Yasmin Alibhai-Brown came to this country in 1972 from Uganda. She completed her M.Phil. in literature at Oxford in 1975. She is a journalist who has written for The Guardian, Observer, The New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, The Evening Standard, The Mail and other newspapers and was a regular columnist on The Independent for eighteen years. She now writes a weekly column for the International Business Times and continues to write for the i newspaper, the Mail and other papers. In 2016 she won Columnist of the Year Broadsheet at the Press Awards.
She is also a radio and television broadcaster and author of several books. Her book, No Place Like Home, well received by critics, was an autobiographical account of a twice removed immigrant. From 1996 to 2001 she was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research which published True Colours on the role of government on racial attitudes. Tony Blair launched the book in March 1999. For eight years she was a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Centre. In 2000 she published, Who Do We Think We Are? which went on to be published in the US too, an acclaimed book on the state of the British nation. Andrew Marr and Sir Bernard Crick among other reviewers found the book exceptionally wise and challenging. After Multiculturalism, a pamphlet re-assessing the multicultural ideology in Britain was the first critical examination by a social democrat of a settled and now damaging orthodoxy. She is a well-known public speaker in Britain, other European countries, North America and Asian nations. In 2001 came the publication of Mixed Feelings, a book on mixed race Britons which was described as a seminal work by several reviewers and commentators. She was a Vice President of the United Nations Association, UK and a special ambassador for the Samaritans. She was also the President of the Institute of Family Therapy until 2014. Yasmin is currently writing a book defending political correctness. She is married and has a son and daughter.
In 1999 she was awarded an honourary doctorate by the Open University for her services to social justice. In 2001 she was appointed an MBE for services to journalism in the new year’s honours list. In July 2003 Liverpool John Moore’s University made her an Honorary Fellow. In 2003 she returned her MBE as a protest against the new empire in Iraq and a growing republicanism. In September 2004, she was awarded an honorary degree by the Oxford Brookes University. In 2008, she was appointed visiting professor at Cardiff University School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. Since 2013, she has been a part-time professor at Middlesex University.
In April 2004, her film on Islam for Channel 4 won an award and in May 2004, she received the EMMA award for best print journalist for her columns in the Independent. In September 2004, a collection of her journalistic writings, Some of My Best Friends Are… was published in 2005. Since that year, she has been seen on stage in her one woman show, commissioned and directed by the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of their new work festival. She has been voted the tenth most influential black/Asian woman in the country in a poll and in another she was among the most powerful Asian media professionals in the UK.
She currently edits a series of books titled Provocations for Biteback. These are short, well-argued polemic hardbacks which are intended to make people question their views and group assumptions. She wrote Refusing the Veil as part of this series. Her latest book, Exotic England, reveals an unseen England, infatuated with the east and the ‘other’. It was praised by most reviewers who thought it fresh and groundbreaking. But not one Mr Harry Mount who was really very rude about it in the Telegraph.
She is part-time Professor of Journalism at Middlesex University.
- BBC ASIA Award for achievement in writing 1999
- Commission for Racial Equality special award for outstanding contribution to journalism 2000
- EMMA Media Personality of the Year 2000
- Windrush Outstanding Merit award 2000
- Final shortlist for the Rio Tinto prize for journalism 2001
- GG2 Leadership and Diversity award Media Personality of the Year 2001
- George Orwell Prize for political journalism 2002
- EMMA award for journalism 2004
- Columnist of the Year, Society of Editors Press Awards, Broadsheet 2016/17
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown can be depended on to be disloyal to blind interest groups and patriotism. Don’t expect her to deliver any given line- she is a feminist who furiously criticises some forms of feminism, an anti-racist who will always expose black and Asian hypocrisies and oppression, a Muslim calling for reformation, a British citizen who battles for real equality for immigrants and their children. On the 10th of September, 2001, the day before the Al-Queda attacks in the US, she wrote a column calling for international action against the Taliban. The day after she criticised the US for its hubris. Why does she irritate so much? is the refrain. She has an international readership of millions, fans and enemies. From Cristina Odone to Richard Littlejohn, there are those who want to bring down this uppity brown. The list of people who have previously been offended by her words include Prince Charles, Cherie Blair, Bruce Anderson, Melanie Phillips Boris Johnson, Rod Liddle, David Blunkett and his erstwhile lover Kimberley Quinn, Keith Vaz, The Board of Jewish Deputies (she believes Israel gives Jewish people a sense of place and security but she is a passionate defender of Palestinian rights) The Muslim Council of Britain, Ken Livingstone, Dianne Abbot, the National Black Alliance and many others. Then there are the mullahs and Muslim apologists who want to go further.
She is a proud Londoner, a socialist, feminist and lifelong promoter of equality and human rights. Born in Africa, with ancestral links to undivided India ( that is before it became India and Pakistan), a born cosmopolitan and activist.
She writes what she believes as honestly as possible. Her writings always mix the intensely personal with the political. The press award citation recognized she a unique style, get to the heart of subjects, provokes, delights some, annoys some. She changes her mind. Her views are unpredictable except on a few issues where she has remained steadfast – immigration most of all. Today the centre left and right have gathered forces to poison the waters even more for asylum seekers and migrants. For the descendants of immigrants, the battle for rights has taken on a new, bloody urgency.
Loyalty is much in demand in the world today. It is an insistent, tyrannical stipulation calling on people to give an absolute, unquestioned approval to this group or that. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown feels no such unconditional loyalty to family, ‘community’, faith, nation, political party, culture or continent. Yet there is a menacing mood growing where one is denounced (sometimes condemned to death) for so-called transgressions and betrayals. On a number of Question Time programmes, she has raised the temperature ( you don’t do that on such an establishment programme) and paid a high price for the insolence. At her funeral she hopes they will play these excerpts and an interview with Norman Tebbit on the Today Programme when he wouldn’t accept she could possibly claim to be truly British.