From Multiculturalism to Muscular Liberalism?
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From Multiculturalism to Muscular Liberalism? Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance Therese O’Toole Daniel Nilsson DeHanas Tariq Modood Stephen Jones Nasar Meer.

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From multiculturalism to muscular liberalism muslim participation in contemporary governance

From Multiculturalism to Muscular Liberalism?

Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance

Therese O’Toole Daniel Nilsson DeHanas Tariq Modood Stephen Jones Nasar Meer


Faith diversity and state engagement with muslims

Faith, Diversity and State Engagement with Muslims

David Cameron:

1) ‘People often say that politicians shouldn’t “do God”’… [but we do] King James Bible Speech, 12/2011

2) ‘We are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so’ King James Bible Speech, 12/2011

3) ‘We have allowed the weakening of our collective identity. Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives’ Munich speech, 2/2011

4) ‘We must make it impossible for extremists to succeed… we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism’ Munich Speech, 2/2011

A radical departure from New Labour?


Mpcg study

MPCG Study

  • Religion & Society large project: Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance (MPCG), based at Bristol University

  • Study of state engagement with Muslims from New Labour to the Coalition, based on:

    • National policy analysis, 1997-present

    • National interviews (40) with key policy actors

    • 3 local case studies in Birmingham, Leicester and Tower Hamlets

      • Local policy analysis

      • Local interviews (~60)

      • Participant observations


Faith under new labour failing to do god

Faith under New Labour: Failing to ‘Do God’?

  • ‘People often say that politicians shouldn’t “do God”… [but we do]’ –Cameron, King James Bible Speech, 12/2011

    • ‘We don’t do God’ Alastair Campbell/Tony Blair

    • ‘I have always been more interested in religion than politics’ Tony Blair, A Journey (2010)

    • Faith in Third Way governance (Dinham & Lowndes 2008)

    • Face to Face and Side by Side(2008) set out a blueprint for state engagement with faith groups


Faith under new labour failing to do god1

Faith under New Labour: Failing to ‘Do God’?

  • Focus on Islam was sometimes contested/confused:

  • ‘Muslim staff in one [govt] department wrote to HR saying they would like more taps for their prayer room and they got a letter back from the preventing extremism division because it was a Muslim issue’ Francis Davis, DCLG Advisor

  • Often argued that New Labour cast Muslims as ‘conditional citizens’ and ‘suspect communities’ (McGhee 2008; Pantazis & Pemberton 2009),

  • Engagement based on a limited repertoire of subject positions (moderate/good) (Birt 2006; Mamdani 2002)


  • Faith under new labour failing to do god2

    Faith under New Labour: Failing to ‘Do God’?

    • But, there was investment in faith & Muslim civil society:

      • MCB was, for a time, a major interlocutor with govt

      • Prevent, despite pitfalls, contributed to maturation of, Muslim civil society: sometimes an unintended outcome of local/Muslim agency in disrupting Prevent from below (Birt 2009), exercising‘practices of freedom’ (Tully 2002), or ‘claiming’ governance spaces (Cornwall and Coelho 2006)


    Faith under new labour failing to do god3

    Faith under New Labour: Failing to ‘Do God’?

    • Other key milestones of Muslim participation in governance under New Labour:

      • A religion question added to 2001 Census

      • state funding granted to Muslim, Sikh & Hindu faith schools

      • Single Equality Act 2010 provides the most robust legal protection against religious discrimination in Europe

    • In sum: New Labour ‘did God’ – though not always consistently and with internal divisions

      • Differing policy logics across govt depts (Swartz 2003)

      • Differing practices across governance (Griggs et al 2012)

      • Unintended outcomes to policy decisions (Newman 2005)


    Faith under the coalition a christian country

    Faith under the Coalition: ‘A Christian Country’?

    • We are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so’Cameron, King James Bible Speech, 12/2011

      • Signals a different approach to faith engagement

      • Labour meticulously balanced representatives from different faiths (Working Together 2004) for the appearance of multi-faith consensus

      • Labour tended to pluralise faith group access to funding and governance, even if its implicit interest was in Muslims


    Faith under the coalition a christian country1

    Faith under the Coalition: ‘A Christian Country’?

    • Coalition’s Near Neighbours programme is a key local-level Big Society initiative, channelling funding through the Church of England and CUF

    • Single-faith projects ineligible for funding

    • Muslim observers divided on Near Neighbours

      • ‘It’s a softer approach. Hopefully it will achieve the results that the Prevent agenda wanted to achieve but its more palatable.’ Ibrahim Mogra (Leicester)

      • ‘Do you think Muslim communities know which parish they’re part of? .…To me it’s undemocratic.’ Abdul-Rehman Malik (Tower Hamlets)

    • Role of the CofE: core, ‘broker’ or agent for a multi-faith establishment?


