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The following article is one of several pieces which are part of Policy Network’s ongoing project on immigration and integration supported by the Barrow Cadbury Fund.

In four weeks’ time, amid the pageantry of ceremonial Washington, the 45th president of the United States will be sworn into office. A man who won that office on, among many other horrors, a promise to ‘ban’ (albeit temporarily) Muslims from entering the US.

He may be rolling back on that offensive policy now the Oval Office looms in vision, but the point is telling. Fear of Islam remains real and potent across the west, even a decade and a half on from 9/11.

In Europe the ‘refugee crisis’ and a series of terror attacks over the past two years have flared tensions. Last night’s appalling incident in Berlin has already sparked a torrent of racist remarks on social media, following early reports that the driver may have been from Pakistan. It seems almost inevitable that public discourse will soon return to the sensitive topic of whether Islam is compatible with ‘western’ values.

In recent weeks Chancellor Merkel has joined the chorus of politicians floating support for a burqa ban, showing it is not just ‘populists’ focusing on the issue.

This week Policy Network’s contributors seek to go beyond simplistic rhetoric and policies, concluding it’s time to rethink the way we use terms such as ethnicity, identity, culture and race. Our contributors probe the integration debate – focusing on cases in Britain, France and Germany  – to consider the effectiveness of different responses to public concern. These range from policymaking to acts of symbolism and how politicians choose to react to fear.

These pieces are part of our ongoing project on immigration and integration supported by the Barrow Cadbury Fund and follow a successful recent seminar in London: ‘Inclusive integration: how can progressives promote social cohesion in divisive times?’, the audio of which is now available.

Policy Network and Barrow Cadbury Trust have launched a two year programme of investigation into ‘Understanding the Populist Signal’.  The project will explore the drivers of populism through an events programme and think pieces.


Two new essays on the Policy Network Political Observatory open the project.  The first by Michael McTernan and Claudia Chwalisz ‘The rise of the populists: threat or corrective to the political establishment? looks at the rise of populism across Europe as a symptom of the contemporary crisis of governance and democracy.  The second by Tim Bale ‘Picking up on populism; playing with fire, or putting out the flames? investigates the signals the rise of populism sends to the mainstream.


The launch event ‘Beating populists in populist times’ is on 6 February in London with sessions on ‘understanding the populist signal’ and ‘The power of cities and community-building in the fight against populism’.  Speakers include: Tim Bale, Queen Mary University of London; Ernst Hillebrand, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Berlin; Alexandra Jones, Centre for Cities; David Marquand, University of Oxford; Alison McGovern, Labour MP; Matthew Taylor, The RSA; Frank van Erkel, City Development Director, Amsterdam.