The politics of voluntary and involuntary identities: are Muslims in Britain an ethnic, racial or religious minority?

Nasar Meer

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    57 Citations (Scopus)


    The denial that racism operates against Muslims qua Muslims has permeated public and media discourse of late. Intellectuals, commentators and legislators from across the political spectrum have explicitly rationalized this position by distinguishing involuntary racial identities from voluntary religious identities. Meer explores the nature of Muslim identity vis - vis the involuntary and voluntary dichotomy before examining the consequences of recognizing some 'racial' identities in anti-discrimination formulas while ignoring others. This is followed by a short case study of some of the 'commonsense' arguments about race and religion that surrounded the proposed incitement to religious hatred legislation in Britain. The findings suggest that Muslims in Britain are disadvantaged by the operation of a 'normative grammar' of race that materially (in terms of legal instruments) and discursively (in terms of public and media comment) treats their racialization with less seriousness than it does that of other minorities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)61-81
    Number of pages21
    JournalPatterns of Prejudice
    Issue number1
    Early online date28 Jan 2008
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2008


    • anti-discrimination legislation
    • anti-Muslim prejudice
    • discrimination
    • ethnicity
    • Islam
    • Islamophobia
    • Muslims
    • race
    • Racial and Religious Hatred Act
    • racialization
    • religion

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