University to host anti-terror laws seminar

Community leaders, practitioners, race equality experts and academics are to come together at the University of Birmingham to explore how communities respond to anti-terror legislation and its social consequences.

Of particularly interest will be whether the experience of Irish people living in the UK in the Seventies and Eighties may be relevant for Muslim communities here today.

How Irish people in Birmingham and elsewhere reacted to the anti-terrorism backlash at the height of the IRA's activities may have interesting parallels for Muslim communities now, say organisers.

The day-long seminar entitled: Anti-Terrorism Laws: the Experience of the Irish and Muslim Communities in the UK will take place at the European Research Institute on the university's Edgbaston campus on April 21.

The event is jointly organised by the Commission for Racial Equality Safe Communities Initiative and the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture based in the university’s School of Social Sciences.

Keynote speakers include Sean Hutton, Federation of Irish Societies, Paddy Hillyard, Professor in Sociology at Queen’s University, Belfast, Azad Ali, chair of the Muslim Safety Forum and Yayha Birt, of the Islamic Foundation.

There will also be workshop sessions on community responses to terrorism and associated legislation. It is anticipated that the sessions will help shape future public policy.

Nick Johnson, Director of Policy and Public Sector, Commission For Racial Equality said: “We look forward to holding this debate, as it has been recognised that certain communities feel more vulnerable then others in light of UK responses to global events. We need to learn from these groups, how efforts to protect individuals can have an adverse impact and exactly how the right changes can be implemented.”

Joint organiser Dr Tahir Abbas, Director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture and author of Muslim Britain, said he hoped the event would encourage a lively and stimulating debate.

"Given the contemporary focus, we feel there are some interesting parallels between what the Irish people experienced during the 1970s and what Muslim communities have been experiencing recently and we are very keen to try to develop this thinking into research ideas. We thought it was good to make this a joint approach with the Commission for Racial Equality as we have the same message."

He added: "In Birmingham we have a strong history of Irish communities and we felt it was important for Birmingham's experience to be put into the national picture. We are bringing together people who are already interested in anti-terrorism measures, including community leaders and race equality workers. We are asking what we can learn from the Irish experience and what is special about events and situations today. I am sure there will be plenty of interesting opinions expressed."

* Anti-Terrorism Laws: The Experiences of the Irish and Muslim Communities in the UK, European Research Institute, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, Friday April 21 from 10.30am-4pm.

For more information, please contact the Press Office, University of Birmingham, 0121 415 8134.

Notes to editors:

* Members of the media wishing to attend the above event should contact the Press Office, University of Birmingham, 0121 415 8134.

* Dr Tahir Abbas is a senior lecturer and director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture at the University of Birmingham's School of Social Sciences. His research areas include: Education of British South Asians, Ethno-Religious Identities of British Muslims and Islam in Britain, Economic and Social History of Ethnic Relations in Britain, Entrepreneurialism, the Judiciary and the Criminal Justice System, and theories of 'Race', Ethnicity and Multiculturalism.

* The European Research Institute is home to more than 50 leading academics and works with scholars throughout Europe, from its westernmost reaches to Ukraine and Russia in the East.

* The Safe Communities Initiative was set up by the CRE in 2003 to respond to the need to provide information and advice on promoting good community relations, and to help to prevent and resolve disputes or tensions as early as possible.