiethnic Britain’. The Sociological Review 55.3(2007): 611–631. Cashmore, Ernest. Black Sportsmen. London: Routledge, 1982. Chadwick, Andrew. ‘Digital Network Repertoires and Organizational Hybridity’. Political Communication 24.3(2007): 283–301. Daniels, Jessie. ‘Race, Civil Rights, and Hate Speech in the Digital Era’. Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media. Edited by Anna Everett. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008, 129–154. Daniels, Jessie. ‘Race and Racism in Internet Studies: A Review and Critique’. New Media & Society 15.5(2013): 695–719.


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Drainville, Elaine, and Amir Saeed. ‘A Right to Exist: A Palestinian Speaks’. Feminist Media Studies 13.5(2013): 830–839. Early, Gerald. The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature, and Modern American Culture. New York: Eccro, 1994. Eickelman, Dale F. and Jon W. Anderson. New Media in the Muslim World: The Emerging Public Sphere. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003. Farrington, Neil, Lee Hall, Daniel Kilvington, John Price and Amir Saeed. Sport, Racism and Social Media. London: Routledge, 2015. Gerhards, Jürgen and Mike S. Schäfer. ‘Is the Internet a Better Public Sphere? Comparing Old and New Media in the US and Germany’. New Media & Society 20.10(2010): 1–18. Gerstenfeld, Phyllis B., Diana R. Grant and Chau Pu Chiang. ‘Hate Online: A Content Analysis of Extremist Internet Sites’. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 3.1 (2003): 29–44 Glaser, Jack, Jay Dixit and Donald P. Green. ‘Studying Hate Crime with the Internet: What Makes Racists Advocate Racial Violence?’ Journal of Social Issues 58.1(2002): 177–193. Hall, Stuart. Race: The Floating Signifier. Ed. Sut Jhally. Northampton MA, USA: Media Education Foundation, 1996. Halliday, Fred. ‘“Islamophobia” Reconsidered’. Ethnic and Racial Studies 22.5 (1999): 892–902. Hamid, Sadek. ‘British Muslim Young People: Facts, Features and Religious Trends’. Religion, State and Society 39.2–3(2011): 247–261. Hampton, K. and Wellman, Barry, ‘Living Networked On and Offline’. Contemporary Sociology 28.6 (November 1999), 648–654. House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, ‘Roots of Violent Radicalisation’, Nineteenth Report of Session 2010–12, Vol. 1, 2012. As of 10 January 2013: http://www. Hylton, Kevin. ‘Race’ and Sport: Critical Race Theory. London: Routledge, 2008. Hylton, Kevin. ‘Dispositions to “Race” and Racism on the Internet: Online Reactions to a “Racist” Comment against Tiger Woods’, CERS Working Paper University of Leeds, 2013. Jankowski, Nicholas W. ‘Exploring e‐science: An Introduction’. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication 12.2(2007): 549–562. Joppke, Christian. ‘The Retreat of Multiculturalism in the Liberal State: Theory and Policy.’ The British Journal of Sociology 55.2(2004): 237–257. Joppke, Christian. ‘Limits of Integration Policy: Britain and Her Muslims’. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 35.3(2009): 453–472. Kang, Jerry. ‘Cyber-Race’. AsianAmerican.Net: Ethnicity, Nationalism, and Cyberspace. R. Lee and S. C. Wong. London, Routledge, 2003. Kilvington, D., Farrington, N., Price, J. and Saeed, A. ‘Race,’ Racism and Sports Journalism, London: Routledge, 2012. Kolko, Beth E., Nakamura, Lisa and Rodman, Gilbert B. Race in Cyberspace. New York and London: Routledge, 2000. Leung, Linda. Virtual Ethnicity: Race, Resistance and the World Wide Web. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005. Mason, David. Race and Ethnicity in Modern Britain, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Melican, Debra Burns and Travis L. Dixon. ‘News on the Net Credibility, Selective Exposure, and Racial Prejudice’. Communication Research 35.2(2008): 151–168.

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Meer, Nasar. ‘Misrecognising Muslim Consciousness in Europe’. Ethnicities 12.2 (2012): 178–196. Meer, Nasar and Tariq Modood. ‘The Multicultural State We’re In: Muslims, “Multiculture” and the “Civic Re‐balancing”of British Multiculturalism’. Political Studies 57.3(2009): 473–497. Meer, Nasar and Tariq Modood. ‘How Does Interculturalism Contrast with Multiculturalism?’ Journal of Intercultural Studies 33.2(2012): 175–196. Mills, Charles. ‘White Ignorance’. In Sullivan, Shannon, and Nancy Tuana, eds. Race and Epistemologies of Ignorance. New York: SUNY Press, pp. 11–38, 2007. Mills, Tom, Tom Griffin and David Miller. ‘The Cold War on British Muslims’. Glasgow: Spinwatch, 2011. Mitchell, Kevin. ‘Amir Khan’s Love of America Is Fuelled by the Hate of British Bigots’. The Guardian, 18 January 2010, amir-khan-america-bigots-hate. Accessed 24 October 2016. Modood, Tariq. ‘Political Blackness and British Asians’. Sociology 28.4(1994): 859–876. Modood, Tariq, Richard Berthoud, Jane Lakey, James Nazroo, Patten Smith, Satnam Virdee and Sharon Beishon. Ethnic Minorities in Britain: Diversity and Disadvantage. No. 843. Policy Studies Institute, 1997. Nakamura, Lisa. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. New York: Routledge, 2002. Picca, Leslie Houts, and Joe R. Feagin. Two-faced Racism: Whites in the Backstage and Frontstage. London: Routledge, 2007. Poole, Elizabeth. Reporting Islam: Media Representations of British Muslims. London: IB Tauris, 2002. Rheingold, Howard. The Virtual Community. Revised Edition. Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 2000. Saeed, Amir. ‘My Jihad’. Soundings 27(2004): 57–65. Saeed, Amir. ‘Media, Racism and Islamophobia: The Representation of Islam and Muslims in the Media’. Sociology Compass 1.2(2007a): 443–462. Saeed, Amir. ‘Northern Racism: A Pilot Study of Racism in Sunderland’. Thinking Northern: Textures of Identity in the North of England 2(2007b): 163. Saeed, Amir. ‘9/11 and the Increase in Racism and Islamophobia: A Personal Reflection’. Radical History Review (2011): 210–215. Saeed, Amir. ‘Racism and Islamophobia: A Personal Perspective’. Identity Papers: A Journal of British and Irish Studies 1.1(2015): 15–31. Saeed, Amir, Neil Blain and Douglas Forbes. ‘New Ethnic and National Questions in Scotland: Post-British Identities among Glasgow Pakistani Teenagers’. Ethnic and Racial Studies 22.5(1999): 821–844. Said, Edward. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1978. Said, Edward. Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World. London: Vintage, 1981. Sardar, Z. ‘Three Lives – One Identity’, Observer Guardian Online, 6 February 2006,,1699541,00.html. Accessed 13 May 2016. Sardar, Ziauddin, and Merryl Wyn Davies. Why Do People Hate America? Newburyport, MA: Red Wheel Weiser, 2003. Sharpe, Christina Elizabeth. ‘Racialized fantasies on the Internet’. Signs (1999): 1089–1096. Solomos, J. Race and Racism in Britain, third edition, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.


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Re-fashioning the Islamic Young visible Muslims1 Emma Tarlo

Introduction Is it possible to look both fashionable and Islamic? Ask that question to young British Muslim women today and many would almost certainly answer ‘yes’. For some ‘Islamic fashion’ means wearing fashionable clothes ‘Islamically’ by which they mean in conformity with covering restrictions based on interpretations of Islamic texts. For others it means selecting from a new range of clothes designed and marketed specifically as ‘Islamic fashion’. For many, it means a mixture of both. In an American Islamic fashion blog, launched in 2007 and ‘dedicated to stylish Muslima’, it is defined as follows: ‘By Islamic fashion I mean clothing designed specifically with Muslim women in mind and other clothing that can be “Islamized”’.2 Such a definition would have been unthinkable just one decade earlier when most young Muslims living in Britain and other Muslim minority contexts in the West would have perceived the ‘fashionable’ and the ‘Islamic’ as being in tension, if not downright incompatible. Some British Muslim women did of course experiment with adapting Western fashion garments and wearing them in conjunction with hijab, but they probably would have perceived themselves as fashionable Muslims rather than wearers of something called ‘Islamic fashion’.3 If such women wanted to wear explicitly ‘Islamic’ garments then they would have been faced with two options: either purchasing jilbabs and abayas directly from or imported from the Middle East (available in mosque stores and Islamic shops usually run by men and specialized in the sale of religious items) or alternatively, stitching their own outfits. Neither of these options are likely to have been perceived as fashionable. The imported jilbabs looked distinctly foreign. They were usually black, made from thin fabrics ill-suited to the British climate and were often poorly stitched and stylistically incompatible with and impervious to the cycles of change intrinsic to the fashion system. The homemade option offered more potential for experimentation, but unless the person was particularly talented not only in stitching but also in design and innovation, they would have been unlikely to produce garments that would be perceived as fashionable. Such garments had yet to be imagined in the Western context. Furthermore young Muslims even two decades ago were generally less preoccupied both with the issue of covering and the idea of visual


