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Amina Yaqin, Peter Morey u.a. (Hrsg.): Muslims, Trust and Multiculturalism

Cover Amina Yaqin, Peter Morey, Asmaa Soliman (Hrsg.): Muslims, Trust and Multiculturalism. New Directions. Springer International Publishing AG (Cham/Heidelberg/New York/Dordrecht/London) 2018. 311 Seiten. ISBN 978-3-319-71308-3. D: 117,69 EUR, A: 98,99 EUR, CH: 99,00 sFr.
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Theme

The book “Muslims, Trust and Multiculturalism. New Directions” edited by Amina Yaqin, Peter Morey and Asmaa Soliman tackles sensitive and controversial subjects in contemporary Western Europe: the presence of Muslim communities within Western liberal democracies, the relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims, and multiculturalism. In almost each of the chapters of this collection, one finds numerous definitions of multiculturalism and trust, these topics being approached from different angles and disciplinary perspectives.

In the introduction Peter Morey proposes an own definition of trust seen as “an investment of belief in reciprocal socially oriented intentions and actions in another (or others)” (p. 3) as well as a broad definition of multiculturalism, which is “understood to reflect an acknowledgement of the fact that modern Western nations are composed of diverse ethnic and cultural groups” (p. 3).

The reader should be, however, aware that no single definition does justice to the complex picture of multiculturalism, while there are also country-related understandings of multiculturalism, e.g. multiculturalism in Germany differs from the understanding of multiculturalism in the United Kingdom (UK) or Australia. As most of the researchers contributing to this book come from the UK, they also address in their chapters the question of trust and multiculturalism in Britain. In addition the volume contains chapters which offer insights on the multiculturalist discourse and trust in other Western European countries, such as Denmark, Germany, and France.

The main message of the book is that singling out Muslims alienates them even further and trust can exist only if ‘the other‘ enjoys the same rights and courtesies as the rest, while trust requires sustained efforts on both sides (p. viii).

Editors

  • Amina Yaqin is Senior Lecturer in Urdu and Postcolonial Studies at SOAS University of London.
  • Peter Morey is Professor of 20th Century English literature at University of Birmingham.
  • Asmaa Soliman is Teaching Fellow at the University College of London and Visiting Fellow at the LSE European Institute. [1]

Origins of the book

This edited volume is the result of a larger research project and of the conference “Muslims, Trust and Multiculturalism. New Directions”, which took place at SOAS University of London in 2013.

Structure of the book

The book consists of four main parts:

  1. Part I “Scrutinising and Securitising Muslims” contains three chapters examining the figure of the crypto-Islamist as manifestation of a racist imaginary, the hermeneutics of suspicion on British campuses, and the symbolic meaning of a visual representation of a Muslim woman wearing the Union Jack hijab on the front cover of “The Sun”.
  2. Part II “Islamophobia and Racism” contains three chapters which analyse the emergence of Muslim consciousness in Europe, the anti-Muslim discourse in the aftermath of the “Charlie Hebdo” attacks, and the relationship between trust, transparency, and multiculturalism in Denmark.
  3. Part III “Gender, Multiculturalism and the Limits of Trust” includes two chapters which discuss two literary works: Monica Ali’s “Brick Lane” and Ali Eteraz’s “Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan”.
  4. Part IV “Muslim Minorities and the Discourse of Liberal Secularism” contains three chapters and a short afterword written by Tariq Modood, a well-known professor of sociology, politics and public policy. The chapters from the last part of the book explore the deployment of queerness in the movie “My beautiful Laundrette” (1985), the presence of Muslims in Germany, and the case of the Ahmadi Muslims in the UK as a minority within minority.

