n their pathbreaking report published in 1997, Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, Runnymede examined the growth, features and consequences of anti-Muslim racism in Britain. The report warned then about the dangers of ‘closed’ views of Islam and Muslims, and pressured for a more ‘open’ perspective and dialogue, not only as a way of countering anti-Muslim racism but as a necessity ‘for the well-being of society as a whole’. Sixteen years on, it seems that the challenge remains as vital today as it did then – perhaps even more so.
The past two decades have seen an explosion of interest in Muslim communities in Britain and Europe. Migration and demographic change have contributed to a growing Muslim presence Terror and the resurgence of mainstream rightwing and Far Right political parties across Europe has fed heated discussions around the so-called ‘clash of civilizations’, the borders and identity of ‘Fortress Europe’ and the possibilities and limits of citizenship.
In the wake of the 2001 ‘riots’ and the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 and 7 Britain has experienced an intense political, media and policy scrutiny of British Muslims. These three events have triggered a two-fold approach to ‘managing’ Muslims – with a focus on securitization and migration control at the borders, and, internally, on issues of integration, cohesion and citizenship. Such policies have impacted on all dimensions of Muslim life, from travel ‘back home’ to the intimacies of marriage and family formation, from schools to prisons, from political protest to religious practice, from internet usage to stop and search, from friendships to mode of dress.