Emma Tarlo

distinctiveness. Those women and girls who did wish to dress modestly and visibly express their identity and faith turned to the headscarf rather than to entire outfits which might be identified as Islamic.4 Today, however, a young woman who wishes to dress both fashionably and Islamically is confronted with a huge variety of sartorial possibilities in what might be described as a rapidly expanding Islamic fashionscape. This visual and material landscape is extensive and varied, combining both the local and the transnational in particular ways. It does not exclude the mainstream fashions of the British high street but incorporates and reworks them. Young visibly Muslim girls know where and how to seek out garments which can be made compatible with Islamic constraints. They know which boutiques stock a good range of long sleeved polo neck tops suitable for wearing under sleeveless dresses, which seasonal collections contain clothes good for layering and most in tune with Muslim tastes, which shops offer an interesting range of ‘hijabable’ scarves, headbands and shawls and which ethnic markets offer the latest and best priced range of imported cloth, clothing, jewellery and accessories that might be incorporated into new Islamically aware outfits. Not only do they gain inspiration from what they see worn by other young Muslims in cosmopolitan cities and, in some cases from travels abroad, but they can also glean ideas and advice from the rapidly expanding Muslim media, whether this be British Muslim life style magazines such as Emel (launched in 2003) and Sisters (launched in 2007), Muslim TV channels such as the Islam Channel which covers Muslim news and events in Britain and around the world, hijabi fashion blogs and discussion forums which offer advice on fashion matters and the increasing number of online boutiques displaying and marketing a new range of garments often classified specifically as Islamic fashion wear. The last decade has also seen the emergence of high profile Islamic events such as IslamExpo (held in London 2008) and GPU (Global Peace and Unity, held in London between 2005 and 2013) – both of which attracted thousands of Muslims from all over Britain and around the world to celebrate and trade in all things Islamic.5 This includes a wide range of consumer goods many of which have only recently been classified as Islamic, from halal marshmallows to hijab pins, Islamic financial products to children’s stickers, Chocolate Ramadan count-down calendars to talking Muslim dolls, Islamic literature, art and music to Palestinian soap and olive oil. Such events confirm London’s place as an important node in the global distribution of Islamica as goods and ideas pour into the capital from around the world, and are in turn taken up and reworked in other parts of Britain and Europe as well as in Muslim majority countries. Such events are also an ideal place for consumers to scout out the latest Muslim fashion trends and for entrepreneurs, traders and designers to assess the marketplace, make contacts, pick up on new trends, launch new products and think about new ideas. The emergence of Islamic fashion designers and collections in the West can at one level be understood as part of a wider process whereby Muslim dress practices are undergoing new reconfigurations in a global market. In Muslim majority countries like Egypt and Turkey, the adoption of Islamic dress in the

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1970s and 1980s was at first a response to increased secularization imposed by the state whilst in countries like Indonesia and Mali, it became a means by which more strictly practising Muslims differentiated themselves from others they considered insufficiently Islamic. Whilst the turn to Islamic styles in such cases initially represented a self-conscious rejection and critique of fashion in favour of a purer and simpler understanding of Islamic authenticity, it did not take long before new markets emerged selling more elaborate forms of covered dress which soon became known as ‘Islamic fashion’.6 Elsewhere Annelies Moors and I have discussed the complex criss-crossing geographies of the global Islamic fashion scene as designers and entrepreneurs seek inspiration and new markets in different regional locations.7 Hence whilst designers in Mali often turn to francophone Africa, Dakar and Abidjan for inspiration, designers in Egypt may look to India, Lebanon and Morocco as well as London, Paris and Milan. Meanwhile in South India and Yemen, black abayas imported from Saudi Arabia are considered an important component of the fashionable cosmopolitan Muslim wardrobe even if the same garments may represent religious conservatism and restrictions elsewhere. In each case what is apparent is a re-articulation of global and local trends which often involves a strong component of re-invention. This chapter traces the emergence of Islamic fashion design in Britain, examining the origins and ethos of particular brands and introducing some of the different ways the ‘Islamic’ is visualized and given material form. The chapter also considers the relationship between Islamic and mainstream fashions as well as examining the particularity of Islamic fashion in the global market. It suggests that whilst newly emerging ‘Islamic fashions’ catering to Muslims in the West draw on developments in Islamic fashion elsewhere around the world, they are borne out of a particular set of historical and transcultural circumstances and concerns which render them distinctive.

Experiences of sartorial alienation If there is one factor that the first generation of British Islamic fashion designers share in common, it is an understanding of the clothing dilemmas of young Muslims living in the West who wish to dress in ways that are fashionable and modern on the one hand and faithful and modest on the other. It is a dilemma which most designers learned, not so much through savvy market research and economic foresight as from their own highly personal experiences of being unable to find clothes which expressed both their feelings of identity and belonging to British (and Western) culture and their desire to express and uphold Islamic values and beliefs. Many, though by no means all, came from second generation migrant backgrounds. Versed in ideas of individualism and freedom of expression and intimately familiar with British youth culture and fashions, these were individuals who felt uncomfortable at the idea of expressing their faith by plunging into imported Middle Eastern garments recognized as Islamic, either because they themselves could not identify with such clothes or because they found themselves perceived by others as alien and foreign if they


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wore them. At the same time they were critical of the amounts of bodily exposure and the explicit sexual orientation of many high street fashions which they felt were incompatible with Islamic ideas of modesty and did not adequately cover arms, necks, legs and body shape. In short, they were in search of more modest contemporary forms of covered dress which could combine their sense of individuality and their interest in fashion and style with their Islamic belief and values. Such dress quite simply did not exist. In the case of some Islamic fashion companies, their birth can quite literally be traced not to awareness of emerging Islamic fashions around the world but to this experience of a lack of anything suitable to wear. The small Nottinghambased company, Masoomah, which specializes in tasteful contemporary jilbabs in muted colours and contemporary materials, did for example grow out of its founder, Sadia Nosheen’s frustration at the lack of options available to her when as a law student at Nottingham University she became increasingly oriented towards studying and practising Islam and wanted to try to dress in conformity with her beliefs. The year was 1999: I was loving Islam and I wanted to cover. But there wasn’t anything out there except the black Saudi jilbab. I was young and image was a massive issue for me. I wanted to be more Islamic but covering was the biggest put off. Similarly Sophia Kara, founder and designer of the more eccentric and experimental Leicester-based fashion company, Imaan, recalls having gone through a similar experience in the same year: To be honest when I wanted to cover I got the biggest shock of my life. I didn’t know how to do it. I just couldn’t find anything I wanted to wear. There was nothing suitable in the fashion shops but when I went to the local Islamic shop, it just really scared me. The clothes were all black and made from this awful frumpy material. They were imported from Saudi or Dubai or somewhere and were completely unsuited to our climate. I thought, this just isn’t me! This is not my identity. I can’t wear these. I bought one abaya because I really did want to cover. I was employed in jobs and pensions at the job centre but was on maternity leave at that time. I started fretting about the idea of being seen dressed like this, looking like my grandmother when I’d been into jeans and Doc Martins and used to wear pony tails and funky hair dos! Recognition of the inappropriateness of existing forms of Islamic dress for Muslims living in Western countries was not restricted to women. Anas Sillwood, founder of one of the earliest and most established British and American Islamic fashion companies, which specializes in both men’s and women’s dress, was also stimulated in part by his own experiences of sartorial alienation. Unlike Sadia and Sophia who are from Muslim backgrounds, Anas is of non-Muslim

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British and Greek Cypriot parentage. Raised in the multicultural neighbourhood of Finsbury Park in North London, he converted to Islam at the age of 21 whilst studying at the London School of Economics. Travelling in the Middle East after his conversion, he was attracted and inspired by the beauty and dignity he saw in various local forms of men’s dress but was aware that these were often poorly made and did not comply with what he saw as Western standards of production and finish. His initial idea was to produce high quality versions of existing men’s garments found in Asia and the Middle East. But he soon became aware of the limitations of merely transplanting such dress to a Western context: I was a bit of a fashion victim during my youth, following the latest fads of the youth culture of London where I grew up, a youth culture influenced by the inner city culture of America. In this culture, clothing was partly a means of expressing one’s alternative identity to mainstream society. After becoming Muslim and travelling to the Middle East to learn Arabic and study Islam, I became attracted to the traditional clothing I found Muslims wearing there, and adopted some of it even during my visits back home to England to visit my family. After wearing some of the outrageous clothing of my youth, I was used to receiving public stares, but the looks of shock I received this time round made me reflect about what image of Islam I was portraying to my family, friends and wider society. Many, or most, people in the UK and the West already had very unfavourable impressions about Islam, and it seemed like I was adding to an already generally widespread view, namely that Islam was a foreign religion totally unsuitable to the sentiments of Europeans and Americans. I stopped wearing traditional clothing in subsequent visits, and when SHUKR was launched wore instead some of the more culturally compatible styles we had designed, like the men’s longer shirts and loose pants. Anas had not only experienced unprecedented amounts of staring on public transport and in the streets when he wore a galabiyya but he had also found his young nephew asking why he was dressed as a woman and refusing to let him pick him up from school for fear of how his friends would react. Such experiences made him aware of the need for what he calls ‘culturally-relevant Islamic clothing’ for Muslims living in the West. Through designing a range of loose fitting men’s clothes with a more Western flavour, he became increasingly aware that this was precisely what ‘was missing’ for Western Muslims. His business began with a catalogue of men’s wear in 2001. Within a year he had launched an online store, later expanding to incorporate women’s wear. When I interviewed him in 2009 he was employing a workforce of 100 tailors in Damascus with headquarters in Jordon where he had a team of another 15 workers. The pre-occupation with appearances and perceptions and concern about issues of integration, modernity and belonging emerged in the late 1980s and early 1990s and were part of a wider resurgence of interest in Islam amongst young Muslims both locally and globally. This coincided with and was to some extent


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nourished by the spread of the internet in the late 1990s which facilitated transnational communications to an unprecedented degree, but it was also greatly exacerbated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 which marked the beginning of a period in which Muslims in the West found themselves under intense public scrutiny in politics and the media. The search for suitable clothing seemed to gain new urgency when it merged with the desire to counter the increasing barrage of negative images of Muslims and Islam. There were several elements to this. On the one hand, for many young people 9/11 initiated a period of self-discovery in which they sought to educate themselves about Islam and found themselves increasingly attracted to it in the process. On the other hand, the intense media scrutiny under which they found themselves increased people’s feelings of self-consciousness in relation to their identity and appearances. Whilst many felt an increasing desire and need to identify themselves visibly as Muslim, partly out of solidarity with other Muslims around the world, but also as an expression of modesty, devotion and faith, some simultaneously felt motivated to design clothes which might better represent their interests and present a more positive public image. With their loyalty to Britain and ‘the West’ often called into question in politics and the media, the need for positive visual images and material forms which drew on their mixed heritage, rather than polarizing it, seemed ever more pressing. It was important both for their own self-confidence, comfort and sense of self-recognition as well as for conveying a positive public image which was explicitly Islamic without being either threatening, traditional or foreign. The potential role of clothes in combating negative stereotypes of Muslims was recognized by Anas Sillwood of SHUKR. The clothes he markets are not about setting up a polarity between East and West, Muslim and non-Muslim but about drawing on multiple aesthetic and design resources and inspirations. This involves both adapting old classic garments popular amongst Muslims in North Africa, South Asia and the Middle East and simultaneously taking what Anas and his design team perceive as the best of Western fashion trends as viewed from ‘an Islamic perspective’. He feels one of Islam’s strengths historically lies in the way it maintained its identity whilst adopting the best of local cultures rather than transplanting them and it is this approach which he feels is in need of revival in dress and other aspects of life. In an interview for the British-based Muslim website, Deenport, he argued: Unfortunately, it seems that until now Muslims living in the West have not been entirely successful in understanding the local culture, feeling comfortable with it, and weeding out good from bad practices. We often see one of either 2 extremes: the completely West-washed Muslim whose inward and outward behaviour imitates non-Muslims; or the adamant ethnic Muslim who can barely speak English, let alone interact on a sophisticated cultural level with non-Muslim neighbours and acquaintances. Of course, what is needed is the traditional, moderate Islamic balance; maintaining one’s Muslim identity whilst adopting the best practice and culture which the