Part I

Chapter “The Trace of the Cryptic in Islamophobia, Antisemitism, and Anticommunism: A Genealogy of the Rhetoric on Hidden Enemies and Unseen Threats” by Anshuman A. Mondal. The British sociologist Anshuman A. Mondal focuses on Anti-Muslim imaginary and proposes the figure of the cryptic as a key trope in Islamophobic discourse. Mondal defines racist imaginaries as “assemblages or ensembles of various signifiers and rhetorical tropes and figures that are highly volatile and dynamic, and can be displaced, dismantled, and re-assembled in surprising, often highly unpredictable and sometimes deeply contradictory ways” (p. 29). Starting from the events of “Operation Trojan Horse” from 2014 in Birmingham, Mondal traces the emergence of the figure of the crypto-Islamist characterized by indeterminacy, elusiveness, and fluidity. He analyses the figure of the crypto-Islamist in relation to visible and invisible Muslims bringing into discussion also Zygmunt Bauman’s definition of the “stranger” and Homi Bhabha’s concept of “mimicry”. According to Mondal, the figure of the cryptic operates also in other racial imaginaries, such as antisemitism and anticommunism, sharing within these imaginaries conspirational, racializing and pathologising elements. Mondal deems the trope of the cryptic as “one of the most acutely problematic obstacles to the building of trust in contemporary multicultural societies, for its prevalence attests to the depth of mistrust in modern social imaginaries” (p. 47).

Chapter “Trust Within Reason: How to Trump the Hermeneutics of Suspicion on Campus” by Alison Scott-Baumann. Alison Scott-Baumann, professor of “Society and Belief” at SOAS University of London, identifies in her chapter reciprocity as the key to trust and asks the question “how can we trust each other and those in power, given that reciprocity is often weakened by an imbalance of power in relationships?” (p. 51). The starting point of her analysis is the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act (2015) and its accompanying Guidance which contributes in her view to the erosion of trust within the British society. According to the 2015 Act “A specified authority must, in the exercise of its functions, have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.” Scott-Baumann argues that “the propagandist privileging of terrorism over all other forms of danger diminishes Muslims because they are thereby given a restricted identity as British citizens who are radicalized or ripe for radicalisation, and this also diminishes the rest of us, who become complicit” (p. 57). Within a climate of suspicion and a politicised research environment, Scott-Baumann pleads for co-production of research – research with and not on individuals and communities, whereas the researchers need to be aware of dominant discourses and ideologies, as well of their own value system.

Chapter “Constructing a New Imagery for the Muslim Woman: Symbolic Encounters and the Language of Radical Empowerment” by Alaya Forte. Alaya Forte, graduate teaching assistant at SOAS University of London, examines the front cover picture of the newspaper “The Sun” supporting the 2014 “Making a Stand” campaign which showed a young woman wearing the national flag of the UK as a hijab. The campaign aiming at determining the British Muslim women to stand up against the threats of the Islamic State, and in particular the image of the woman wearing the Union Jack as a hijab is regarded by Forte as a symbol of crisis in national ideology and an attempt to “sustain newly re-crafted national mythologies” (p. 75). In her interpretation Forte follows Rolland Barthes’ understanding of mythical speech and argues that the campaign misses its purpose: the empowerment of British Muslim women is actually denied as “the symbolic force of the veil and flag, together with the framing camera’s power to cut, darken and control, diminishes the subject and her body” and “what emerges is a gagged and bound body, dehumanised and operating only as a receptacle of conflicting symbols. There is no raised voice – she is voiceless and motionless as a mannequin selling ‘brand Britain‘.” (pp. 86-87).

Part II

Chapter “Misrecognising Muslim Consciousness in Europe” by Nasar Meer. Nasar Meer, professor of “Race, Identity and Citizenship” at the University of Edinburgh, discusses the notions of Muslim subjects and Muslim identity in Europe. Meer begins his chapter with a short exposition of the meanings of “Islam” and “Muslim”, and continues by presenting three of the most widespread interpretations with regard to the emergence of Muslim consciousness in Europe: “Euro-Islam”, “Eurabia” and a third view, according to which Muslims in Europe would be “exceptional in not following path dependent institutional opportunity structures of minority integration” (p. 109). Euro-Islam has according to Meer two main proponents (Tariq Ramadan and Bassam Tibi) and is understood as “something illustrated by how Muslims view Europe as their home while being guided by a revised Islamic doctrine” (p. 99). Eurabia, whose main exponents are Chris Caldwell and Mark Steyn, “describes a numerical and cultural domination of Europe by Muslims and Islam” (p. 106). Meer claims that each of these interpretations “places the burden of adaptation upon Muslim minorities” and argues that there are dynamic components of Muslim consciousness which are misrecognized, as “Muslims in Europe are meeting standards of reasonableness in their identity articulations, often from contexts in which they face profound social and political adversity” (p. 99).

