British Values, Islam, East Anglia: Some findings and an invitation

Watch a trailer for, and find out about, UEA’s AHRC-funded project on British [Muslim] Values.

Over the last year or so, Eylem Atakav, Lee Marsden and I have been working on an AHRC-funded project titled: British [Muslim] Values: Conflict or Convergence. The aim of the project is to explore (i) what ‘British values’ means to various Muslim individuals living within East Anglia; and, (ii) how Muslims in the region feel when they hear the term ‘British values’ in media or political debate, and so forth. To get at these questions, we’ve been working with members of different Muslim communities in the region, who have been making their own short films on these and related questions.

Although we are still in the very early stages of analysing these films, a number of interesting themes have already begun to surface. In the first instance, it appears that the meaning of ‘British values’ is elusive to many Muslims living in the region. The term is not an easy one to pin down, and very few of the people who appear in these films are able precisely to state what it means. Second, there also appears to be a scepticism about the usage of the term ‘British values’ by governments and other actors. As one of the interviewees in one of the project’s films put it, very powerfully, the term is frequently employed as ‘a warning’; one that is targeted at Muslim communities in particular, especially in the aftermath of violent or traumatic events. A third theme, worth mentioning briefly, is that there is a compatibility between British values and those values associated with Islam – despite the former’s ambiguity and slipperiness. There is, put otherwise, no contradiction between these two paradigms, even if the former cannot be precisely pinned down. Although this position might seem incongruous, there are, of course, reasons why one might be prepared to bracket concerns about elusiveness when identifying with – or being seen to identify with – a particular value system.

These observations, as noted above, are very provisional and generalise a little. To find out what you think about our films, why not come along to our screening and discussion event which will take place at the Forum in Norwich, from 7pm-8.30pm on 31 October 2017. All are welcome to this free event, and we hope to further explore themes such as those mentioned above. In the meantime, you can watch a trailer for one of our films – Alif. Lam. Mim.:

and please do feel free to get in touch with us via our project website or on twitter @MuslimValuesUEA.

Lee Jarvis, Professor of International Politics, University of East Anglia

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