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local land has to offer. An application of this traditional balanced approach will see the development of an authentic self-identity and culture, in which there is no tension between being both Muslim and Western.8 This desire to fuse and integrate different traditions rather than separate them out or opt for one or the other is shared by most of the people involved in Islamic fashion design. Sophia Kara of Imaan Collections expressed it as follows: Why can’t we take advantage of both cultures, fuse them together, and create something different which is us after all? It’s our identity. It’s who we are and it can appeal to women from all walks of life. Modest dress doesn’t have to be intimidating. Let’s face it, we do judge a book by its cover and I can see why black can be intimidating and off putting. I don’t want to set up barriers; I want to break them down, help women integrate better, look nicer, more appealing and attractive. In Leicester we hold a women’s only fashion show every year and its great because everyone is welcome, whatever their background, and they can all mix in, have a good time and exchange ideas. Junayd Miah, one of the key figures behind the development of the British-based company Silk Route (designer of trendy urban jilbabs) and the larger conglomerate, Islamic Design House, was also keen to convey that his company was not about weeding out the Western but using his cultural knowledge of Eastern and Western traditions to develop contemporary forms of Islamic dress with potential global appeal: There was all this stuff coming in from Dubai, Syria, Asia etc. but it was all full of cultural baggage, and we didn’t fit into that at all. We’re British. We have a sense of fashion and style. Its important to us. So we wanted to express that unique identity. And we were well placed for doing it because we were part of it. It was our own search for a means of expression for people like us and our younger sisters and cousins – the new generation who were turning to Islam.

Representing and marketing the Islamic British and American Islamic fashion designers share a number of things in common: the desire to integrate faith with fashion; modernity with modesty; Islamic values with the standards of design and production associated with high quality Western fashion brands. Whilst some have their own boutiques, like Arabiannites in East London, most trade predominantly over the web as well as through participation in fashion shows, exhibitions, trade fairs and Islamic events. The internet gives them potential access to a global public and many


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have been successful at attracting Muslim customers not only in Britain, Europe, America and Canada but also in Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, Egypt and a variety of other Muslim minority and majority countries. The internet is also highly valued by a number of women entrepreneurs for enabling them to work from home, keep flexible hours and combine business with raising children. From the point of view of consumers, shopping online not only provides access to fashions inaccessible nearer to home, but also offers the comfort of being able to buy them without having to make physical contact or risk bodily exposure.9 To attract the maximum number of Muslim customers over the web the first Islamic fashion companies tended to frame their products both in terms of their Islamic credentials and in terms of their originality, specificity and particular appeal. One simple means of signalling the Islamic nature and feel of a collection is through the company’s choice of name. Many British companies have opted for Arabic names through which they seek to communicate and convey the Islamic values and ethos of their collections.10 The SHUKR website, for example, explains, ‘Shukr is an Arabic word found in the Qur’an which means gratitude or thanks. Allah Most High says in the Quran, “If you give thanks, I shall certainly increase you” (Quran 14:7)…The company SHUKR was named as a means of reminding ourselves and others of this important Quranic word and principle, in the hope that we might aspire to be among those whom Allah has increased because of their thanks and gratitude to Him.’11 Afaaf, we are told means ‘purity in morals and modesty’. Similarly ‘Imaan’ is the Arabic word for faithfulness. The Islamic flavour of collections is also built through the use of Arabic names for particular garments. Words like hijab, jilbab and abaya have become part of a global dictionary of Islamic dress terms, though there is considerable ambiguity in how they are used in different contexts.12 Whilst the preoccupation with modesty and Islam is shared, how much these ideas are emphasized and how they are translated into visual and material form varies considerably from company to company, with some emphasizing the Oriental and exotic, some emphasizing the Western and professional, others arguing for a distinctive Islamic aesthetic and yet others presenting a playful Islamic take on mainstream fashion trends.

Integrating ethics and aesthetics Of all the Islamic fashion companies oriented towards Muslims living in the West, Shukr is the one most concerned with integrating Islamic principles and ethics into its production, design, finance, marketing and representation. At the same time it de-emphasizes the foreign, exotic and non-Western associations often attached to the idea of Islamic clothing. As a religiously oriented and religiously motivated British convert to Islam, its founder Anas Sillwood is concerned to convey that an Islamic way of life is suitable (and desirable) not only for people in Muslim majority countries but also for Westerners (whether

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born Muslim or not), and it is this ethos that informs the aesthetic, tone, organization and representation of his website and fashions which are targeted specifically towards Western Muslims. The Shukr website is explicit about how Islamic ethics and aesthetics are integrated into the company and the clothes. The choice of displaying not only female but also male models without heads reflects recognition of the fact that both men and women are enjoined to practice modesty in the Qur’an.13 The choice of muted colours, loose cuts, natural fibres and unfussy designs also conveys a subtle sense of dignity and modesty. Asked what makes his clothing range Islamic, Anas replied, Perhaps we can say that, apart from the basic function of clothing which is to protect humans from the elements, both the Qur’an and the Sunnah identify 2 further purposes: first and foremost to preserve human dignity by enjoining modesty in dress; and secondly to rejoice in the beauty and favour of God by wearing aesthetically pleasing clothing. According to a famous saying of the Prophet Muhammad, “God is beautiful and He loves beauty.” So, taking this perspective, what is Islamic about our clothing is a) its modest appearance and b) its beauty.”14 The relationship between the two relative concepts of beauty and modesty is however a delicate one and Shukr has to some extent explored its permeable boundaries through trial and error. The company initially began by making very loose clothing but found customers complaining that the garments were too tent like. When they produced more tailored garments, however, they had complaints that they were too tight. They now take a middle-ground position, relying, according to Anas, on a mixture of ‘feedback from customers, religious scholars, and our own sense of God-consciousness’. The women’s range includes skirts, trousers, dresses, coats and blouses that are Islamic more through the respect they pay to Islamic principles than to what are conventionally recognized as ‘Islamic styles’, though subtle references to the Islamic are incorporated into garments through design features such as embroidery and stitching. Interestingly the men’s collection contains more garments based on styles popular amongst Muslims in North Africa and the Middle East than the female collection which retains closer affiliations with mainstream fashion. This idea of ‘Islamic authenticity’ is not just about appearances but also about maintaining ethical consistency. Shukr philosophy is, we are told, founded upon the Islamic concept of Itqan (perfection) which translates into the idea of striving to produce the highest quality as well as maintaining high ethical standards. In a section entitled ‘Is Shukr expensive?’ we are informed that Shukr is against sweatshop production, and that it pays its workers above average wages and guarantees worker rights concerning hours, overtime, sick leave and opportunities to pray at work. All of the full-time employees are Muslim. The company also follows Islamic principles on finance by avoiding the interest-based system and financing growth by re-investing profits.


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The poetics of spirituality A somewhat different way of translating Islamic principles into dress is by reference to the spiritual and ethereal. The Afaaf website, when first consulted in 2007, offered what might be described as a sensory and poetic Islamically inspired experience without making explicit references to Islam as such. Here a filmic sequence draws potential customers into a dreamy world of soft focus images in subtle shades of white and grey to the sound of trickling water and exotic birdsong. Textiles first emerge on the screen in soft focus, their patterns progressively traced by lacy white lines which creep across the screen, highlighting motifs of flowers, birds and concentric circles. Images appear in and out of focus in slow motion, taking on an inspirational quality and evoking a sense of beauty, tranquillity, mysticism and peace. The sound of water and the peaceful dream-like quality add to the other-worldly atmosphere of the site. Particular garments from the collection appear discretely in soft focus at one side of the screen as if they are just one more part of the creation story. The emphasis is on the beauty and sensuality of texture and sound. Though modelled on people, the bodies of models are almost invisible and their heads obscured. What the onlooker sees of the garments is their texture, detail and flow. With each new image a phrase emerges introducing the collection and conveying the ethos of the products and the company: An expression of inner peace and outward harmony A language of refinement, tranquillity, simplicity and style, Textiles and patterns that are inspired from all around the world. Delicate hand embroidery and refined detail, A rich fusion of Eastern, Arabic classics and contemporary Western cuts … Afaaf – pure reflections – an expression of harmony. The film which carries on repeating itself until switched off by viewers has the hypnotic quality of walking around a garden of paradise. Once switched off, viewers are invited to explore different sections of the website: the women’s collection, men’s collection, jewellery and artefacts. The website operates as an advertisement rather than an online store. People wishing to make purchases from Afaaf are invited to make an appointment to visit the show room in Battersea in South London.15 Under ‘Inspirations and Reflections’, detail is given of the professional background of Sheba Kichloo, founder of the company. Her professional status is made clear by reference to her years of working for Harrods, her experience of management consultancy, her extensive travel and her involvement in charity work, all of which lend legitimacy to the exclusivity of her collection. This is combined with statements about the ethos of Afaaf as a company designed not only to promote the concept of modesty but to raise awareness of its beauty both ideologically and aesthetically. Frequent references are made to the ‘deep spirituality’ of beautiful things and to people’s search for ‘deeper meaning in life’. The delicate silks, wispy scarves, floating kurtas,

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gracious abayas, soft and luxurious Kashmir and Pashmina shawls seem to suggest some sort of timeless aesthetic, independent of more transient and superficial fashion trends. Many of the garments are modifications of popular Western and South Asian styles and feature embroidery and motifs which are recognizable as Kashmiri or Palestinian. ‘What is true expression?’ asks Sheba, ‘Is it being trapped in the world of fashion, the exposure of flesh …, the race of being in vogue?’ or might it instead be about ‘pure reflections, an expression of inner peace with outward harmony, a language of refinement, tranquillity and style?’ At one level this presentation shares much in common with the marketing techniques of a whole range of companies offering peace, fulfilment and exclusivity to elite international clients whether through yoga, travel or various types of therapy. But the focus on the beauty of modesty is what makes it distinctively Islamic. The website includes a poem, written by Sheba which is about light, purity, peace and the search for answers. It ends with the phrase, What is this beauty I ask? This is the light of simplicity. This is the beauty of modesty. She wrote the poem about modesty at a time when she was listening to a series of lectures about paradise. She was inspired by the descriptions of fountains and rivers of milk and honey, and found herself envisaging a beautiful girl in paradise who was fully covered and was like a column of light. It is this image of modesty illuminated in paradise that she wished to capture in the website.

