CASS presentation at Cambridge University Centre of Islamic Studies symposium on Anti-Muslim Hate Crime

The CASS ‘Hate Speech’ project team were invited on the 16th of June to present some of our findings at a Symposium on Anti-Muslim Hate Crime held at the University of Cambridge Centre of Islamic Studies. The Symposium was organised by Julian Hargreaves, a Lancaster University Law School PhD student and Research Associate at the Cambridge Centre.

The symposium brought together academics, community experts and civil society leaders in a unique event that allowed the sharing of knowledge, experience and expertise on the subject from a wide range of perspectives.

The first session of the day focussed on the research approaches and findings from three UK academic centres. Stevie-Jade Hardy from the University of Leicester’s Hate Crime Project isolated and shared some of the project’s key findings on experiences and impacts of hate crime for Muslims in Leicester. Sussex University PhD student Harriet Fearn discussed the early observations she had made in her research on the impacts of hate crime against Muslims on the internet.

Representing CASS and Lancaster University Law School, Paul Iganski and I then delivered a presentation of our work conducted with Jonathan Culpeper examining Crown Prosecution Service files from cases of religiously aggravated offences. In our paper titled ‘A question of faith?’, Paul and I explored the boundaries of free speech, the roles of religious identity and religious beliefs in the alleged offences committed, and the commonalities in the circumstances and contexts which surround offences prosecuted as religiously aggravated.

After lunch, the experiences of representatives from three community organisations confronting hate crime in Britain were shared with those present. Alice Purves gave a compelling account of the challenges faced by the Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC). Jed Din, director of the Bradford Hate Crime Alliance then offered a personal account of the particular challenges of anti-Muslim hate crime and his own visions to develop community cohesion as a response. The session concluded with a presentation on anti-Muslim hate crime in Leicester from Jawaahir Daahir, CEO of the Somali Development Services.

The final session of the day, chaired by Paul Iganski, offered different approaches to documenting and responding to anti-Muslim hate crime. Shenaz Bunglawala, the head of research at MEND, shared insights and observations on the prevalence of anti-Muslim hate crime and attitudes to Muslims in Britain. The presentation included several of the key findings and observations from the research led by CASS director Tony McEnery on Representations of Islam in the British press. Those gathered then had the opportunity to hear from Hayyan Bhabha, the independent parliamentary researcher for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia, who shared the latest developments in the work of the APPG and illustrated some of the evidence received or collated by the APPG. The final paper of the day came from Vishal Vora, from SOAS, with a perspective on indirect discrimination towards British Muslim women as a consequence of declarations of ‘non marriage’ by the English family court.

participants

From left to right: Abe Sweiry, Julian Hargreaves and Paul Iganski

The symposium was a very successful event and Paul and I very much enjoyed contributing to the day. Thanks are due to Julian and to Louise Beazor for putting together a very interesting programme, bringing together a wide range of perspectives on an important social issue, and arranging a highly productive day for all in attendance.

New CASS Briefing now available — Hate Speech: Crime against Muslims

CASSbriefings-hatespeechHate Speech: Crime against Muslims. The notion of ‘hate crime’ might conjure up an image of premeditated violence perpetrated by a bigoted thug. But in reality, a majority of so-called ‘hate crimes’ are committed with little aforethought by very ordinary people in ordinary circumstances and involve a verbal assault rather than physical attack. This briefing provides the key research findings from the project as it provided important groundwork for a CASS research project launched in 2014 on The management of hateful invective by the courts.


New resources are being added regularly to the new CASS: Briefings tab above, so check back soon.

New CASS Partnership to Work on Mapping Online Far-Right Networks

Research staff from the ESRC-Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science (CASS), Lancaster University and the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), King’s College London begin 2015 by undertaking a joint research project which aims to map the networks in which UK-based far-right Twitter accounts operate.

The research team is Joseph Carter – Research Fellow at ICSR, Mark McGlashan – Senior Research Associate at CASS, and; Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens – Head of Research and Information at ICSR. The collaborative research partnership is facilitated by the VOX-Pol Researcher Exchange Programme and CASS, and aims to establish a long-term relationship between the centres and staff.