Chapter “‘Non, je ne serai jamais Charlie‘: Anti-Muslim Racism, Transnational Translation, and Left Anti-racism” by Alana Lentin and Gavan Titley. Alana Lentin and Gavan Titley, associate professor at Western Sydney University, respectively Senior Lecturer at Maynooth University, dedicate their chapter to what they call the “becoming symbolic of Charlie Hebdo[2]” in the aftermath of the attack on the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in 2015. The slogan “Je suis Charlie” in spite of its “globalized imperative of identification” (p. 126) and the accompanying wave of solidarity do however exclude in the opinion of the authors “those subjects of the republic who could never, under conditions of profound and disavowed racialization, actually be accepted as Charlie” (p. 127). Embarking on an attempt “to correctly interpret Charlie Hebdo in context” Lentin and Titley present shortly different interpretations of Charlie Hebdo’s type of satire and its cartoons and point out that actually “the decolonial and anti-racist movements and critiques of black and Muslim France were entirely absent” (p. 130) from the discourse surrounding the attack at Charlie Hebdo. The authors concentrate next on the meanings of laïcité in France, they argue in favour of an understanding of Charlie Hebdo in context and argue that “it is race that adds complexity, while the attempt to turn from it leads to over-simplification and the reification of categories such as Frenchness, Islam or laïcité” (p. 141).

Chapter “Transparency, Trust, and Multiculturalism in Cosy Copenhagen” by Tabish Khair and Isabelle Petiot. Tabish Khair and Isabelle Petiot, associate professor, respectively teaching assistant at Aarhus University, address the issues of trust, transparency, and multiculturalism in Copenhagen. They adopt the concept of “achieving society” of Byung-Chul Han as opposing the “disciplinary society” of Foucault and identifies the Danish society as being an achieving society, characterized by an excessive positivity, and an obsession with transparency. In the context of a Danish society obsessed with transparency at the level of legislation but also among its citizens, Khair and Petiot ask the question whether there is “space for the otherness of multiculturalism: that is, what does the state do when the subject refuses or fails to ‘achieve‘ the transparency of living expected of it?” (p. 153). To shed light on the relationship between transparency, trust and multiculturalism, the authors analyse some Danish family and marriage rules, which in the opinion of the authors are actually xenophobic (see also the concept of new xenophobia developed by Tabish Khair in the book with the same title). Moreover, Khair and Petiot consider the claim of transparency regarding law as deceptive, “because the law itself does not trust certain kinds of strangers, including some who have become citizens” (p. 165). Pointing at the peril of considering some persons as perpetual immigrants, (in spite of them being born and brought up in Denmark), the authors posit that “multiculturalism can also never just be about beautiful and fluid ‘differences‘; it has to allow for the opacity of Otherness. […] for human beings live through both sameness and difference, and difference are not really different if they are transparent” (p. 166).

Part III

Chapter “Multicultural Neoliberalism, Global Textiles, and the Making of the Indebted Female Entrepreneur in Monica Ali's ‘Brik Lane‘” by Stephen Morton. Stephen Morton, professor of English at the University of Southampton, proposes another interpretation of Monica Ali’s novel “Brick Lane”, which tells the story of Nazneen, a migrant woman from Bangladesh living in London, who manages to help out her family by stitching textiles at home and founding a small business. While some commentators of the novel focus on Nazneen’s story as a multicultural bildungsroman, Morton includes in his interpretation also the epistolary aspect of the novel, as Nazneen’s sister, Hasina, sends her letters and tells her own story as a textile worker being exploited in Bangladesh. While Morton considers the letter exchange between the two sisters as a way of “represent[ing] the circumstances of women’s work in the core and periphery of the world market system” (p. 178), he also argues that “the novel inadvertently normalizes homeworking and the entrepreneurial as the horizon of freedom and assimilation for the gendered postcolonial migrant in neoliberal Britain” (p. 172). Analysing the idea of microcredit, developed by the Grameen Bank in rural Bangladesh, and the discourse surrounding this financial practice, as well as the rhetoric of women empowerment, Morton suggests that “narratives of finance capitalism operate by normalizing debt and the entrepreneurial as a regime of subjection and subjugation that masquerades as self-empowerment for some of the world’s most economically precarious and vulnerable populations” (p. 191).