The exoticism of the East One theme exploited in a number of fashion websites and collections is the association of the Islamic with the Arab world. The Arabiannites website, when consulted in 2010, evoked ideas of the mystery and exoticism of the East in its heavy use of black, its Arabic-inspired calligraphy and its sketches and images of women peering mysteriously from behind semi opaque hijabs. This mode of representation is a form of self conscious self-Orientalism.16 Visitors to the website were first presented with a black screen, on which the words Arabiannites emerged out of the darkness in a script which replicates stylistic features of Arabic lettering. A crescent moon appeared illuminated above the words, and small stars twinkled in the night sky. The home page of the website contained the headings, ‘Arabian Beauty’ and ‘Behind the Veil’, both of which might equally be titles of popular Orientalist novels. The clothes, which were classified into casual wear, evening wear, timeless black, loungewear and ‘your own designs’, were described as ‘Arabian influenced products’ based on ‘Middle Eastern or Indo-continental traditions’. This Arabian feel was further emphasized by a background of geometric patterns reminiscent of Islamic tiles.


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Unlike Shukr and Afaaf which in many ways represented a move away from explicitly Middle Eastern styles associated with Muslims, Arabiannites focused on full-length long-sleeved gowns and outer robes such as abayas, jilbabs, kaftans and gelabiyyas which have immediate Islamic resonance and which highlight the foreign, Eastern and exotic connotations. A strong sense of drama was built into both the clothing and the website. Models’ faces were not concealed on the website (though they were on bill boards and posters) but were often partly obscured by cloth, emphasizing the sensuous and seductive potential of draped fabric and the allure of what cannot be fully seen. This rendition of modesty with eastern promise is very different from the more purist de-sexualized interpretation of modesty found on the Shukr website, highlighting the fact that Arabiannites, whilst being more eastern oriented was less explicitly religious in its frame and ethos. The glamour of Arabiannites clothes was highly visible in the fashion show at IslamExpo 2008, where shimmering embroidered robes in dramatic colours (reds, peacock blue, purples) were worn with high heeled gold shoes and glittering hijabs, giving the impression that the models could quite literally have stepped out of a rendition of A Thousand and One Nights. Similarly, the Arabiannites boutique conjures up the image of an exotic treasure trove, with its colourful displays of rich fabrics, embroideries, silk scarves, elaborate necklaces and hijab jewellery as well as the long black robes on display. It represents a reclaiming of the sensual pleasures of the exotic by people who have conventionally been exoticized.17 It would be wrong however to assume that Arabiannites garments are simply a replica of what is found in the Middle East. A closer look at the designs reveals an element of eccentricity and play often through small details, such as extravagant sleeves, extended hoods, ruffs and unexpected colours or embroidered features all of which identify the clothes as designer fashion wear. Yasmin Safri, the designer and founder of the company, says she aims to ‘get the feel of the East’ but simultaneously remain ‘in touch with Western designs’. These are clothes conceptualized in Britain by someone with a professional background in fashion design who also uses her knowledge of Eastern styles and fabrics and her contacts with producers in India and Dubai to create some sort of designer fusion wear. Her experimental impulse is to some extent constrained by the demands of some of her more conservative customers in East London who favour a more austere interpretation of Islamic dress and sometimes request simpler styles in black. When customers point to some of the evening wear and worry that the colours are perhaps too bright to be considered modest, Yasmin reminds them that rich red or turquoise gowns can always be teamed up with darker abayas for outdoor use.

Urban street style Moving explicitly away from the association of the Islamic with the exotic are various new forms of Islamic dress classified as urban street wear such as Silk Route’s trendy urban jilbabs which are about creating everyday forms of dress

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that are in tune with British Muslim youth culture. They share with Shukr the desire to create a culturally relevant dress for Western Muslims, but their interpretation of what that dress should be is more urban, edgy and assertive. It is less about translating Islamic philosophical principles into dress than about visibly asserting a confident, viable and trendy sub-cultural style for Muslim youth. Though very much rooted in their experience as British Muslim Londoners from South Asian backgrounds, the five entrepreneurs behind the company (three men and two women) have global ambitions for their products. In 2008 they founded the umbrella company, Islamic Design House, which brings together different individuals and enterprises involved in developing Islamically inspired and oriented forms of visual expression: Silk Route, Visual Dhikr (caligraphic art), Sisters (Islamic life style magazine) and Aerosol Arabic (Islamic graffiti artist). An alternative interpretation of Muslim youth dress is offered by the company Elenany, launched in 2009 by Sarah Elenany, a young British Muslim woman of Egyptian and Palestinian parentage who was born in the USA but raised in Mitcham near London. The company sells trendy but modest long-sleeved cotton tunic dresses, jackets and coats which are not recognizably Islamic in style but which are made from fabrics with graphics intended to capture the spirit of Islam. The graphics in Elenany’s first collection are based on repeated hand motifs which recall gestures of prayer and protest. The graphics are bold and angular reminiscent of the Russian constructivist movement, though Sarah perceives the repetition and angularity as features of Islamic artistic traditions. The design, ‘Testify’, consists of hands with one finger pointing upwards, recalling the Muslim obligation to testify to the oneness of God, but, as she points out on her website, ‘the fact that it also looks like a number one to everyone else ain’t a bad thing either!’ Another print, ‘Throw yo’ hands’, shows raised fists and fingers. Sarah explained the design as follows: As a young Muslim person I go on protest marches and demonstrations quite a lot. The design speaks to the experience of many British Muslims. Demonstrations are the essence of Britishness in a way – that ability to stand up for what you believe in. I wanted to convey that in a bold way. I don’t think we should have to apologise for being who we are, to mumble under our breath. The clothes are a kind of release. They’re saying, it’s OK, it’s cool! The dua pattern consisting of hands raised in prayer comes printed on different coloured back grounds, one of which is bright red. This, Sarah uses as the inside lining for jackets and coats, thereby retaining the more muted modestyassociated colours of black, white and grey for externals. Though oriented specifically to cater to what Sarah considers the ‘needs’ of young British Muslims, she is also keen to attract other customers and for this reason the model on her website does not wear a hijab. The reasoning is that non-Muslims would be put off clothes modelled on a hijabi whereas hijab-wearing Muslims are used to


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non-hijabis modelling most of the clothes they buy. Like the entrepreneurs of Silk Route, Elenany associates Britishness with a certain cool. In response to the suggestion that she should cater to foreign markets, she replied, ‘I do feel like it’s a very British brand and I’d like to keep it that way. That’s cool. We can attract foreign buyers by exporting Britishness which is what a lot of people are after anyway.’ Recognition of the potential market for Islamic urban street wear is not restricted only to women’s fashions. In 2006, Faisel, a young Muslim man of Gujarati origin, born and raised in Preston in the North of England, launched a range of cutting edge men’s Islamic dress, consisting of long thobes (longsleeved long garments) designed as modern versions of the style of garment worn by the Prophet Mohammed whose example Muslim men are enjoined to follow. Interestingly the company’s name, Lawung, does not have any Arab or Islamic association, but apparently means ‘old King’ in ancient Chinese. At the same time the British credentials of the brand are actively asserted in photographic representations in the catalogue and website where a trendy young man with designer stubble poses in various urban and rural British settings. The word ‘England’ is also inscribed after the brand name in the catalogue, suggesting that what is on offer is a form of British Islamic men’s wear, even if, like many so-called Western fashion garments, they are made in China. The garments represent a radical departure from more traditional Middle Eastern styles of thobe available in Britain in their use of contemporary materials and their incorporation of design features such as zips, ribbed collars, hoods, ribbed sleeves and combat style pockets. At the Islam Expo and GPU events in 2008 they were displayed on futuristic mannequins and appeared to be attracting a considerable amount of interest and enthusiasm both from young and not so young men. Names such as ‘Urban Streetz’, ‘Urban Navigator’, ‘Urban Military’, ‘Urban Executive’, ‘Urban Warrior’ and ‘Urban Extreme’ testify to the assertive modernist intentions behind the clothes. The young man behind Lawung has picked up on the fact that most young Muslim men in Britain are embarrassed to dress in long tunics or robes in their daily life, partly because they feel such dress is foreign, outdated, and unfashionable and also because they are aware of how it is often perceived as an indicator of religious fanaticism or political extremism. As a result they might wear such dress for attending Friday prayers or possibly also for relaxing at home, but are unlikely to wear it in everyday working contexts. Faisel sees his explicitly trendy thobes as important for encouraging young Muslim men and boys ‘to dress Islamically’. Taking a literalist interpretation of the Islamic principle that all Muslims should follow the Sunnah (the religious norms built on the example set by the Prophet), he considers the wearing of long robes and the sporting of a beard an Islamic obligation in the same way that many Muslim women perceive the wearing of headscarves obligatory. In this sense his collection is also part of the search for culturally relevant forms of Islamic dress for fashion conscious young Muslims living in the West. At the same time, like a number of other Islamic fashion designers and

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companies, he is also expanding the reach of his company by exporting clothes to the Middle East.