The partnership brings together complementary research interests that have been explored extensively at both research centres, namely behaviours associated with, amongst others,  extremist political ideologies, nationalism, and (cultural) racism. However, the ways in which these phenomena have been explored at both centres are widely different. The primary focus of the research done at CASS is on the (quantitative) linguistic aspects of, for example, anti-Muslim rhetoric, and explores these primarily through corpus linguistic methods. Whereas, the research at ICSR has centred on examining the political radicalisation with a wider methodological remit, which includes social network analysis, media analysis, and discourse analysis.

The partnership brings together these different research interests on a project which combines aspects of Corpus Linguistics with Social Network Analysis to give both qualitative and quantitative analyses of the online UK far-right as it exists on Twitter. The research will give an overall snapshot of the online behaviour of those who affiliate with the far-right in an online context with findings being channelled towards policy makers, academic and non-academic audiences and into further collaborative research.

New CASS Briefing now available — The EDL: moving right-wing populism online in the UK

CASSbriefings-EDLThe EDL: moving right-wing populism online in the UK. The English Defence League (EDL) is a far-right populist political movement and campaigns specifically on issues concerning the presence of Muslims and Islam in Western societies. This briefing from CASS presents the results of a corpus study on the online activities of the EDL and its supporters. The briefing shows that, although the hierarchy of the EDL claims to be specifically concerned with radical Islam, the discourse of supporters is less focussed and contains more explicit forms of Islamophobia.


New resources are being added regularly to the new CASS: Briefings tab above, so check back soon.

New CASS Briefing: Representations of Islam in the British press, 1998 – 2009


CASSbriefings-islamRepresentations of Islam in the British press, 1998 – 2009
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 Is the British press Islamophobic? How are Islam and Muslims typically written about? Have representations of Islam and Muslims changed over time, particularly since 9/11? Are some newspapers less ‘friendly’ towards Muslims than others? Read this CASS: Briefing of a large-scale corpus-based discourse analytical study to discover more.


New resources will be added regularly to the new CASS: Briefings tab above, so check back soon.

A criminologist’s introduction to AntConc and concordance analysis

My name is Julian Hargreaves (j.hargreaves2(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)lancaster.ac.uk) and I’m a newcomer to these parts: a non-linguist and an outsider. Okay, the last bit is a slight exaggeration. I’m a member of the CASS Challenge Panel (an advisory board within CASS) representing post-graduate students from disciplines other than linguistics. I’m also a PhD student at the Lancaster University Law School where my research employs a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods to study criminology, hate crime, British Muslim communities, and the concept of Islamophobia.

Recently, thanks to Professor Tony McEnery and the CASS team, I was introduced to some research tools for linguistics: a piece of software called AntConc and a research method known as concordance analysis. Before the linguistic experts amongst you start groaning, a quick health warning: I’m afraid what follows here may be of little use to those familiar with these basic tools. However, it is hoped that newcomers and non-linguists will be persuaded to approach, without anxiety, both the software and the research methods described below.

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Further explorations in ‘the Muslim world’

Doing a ten minute presentation is pretty tough – you have to be equally ruthless about what you leave out and what you include. But the benefits are potentially great – if you can present an idea well in ten minutes you are pretty sure that you will have your viewer’s attention. As anybody who has lectured knows, with longer talks, no matter how strong your delivery, attention starts to wander for some in the audience as the talk progresses! So when I had the opportunity to do a talk of 10-18 minutes for Lancaster TEDx, I immediately went for the option of 10 minutes. It was a nice challenge for me and I thought that the brevity of the talk would help me to get my message across. So I beavered away for a few weeks putting things in and taking things out, thinking about key messages and marshalling my data: if my TEDx talk looks spontaneous …. it was not. In fact I imagine few of them really are, in spite of them being presented in such a way as to make it appear that they are. A lot of work goes into them – and that is just from the speakers. The crew who organized and filmed the event at Lancaster worked amazingly hard as well.

So was it worth it? Well, I have had many kind notes since I did the talk thanking me for it. I have also had a fair number of views of my talk on-line and many, many more likes than dislikes. So for me the answer is an emphatic ‘yes’, it was worth it. Many thanks to all who have viewed and publicised my talk.

