EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Muslim diaspora, Euro-Islam and the idea of the secular

Location Wills 5.68
Date and Start Time 19 Sep, 2006 at 11:30


Gabriele Marranci (University of Western Sydney (UWS), Australia) email
Giuseppe Sacco (University of Rome, Luiss) email
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Short Abstract

The panel will focus on the understanding of, and the relationship that Muslims in Europe have with, the concept of the secular, and how this affects the development of a Euro-Islam.

Long Abstract

One of the most controversial debates that has characterised the recent discussion on the European Constitution focused on the role that Christianity has to play in it. The majority of European politicians rejected the suggestion on the basis that politically Europe is a secular entity. Indeed, secularism has marked Europe for centuries. Islam is today the second religion in Europe, and the increasing presence of second generations has brought some scholars, as well as Muslims intellectuals, to advocate a Euro-Islam. One of the principle features of Euro-Islam is the acceptance of the secular division between Church and State. There is no doubt that Muslims, both Europe-born and migrant, have formed their ideas on the concept of the secular, which they have expressed through religious and political views. Indeed, the relationship between religion and everyday life is still a central issue in the lives of millions of European Muslims. This panel will try to discuss how Muslims in different contexts debate, criticise, reformulate, rethink or reject the concept of the secular. So, some questions may arise: Have European Muslims formed their own idea of the secular? Do they reject both the concept of secular as well as secularism? Do they perceive Europe as a secular place? Do Muslims and non-Muslims differ in their conceptualisations of the secular? How has the idea of the secular, or its rejection, affected European Muslims' understanding of Islam? Papers exploring these as well as other questions in the different contexts of Muslim life in Europe are welcomed.


From the label to ideology: secular/secularism, Muslim identities, Jahiliyya and the ideology of justice

Author: Gabriele Marranci (University of Western Sydney (UWS), Australia)  email
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Long Abstract

Starting from the simple, but often overlooked, observation that secular and secularism are labels which may express different, if not contradictory, ideologies this paper explores the complex dynamics of the discussion surrounding secularism and Islam in Europe. This will be achieved by analysing how my Muslim respondents have interpreted the concepts of secular and secularism through what I have called an ideology of justice.

Secularism as a problem for Muslims living in Europe

Author: Göran Larsson (Göteborg University)  email
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Long Abstract

Although the large majority of Muslims living in Europe have accepted the secular foundation of the society it is clear that some Muslims still have problems with secularism. My paper focus on how international and global Muslim theologians such as Tariq Ramadan and Yusuf al-Qaradawi debate and view secularism and its impact on Muslims living in the West. To be able to understand the development of Muslim discourses in Europe (as well as in the United States) it is essential to analyse and study international and transnational networks that brings Muslims together (this includes both migration processes, globalisation and the impact of new information and communication technologies). For this paper I have mainly used fatwas (both published on the Internet and printed in books and pamphlets) that are discussing and debating how Muslim theologians are perceiving and debating the secular foundation of Europe and the United States. Both the opinions of Tariq Ramadan and Yusuf al-Qaradawi seem to have an important impact on how Muslims formulate and perceive their situation in the West.

Muslims, religious equality and secularism

Author: Tariq Modood (Bristol University)  email
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Long Abstract

There is a widespread perception that Muslims are making politically exceptional, culturally unreasonable or theologically alien demands upon European states. My contention is that the logic of Muslim claims-making is European and contemporary. The case of Britain is illustrative. The relation between Muslims and the wider British society and British state has to be seen in terms of a development and rising agendas of racial equality and multiculturalism. Muslims, indeed, have become central to these agendas even while they have contested important aspects of it - especially, the primacy of racial identities, narrow definitions of racism and equality and the secular bias of the discourse and policies of multiculturalism. While there are now emergent Muslim discourses of equality, of difference, and of, to use the title of the newsletter of the Muslim Council of Britain, 'the common good', they have to be understood as appropriations and modulations of contemporary discourses and initiatives whose provenance lie in anti-racism and feminism. While one result of this is to throw advocates of multiculturalism into theoretical and practical disarray, another is to stimulate accusations of cultural separatism and revive a discourse of 'integration'. While we should not ignore the critics of Muslim activism, we need to recognise that at least some of the latter is a politics of 'catching-up' with racial equality and feminism. In this way, religion in Britain is assuming a renewed political importance, as there is a growing understanding that the incorporation of Muslims has become the most important challenge of egalitarian multiculturalism. One consequence is that, after a long period of hegemony, political secularism can no longer be taken for granted but is having to answer its critics. This debate, however, has a tendency to become confrontational. For while Muslim demands can, with some adjustments, be accommodated within existing institutional structures and policies, as various Christian denominations and the Jews have been, they nevertheless are being opposed by a more radical, ideological discourse of secularism. The latter, consciously or unconsciously, makes accommodation more difficult and so should be resisted for the sake of democratic integration.

Islam: the exceptional case? Muslims, Europe and secularisation: an overview and assessment

Author: Marta Warat (Jagiellonian University)  email
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Long Abstract

The presence of Muslims in Europe has become a key political problem as well as a significant research challenge. My paper is a deliberate attempt to answer an important question regarding the struggles about Muslim's ability to maintain their religion and find their place in European secular countries.

Living in multicultural European societies makes Muslims turn to collective identity and think in terms of own race, ethnicity, religion, nation and gender. On the other hand, they cannot remain completely indifferent to increased contacts with other cultures or the processes of individualization, globalization and homogenization of the world. The situation of migration as well as of the settlement in Europe encouraged Muslims to rethink and analyze their customs and identifications. As a result, their way of living in general was put to the test and the question: 'Are my own conception of living, tradition and customs correct?' has arisen. The process of rediscovering what being Muslim means in European reality shows that Islam is still a dynamic force and that modernization does not have to lead to a decline of religion in the society and in the minds of individuals. I argue that one of the most important reasons why Islam resists to the secularization is its power to define social world as well as shape individual and collective identity. It is visible, amongst other, in: (1) availability and importance of Islam and umma - Muslims encounter Islam among family and friends, at school, on the street or by listening to the radio or surfing on the Internet; (2) revival of Islamic belief and life-style - the establishment of mosques, Islamic schools and organizations, political parties and other institutions as well as introducing Islamic law; (3) connection between religion and politics - the issue of Islamic fundamentalism, Rushdie and headscarf affair. The following paper is also an invitation to discuss the future of European Islam - the confrontation between Muslims and the concepts of state-minority relations.

The religious and secular in Muslim self-narratives

Author: Marjo Buitelaar (University of Groningen)  email
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Long Abstract

The proposed paper discusses how ‘Muslimhood’ features in the life-stories of women of Moroccan descent in the Netherlands. Since social identifications always include power-related ascriptions by selves and others, it will be asked how narrative identity is constructed through both religious and secular articulations of identity and alterity. Four self-narratives representing various identity strategies to accomodate Muslim descent in a secular environment will be discussed.

The paper aims to have both theoretical and methodological relevance by demonstrating that the concept of the ‘dialogical self’ (based on Bakhtin’s ‘dialogism’) is a particularly useful analytical tool to study identification processes by European citizens with a Muslim background. The dialogicial self refers to the temporary outcome of people’s responses to the different ways in which they are addressed on the basis of their positions in the various social and cultural fields in which they participate. Thus viewed, identity is developed by orchestrating the voices within the self that speak from these different positions, voices that are embedded in field-specific repertoires of practices, characters and discourses.

The rhetoric of secularism among first-generation Muslim migrants in Dundee

Author: Juan Caraballo-Resto (Aberdeen University)  email
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Long Abstract

Secularism is usually considered a central feature of Western democratic states. The idea that religion should not interfere in the public sphere is often accepted by many European governments as a means of ensuring social equality and tolerance. However, there is no single way to approach the concept. Instead, there is a multiplicity of perspectives; all depending on the surrounding cultural, historical, political, ethical, and religious contexts. Hence, in some environments where religion is still considered to be a social agent of great importance, secularism is viewed as destructive.

This is the case for the first generation Muslim migrants living in the Scottish city of Dundee. Their perception of secularism, far from being a constructive ideology, is that of a 'dehumanizing force'. In this paper, based on my recent fieldwork in Scotland, I shall expose how three different Muslim groups in Dundee have formed their own idea of secularism; how they believe their perception of the secular differs from the rest of non-Muslim Europe; and how has their rejection of secularism affected their understanding of Islam.

At a time when Muslims continue to establish multifaceted Islamic presences in Western Europe, it becomes fundamental to pay attention to how different communities structure the individual, religion and God. This work intends to expose the multiple negotiation processes that are inherent to this reality and how the everyday lives of both the European Muslims and non-Muslims, may be affected.

