Comparing the Experience of German, Irish and Muslim Communities in Britain

Thinking of community conjures up images and feelings of sharing, of warmth and belonging. Community provides us with security and identity: invariably community is held to be a positive resource.

For the past decade however scholars from a number of disciplines have been grappling with the concept, and experience of belonging, to a ‘suspect community’. The term was originally coined by Paddy Hillyard and had a certain catch phrase utility to describe the categorisation and treatment of Irish people in Britain during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Excellent research has widely documented anti- Irish attitudes across the globe evidenced in government policies, the media and public behaviour. As well there has been a flourishing of stellar multidisciplinary studies devoted to the manifestations of Islamophobia in government, public institutions, police, security and justice sectors, the media and wider public culture. By comparison only a handful of works attempt to uncover anti- German attitudes in Britain.

This analysis will focus on summarising the attitudes and policies successive governments have demonstrated and implemented towards ‘suspect communities’; German communities in World War One and Two, Irish communities during ‘The Troubles’ and Muslim communities, post 9/11.

The political establishment has invariably regarded German, Irish and Muslim communities as suspect. Reactionary legislation has targeted German, Irish and Muslims communities. The experience of being a member of a suspect community has a widespread and intense impact upon all aspects of an individual’s life.

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