At the margins of Islam in Europe

Martin Sökefeld (Munich University)
Marzia Balzani (New York University, Abu Dhabi)
David Shankland
John Hume Lecture Theatre 5
Session slots:

Short abstract:

The workshop focuses on "marginal Muslim communities" in Europe; groups that are identified as Muslim by mainstream society yet rejected as "heterodox" by dominant Muslim groups. Papers are invited that enable a comparative discussion of such groups across Europe.

Long abstract:

In the wake of the "war against terror" and the rise of "homeland security" Muslim migrants and their offspring have come under increasing scrutiny in Europe. While there is a growing awareness that Islam is not a homogeneous religion, essentialising ideas and largely negative images of "Muslimness" prevail in mainstream discourse: the subordination of women, and fundamentalist conservatism. Many Muslims respond to this discourse with opposed but equally essentialising self-representations. This workshop focuses on "marginal" Muslim groups in Europe like the Alevis from Turkey or Pakistani Ahmadis which do not conform to either orthodoxy. Sandwiched between mainstream society and other Muslim communities, how do these groups cope with this double marginalisation? While they are often sweepingly identified with stereotypes about Islam by mainstream discourse, they are sometimes pressured to conform and convert by dominant Muslim migrant groups. What strategies of self-representation and identification do they develop? How do they respond to demands to declare themselves? What discourses on Islam are at stake? How do strategies vary according to different frameworks of incorporation of religious difference or differing policies of "integration" in different European countries? Going beyond Islam, even migrants like Yezidis from Iraq or Syrian Christians from Turkey can be included because, coming from Muslim countries, they are often identified as Muslims in everyday interaction and discourse. They, too, are required to explain themselves and to relate to the mainstream discourse on Islam. The workshop invites papers which seek to enable a comparative discussion of such "marginal Muslims" in Europe.