Islamic through inscription At the popular end of the market for contemporary urban Islamic street wear is the designer T-shirt with Islam-oriented messages, declarations and slogans which assert their Islamic credentials directly through written messages and inscriptions. At IslamExpo and GPU 2008, large numbers of young volunteers and visitors sported T-shirts, some advertising Muslim charities and initiatives with punchy and often humorous religious slogans, others simply asserting religious and political views. These were worn by many in conjunction with the chequered scarf (keffiyah) worn as a scarf, headband or hijab.18 There were also a number of stalls selling T shirts, hoodies, baby clothes, bibs, arm bands, head bands, baseball caps and other items of clothing and paraphernalia which bore declarations of Muslim identity, politics and belief. These varied from simple messages such as ‘I love Islam’ and ‘100% Muslim’ to more assertive messages of political and religious allegiance, such as ‘Allegiance to the Deen’, ‘Google Islam = Truth’, ‘Jihad vs G8 summit’ and the Shahada (Muslim declaration of belief) written in Arabic19 – many of them produced by the aptly named East London–based company, Clearly such events provided a space where young people felt proud to declare, celebrate and assert their Muslim identity in the same way that fans at a football match sport football paraphernalia or activists at a rally wear T-shirts in support of a particular cause, whether it be animal rights or organic farming. Though visually asserting Muslim particularity and, in some cases calling for Muslim-based political action, such dress should be seen less as proof of Muslim separatism and difference than as evidence of the ubiquity of the T-shirt as an iconic item of a global youth culture in which Muslims participate.

Islamic and other fashions One striking feature of the Islamic fashions that have emerged in the British context is the extent to which they build both on visual resources and skills from around the world and on the local dress practices and experiences of British Muslims. Many of the promoters of Islamic fashion identify an element of outreach in their work, some claiming that it is a form of dawah. By making clothes more appealing, they seek to draw Muslims towards perceiving the benefits of covering whilst at the same time encouraging interest in the faith from non-Muslims. Some referred to their collections as ‘educational’ to the extent that they challenged negative stereotypes of Muslims and demonstrated the potential beauty of covering. Anas Sillwood, for example, stressed that ‘Muslims can educate people simply by their appearance’, adding that Shukr took that ‘responsibility’ very seriously. This educational imperative does of course combine with commercial interests. In Afaaf advertisements, for


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example, models are shown without heads. Contrary to what I had originally assumed, this mode of representation was chosen, not in order to comply with restrictions on representations of the body and face favoured in conservative Muslim circles, but in order to avoid discouraging Muslims who do not cover and non-Muslims from taking an interest in the clothes. This blurring of boundaries between Islamic and other fashions was particularly apparent on the website of the Manchester-based company, LOSVE (founded in 2008). What was distinctive about the web pages of this online store was that there were no references to religion at all. Instead, the company was advertising long-sleeved tops, long skirts and scarves in trendy patterns with the slogan, ‘Long is beautiful’. Even the scarves on this website were displayed around the necks of models rather than being worn as hijabs. Whilst Muslim customers found the site through Muslim networks and hijab blogs where the clothes were recommended, other customers came across them by typing the words, ‘long skirt’ into the search engines of their computers. According to Abdul Hummaidah, manager of the company, 40 per cent of his customers were non-Muslim. In a similar vein Shukr has for some time been contemplating developing a second collection that would be marketed as modest rather than Islamic. The company already has a number of non-Muslim customers, some of them religiously conservative Christians and Jews who share similar concerns with modesty, and others who are simply women who like loose clothes and are attracted to the Shukr aesthetic. The proximity of Islamic fashion to other fashions is further clarified by designers’ responses to questions about the extent to which they followed or were inspired by mainstream fashions. Most responded that they keep abreast with fashion cycles, observing which colours and styles were predicted for upcoming seasons and following developments in fashion through magazines, forecasts, high street observations and blogs. What all of these examples seem to suggest is a relationship of proximity between newly emerging Islamic fashions and mainstream fashions in the West. And like all close relationships, it is not without certain tensions. In many ways the Islamic fashion industry is predicated on the idea that mainstream fashions are ‘unIslamic’ or at least incompatible with Islamic ideals of modesty, an idea which may sometimes be exaggerated. What Islamic fashion designers and manufacturers seek to offer then is something alternative which resonates with the needs and desires of Muslim women who cover. How to define and interpret modesty remains however a difficult challenge and many of those involved in the industry speak of tensions over this issue. Some, like Shukr, have been confronted by the problem that although customers want to cover for reasons of modesty they are often also attracted to more fitted clothes and sometimes make requests for tighter versions of what is on offer. As a result those who deal with customers face-to-face often end up having discussions about modesty with their customers. Sadia Nosheen of Masoomah, for example, refuses to take in garments in response to customer requests. ‘I just say, no,’ she told me, ‘then I talk to young girls, and ask them why they want to wear the jilbab, and

Re-fashioning the Islamic


if they know why they are wearing it, then they need to keep that purpose in mind. Otherwise they can just go to any shop and buy whatever they want.’ Similarly Sophia Kara of Imaan, refuses to make her designs more fitted as this is not what her collection is about. At the same time she recounted how she sometimes has to ‘keep a check’ on herself as she too can ‘get too carried away’. The issue of modesty is also a cause of considerable tension when it comes to the representation of women in posters, advertisements, fashion shows and websites. Some choose not to display faces on posters or web pages for a diversity of reasons and in this way they take distance from mainstream fashion advertisements, although some mainstream online stores also choose this mode of representation. Finding fashion photographers willing to go along with the headless model concept in photo shoots sometimes proved difficult. All companies face the problem that they want their products to look attractive but want to avoid sexually provocative advertisements. At the same time they recognize that sex sells and that even modest hijabi women may find themselves more attracted to clothes which are modelled seductively. Here too, different companies set different standards regarding what may or may not be considered a provocative or seductive pose. Participation in Islamic fashion shows is generally less controversial as these tend to be gender segregated events in the British context. But invitations to participate in mixed shows or in shows that are not framed as Islamic are sometimes rejected, particularly if the other clothes being marketed are entirely at odds with the idea and ethos of modesty. On the other hand within the protected space of an all-female environment, concerns about the sexualization of the female body are often considered irrelevant as the alluring postures of models and the ample use of make-up and high heels suggest. This conforms to the idea that whilst women are supposed to hide their beauty and sexuality from male strangers, they are encouraged to express it in relation to their husbands. Here again, Shukr is perhaps distinctive in downplaying sexuality in the presentation of their clothes even within a female environment. In Britain, however, austere and conservative interpretations of Islamic requirements of modesty are not uncommon leading a number of married women to feel they should be wearing black even if this is not a Qur’anic requirement. Hence, Yasmin of Arabiannites found herself producing more black garments than originally intended in order to satisfy conservative local tastes. Similarly Sadia Nosheen of Masoomah finds that most of her clients are attracted to muted colours which limits her capacity to experiment. By contrast Sophia Kara of Imaan, irritated at the way some women in Leicester ‘ruined the look’ of colourful evening gowns by wearing black niqabs, decided to offer coloured niqabs to match outfits for those women who wish to cover their faces at public functions. She is keen to bring a sense of fun into Islamic dress and to combat the austerity and negative connotations of head to toe black outfits. Finally, like all segments of the fashion industry, Islamic fashion designers and entrepreneurs have to cope with competition both from mainstream retail outlets and from others involved in the Islamic fashion industry. Whilst the first wave of individuals entering the field were, as we have seen, motivated by a mixture


Emma Tarlo

of personal, political, ethical, aesthetic and commercial interests, they now face competition from others who recognize the commercial potential of Islamic fashion but who are less concerned with issues of Islamic ethics and values. Shukr for example, has found it necessary to place a warning to customers on its website about cheap imitations available on the market and how these represent Muslims doing harm to other Muslims.

Conclusion A brief look at the emergence of Islamic fashion companies in Britain suggests that far from being independent of mainstream fashion they have been very much entangled with it, playing simultaneously on notions of similarity and difference. Most pioneering Islamic fashion designers and entrepreneurs were self-confessed lovers of fashion and it was their desire to reconcile their love of fashion with their desire to express their faith that motivated them into entering and developing the industry. At the same time they draw on transnational Muslim networks and a wide variety of visual, material and ideological resources from around the world in their understanding of what might be considered ‘Islamic’ and fashionable. The rapprochement between Islamic fashion and mainstream fashion is further consolidated by the recent efforts of established international brands to reach out to Muslim consumers. The high street chain H&M gained considerable publicity in 2015 by featuring a Muslim fashion model in hijab and in 2016 Dolce and Gabbana brought out a collection of designer hijabs and abayas, Uniqlo commissioned a collection of clothes designed by the popular Muslim blogger Hana Tajime and the iconic British high street chain, Marks and Spencer, introduced the burkini into its swimwear range. Whilst such initiatives sparked criticism from some feminist groups and from those anxious and fearful of the Muslim presence in Britain, they nonetheless confirm the place of Islamic fashion within the mainstream and play an important role in normalising the image of Muslims in Britain.

Notes 1 This chapter is an abbreviated extract from the book, Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith (Berg/Bloomsbury, 2010) by Emma Tarlo. We would like to thank Bloomsbury Publishers for giving permission for this to be reproduced. The chapter documents key themes in the emergence of Islamic fashion in Britain. The extract has been updated as have the footnotes and references which include mention of subsequent publications which take up some of the themes outlined here. 2 Islamic Fashion Blog, http://caribmuslimah.word this blog (consulted 10 December 2008). 3 The term ‘fashionable Muslim’ might be applied to anyone from a Muslim background who dresses fashionably, regardless of whether or not their clothes have religious connotations. By contrast, to say someone is wearing Islamic fashion suggests that their dress is a fashionable form of dress associated with Islam. 4 This process is well described by Clare Dwyer who conducted research in two schools with significant British Asian Muslim populations in the early to mid-1990s.