    Faith under the coalition a christian country2

    Faith under the Coalition: ‘A Christian Country’?

    • So far, Coalition has been clearer than New Labour in presenting a consistent view on faith, although emphasising Christian heritage

      • Baroness Warsi’s ‘Christian country’ remarks (‘Militant secularisation’ speech, 2/2012)

      • Eric Pickles’ defence of Christian council prayers

      • Coalition funding to faith groups is channelled through the Church via Near Neighbours (even if key Church leaders do not see it as the government does)

    • Bolder, yes. But fit for today’s Britain?


    New labour on multiculturalism

    New Labour on Multiculturalism

    • ‘We have allowed the weakening of our collective identity. Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives’ Cameron, Munich Speech, 2/2011

    • Multiculturalism was important to New Labour, but…

    • there was also a similar emphasis on ‘shared values’ and collective identity to that of the Coalition

    • ‘Standing up for Britain means fighting for British values…. [including] fair play, rights and responsibilities….’ Tony Blair: Britain Speech, 3/2000

    • Labour undertook a ‘civic re-balancing’ of multiculturalism(Meer and Modood 2009)


    New labour s passive tolerance

    New Labour’s ‘Passive Tolerance’?

    • ‘We must make it impossible for extremists to succeed… we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism’ ’ Cameron, Munich Speech, 2/2011

    • There was tolerance & pragmatism in New Labour’s Muslim engagement in many cases (e.g., Muslim Contact Unit / relationship with MCB)

    • … and a more ‘muscular’ approach in other cases: The ‘rebalancing of our relationship with Muslim organisations [will focus on those] that are taking a proactive leadership role in tackling extremism and defending our shared values.’Ruth Kelly: Speech, 10/2006


    New labour s passive tolerance1

    New Labour’s ‘Passive Tolerance’?

    • New Labour’s tolerance not ‘passive’; but perhaps ‘ambivalent’ or inconsistent due to internal disagreements and different policy logics across govt depts

  • ‘There was confusion… about the extent to which we should, in any sense, compromise with some of the forces which have deep, deep, deep roots and a lack of appreciation of the nature of our democratic society… I do think it was an issue where we didn’t have a coherence.’ Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary

  • ‘I found in the CLG, after some very rigorous examinations with officials, that there was no understood model of how Prevent was meant to work’ John Denham, MP


  • From multiculturalism to muscular liberalism muslim participation in contemporary governance

    A Coalition Era of ‘Muscular Liberalism’?

    • In practice, Muscular Liberalism seems to signal four changes:

      • Tighter boundaries around ‘British values’

      • Less faith sector funding

      • Reliance on ‘nudges’ for integration

      • Recognition of individuals, not groups


    A coalition era of muscular liberalism

    A Coalition Era of ‘Muscular Liberalism’?

    Tighter boundaries around British values

    • To be partners for the new Prevent Strategy, one must complete an extensive ‘British values’ form relating to patriotism, gender, foreign policy, etc

      Less faith sector funding

    • Much less funding is available to faith sector groups; Prevent or cohesion/ integration

      “How do we actually resist radicalisation without funding, without projects?” Local Prevent Coordinator, Tower Hamlets

    • Organisations must adapt or end their work


    A coalition era of muscular liberalism1

    A Coalition Era of ‘Muscular Liberalism’?

    Reliance on ‘Nudges’ for Integration

    • In a period of funding cuts, new integration strategy relies on Big Lunches, Near Neighbours, and small initiatives to ‘nudge’ better behaviour

      Recognition of individuals, not groups

    • Key philosophical shift to individuals

    • No formal engagement with the MCB, and no agreed Muslim representative bodies

    • ‘The Conservative model on engagement… is not organisations but individuals. So it’s a nice way to meet whoever you want.’ Muslim policy actor


    Unintended consequences

    Unintended consequences

    • Despite Cameron’s anti-multiculturalism stance, Big Society may enable it to flourish as faith and cultural groups take on key state functions

    • A boom in faith schools (over ¼ of free schools)

    • ‘unintentional multiculturalism’ (Modood 2012)

    • No funding means groups are less beholden to state (e.g. in local implementation of Prevent)


    From multiculturalism to muscular liberalism muslim participation in contemporary governance

    Concluding Thoughts

    • Coalition rhetoric masks many continuities

    • Yet there are key changes: 1) Christian heritage narrative, 2) less faith sector funding / eligibility

    • A clean break from multiculturalism? Unlikely.

    • Decentred governance  contingency, variation & unintended consequences

    • New Labour set up a scaffolding on which Muslim civil society developed; its strength once this is removed remains to be seen.


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