British Approaches to Understanding Islamophobia: Semantics, Scales, and Solidarities

Saturday, March 15, 2014
Cabinet (Omni Shoreham)
Nasar Meer , University of Northumbria
This paper outlines how Islamophobia is being understood in British research and policy, by concentrating on three interacting domains. Firstly, it is shown that the category of Islamophobia has journeyed inwards from margins of equality debates. Previously deemed to be an outcome of a religious – and therefore voluntary – identity category, Islamophobia is increasingly placed in the same register of antisemtism, racism, sexism and homophobia, etc.  This is not an uncontested development, but the semantic incorporation has had significant implications for statutory policy and equality legislation more broadly. Secondly, the way in which Islamophobia is recorded naturally depends on the methodology that is adopted.  In some cases the scale of Islamophobia in Britain is shown to be increasing, especially in cross-sectional attitude surveys, something that is less clear in longitudinal research.  In other cases the scale of Islamophobia is measured by recorded incidents (e.g., reported to the authorities), and this gives us a more ‘event driven’ analysis.  The challenge is to bring these approaches together, and here several innovations will be discussed. Finally, but related to each of the first two points, there is a question as to how in Britain non-Muslim equality actors have responded to concerns about Islamophobia.  In some instances we can observe a profound disjuncture where Muslim complaints of discrimination are deemed incompatible with other groups’ appeals to equality.  Muslim actors have nonetheless sought out solidarity in some distinctive ways that perhaps contributes to a distinctive approach.