Professor Tariq Modood, Department of Sociology, University of Bristol
In his book, Multicultural Politics: Racism, Ethnicity and Muslims in Britain (Minnesota and Edinburgh University Presses), Tariq Modood addresses these and related questions and argues that what might seem as crises are in fact the enfolding of problems that mark both successes as well as new challenges in ways typical of social progress. He argues that the Atlantocentric ‘colour line’, while not likely to disappear, is being eclipsed in importance by another form of ‘difference’ on our side of the Atlantic. Even before ‘9/11’ it was becoming evident that Muslims, not blacks, were being perceived as ‘the Other’ most threatening to British society.
The argument of his book is that what begins as a narrative of racial exclusion and black-white division has been complicated by cultural racism, Islamophobia and an unexpected challenge to secular modernity. Moreover, the idea of ‘race’ as underclass has had to contend with the creation of middle class formations and high levels of participation in higher education among some non-white groups. The book expresses the optimism that meeting these challenges is not beyond our means. Just as it has been possible to extend anti-racism to multiculturalism so it is possible to enlarge our anti-racism to include anti-Islamophobia. The best way to do this however, is not to seek to efface ‘difference’ but to place it within a national identity, a redefined and inclusive Britishness; and to avoid a kneejerk radical secularism in favor of a pragmatic compromise between secularism and the political claims of religious identity.
Tariq Modood is Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy and the founding Director of the University Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship.