Arzu: It’s difficult to remember when exactly I met Ian, or when and how he started collaborating with or asking me and or IHRC to collaborate on work. I think it must be plus or minus a decade ago, but Ian was such a person that it felt as though maybe I had known him a lifetime.
It was across this decade of work that I would find out – just in passing – that Ian had been involved in so many campaigns over the years. He did not just sit in ivory towers, or hide behind bureaucracy and policy papers (Katy Sian, below, recounts in detail his career and his campaigns).
Unlike many others working in the field, Ian – himself and accomplished and trailblazing academic – let those who were the victims of racism, be it Islamophobia or any other form – speak at the forefront. He was unafraid of controversies provoked especially in recent years by the rising right wing in the mainstream, regarding working with Muslim organisations. He supported IHRC’s DHMIR project by using its findings, particularly those in Environment of Hate: The New Normal for Muslims in the UK, and France and the Hated Society as part of the basis for the Counter-Islamophobia Toolkit Project, which looked at Islamophobia across eight EU nation states and how to tackle it.
When said project came under fire from Zionists berating those involved for working with the pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist IHRC, Ian remained supportive in every way possible of the collaboration. Many others have not been so courageous and frankly unfazed.
It is perhaps that aspect of his character that we admire and miss the most. We can research, write about and recommend ways of defeating racism endlessly, but facing it head on in your own arena, perhaps counts the most.
To God we belong and unto God we return.
Katy: Ian Law was a great mentor, friend, and colleague. He spent his life dedicated to anti racism, and before joining academia he worked in several public sector posts, including as Director of the Race Equality Unit in the Housing Department, Leeds City Council; Inner City Task Force Coordinator for Chapeltown and Harehills; and Director of Equality Services in Adult and Further Education.
He continued to work closely with anti-racist organisations throughout his academic career at the University of Leeds. Ian founded the Centre for Racism and Ethnicity Studies and shaped the teaching and learning agenda in the school of sociology and social policy, which continues to instil anti-racism and equality across its curriculum.
Ian had a prolific research career and published widely. With over 10 books his work focused on a critical, and accessible, understanding of racism in different national and international contexts. He also examined racism in university settings which led to the development of the ‘Building the Antiracist University’ toolkit. This was a significant intervention that helped managers in Higher Education to develop organisational responses to racial and ethnic diversity on campus.
Ian’s body of work comprises of debates on anti-Chinese racism, anti-Roma racism, Islamophobia, critical race studies, global racisms, decolonisation, and post racial politics.
Ian was a genuine public sociologist, he once told me that fighting for social change was what really drove him, it was therefore important that his work was not detached from the ‘real world.’
Beyond academia Ian also had a great love for the outdoors and was particularly passionate about hiking. Genuine, inspirational and selfless, Ian touched the lives of so many and will be sorely missed.
I am lucky have so many fond memories of Ian. He was supportive, kind and generous, teaching me the importance of patience, positivity and perseverance. He leaves behind a rich legacy of research, teaching and activism.
His optimism, hope and message for the future of anti-racist politics should always be remembered, in his own words: “Despite many dilemmas, capitulations and reversals in the twentieth century, anti-racism has remained a strong and potent social force and this is almost certain to continue” (2010).