Muslim identities, criminology and criminal justice

Author: Basia Spalek  email
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Long Abstract

Within Criminology, work focusing upon minority groups' experiences of crime, victimisation and criminal justice has traditionally been carried out through the lens of race and/or ethnicity, so that faith identities in general, and Muslim identities in particular, have been either almost totally ignored or only briefly mentioned in passing. The focus upon race and ethnicity, as opposed to religious identity, is perhaps unsurprising when considering the broader context to criminological research, since the criminal justice sector in Britain has generally approached equality and diversity issues from a secular, race relations perspective which views minority groups according to their racial and/or ethnic identities rather than their faith identities. This can be seen most clearly in the monitoring procedures used by agencies of the criminal justice system to record suspects', offenders', victims' and employees' identities, whereby racial and/or ethnic (rather than faith) categories have traditionally been used, with only the Prison Service systematically recording prisoners' religious identities. As such, faith identities have rarely featured in the policies and practices implemented by agencies of the criminal justice system when trying to dismantle the inequalities and prejudices faced by minority groups.

The following paper has two broad aims. Firstly, to explore the subject discipline of Criminology as a discipline of modernity, with secular underpinnings, and to examine the difficulties that this poses if wanting to document Muslims' experiences of crime and victimisation. Secondly, this paper focuses upon the criminal justice system in Britain and highlights the difficulties of including notions of religiosity and spirituality into policies and practices. This article suggests that in the same way that work arising from, and being constituted within, the race equality and feminist movements has significantly shaped criminological discourse and criminal justice policy and practice, the emergence of Muslim political activism and the expression of Muslim identities potentially heralds new areas of research within Criminology and novel ways of carrying out research.

Muslimas. On 'headscarf affairs', Muslim female agency and the politics of nationbuilding

Author: Thijl Sunier (VU University, Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

Today, the Islamic veil is a powerful trope in the Western European liberal imaginary. The veil is situated at the symbolic centre of the perceived opposition between religion and women's emancipation. 'Headscarf affairs' is the rather degrading term denoting public controversies about Muslim women wearing the veil in public places such as schools, official buildings, courts etc. The direct cause for these controversies, it has been argued, is the ever growing number of Muslims demanding ever more religious rights. As a result of the general trend of reislamization among Muslims in Europe, Muslims women increasingly cover their heads. Other, less alarmist reactions, see 'headscarf affairs' as temporal cases of cultural adaptation of an immigrant population.

In the paper I will question these lines of reasoning. Although veiled women are not a novelty in Western-European, 'headscarf affairs' are a relatively recent phenomenon, and must be understood as the result of a continuous shift in the meaning and the discursive location of the veil. The fact that veils become the cause of 'affairs' has to do with these discursive shifts and with specific features of the public sphere. The actors involved in these 'affairs' challenge (or defend for that matter), or even disrupt the dominant historically emerged political discourse on religion and society. As such principal actors in these 'headscarf affairs' do not only reflect political culture, they must be considered as 'agents' that either defend and reproduce, or (more importantly) challenge, change, constitute, and elaborate political culture. Veiled women perform signs of difference and by doing so transgress the boundaries of established assumptions about the character of the nation, secularity and femininity. 'Headscarf affairs' are contentious episodes where notions of nationhood, public performativity, femininity and religiosity are negotiated, recombined, rearticulated, and reconstituted. It should thus be clear that donning the veil in such specific circumstances is as much a comment on the secular character of the public sphere, as to the established notions of Islamic religiosity.

The Muslim presence in Greece: an exploration of the issues

Author: Venetia Evergeti (Middlesex University)  email
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Long Abstract

Historically the Muslim presence in Europe goes beyond the arrival of immigrants from former empires. There are various estimates of the number of Muslims in Europe. Some scholars see Islam as the fastest growing religion in Europe (Hunter 2002) with an estimate of thirteen or more million Muslims stretching from Portugal to Scandinavian countries and from Greece to Ireland (Marechal, 2002). Placed within the context of Muslim communities in Europe this paper will focus on the case of Greece by examining two cases: the indigenous Muslim communities of Greek Thrace and the newly arriving Muslim immigrants. Based on earlier ethnographic material for the first case and further explorations of the current literature for the second, this paper aims to show that popular discourses on the Muslim presence in Greece are interlinked not with an idea of the 'secular' but most importantly with images of the 'other' and the national 'self'. It will explore the issues of identification, the politics of defining Muslim communities, social inclusion and exclusion and the provision of services for the different groups involved.