Zombie Multiculturalism….

Academics and activists, preachers and politicians have got a lot to learn from movies like ‘Dawn of the Dead’ because the debate surrounding multiculturalism is littered by zombies…To find out more carry on reading my new article just published in the journal ‘Culture and Religion’.

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Faith-based Organising – Doing Justice & Loving Mercy

In recent decades faith has made a dramatic return to civil society politics. One of the most significant expressions of this is found in faith-based community organising.

Yesterday I spoke about the relationship between faith and politics in the superdiverse city at the British Quaker Social Justice Conference in Birmingham. In particular I thought about faith-based community organising as a powerful model of civil society politics. If you would like to look at my presentation you can find it by clicking here…..

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What Does It Mean To Be White?

Identity

Many [many] years ago I was a Religious Education teacher at a very large high school in the East End of London. In one particular lesson I was talking about identity with a group of 15 year olds. The class was roughly 1/3 Black, 1/3 Muslim and 1/3 White. I asked the Black pupils, ‘What does it mean for you to be Black and British in London?’ Loads of answers came pouring out. Same thing happened when I asked the second group oy pupils, ‘What does it mean for you to be Muslim and British in London?’ But when I asked the White pupils the same questions there was just a long awkward silence. Not because the White pupils were not sharp or smart but because they had never had to think about their Whiteness before…..To be White in the UK is still, many years later, the norm.

In the intervening years debates about identity, migration and multiculturalism have become more frequent, more intense and more shrill – often accompanied by a barely hidden racist sub-text. Whilst Blackness has been explored in perceptive depth within the ever growing canon of Black Theology [see Robert Beckford and Anthony Reddie for example in the UK], Whiteness has remained largely unexamined, even by progressive White political theologians.

I argued in my first book ‘Voices from the Borderland‘ that unless White women and men who are committed to inclusivity, liberation and multiculturalism engage with our shared [and complex] Whiteness in progressive ways the ground will be left wide open for far right and fascist groups like the British National Party, the English Defence League or Britain First. Debates about multiculturalism dominate the airwaves. British Prime Minister David Cameron insists that ‘multiculturalism has failed’ [implying this was the fault of the British-Muslim community] and before him Labour government Ministers like David Blunkett sought to reduce and pin down Britishness.

A plural vision of Britishness will always be beyond our reach unless progressive White people begin to ask, ‘What does it mean to be White in a diverse society?’ Rather than opting for an everywhere but nowhere cosmopolitanism or a crude ‘hybridity’ let’s reflect instead on a hermeneutics of liberative difference that critiques the oppressive aspects of all of our religious traditions and ethnic identities but celebrates the liberative potential that we all bear….

The Politics of Fear

DIVERSE FACES

We live in a tense and fragile urban world where class struggle has largely been replaced by an anxious and often violent politics of fear – the fear of difference. In spite of the continuing rise of the community of people who are dual heritage and the increasingly superdiverse nature of many major cities the fear of difference has traction with marginalised groups, far-right racist colllectives and fearful people of all ethnic backgrounds.

This article ‘Mapping the Politics of Fear in Europe’ by Raymond Tarras on the online journal and forum Public Spirit explores these questions….Tarras writes:

‘‘Othering’ of those perceived as strangers, sometimes on the basis of religious differences, sometimes for other reasons, has been the subject of penetrating scholarly research and even journalistic accounts for some two decades, since cold war politics were succeeded by identity politics…..’

Read more by clicking on the link

Women and Islam – A Different Take

In recent years a lots of ink has been spent debating the relationship between Islam and British identity. Much of it has implicitly reflected the ‘clash of civilisations’ thesis popularised by Samuel Huntingdon in his 1996 – ‘Islam’ and the ‘West’ are somehow incompatible. Stop for just a few moments and we realise how flawed such a perspective is. And yet it has gained political and cultural traction in the UK. Here is another, different take from two different videos –  ‘Make me a Muslim’ charts working class British women and the Lauren Booth video tells of the conversion of an affluent professional woman, the sister in law of Tony Blair. Have a watch and see what you think. Don’t see either as the last word but use it to develop a broader and more nuanced view of one of the key issues of our age…

Muslim Britain