Chapter “From Islamic Fundamentalism to a New Life in the West: Ali Eteraz and the Muslim Comedy Memoir” by Amina Yaqin. Amina Yaqin, senior lecturer at SOAS University of London, discusses the book “Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan” by the Pakistani American author Ali Eterez. Eterez’s book tells the story of a young Pakistani who migrates with his family to the United States and who tries to come to terms with the American society and his Islamic beliefs. According to Yaqin, Ali Eteraz creates in his book “the expected profile of the Muslim male immigrant to the West” (p. 199), but challenges the reader as the text “deploys at points a comedic tone that not only undercuts the serious confessional nature of the text but throws back onto the reader a degree of interpretative work in order to make a coherent message out of the different registers employed” (p. 194). Yaqin interprets the use of humour in the book as a way of rebuilding social trust, as trustworthiness seems to be the major concern of the West in relation to Muslims (p. 195). Yaqin’s argues that the book succeeds in casting doubts on the idea that “there is a definitive Muslim subjectivity which can be captured and rendered to the non-Muslim reader in literary form” (p. 195), but in the same time “Eteraz’s memoir confirms a limited frame of options for the Muslims in America (and perhaps the Muslim American) which chime disturbingly with some of the more reductive stereotypes about non-integrated minorities and an ‘enemy within‘” (p. 211).

Part IV

Chapter “Powders Revisited: Queer Micropolitical Disorientation, Phenomenology, and Multicultural Trust in Hanif Kureishi and Stephen Frears’ ‘My Beautiful Laundrette‘” by Alberto Fernández Carbajal. Alberto Fernández Carbajal, postgraduate and early career representative of the Postcolonial Studies Association (UK), discusses in his chapter the movie “My Beautiful Laundrette” (1985) written by Hanif Kureishi and directed by Stephen Frears. Considered to be a seminal movie on Muslim diaspora, “My Beautiful Laundrette” came up during the Thatcher term of office, a period marked among others by racial tensions and homophobic attitudes, the promotion of homosexuality in schools being prohibited a few years later (1988) by Section 28 of the Local Government Act. Employing an extended understanding of queerness, as an unavoidable strangeness of diaspora (p. 222), as well as Sarah Ahmed’s concept of disorientation in diasporic spaces, Carbajal argues that the love relationship in the movie between Omar, a Muslim of mixed-race and Johnny, an ex-supporter of racist political parties, challenges both white hegemonic and homophobic ideologies and the heterosexist and patriarchal principles of the Muslim diaspora (p. 223). Carbajal considers that Kureishi and Frears employ queerness strategically in “My Beautiful Laundrette” with the aim of “disorientating the film’s majority and minority audiences in a manner that shakes up their political complacency, by forcing them to think about the potential to create a less polarized and more truly multicultural society that pushes against hermetic ethnic and racial boundaries” (222).

Chapter “Multiculturalism and Muslims in Germany: An Unwelcomed Reality?” by Asmaa Soliman. Asmaa Soliman, researcher at the Academy for Islam in Research and Society (AIWG) – Goethe University Frankfurt, focuses in her chapter on multiculturalism and Muslims in Germany. In the first part of the chapter, Soliman gives a brief overview of the recent history of German Muslim population (the reader is informed e.g. that Germany has the second largest Muslim population in Western Europe after France), she introduces some data on employment and perceptions of Muslims in Germany in opinion polls, and presents shortly the understanding of multiculturalism and “Leitkultur” in the German public sphere. Multiculturalism, manifested in the existence of different cultural and religious communities living in Germany, though acknowledged as such, is according to Soliman a rather unwelcomed reality (p. 246). In the second part of the chapter, Soliman examines a few stories of second generation young German Muslims collected by conducting ethnographic research. In spite of a layered understanding of identity – the interviewees deeming as important their German, Muslim and ethnic identity – in the eyes of the others one of these aspects seemed to trump over the others, which affected negatively the feeling of belonging. Soliman concludes by pleading for “more inclusive public cultures” instead of the existing multiculturalism as tolerance (p. 258).