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6 7 8 9

10 11 12 13

14 15 16 17



She describes how some Muslim pupils were differentiating themselves from others by adopting headscarves on a full- or part-time basis which they wore with skirts or trousers. This was also a way of avoiding more Asian styles of dress and asserting a certain degree of autonomy in relation to their parents (Dwyer 1999). In 2008 I attended IslamExpo which was held in Olympia in Earl’s Court and GPU which was held at the vast ExCel exhibition centre in East London. The latter event claims to attract approximately 60, 000 visitors over two days and makes claims for being the largest international event in Europe. Smaller-scale events of this kind are also emerging in other cities. For example, the Muslim Life Style Expo was launched in Manchester in 2015 and promises to be an annual event. For discussion of the emergence of Islamic fashion in Turkey see Sandikci and Ger (2005 and 2007), in Indonesia see Jones (2007), and in Egypt see Abaza (1997). See Moors and Tarlo (2007), Tarlo and Moors (2013). Extract from Anas Sillwood’s responses to an online interview with Omar Tufail and Hisham al-Zoubeir for Deenport, a popular Muslim website based in Britain (access to interview courtesy of Sillwood). For insights into the marketing and reception of faith-based fashions online, including the role of modest fashion bloggers, see Lewis (2013), especially contributions by Lewis, Moors, Tarlo and Cameron. See also Lewis (2015) and Tarlo and Moors (2013), especially the Introduction by Moors and Tarlo and the interview with the fashion blogger, Zinah Nur Sherif. For further discussion of website names, see Akou (2007). (consulted 5 July 2007). See Moors and Tarlo (2007) for discussion of Islamic fashion in non-European contexts. See Tarlo and Moors (2013) for later discussion of the emergence and development of Islamic fashion in Europe and North America. In the Qur’an believing men are enjoined to lower their gaze in the presence of women and to keep their awra (those parts of the body that are considered sexually charged) loosely covered. (Qur’an 24, 30). In the Hadith further references are made to the importance of dignity and modesty in men’s dress. Some men consider that in order to follow the example set by the Prophet Mohammed it is advisable to wear long garments. These should not be ostentatious. Men are also prohibited from wearing gold jewellery and silk. Extract from the author’s online interview with Anas Sillwood, 2007. When I interviewed Sheba Kichloo in 2007 she was in the process of moving to Dubai where her husband had been posted and had ambitions to expand her business there. For a wide-ranging discussion of the circulation of Orientalist logics in the fashion industry, including self-Orientalising strategies, see Niessen, Leshkowich and Jones (2003). At one level this represents a reversal of the Orientialist order and as such presents a challenge to imperialist discourses and stereotypes. At the same time it reproduces the association of the Asian with the feminine and exotic and to this extent may serve to further re-entrench stereotypes (see Jones and Leshkowich 2003). A form of Arab headwear, the keffiyah became a powerful symbol of Palestinain nationalism in the late 1930s and was adopted in the 1960s by the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat who wore it for the rest of his life. At the same time it has been taken up in America, Britain and Europe by a variety of left wing activists and sympathisers, whether in the struggle against the Vietnam war in the 1960s or in sympathy with the Palestinian cause in later years. In recent years it has been worn as a form of face covering by armed Muslim militants seeking to disguise their identity whether in Afghanistan or Iraq. Though originally worn only by men, it has become popular amongst Muslim teenagers of both sexes as a sign of Muslim solidarity over Palestine and of Muslim identity more generally. The keffiyah available today are mostly


Emma Tarlo

imported from China and have become incorporated into youth fashions. They come in an increasing variety of colours and patterns and many young people who wear them are largely oblivious of the garment’s history and associations. A short film entitled Keffiyah infiltrates our nation’s youth provides an amusing skit of American anxieties about the popularity of the Keffiyah ( kaffiyah). 19 The Shahada written in Arabic script on a black background features on the Hamas flag. Arm bands and headbands bearing this message have been worn by a number of self-declared jihadists, including suicide bombers and are associated with aggressive militaristic assertions of Islam. 20 In 2007 the home page of used to show the company’s name sprayed graffiti style onto a wall. It also used to advertise a VIP lounge offering, what they called ‘exclusive and forbidden items’, but these were no longer advertised when I last consulted the site (11 December 2008): onenth.

References Abaza, Mona, 1997, ‘Shifting Landscapes of Fashion in Contemporary Egypt’, Fashion Theory, 11, 2/3, pp. 143–172. Akou, Heather, 2007, ‘Building a New “World Fashion”: Islamic Dress in the 21st Century’, Fashion Theory, 11, 4, pp. 403–421. Dwyer, Clare, 1999, ‘Veiled Meanings: Young British Muslim Women and the Negotiation of Differences’, Gender, Place and Culture, 6, 1, pp. 5–26. Jones, Carla, 2007, ‘Fashion and Faith in Urban Indonesia’, Fashion Theory, 11, 2/3, pp. 211–232. Jones, Carla and Leshkowich, A. M., 2003, ‘Introduction: The Globalization of Asian Dress’, in Niessen, S., Leshkowich, A. M., and Jones, C. (eds), Re-orienting Fashion: The Globalization of Asian Dress, Oxford: Berg. Lewis, Reina, 2013, ed. Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith, London: I. B. Tauris. Lewis, Reina, 2015, Muslim Fashion: Contemporary Style Cultures, Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press. Moors, Annelies, ‘Discover the Beauty of Modesty’ in Lewis, R. (ed.), Modest Fashion: Styling Bodies, Mediating Faith, London: I. B. Tauris. Moors, Annelies and Tarlo, Emma (eds), 2007, Fashion Theory, Special Issue, Muslim Fashions: Fashionable Muslims. Moors, Annelies and Tarlo, Emma, 2013, ‘Introduction’ in Tarlo, E. and Moors, A. (eds.), Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives from Europe and North America, London: Bloomsbury. Niessen S., Leshkowich A. M., and Jones C. (eds). 2003, Re-orienting Fashion: The Globalization of Asian Dress, Oxford: Berg. Sandikci, O. and Ger, G., 2005, ‘Aesthetics, Ethics and Politics of the Turkish Headscarf’. In Kuechler, S. and Miller, D. (eds), Clothing as Material Culture, Oxford: Berg. Sandikci, O. and Ger, G., 2007, ‘Constructing and Representing the Islamic Consumer in Turkey’. Fashion Theory 11, 2/3, pp. 189–210. Tarlo, Emma, 2010, Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith, Oxford: Berg.

Notes on contributors

Fauzia Ahmad holds Honorary Research Fellow positions at Royal Holloway University in the Centre for Minority Studies and has taught at Brunel and Bristol Universities and University College London. Her research interests centre on inequalities and gendered ethnic and faith and identities with a particular focus on Muslim communities in Britain and British Muslim women’s identities, representations and experiences of higher education, employment and social welfare. Her current research explores British Muslims’ relationships and experiences of divorce and legal and counselling services. She is co-editor of Muslim Youth: Challenges, Opportunities and Expectations (Continuum Press, 2012). Abdul Haqq Baker is the founder and Managing Director of the 2009 award winning youth initiative, Strategy To Reach Empower & Educate Teenagers. He is also author of Extremists in Our Midst: Confronting Terror (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011). Sadek Hamid is British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Liverpool Hope University. His work has focused upon young Muslims, Islamic activism, religious radicalisation and public policy. He is co-editor of Youth Work and Islam: A Leap of Faith for Young People (Sense, 2011) and author of Sufis, Salafis and Islamists: The Contested Ground of British Islamic Activism (I.B Tauris, 2016). Anshuman A. Mondal is Professor of Modern Literature at the University of East Anglia. He is the author of Nationalism and Post-Colonial Identity: Culture and Ideology in India and Egypt (Routledge-Curzon, 2003), Amitav Ghosh (Manchester University Press, 2007), and Young British Muslim Voices, and his latest book is Islam and Controversy: The Politics of Free Speech after Rushdie (Palgrave, 2014). Carl Morris is Lecturer in Religion, Culture and Society at the University of Central Lancashire. As a sociologist of religion he maintains a range of academic interests, including a particular research focus on issues that relate to Muslims in Britain. He has conducted research across the UK concerning music and Muslim youth culture in Britain. He is also the General Secretary


Notes on contributors

for the Muslims in Britain Research Network and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Leeds. Asma Mustafa is Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and Linacre College, Oxford. Her book titled Identity and Political Participation among Young British Muslims was published by Palgrave-Macmillan (2015). She is interested is issues of identity, diversity, transnationalism as well as political and civic engagement. Muzammil Quraishi is Senior Lecturer in Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of Salford, Social Sciences. He is a specialist of Muslim populations and crime including working with ex-offenders, advising prison research on countering racism and advising policy makers on challenging Islamophobia in criminal justice contexts. He is the author of Muslims and Crime: A Comparative Study (Ashgate, 2005). Amir Saeed is Senior Lecturer in Media studies. He joined Huddersfield University in September 2014. He teaches modules in media theory, sport, PR and music. Prior to this he was the Programme Leader of BA Media Culture and Communication at the University of Sunderland. Brooke Storer-Church is Policy Advisor leading on postgraduate funding policy for the Higher Education Funding Council for England. She is the project manager of the Postgraduate Support Scheme, intended to test models for supporting postgraduate education and inform policy from 2015–2016, and coordinates other postgraduate policy work within HEFCE. Brooke has previously worked on the Research Partnership Investment Fund. Emma Tarlo is Professor of Anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. Much of her research focuses on dress, fashion and body politics in contexts of religious and cultural diversity in India and Britain. She is author of Visibly Muslim (Berg, 2010) and Islamic Fashion and Anti-Fashion: New Perspectives from Europe and North America (Boomsbury, 2013).