Reading the comments has been an interesting experience – many are appreciative. Yet some simply show that some of the argument was ignored or not picked up by the watcher – so a watcher asks if religious identity is important to athletic performance in response to a point I make about the failure of the UK press to report on Mo Farrah’s Muslim identity. Though I thought I made it clear that that identity is one Farrah himself says is central to his athletic achievements and hence, yes, it is relevant, it seems that perhaps my optimism that a ten minute talk would deal with attention span issues was misplaced! For some of these mistaken queries other commenters set the record straight, which is kind of them.

Of slightly more interest are some of the questions that get thrown up – I will consider three here. Firstly: what about the term the West? I was glad this was picked up by a viewer as we discuss that in the book that my talk is based upon (Baker, Gabrielatos and McEnery, 2012:131-132). As a self-referential term it does have a role to play in setting up the ‘us’ that is opposed to the ‘them’ of the Muslim world. Another viewer asks whether Muslim world is just a neutral term used to define a culturally homogeneous region. This is a dangerous argument. It takes us to the precipice of the very ‘us and them’ distinction I was discussing. It is dangerous precisely because it is simplistic in nature, as it implies an homogeneous and distinct other (there are non-Muslims who live in the so-called Muslim world, for example – the area referred to is not homogeneous in oh so many ways). It also misses the point – if this was a simply neutral referring expression perhaps the ‘us and them’ distinction would not be so powerful. The problem is it is a very powerful term for generating an ‘us and them’ distinction because it sets Muslims in opposition to non-Muslims in the language and, as noted, it homogenizes Muslims  – they are all the same and the reporting of the views of the Muslim world entrench this monolithic view also (see Baker, Gabrielatos and McEnery, 2012:130). Finally, the same viewer wonders why I did not talk about the change of meaning of words over time. The answer to that one is easy – sadly, as shown in the later part of the talk, the attitudes I was talking about have not changed over time, even though I would have been happy to say that they had if this was true. The viewer also uses the word ‘gay’ as an interesting example of change in meaning over time – well, that would have been another talk to give. A lot of nonsense is spoken about this world – it is usually presented as a word that had a simple, innocent, meaning until another, less innocent meaning came along and spoilt it, a view hilariously lampooned by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in this sketch:

However, this is not true – gay had far from innocent meanings in the past – a quick perusal of Jonathan Green’s excellent Chambers Slang Dictionary shows that. So yes, a discussion of word meaning change over time would have been interesting and debunking a few myths about the word gay would have been fun too – but that was not what my talk was about, so I shall leave the matter there. Maybe for a future TEDx? Who knows.

So – ten minute talks have their pluses and minuses. They are great for getting your message out and, by and large, I am happy with how my talk went. I found the experience of giving a TEDx talk a very positive one and many other people clearly enjoyed it also.  Best of all, it has made people think about and discuss their use of language, and that is something which always pleases me!

Watch my full TEDxLancasterU talk here:

TEDx Lancaster U: The Journey So Far

Tonight, Lancaster University is hosting a series of TEDx talks on the theme of ‘The Journey So Far’. Our own CASS Director Tony McEnery will be joining the dynamic and diverse group of speakers giving give short lectures relating this theme to their work in fields such as digital anthropology, design against crime, sustainable food production, fundraising and social enterprise,  and even magic.

Tony’s TEDx talk is entitled “Where is the ‘Muslim World’?” He will discuss the good, the bad and the ugly ways in which Muslims are talked about in the UK press. To do this he will look at over 200 years of newspaper reporting in the British press relating to Islam and Muslims. While such a study is vast in scope, he will show that only by using the latest computer technology to search through millions and millions of words we can start to understand the roots of modern British media attitudes to Muslims and Islam. As well as seeing what those attitudes are now, and where they came from, the study of the press shows, as though viewed through a distant mirror, the passage of Muslims into British Society, away from being an exotic, Oriental and sometimes dangerous group towards being part of British Society. But where are we on that journey? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

The event sold out almost immediately, but you are able to watch on live webstream by clicking visiting the event page on the TED website between 5pm and 10pm. Tony’s talk is scheduled to take place between 7:30-8:00pm.