Closing the year 2013: Conflict, Racism and Inspiration

In this post a short overview of 2013 in three themes: Islamophobia & Racism, Egypt and Syria which dominated my blog this year and also the themes that attracted the most visitors. After that I will reveal my plans for the upcoming year including my new research project! And there is something with this blog in 2014…

Islamophobia and Racism in the Netherlands
A huge topic this year was the Dutch blackface tradition of Black Pete. Although there is a debate since 1960s (flaring up in the 1980s and 1990s) the last couple of years the debate is getting broader, getting more attention on primetime tv and according to some a slightly shifting consensus among opinionleaders in favour of those opposing the tradition. People who support the tradition were also more vocal this year however resulting in, among others, a facebook petition called Pietitie (Piet+petition). I wrote about this in my most popular post this year: Pietitie, Blackface Pete and Nativism: Commodifying Popular Dissent Through Facebook. The petition was organized by a social media campaign agency (without disclosing so) and they used to show how powerful a social media campaign can be.

Debating the negative and islamophobic debate about Islam in Europe is also major topic among Muslims in Europe. Not surprisingly so of course and I blogged about one such attempt: a debate organized by the Oxford Student Union where, among others, in particular Mehdi Hassan left quite an impression: Debating Islam as a Peaceful Religion. That these attempts to counter islamophobia are important was shown in the UK this year where after the Woolwich murder an islamophobic backlash cost the life of one Muslim and where several attacks at mosques occurred and were prevented. At a different level the necessity of combating islamophobia and racism was shown in the Netherlands where Dutch parliament scheduled the ‘Moroccans-debate’ on its agenda. I’m not going to refer to the last time the Dutch parliament had an official debate about a specific minority. but you can read about the Moroccans-debate here: The Dutch ‘Moroccans’ Debate.

Also very popular this year were the posts in Dutch on white privilege: Niet mijn schuld, wel mijn zorg: structureel racisme en wit privilege in Nederland.(Not my fault, still my concern: structural racism and white privilege in the Netherlands) where I used my own position as a white male to explain the benefits of being white in this country. More controversial was my Dutch post: Muselmann – Joden als Moslims in de Concentratiekampen – (Musulmann – Jews as Muslims in the concentration camps). In this post I explored the meaning of the German term Muselmann, meaning Muslim, that was used in the nazi concentration camps for those prisoners who were almost dead. If I have time I will translate the post in English in 2014. Fortunately not all was negative this year. The aforementioned Dutch posts were number two and three in the popularity contest; the number one among the Dutch posts was one about a Dutch contestant of X Factor: a Muslim woman with a headscarf with the name Sevval Kayhan: Hallo dan! – X Factor, Sevval en Inspiratie.

Syria and Egypt
Syria and Egypt were the two other major themes at my blog. The second and fourth most popular posts dealt with Egypt and Syria. Number two was a post in which I explored the rise of and contestations over a new symbol that has emerged in the Middle East, online and offline, to remember the crackdown of the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp whereby many pro-Mursi citizens were killed. The ‘four-fingered’ salute is a black hand on a bright yellow background and posted on several social networking sites by people who want to express their solidarity with, remembrance of and anger about the death of the Rabaa protesters: R4bia – The Symbolic Construction of Protest. The symbol has recently been forbidden in Egypt so be careful if you use it on the internet.

Syria obviously is a major theme and I started a post called: European foreign fighters in Syria. I updated this post regularly until the summer and then decided to leave it up to the experts such as Aaron Zelin who are much better at this than me. I did updated it recently with a link to a new report of ICSR estimating the number of foreign fighters. Also the Dutch constituency of the fighters in Syria got quite some attention at my blog since my last research endeavours involves them. In particular my Dutch post Anatomie van een relletje op een Haagse trapveldje – (Anatomy of a small riot on a playing field in The Hague) describing a run in with the police during a football get-together where I was present as well, received a lot of attention.

The classics
Of course in the 14 years this site exists (of which 7 years as a blog) there are a number of classics here as well: posts that score high every year. The absolute all time favorite is my debunking of Islamizing Europe – Muslim Demographics. This post is not the most popular of all time (that is my pornofication post and as a second the one on sex, Arab women and orientalism) and I expect its position as the all time classic will be severely threatened by the R4bia post of this year. The 2012 interview of Veena Malik by Nazima Shaikh also scored high this year (she was in the news, wasn’t she?): Veena Malik: My Pakistan is infamous for many reasons other than me.

Another classic is the interview with John Bowen on France24, I know for a fact that some colleagues use it in the courses they give (I do too): Anthropologist John Bowen – Islam of France. The classic posts in Dutch are Stierf Michael Jackson als moslim? (Did Michael Jackson die as Muslim?). The answer is most likely ‘no’ by the way. And for some reason: Rwina – Stijl in debat. I can’t translate rwina into English but is a Moroccan term referring to absolute chaos and noise people make, in this case during a debate on tv in 2009.

The new year will be an important year.

  1. My new project (working together with Annelies Moors and Sarah Bracke) ‘Forces that bind or divide?’ on interventions of Muslims in Dutch society and the islamdebate has already started. Together with our new PhD (more on her soon!) we will start with our research and also with several events that are interesting for a broader public for example an event about 25 years after Rushdie. The Rushdie Affair is only of the conflicts related to the public presence and representation of Islam that have had an enormous impact on European societies over the past decades. These conflicts have triggered debates about the binding or dividing function of religion in secular societies. Whereas most research considers Muslims as the object of integration policies, this project focuses on Muslims as active participants and investigates how their interventions produce ties that bind or divide both between Muslims and non-Muslims and amongst Muslims. Have such interventions contributed to development of a Muslim public sphere? To what extent and along which lines is this public sphere fractured? How does such a Muslim public intersect with other religious and non-religious publics? What transformations have taken place in the binding or dividing force of Islam in the Netherlands?
  2. Related to my new research (and that of the PhD in the same project) a new blog will be launched very soon. This will be focused on activism in the Netherlands, monitoring events and debates. Part of it will be in Dutch but the most important issues will be available in English as well.
  3. A new book, in Dutch, on Salafism will be published. This book is written by Carmen Becker, Joas Wagemakers and yours truly and is the final product of years of research.
  4. In 2014 a report will be published based upon joint research with two other colleagues. And that is all I can say right now. Keep you posted.
  5. Most likely in 2014 (God willing) something else will be published as well.
  6. An event will be organized dedicated to 25 years after Rushie and 10 years after Van Gogh.
  7. For my blog I plan to do a series of reports about doing online research: the usefulness of it as well as its predicaments. This most likely will also involve a Frequently Asked Questions post based upon questions of my interlocutors on Facebook.
  8. The Guest Posts section was qualitatively very good this year, in terms of number of authors and visitors however it was less succesful. I will try to change this in 2014.
  9. My new research means that more posts will be focused on: efforts by Muslims to put Islamophobia on the anti-racism agenda, debates among Muslims about (proper) activism and the role of women therein. Perhaps I will also include some post with historical topics.
  10. In 2014 my website exists 15 years. On 1 March to be exact. I think this calls for a little celebration, don’t you?

Next week I will publish an overview of my academic and professional publications of 2013. For now, I wish all of you and your loved ones the best for 2014. In particular thanks to all my readers and commentators here. But most in particular thanks to all the people I work with in my research online and offline!

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