Page numbers in italics refer to figures. Aashiq al-Rasul 83, 88 Abase, Amira 39, 43 abayas 151, 168 Abu-Lughod, Lila 41 academic research see research advertising, fashion 165–166, 167 aesthetics and fashion 158–159 Afaaf 158, 160, 165–166 Afghanistan, U.S. military assault on 41 African Americans and group identity 104–105, 107 African-Caribbean musicians 84 Afzal, Nasir 35 age: marriage 49–50; Muslim musicians 79–80 agency: Facebook Groups 123, 130; ‘felt’ contradictions and identity 20–23; matrimonial process 49, 51; Muslim women and higher education 45–46, 49; Muslim women’s political agency 44; radicalisation 43–44; structure/agency problem 21 Ali, Muhammed 139 alternative publics 117, 128 amateur musicians 87 Ameli, S. R. 5 Amran 88 Anderson, Benedict 101 Anderson, J. W. 121, 134 anonymity, online 135, 141, 144 anti-imperialism 83, 85, 101–102 anti-Muslim sentiment see Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment anti-racist movement and music 84–85 apologies, Muslim 145 Arab musicians 82 Arabiannites 157, 161–162, 167

Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill 52 Archer, L. 5 Armstrong, Stephen 139 Asda store incident 144 Asian Muslims: black street culture 61–62; criminal statistics 27; fashion 163; musicians 82–83; sexual grooming, media coverage of 30; stereotypes 142; violence and media stereotypes 5–6 al-Assad, Bashar 39 asylum seekers 142 at-risk youth 70 authenticity 159 Awan, Amir 79, 85, 88–89 Awan, Imran 135 Bagguley, P. 4–5 Baker, Abdul Haqq 73 Bangladeshi Muslims 4, 142 Barrera, Marco 140, 143 BBC London 64 beauty 159, 160–161 Beckett, Samuel 23 Begum, Shamima 39, 43 belonging: Facebook Groups 121, 130; music 84; social networking sites 117; women 20–21, 44 Bettison, Sir Norman 135 biological racism 26–27, 143 Black Muslims: Asian Muslims, connections to 61–62; musicians 84; prisoner population 27; urban youth case studies 67–74 Blakstone 85 boxing 138–144 boyd, d. 116–117



Bradford riots of 1995 5 Brah, Avtar 42 Bratten, Bill 64 Britannia’s Crescent (Joly) 4 British Asian Sports Award 139 British identity: Anglicised Muslims 75; fashion 153–154; higher education 45, 47–48; Khan, Amir 139, 140, 142; political motivation 104 British Muslim Heritage Centre 78 British National Party 128 British Social Attitudes 2010 109 British values 135 Brown, Gordon 41 Bunt, Gary 134, 145 burkini 168 Bush, George W. 91 business, fashion 157–158 Cameron, David 64, 65 celebrities 27, 78, 86, 144 Central Extremism Unit 70 Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies 3 Chakrabarty, Dipesh 16 children, political socialization of 102–103, 107–108 Chisty, Mak 48 citizenship, sense of 97 class issues 5, 28 Cohen, Stanley 28 color and fashion 167 community, online 118–119, 123–124 community responses to crime 31–32 Confederation of Heads of Young ‘People’s Services 63 consultation and political participation 98–99 consumer market 85–86, 152 converts: identity typologies 66–67; musicians 82; non-Muslims, relationships with 66–67, 74–75; Sillwood, Anas 155; urban youth 60 Cornwall, Simon 70 counter publics 114, 117, 128 counterculture and music 82 counter-terrorism: crime and ethnicity 28; Khan, Amir, experiences of 141; Prevent Strategy 135; urban youth 60 Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 40 crime 27–35, 63–65 cultural identity: fashion 156–157; higher education 45–48

cultural relativism and difference 41 cultural theories 3–4 ‘culture clash’ concept 142 cyberspace as post race space see Internet The Daily Mail 32–33, 144, 146 Davis, Danny 105–106 dawah 165 debate and Facebook Groups 126, 127, 129 ‘Deconstruct’ approach to gang-related videos 73 Deenport (website) 156 Del Hoya, Oscar 140 democracy 97 demographics 1, 3, 16–20 ‘deviancy amplification’ 29 difference, cultural 47 distillation of identity 21–22 divorce 52 Dolce and Gabbana 168 Drainville, Elaine 137 dua pattern 163 educating the public: Facebook Groups 120–127, 130; fashion 165 Egypt 152 Eickelman, Dale F. 134 Eid Festival 78 Elanany, Sarah 163, 164 Ellison, N. B. 116–117, 118 English Defence League 123, 126, 144 entrepreneurship 158 equality: political motivation 106; religious values 99 ethics and fashion 158–159 ethnicity: child sexual exploitation perpetrators and victims 33–35; cyberspace 136–137; research history 4–5 Eurabian hypothesis 16–17 Europeanization of Muslim immigrants 17 Evening Standard 74 Events pages, Facebook 128 exoticism and fashion 161–162 experience and state power 22 expressive incentives for political participation 97, 98 extremism and women 40–41 Facebook: Groups, emergence of 114–115; Muslim baiting 144; participative quality of 125, 128–129; as a social action tool 115–117; use of Groups 118–120 Faisel 164

Index family: Facebook use 118; marriage 17, 49–52; women’s higher education 45, 49 fashion: agency and identity 20, 22, 23; alienation, experiences of 153–157; ethics and aesthetics 158–159; history of options 151–152; Muslim women and higher education 46–47; poetics of spirituality 160–161; representation and marketing 157–158; urban street style 162–165 fashion designers 152–153 fathers 45 ‘felt’ contradictions and identity 20–23 feminists: Western feminism 42; youth cultural studies 4 fetished ‘Others,’ Muslim women as 43, 49 Filler, Daniel 31 first-generation British Islamic fashion designers 153–154 ‘folk devils’ 5, 28, 29, 35 folk-rock musicians 82 foreign policy 103 Forward Thinking 7 Foucault, Michel 21 Fraser, N. 117 Fun-Da-Mental 83, 85 funding: research 53; youth services 63–64 funnel model and urban youth crime 62, 63 galabiyya 155 Gale, R. 105, 117 gangs 63–65, 67–74 Garcia, Danny 143 Geaves, R. 108 generational issues: marriage 50; religion-culture distinctions 48; religious practice 18 geo-politics 102 Gilliat-Ray, S. 2 GimpGirl Community (Internet platform) 117 Global Peace and Unity events 152, 164, 165 Gohir, Shaista 41 Gonedro, Michael 63 Google 72–73 GPU events see Global Peace and Unity events graphics, fashion 163 group consciousness 103–106, 109–110; Internet, role of the 117 The Guardian 32–33, 64 Guardian Angels 64–65 Guardian Live 43–44 Gujarat 81


‘halal’ 8, 51 Hall, Stuart 3 Hampton, K. 142 Hansen, J. M. 96 Hartley-Brewer, Julia 39 Hatton, Ricky 140 Haw, Kaye 20–21, 21–22 headscarves 152, 165 Herding, M. 8 higher education and Muslim women 45–49, 53–54 hijab 47, 48, 163, 165, 166, 168 hijabi fashion blogs 115, 152 hip hop 84, 90–91 H&M 168 Hoggart, Richard3 Home Affairs Committee 53 Hopkins, P.E. 5 human rights discourse and Muslim women 41 Hummaidah, Abdul 166 humor as response to online Muslim baiting 145–146 Hussain, Y. 4–5 Hutnik, N. 4 hybrid identity 23, 65 Hylton, Kevin 138, 143 identity: Black British Muslims 74; categories of British Muslim identity 65–67; Facebook 119, 122–130; fashion 153–154, 156, 165; ‘felt’ contradictions 20–23; Internet 117, 136; Khan, Amir 139, 142; Muslim women 42, 45–48, 54; political motivation 103–106; research history 3–5; urban converts 68 ideology and convergence vs. divergence 20 Imaan (company) 154, 157, 158, 167 images, media 32 Imagined Communities (Anderson) 101 immigrants: Europeanization of 17–18; music 81 ‘i-Muslims’ 145 The Independent 33 Indian immigrants 81 Indonesia 153 inequality and group consciousness 99, 103–104 Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups (Office of The Children’s Commissioner) 33–35, 36 integration and demographic analysis 17–18 inter-disciplinary research 3–4 intermarriage 17



Internet: fashion 20, 157–158; group consciousness 117; Islam-related websites 115; Muslim matrimonial sites 50; Prevent Strategy 135; racism 136, 140–146; youth use of 137–138 Inventing the Muslim Cool: Islamic Youth Culture in Western Europe (Herding) 8 ISIS: British women 44; recruitment 39 Islam, Yusuf 82 Islam Channel 152 Islam in Transition (Jacobson) 4 Islam Online (website) 115 IslamExpo 152, 162, 164, 165 Islamic Britain (Lewis) 4 Islamic Design House 163 Islamic State see ISIS Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment: crime and ethnicity 28; Facebook use for countering 121–122, 126, 127, 128, 130; fashion for countering 156–157; impact on Muslim youth 7; Khan, Amir, experiences of 140; media role in 29–30; online Muslim-baiting 144, 145–146; sexual grooming and exploitation coverage 33, 35 Islamophobia Watch (website) 117 Itqan 159 Jefferson, T. 3 jihad 100 ‘jihadi brides’ 6, 9, 39, 44–45, 47, 49 Jihadi Brides (BBC documentary) 44 jilbab 47, 151, 154, 157, 162–163, 166–167 journalism see media justice as a religious value 99 justice as political motivation 106 Kabir, Nahid Afrose 5 Kamaleswaran, Thusha 63, 64, 69 Kang, T. 40–41 Kara, Sophia 154, 157, 167 Kashmiri motifs 161 Kaufmann, Eric 16–20 Khalifa community 81 Khan, Amir 138–144 Khattab, N. 49 Khoker, S. 4 Kichloo, Sheba 160, 161 Knott, K. 4 knowledge and power 21, 22 Kolko, Beth 137 Kose, A. 67

Lambeth 70 language: black culture 61; ‘Deconstruct’ approach to gang-related videos 73; fashion 158; identity expression 23 Lawung 164 Lazreg, Marnia 42 leadership skills, youth 72–73 legislation 135 Lewis, Philip 80 Lewis, Reina 20, 23 local culture and fashion 156–157 London: Black street culture 62; converts 60; Guardian Angels 64–65; Olumegbon, Zac, murder of 73; STREET UK initiative 70–71; ‘Urban Salafi’ communities 67; urban street fashion style 163 London Underground 64–65 Loonwatch (website) 115 LOSVE 166 Loughton, Tim 33 loyalty, group 106 mainstream fashion 166, 168 Majeed, Abdul 63 Mali 153 Malik, Nesrine 1 marginalisation: distillation of identity 21–22; group consciousness 103–104; urban youth 62, 69, 74 marketing, fashion 157–158 Marks and Spencer 168 marriage 17, 49–52 Masoomah 154, 166, 167 May, Theresa 52 McCalla, Anthony 63, 64 McRobbie, A. 4 Mecca2Medina 84 media: changing representations of Muslim youth 5–6; consumer goods 152; moral panic 28–29, 29–30; Muslim women, representations of 39; Orientalism 136–137; Pakistani and Bangladeshi community representations 142; sensationalist journalism 1–2; sexual grooming and Muslim populations, stories about 32–33; ‘Sharia marriages’ 52; women as victims or threats 53 Meer, Nasar 135 men: fashion 154–155, 164; masculinity 5; youth cultural studies 4 mentoring 70 Miah, Junayd 157

