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Populist Politics and the Minority Voice: British Muslims, Extremisms and Inclusion

April 19, 2018

In partnership with the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London (KCL), University of London:


Event Description

A one-day Muslims in Britain Research Network (MBRN) conference organised in partnership with the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London (KCL), University of London

19 April 2018

Themes include:

  • Muslim activism and populist politics;
  • New media, populism and the representation of Muslims and other minorities;
  • Recognising, opposing and offering alternatives to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other extremisms;
  • British Muslims and national identity after Brexit;
  • Challenges to, and for, principles of tolerance, free speech and accommodation.

Plenary speakers

Narzanin Massoumi, University of Exeter & editor, What is Islamophobia?
Aaron Winter, University of East London
David Feldman, Director, Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism
Shenaz Bunglawala, Aziz Foundation
Rokhsana Fiaz OBE, Newham councillor and mayoral candidate
Keith Kahn-Harris, Leo Baeck College and Birkbeck, University of London
Ruth Sheldon, Birkbeck, University of London

Additional speakers

Reza Gholami, University of Birmingham
Khadijah Elshayyal, University of Edinburgh
Mirjam Aeschbach, University of Zurich
Shanon Shah, Critical Muslim
Ajmal Hussain, University of Manchester
Laura Jones, Cardiff University
Waqas Tufail, Leeds Beckett University
Gillian Kennedy, King’s College London
Kristin Henrard, ESL, Rotterdam
Ayesha Chowdhury, Leeds Becket University
Laurens de Rooij, University of Cape Town

Conference outline

Across Europe and North America, populist parties and leaders have surged in recent years, with figures such as Donald Trump and Andrej Babiš and parties such as UKIP and Alternative für Deutschland making significant electoral gains. Although different in important respects, these movements share certain themes, such as emphasis on national self-interest and hostility toward international co-operation, liberal political norms and established news media. In almost all cases this desire to reassert national identity has also involved renewed hostility toward ethnic and religious minorities – especially Jewish and Muslim minorities – as well as toward any frameworks of liberal accommodation that have allowed minorities to participate in public life on an equal footing. In the UK, this was evident in the referendum on European Union membership in 2016, which not only destabilised previously taken-for-granted political and legal frameworks but also contributed to a sustained rise in hate crime, anti-immigration rhetoric and Islamophobia.

This one-day conference on ‘Populist politics and the minority voice’ will discuss the effects of these changes on British Muslims, and how the concerns of British Muslims relate to those of other minority groups as well as wider debates about the future of liberal states, free speech and ‘fake news. Since at least the 1970s, British Muslims – as a group and alongside other minorities – have been involved in a struggle for rights, for media and political representation and for recognition. What might these struggles look like in the future? What is the future of British Muslim identity, post-Brexit? How might rights and legal accommodations be affected by withdrawal from the EU? How do concerns about rising Islamophobia intersect with concerns about resurgent anti-Semitism and far-right and populist movements? How should debates about Muslims and the media proceed in an era of ‘fake news’? How can standards of debate about minorities be preserved and what can higher education and Muslim institutions contribute?

Conference programme

09.30-10.15 – Registration and Networking

10.15-10.30 – Welcome, Alison Scott-Baumann (MBRN) and Daniel Nilsson DeHanas (King’s College London)

10.30-12.00 – Opening Plenary, ‘Recognising, Opposing and Offering Alternatives to Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Other Extremisms’

  • Narzanin Massoumi, University of Exeter
  • Aaron Winter, University of East London
  • David Feldman, Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Ruth Sheldon, Birkbeck, University of London

12.00-13.00 – Lunch

13.00-14.30 – Parallel Session 1A, ‘Transnational Law and Activism’

  • Gillian Kennedy, King’s College London, ‘Between a rock and a hard place’: British Egyptian Muslims and new explanations for Transnational Diaspora Mobilization since the 2011 Egyptian Uprising’
  • Ayesha Chowdhury and Razaq Raj, Leeds Beckett University, ‘21st Century Conflict: Incitement of Religious Discrimination, Freedom of Speech and Defamation of Religion’
  • Kristin Henrard, Erasmus School of Law, and Peter Vermeersch, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), ‘Nationalism with a ‘human’ face? European human rights judgments and the reinvention of nationalist politics’

13.00-14.30 – Parallel Session 1B, ‘Identity Politics’

  • Khadijah Elshayyal, University of Edinburgh, ‘Muslim Identity politics: Islam, activism and equality in Britain’
  • Shannon Shah, Critical Muslim, ‘Populist politics and gay Muslims: Scapegoats, pawns or rebels?’
  • Laura Jones, ‘Challenging Islamophobia and Fostering ‘Ambassadors’ for Islam – A Case Study of Open Iftar Events at a Mosque’

14.30-15.00 – Coffee / Networking

15.00-16.30 – Parallel Session 2A, ‘Media and Representation’

  • Laurens de Rooj, University of Cape Town, ‘Believing and Belonging: Media Engagement With Populism, Islam, And Muslims In Britain’
  • Mirjam Aeschbach, University of Zurich, ‘New Media, Representation, and Belonging: British Muslim Struggle for Recognition on Twitter’
  • Ajmal Hussain, University of Manchester, ‘The impossibility of Muslims in the public sphere’

15.00-16.30 – Parallel Session 2B, ‘Islamophobia and the Far-Right’

  • Waqas Tufail, Leeds Beckett University, ‘From ‘Grooming Gangs’ to Far-Right Populism and Racist Murder: Anti-Muslim Racism and Resistance in Neoliberal Britain’
  • Stephen H. Jones, Newman University and MBRN, ‘“That’s how Muslims are required to view the world”: Race, culture and belief in non-Muslims’ descriptions of Islam and science’
  • Reza Gholami, ‘Extremisms, Policy and Myths of ‘Muslim Education’

16.30-17.00 – Transfer / Set up / Networking

17.00-18.15 – Closing Plenary, ‘Minorities and British Identity after Brexit’

  • Shenaz Bunglawala, Aziz Foundation
  • Rokhsana Fiaz, Newham mayoral candidate
  • Keith Kahn-Harris, Leo Baeck College

18.15-18.30 – Closing Summary, Alison Scott-Baumann



April 19, 2018
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