Special journal issue JOME – ‘What is Islamophobia?’

I’m very happy to announce that my article on the work of the Dutch anti-Islamophobia networks (as part of our project Forces that bind or divide) has been published in the Journal of Muslims in Europe:

“You Need to Present a Counter-Message”| The Racialisation of Dutch Muslims and Anti-Islamophobia Initiatives » Martijn de Koning

Dutch researchers and activists have drawn attention to the huge number of Islamophobic events taking place; ranging from degrading remarks to violent attacks. In this article I look at the work of anti-Islamophobia initiatives within the broader framework of the racialisation of Muslims. Firstly, I argue that racialisation interpellates Dutch Muslims as an unacceptable “Other.” Secondly, I illustrate how anti-Islamophobia activism is informed by, and at the same time challenges, the racialisation of Muslims. In so doing I want to contribute to the debates about how Muslims are able to claim a ‘Muslim voice’ in a context in which racialisation seems all-encompassing.

It is part of a special issue that contains very interesting and must read articles:

Editorial: What is Islamophobia? » Thijl Sunier

Does Islamophobia exist? Is it a specific form of racism? Are there commonalities and parallels with Antisemitism? Is it a modern phenomenon, or does it have historical precedents? Should the term Islamophobia only be used generically to denote a set of practices, actions, and opinions against Islam or against Muslims that are specific enough to be set apart? Does the concept have epistemic and conceptual qualities and an explanatory power of its own? Or is it simply a container term that lumps together very dissimilar phenomena? And probably the most crucial question to be addressed, what is the relationship between certain anti-Islamic discourses and utterances and the position of Muslims in society? This, slightly provocative, set of questions will be addressed in this special issue of on the concept of Islamophobia.

Islamophobia: What’s in a Name?| Analysing the Discourses of Stopp Islamiseringen av Norge (Stop The Islamisation of Norway, SIAN ) » Sindre Bangstad

The term Islamophobia is not of recent vintage. However, while its origins date back to the 1910s, its current usage is relatively new, and dates back to the 1990s. It is also a heavily contested term, not only in far-right circles in the West, but also among liberal elites, and even within academia itself. In its current usage, it has a genealogy dating to the emergence of scholarly literature on ‘cultural’ and/or ‘neo-racism’ in the 1980s and 1990s. In the legal arena in Norway, the term itself consequently carries no weight whatsoever, and the very meanings of the term ‘racism’ have, until recently, been limited to classical ‘biological racism’ in a strict and narrow sense. In a landmark case before the Kristiansand Magistrate’s Court in March 2015, the court acquitted a local imam of charges of alleged ‘defamation’ of the erstwhile leader of the far-right and Islamophobic organisation Stopp Islamiseringen av Norge (Stop The Islamisation of Norway, SIAN), Arne Tumyr. The accused had alleged in a media interview that Tumyr and his organisation “based their activities on racism.” Thus, a Norwegian lower court had for the first accepted arguments based on ‘cultural’ or ‘new racism.’ The author of this article was an expert witness in this civil lawsuit, and this essay analyses the rhetorical representation of Islam and Muslims in the far-right and Islamophobic discourse of SIAN.

Islamophobia without Muslims? The Case of Poland » Katarzyna Górak-Sosnowska

At the first glance Polish intolerance of Muslims—expressed in a variety of quantitative and qualitative studies—seems to be puzzling for two reasons. Firstly, Poland has a six century long tradition of peaceful coexistence with Tatars, indigenous Polish Muslims, thus Poles should be used to the Muslim Other. Secondly, the number of Muslims in Poland is marginal (approximately 0.1%), which makes them hardly visible in the public sphere. Based on four hypotheses constructed on two factors (the number of Muslims and the wider regional and European context) the article hopes to provide some preliminary explanations.

“Most Muslims are Like You and I, but ‘Real’ Muslims . . .”| Ex-Muslims and Anti-Muslim Sentiments » Göran Larsson

The aim of this article is to analyse the views of a public critic of Islam, namely the Swedish Somali-born former Muslim Mona Walter (b. 1973). She has been selected because she has been very active in online media, social media and more ‘traditional’ forms of media such as print, radio and broadcasting. In my analysis I will discuss whether her thoughts can be viewed as Islamophobic, and if so to what extent. To decide on this matter, I have compared her statements about Islam with how the Runnymede Trust and the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (BRå) define Islamophobia. The empirical data consist of an online interview with Mona Walter for the Swedish podcast RLM. This particular interview has been chosen for analysis because this program has been associated with anti-Muslim views and is renowned for its strong criticism of Sweden’s migration policies and its multicultural society. The interview with Walter is analysed with the help of a content analysis.

Islamophobia in Belgium| A Constructed but Effective Phantasm? » Brigitte Maréchal, Celestine Bocquet and Felice Dassetto

This article represents one part of a vast research project undertaken between 2013 and 2015 on the reciprocal views Muslims and non-Muslims in Belgium, and particularly in Brussels, have of one another, and the relationships they maintain. It is above all a question of understanding how reciprocal tensions and adjustments are constructed. The various treatments the topic of Islamophobia receives represent one of them. Hence this article tries to evaluate the attitudes on each side with respect to this societal phenomenal and this concept. In addition to year-long observations carried out in Brussels, it is based on three evenings during which ten privileged interlocutors discussed this topic in-depth. Carried out before the Brussels attacks of March 22nd, 2016, this study provides a better grasp of how anxieties, or even a spiral of reciprocal accusations, are able to develop, and questions the uses of the category Islamophobia and its counterproductive character.

Managing Mosques in the Netherlands| Constitutional versus Culturalist Secularism » Oskar Verkaaik and Pooyan Tamimi Arab

This article engages with the emergent ethnographical study of secular practice by focusing on how local bureaucracies manage the Muslim public presence in the Netherlands, particularly the construction of new mosques and the amplifying of the Muslim call to prayer. We argue that what started as the ‘Islam debate’, itself provoked by growing populist articulations of the fear of Islam, has gradually developed into a conflict in the practice of local governance about the meaning of secularism. Whereas the public and political debate about mosque issues is often dominated by what we call a ‘culturalist’ or ‘nativist’ form of secularism, in practice bureaucrats are often led by a ‘constitutional secularism’ that protects the constitutional rights of Dutch Muslims. Thus, in its practical application, constitutional secularism is one way of tackling Islamophobia and protecting the rights of religious minorities in general. Moving beyond the genealogical study and the deconstructivist critique of secularism by such authors as Talal Asad and Wendy Brown, we show that the ethnographic study of actual secular practice remains crucially important to avoiding monolithic text-based understandings of the secular as inherently dominating the religious.

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