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The Securitisation of Muslims in Britain


In the twenty years since its landmark report on Islamophobia, the Runnymede Trust noted that Muslims have become “a greater focus of policymakers in the UK and around the world, but framed largely in terms of terrorism or as a civilisation threat. The framing of Muslims is, of course, centuries old, but has re-emerged in new and toxic ways”.

The securitisation of Muslims is a pressing issue nationally in the UK and globally. Nation-states use the language and practices of counterterrorism in the Global North and South to justify their continued repression of marginalised groups. This is a crucial point that demonstrates how widespread counterterrorism practices are and how they change how Muslims are conceptualised.

In the UK, exceptionalism has become the norm, as the flagship counter-extremism programme known as the Prevent Duty is now a statutory requirement in public sectors. From schools to GP surgeries to the intimate space of the therapy session, frontline workers are now trained to report individuals they deem vulnerable to extremism. Trust erodes in these spaces, and fear of what you may say or how you present yourself overshadows experiences.

In this project, we consider how the fear of Prevent and counterterrorism measures, in general, is shaping Muslim identity. We focus on schools, healthcare sectors, prisons and homes and locate how Islamophobia penetrates these spaces primarily due to counterterrorism measures and the fear of the Muslim ‘Other’.

The Need 

There is a need to illustrate how Muslim identity is shaped as a response to counterterrorism measures. From the fear of speaking out to being suspected of terrorism or extremism, Muslim professionals, prisoners and parents are tarnished by the label of terrorism and the suspicion associated with it. By showing how this stigmatisation is experienced in both spheres of life, we demonstrate just how pervasive securitisation can be. The chapters in this project will look at how counterextremism legislation such as the Prevent Duty is a source of tension for Muslim professionals working in frontline organisations and how Muslim parents and prisoners experience it. We want to begin a conversation on how pervasive securitisation can be and how it shapes the identities of those racialised as Muslim, regardless of whether they have been referred to a counterterrorism programme or charged with a terrorism offence.

What We Did 

This project is based on research conducted by Dr Shereen Fernandez (schools and home), Dr Tarek Younis (healthcare) and Maslaha (prisoners). This project is an audio and visual experience based on extensive research from 2017 and onwards. An illustration and an audio clip accompany each chapter to illustrate how Muslim identity in Britain is being securitised.


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