Index Michael, L. 117 Mills, Charles 143 modesty and fashion 152, 154, 157–161, 166–167 Modood, T. 49, 135 Moors, Annelies 153 moral panic 29–35; tenets of 28–29 mosques: music 87; political mobilization 107 mothers 40–41 motifs, fashion 161 Muhammad, Khaleel 78 multiculturalism 23, 33, 40, 135, 139 multiple identities 5 music: age of popular Muslim musicians 79–80; contemporary Muslim music 84–86; Facebook Groups 129; history of British Muslim musicians 80–84; nasheeds 78–79 Muslim apologies 145 Muslim baiting 144, 145–146 Muslim Youth Helpline 6–7 Muslim Youth Speak: Ten Years on (Shaffi) 7 na’at 81, 83, 86–87 Nakamura, Lisa 136, 137 nasheeds 78–79, 82, 83, 86–88 national identity 5 National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group 41 nationalistic rhetoric 141 navigating identity 22–23 Nawaz, Aki 83 negotiating identity 48 new media 134, 138 1960s counterculture 82 niqab 46–47, 48, 167 ‘Niqabitches’ video 20, 21 NMWAG see National Muslim Women’s Advisory Group non-Muslims: college students’ engagement with 48; converts’ relationships with 66–67, 74–75; dialogue with and education of 8; Facebook use to engage with 120–121, 124, 126, 130; fashion 163, 166; music 89, 90 Norris, P. 123 Nosheen, Sadia 154, 166, 167 Obama, Barack 145 Office of the Children’s Commissioner 33 Olumegbon, Zac 73


1000 Most Influential People in London Award 74 Open Democracy 45 Operation Yewtree 27 organizations and political mobilization 107–109 Orientalism 136–137, 139 otherness 27, 42, 43, 49 O’Toole, T. 105, 117 paedophilia 30 Pakistani heritage: identifiers 4; identity formation 5; Khan, Amir 139, 142; music 87 Palestinian fashion motifs 161 paraliturgical music 83, 87–88 parents: daughters’ higher education 45; matrimonial process 50; political socialization of children 102–103, 107–108 Peach, C. 60 Pearls of Islam 90 peer pressure 69 perpetrators, child sexual exploitation 33, 34–35 Philadelphia Anthropological School 26 Planets (music group) 84 Poetic Pilgrimage 79, 85, 91 poetics and fashion 160–161 policy and ‘Sharia marriages’ 52 Policy Exchange report 18 political and literalist Salafiyya 66 political participation: Facebook Groups 128, 129; group consciousness 103–106; mobilization 96, 107–108; Muslim women’s political agency 44; religious values 98–100; social networking sites 117; types 95–97; ummah 100–103 political socialization 102–103, 107–108 politics: Quest Rah 91; South Asian Muslim musicians 82 polls see surveys and polls pop music 78–79, 88–90 population projections 1, 16–17 post-7/7 era: Muslim women and higher education 45; PREVENT programme 40; women, media representations of 6 post-9/11 era 156 post-World War II era music 81 power: experience and state power 22; knowledge and 21; Muslim women and higher education 53; racialisation 28 PREVENT programme 40–41, 52, 135



pride 140; family pride and women’s higher education 49; political motivation 98 prisoner population 27–28 professionalisation 50 Provincializing Europe (Chakrabarty) 16 public education see educating the public public identity and Facebook Groups 124–128 public spheres 85–86, 121 Punjabi 83, 86, 87 purposive incentives for political participation 97, 98 Qawwali 81 Q-News 45 quantitative vs. qualitative social research 16–20 Quest Rah 91–92 Qur’anic cantillation 87 race 26–27, 136–137 Race in Cyberspace (Kolko, Nakamura, and Rodman) 137 racial profiling 36 racialisation 28; media stories on sexual grooming 32–33 racism: Internet 136; online racism 140–146 radicalisation: PREVENT program 40–41; women 43–44 Rage Against the Machine 129 Rahim 78 Ramadan, T. 66 readers’ comments, newspaper 141–142 reformism, Salafi 66 refugees 142 Rehman, Usman 79 Reiner, R. 29 relationship issues 6 religion: correcting misinformation on Facebook 120–124; music 86–88; Muslim women and higher education 48; political motivation 109–110; values and political participation 98–99 religiosity: demographic analysis 19; Muslim women and higher education 46; second generation activism 7–8; survey data 3; urban converts 67–69; youth culture 8 religious identity: Khan, Amir 140, 142; political motivation 103–106; research history 4–5 religious institutions and political mobilization 107–108

religious values: fashion 157, 158–159; political motivation 106 Renani, S. R. A. 65, 67 research: analytical vs. hermeneutic traditions 15–16; ‘bandwagonism’ 54; Black African Muslims 60; demographics 16–20; group identity 104–105; history 3–5; issues of concern to Muslim youth 6–7; Muslim women 53–54; ‘problem-centered approach’ 2; shortcomings of 60; social networking sites 116–117 Rheingold, Howard 138, 144 riots of 2011 64–65 Roald, A. S. 74 Rochdale sexual exploitation case 35 Rodman, Gilbert 137 role models 74 romance 51 Rosenberg, T. 69–70 Rosenstone, S. 96 Rumi 79 Runnymede Commission 28 Saeed, Amir 137 Safri, Yasmin 162, 167 Said, Edward 136–137, 139 Salafism 66 Samad, Y. 5 Sardar, Ziauddin 139 Scandinavia 74 Schmidt, Eric 73 seafarer music 81 second-generation Muslims 7–8, 60, 66, 69, 75 secularism: demographic analysis 18; fashion 153 Seen and Not Heard: Voices of Young British Muslims (Ahmed) 7 self-identification 3, 4–5 self-Orientalism 161 Selvakumar, Roshan 63 sensationalism 33 sensuality and fashion 160 sexual grooming and exploitation 30–35 Sexual Offences Act 2003 30 sexuality and fashion 154, 167 Shaam 83 Shabazz, Junior 63 Shain, F. 4 Sharia councils 52–53 Sharia law 18–19 Sharpe, Christina Elizabeth 144 SHUKR 156, 158, 165, 166

Index shura 98–99 Siddiqui, Mona 53 Silk Road 79 Silk Route 157, 162–163 Sillwood, Anas 154–155, 156–157, 158–159, 165 Singh, Rajan 139 single women 51 social action and Facebook use 115–117 social change and Muslim marriage 49–50 social class see class issues social identity theory 104 social justice: music 83; political participation 99 social media 115–117, 135, 138 social networks and political mobilization 107–109 social problems and Muslim youth opinion 7 socialization 102–103, 106, 107–108 Socioeconomic Status Model of political mobilization 96 solitary incentives for political participation 96–97 Somalis 61, 62, 66 South Asian Muslims: fashion 163; music 81, 82–83 Southwark 70 spies, women as 41 Spiritique music 90 spiritual ties as political motivation 98–99 spying, culture of 40–41 Squires, C. 117 Starkey, David 61 state power 22 statistics: child sexual exploitation victims’ ethnicity 34; demographics 1, 3, 16–20; ethnicity and crime 27–28, 30 stereotypes: Asian Muslims 142; cyberspace 136–137; Muslim fathers 45; Muslim marriage 49–50; Muslim mothers 41; Muslim women and higher education 46–48 Stevens, Cat 82 Strategy To Reach, Empower & Educate Teenagers see STREET UK initiative street culture 61–62, 154, 162–165 STREET UK initiative 61, 63–64, 69–74, 71 structure/agency problem 21 subcultures 3–4, 86 Sufis 81, 82 Suleyman, Chimene 43 Sultana, Kadiza 39, 43


Summit Against Violent Extremism 72–73 The Sun 33 surveys and polls: issues of concern to Muslim youth 6–7; research weaknesses 2 syncretic style music 89 Tajime, Hana 168 Tarlo, Emma 22, 23 taxonomies, biological 26–27 Tebbit, Norman 139 The Telegraph (newspaper) 141 ‘Terrorism, Panic and Pedophilia’ (Filler) 31 Terrorism Act 2000 135 ‘Testify’ (fashion design) 163 think tanks 54 thobes 164 Thompson, Danny 82 Thompson, Linda 82 Thompson, Richard 82 threat, women as 40, 42–43, 53 traditional Muslim music 84 traditionalism, Salafi 66, 67 tragedy of the commons 144 transnational political consciousness 101, 103–104, 105, 134 TRBI 61 T-shirts 165 Turkey 152 ‘Twacism’ 145 Twitter 145 ummah 5, 100–103, 106, 109–110 undetermined/vagrant identity 65, 67 Uniqlo 168 Unique Muslimah blog 115 Unite against Extremism (Facebook Group) 124 United Against Religious Discrimination (Facebook Group) 128 United States: African Americans and group identity 104–105; African Americans and political mobilization 107 university counter-terrorism initiatives 40 University of Birmingham 3 University of Leeds 32 ‘Urban Salafism’ 66–67 urban youth: black street culture 61–62; case studies 67–74; categories of Muslim identity 65–67; funnel model 62; gang violence 63–65; music 84; street style 162–165 Urdu 83, 86, 87



values and political participation 98–99 victim, women as 39, 40, 42, 43, 54 victims, child sexual exploitation 33–34 videos, gang-related 72–73 Vines, Reverend 31 violence: moral panic 28–29; stereotyped media representations 5–6; urban youth 63 Visibly Muslim: Fashion, Politics, Faith (Tarlo) 22 voting rights 97 ‘war on terror’ 41 Wellman, Barry 142 Werbner, P. 5 Western fashion designers 152 Western media representations of Islam 136–137 Western social standards 41–42 ‘white ignorance’ 143 Whiteman, Ian 82 Wiktorowicz, Q. 66

Williams, Raymond 3, 21 Williams, Rowan 64 women: agency and identity 22–23; ‘felt’ contradictions and identity 20–21; higher education 45–49; media representation of 39–40; post 7/7 media representations of 6; see also fashion Woodhead, L. 2 ‘Working with mothers to prevent tragedies’ initiative 40–41 Yahya, Mohammed 85 YMAG see Young Muslim’s Advisory Group Young Muslim’s Advisory Group 74 youth culture: categorisation of motivations 8; fashion 153–154, 155; urban street fashion style 162–165; see also music youth services programs 63–64 Yusuf, Sami 85, 89–90 Zebiri, K. 66–67