How have Muslims engaged in governance and how well do governance processes engage with diverse Muslim groups? These questions have been of political concern for a variety of reasons over the last two decades. They have been driven by a shifting equalities agenda that has increasingly addressed the experiences of religious and Muslim – as distinct from ethnic – groups, by increased recognition by government of the role of faith and faith groups across policy areas such as welfare delivery or urban regeneration, by shifts in integration and community cohesion policies, and more controversially by the security and counter-terrorism agenda. In relation to the latter, particularly under the New Labour government, the ‘Prevent’ strategy, government set out to engage and partner with Muslim groups to address the causes of violent political extremism. The reception and delivery of Prevent were highly contested, and varied widely at the local level.
A research team from the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship set out to examine how engagement through Prevent was conducted locally in Bristol and its implications. Funded within the ESRC programme Productive Margins: Regulating for Engagement, the research team worked with Muslim communities in Bristol, to explore Muslim participation in local democratic life, the impact of Prevent on local state-Muslim engagement and its legacies for Muslim participation in local governance following the withdrawal of Prevent funding by the Coalition government. The research report by Aleksandra Lewicki, Therese O’Toole and Tariq Modood: Building the Bridge: Muslim community engagement in Bristol (October 2014) sets out the findings from this research phase.
The next phase of the project was based on co-produced research between the research team and a steering group of Muslim women activists in Bristol that examined spaces and mechanisms for Muslim women’s effective engagement in decision-making. Beginning with a launch event in September 2014 on Inspiring Muslim Women, featuring presentations from Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Sughra Ahmed, Fahma Mohamed and Shagufta K, the project went on to hold a series of workshops on Productive Spaces for Muslim Women’s Engagement with Muslim women from across Bristol, which resulted in a policy brief on Enhancing Spaces for Muslim Women’s Engagement. The template for the workshops is available for use. If you are interested in holding a workshop based on this template , and would like to obtain the supporting role model resources (including film excerpts, role model cards and invitation templates), please get in touch with Dr. Aleksandra Lewicki (Aleksandra.Lewicki@bristol.ac.uk) or Dr. Therese O’Toole (Therese.OToole@bristol.ac.uk).