THE ROAD TRAVELLED
Earlier this month the Runnymede Trust launched a new report, Islamophobia: Still a challenge for us all, to mark the 20th anniversary of the publication of the landmark 1997 report, Islamophobia; A challenge for us all. The significance of the original Report is hard to over-estimate. While it is the case that it did not coin the term Islamophobia, it certainly gave it legs. And while it is also true that the report did not end Islamophobia, it did indict it.
The 1997 report was the first comprehensive combined survey and policy intervention on an increasingly prominent phenomenon and against the context of heightened global problematisation of Muslims as Muslims. This is worth remembering for two reasons. Firstly, whatever its final form as a document, the consultative nature of the work which fed into its pages generated a momentum and a sense of stake-holding important to its reception and impact. Whether adopted as leverage or contested in whole or in part, the report and the momentum of its discussion produced Muslim agency over Muslim agendas. The publication of the report propelled Islamophobia into public consciousness. It shaped the national and global conversation, even if much of that conversation was only to contest the vocabulary that the report sought to establish. Second, because it is worth being reminded that already in 1997 the report was a response to diverse interrelated historical shifts, both local and transnational: the post third worldist and post-67 global resurgence of Muslims signified by the Revolt of Islam; the increasing debasement of the grand narratives of modernisation come-secularisation in the social sciences; cumulative postcolonial and post-cold war challenges to the Eurocentric world order; the identification and ascriptive reclassification of ethnically marked and immigrant populations as Muslim, and concomitant mobilisations over the way in which existing race-relations based anti-discrimination legislation afforded them only uneven and inadequate protection, recourse, and redress as Muslims. This isn’t just about recasting a twenty year view into a longer genealogy. Against presentist fixation on framing the Muslim Question in the horizon of 9/11, it bears remembering that the report was published four years before George W. Bush declared the ‘war on terror’, and that in some ways this never-ending war was as much a reflection of Islamophobia as it was its intensification.
The 2017 report does not repeat the impact of the original report; perhaps never could. In any case, it is a very different document. The 1997 report was the work of a commission; the present report is an edited collection. It is based neither on community consultation, nor on new research and evidence into the policy areas it covers, but rather on commissioned chapters by academics summarising their research in different registers. Each chapter, as their bibliographical references mostly attest, speaks in an individual voice, and the volume makes little effort to engage let alone convey or build upon the mounting and increasingly diverse body of academic scholarship on Islamophobia produced across the world, including in two specialist journals, and numerous reports. Even its most significant departure from the 1997 report, that of defining Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism, is eroded by this lack of engagement. There is something to be said for an edited collection of single-theme focused chapters, but the absence of connection and engagement across the chapters is problematic.
FULL ARTICLE FROM CRITICAL MUSLIMS STUDY (UK)