Chapter “Living ‘True‘ Islam in Multicultural Britain: An Ahmadi Case Study” by Farrah Sheikh. Farrah Sheikh, PhD student at SOAS University of London, provides in her chapter an insight into the Ahmadi Muslim community in Britain, the Ahmadi being an Islamic reform movement founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad in the nineteenth-century in India. Sheikh makes an interesting observation: “A society based on the ethos of multiculturalism, like Britain, is not necessarily concerned with the nuances of minority identities” (p. 272). Though Ahmadi Muslims enjoy religious freedom in the UK, they are, however, a minority within a minority, being considered heretics by the majority of the Muslim world (p. 266), while in Britain “mainstream British Muslim organisations often avoid incorporating Ahmadi voices in their representation of Muslims” (p. 272). Therefore, Ahmadi Muslims seem to face both anti-Muslim discrimination and discrimination from the wider non-Ahmadi British Muslim milieu. Based on her ethnographic research, Sheikh argues that Ahmadi-Muslims through their adherence to “true Islam”, their emphasis of the Quranic verse “there is no compulsion in religion”, and their community’s motto “Love for All, Hatred for None” manage “to build trust with the wider non-Muslim society by addressing the issue that westerners fear most: Islamisation of their societies” (277).

Discussion and Summary

Bringing on the market another book on multiculturalism and Muslims communities in the West can be considered a courageous endeavour, if one thinks of the array of writings published on this subject and the often unbalanced discourse on Muslim populations living in Western countries. Muslims “enjoy” increased media coverage due to events such as the Satanic Verses controversy (1988, UK), the murder of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh (2004, Netherlands), the “Muhammad” cartoons (2005, Denmark), the attacks at Charlie Hebdo (2015, France), etc. and some of the chapters of “Muslims, Trust and Multiculturalism. New Directions” depart from such headline themes.

Being an edited volume, the book benefits from presenting a wide spectrum of topics concerning Muslims, their lived experiences in the West, the role of the state in creating policies safeguarding or securitising Muslims, representations of Muslims in movies and literary works, as well as insights into intra-minority relations, Muslim identity and the feeling of belonging. If, however, we consider Yaqin’s observation, that publications regarding Muslims living in Western countries “respond, whether directly or indirectly, to a view of Muslims as alien and problematic, either confirming or contesting this notion” (p. 193), then we have to admit that this volume does the same. Therefore, the question arises, whether and to what extent is this book different from many others. Alison Scott-Baumann touches upon the idea of co-production, “to do research with, not on communities and individuals [3]” (p. 66) and asks for a “vigorous renewal of research intent” (p. 64), but this is not further developed in the other chapters, while notions of positioning and reflexivity are hardly mentioned by the other contributors.

It is also rather difficult to identify a target audience for this volume, as some of the chapters are overly complicated, while others are somewhat superficial. The book offers, nevertheless insights into the experiences of Muslims in Western Europe, the idea of multiculturalism and how is this lived and interpreted. It places a special emphasis on the importance of trust in shaping harmonious relationships in multiculturalist societies, while also stressing the fact that Muslims are not, and should not be regarded as a homogenous group.


[1] Information about the editors as provided on the back cover.

[2] Original emphasis

[3] Original emphasis of the two words


Rezensentin
Iuliana Ancuţa Ilie
Academic Assistant for International and Intercultural Management and Management Accounting at Pforzheim University
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Iuliana Ancuţa Ilie. Rezension vom 03.12.2018 zu: Amina Yaqin, Peter Morey, Asmaa Soliman (Hrsg.): Muslims, Trust and Multiculturalism. New Directions. Springer International Publishing AG (Cham/Heidelberg/New York/Dordrecht/London) 2018. ISBN 978-3-319-71308-3. In: socialnet Rezensionen, ISSN 2190-9245, https://www.socialnet.de/rezensionen/24897.php, Datum des Zugriffs 21.04.2019.


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