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ARA2150: 'Of Burkhas and Minarets'

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Richard McNeil-Willson

on 22 December 2016

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Transcript of ARA2150: 'Of Burkhas and Minarets'

'Of Burkhas and Minarets'
Models of integration
Everyday Integration
Groups are far more diverse than has been accounted for, and integration processes far more subtle
Rather than focussing on ‘meta’ questions - such as role of religion in society, etc. - better to focus on the individual’s everyday concerns and preoccupations
Instead of focussing on ‘national identity’ or ‘citizenship’, this approach understands group formation and targets day to day problems of integration. Focus on four areas:
1. childcare in early years
2.shopping and consumption
3. leisure activities
4. supplementary education
Everyday integration
Case Study: Tablighi Jamaat
Why the Headscarf?
‘Banning the headscarf or veil is a symbolic gesture; for some European nations it is a way of taking a stand against Islam, declaring entire Muslim populations to be a threat to national integrity and harmony’
Muslim men have distinctive appearances (beard, loose clothing) and behaviour (prayers, food preferences, political-religious identity) yet these are not seen as threatening as the veil and so are not addressed by legal prohibition
Margaret De Cuyper (Neth.): “Women have lived for too long with clothes and standards decided for them by men; this [the removal of the veil] is a victory”
Olivier Roy says that ‘the current religiosity of Muslim populations in Europe [is] both a product of and a reaction to westernisation’
France: 'The image of France is mythical; its power and appeal rests, to a large degree, on its negative portrayal of Islam. The objectification of Muslims as a fixed “culture” has its counterpart in the mythologising of France as an enduring “republic”. Both are imagined to lie outside history - antagonists locked in eternal conflict' - This dual construction, France versus its Muslims, is an operation in virtual community building

'one dominant society, on the
margins of which are various minority groups; these groups typically remain there, unless
they are incorporated as indistinguishable components into the mainstream'
Mainstream-minority vs. multiculturalism
'a national social framework of institutions (the larger society) that accommodates the interests and needs of the numerous cultural groups, and which are fully incorporated as ethnocultural groups into this national framework'
Berry 2011
Maintenance of Culture and Identity
Wallach Scott (2007)
1989: Affaires des Foulards
three Muslim girls who refused to remove their headscarves were expelled from their middle school in Creil.
Led to media attention, Islamist mobilisation and intervention from King of Morocco

1994: Chenière’s crusade
Eugène Chenière (of centre-right party Raillement pour la République (RPR) pressed for bill to ban ‘ostentatious’ signs of religious affiliation
Disruption in a number of schools as teachers clashed with pupils wearing niqab
Bill passed by minister of education François Bayrou on 20th September
Followed by expulsion of 69 girls wearing niqab
Likened to Dreyfus Affair

Nicolas Sarkozy, then minister of the interior, insisted that Muslim women pose bare-headed for official identity photographs (9/11)
Jack Lang (Socialist) presented bill to National Assembly that, in the name of laicite, any signs of religious affiliation should be outlawed in public
Chirac appointed Bernard Stasi to explore feasibility of law
Interviewed two Muslim (convert) sisters Alma and Lila Lévy, who had been expelled. Father stated: ‘I’m not in favour of the headscarf but I defend the right of my children to go to school. In the course of this business I’ve discovered the hysterical madness of certain ayatollahs of secularism who have lost all their common sense’
Bill passed in 2004 to cover wearing of all religious symbols in public spaces
The 'voile' and the Rebublique
‘I argue that the representation of Muslim sexuality as unnatural and oppressive when compared to an imagined French way of doing sex intensified objections to the veil, grounding these in indisputable moral and psychological conviction’
- Wallach Scott
“raising children, paying bills, celebrating family milestones, planning for an uncertain future. We listened to their stories and anecdotes, to their complaints and frustrations, to the ways they talked with - and about - friends, neighbours, co-workers, fellow Clujeni, people from different regions of Romania, and citizens of other countries. We noted the categories they used to describe and explain the social world, to express pride or indignation, to formulate excuses or justification, or to make sense of good or ill fortune. We tried to reconstruct the common-sense knowledge of the social world - the folk sociology - that informed everyday explanations for who gets ahead, who falls behind, and why. We observed how people talked about politics and politicians - when they talked about them at all. We attended not only to what they said, but how they said it; not only to matter, but to manner: serious, ironic, playful, detached, moralising, and so on. We observed routine encounters in public, and took part in ordinary social interaction among family and friends. We noted what language were spoken in what settings, what cues triggered the use of a particular language, and how conversation sometimes shifted from one language to another. Our aim was to observe when, how, and in what settings ethnicity “happened” in the course of ordinary daily routines”

- Brubaker (describing research in Romania):

Sure Start in UK: ‘opportunities to use Sure Start as a means of promoting social cohesion to reduce tensions between different ethnic groups had been wasted’
‘More work within this realm could be of extraordinary importance’
Childcare in early years
Shopping and consumption
Food: Chicken tikka masala is the perfect illustration of the way in which Britain “absorbs and adapts external influences... chicken tikka is an Indian dish, the masala sauce was added to satisfy the desire of British people to have their meat served in gravy” (Robin Cook, former foreign secretary, 2001)
Food can also be polarising: Halal debate
IPPR Findings from Pakistani communities in Bradford regarding consumption habits of first and second generation migrants
Leisure activities
Little difference between e.g. migrants from central and eastern Europe, in comparison to British people - going to pubs, museums, sports centres
More important was the lack of leisure time spent by migrants with ‘native’ British people
Sense that British people do not, ‘let you into their circles’; ‘Brits are not very keen to be friends’
However, high level of mixing with migrants of different country origin, suggesting keen ability to mix
Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS, 2007) found that non-Muslim migrants as likely to interact with friends from other backgrounds as with those from similar; those from Muslim backgrounds spent more leisure time with family and friends from same ethnic (but not religious) background
Supplementary education
Madrassas - framed as negative by media but many promote positive a vision of positive British Muslim citizenship
Often attached to mosques, with 94% of mosques having supplementary education programme
Often use community centres and village halls
Sometimes teach informal classes in homes
“We hold bazaars and fairgrounds as well... we have a summer fair at the end of every year... organised and run by students themselves... we invite people from the local community as well as non-Muslims so it’s a good form of [fostering link]. Introducing Islam to the wider community [is] needed, especially in the climate we’re living [in] and the fear that is obviously surrounding us”
Many madrassas felt they were attempting to make connections with local communities, although more could be done and this would combat stereotypes
“I think it’s always had an open-door policy. I don’t think anybody has ever said you can’t see what we’re doing. I don’t think society is not interested, they’re just too bust and, you know, people just make their own minds up that this is what they want to believe and... this is what they understand it to be”
Two false assumptions in current debate:
-hat the communities at the centre of the discussion are preset, determinate entities, instead of continually shifting and internally complex patterns of identification
that the focus of concern should be immediately on the grand level of citizenship and national identity, rather than at the more prosaic but nonetheless crucial domain of everyday experience
IPPR Conclusions
Sikand (2001) elements of Tablighi Jamaat thought promote a form of isolationism and non-engagement with non-Muslims.
Turning ones whole attention to the salvation of the soul through dawah work within the Muslim “community”
Western culture and partaking in mainstream society seen as waste of time and damaging to purity.
What the Tablighi Jamaat in London says...
Claims to be an open, tolerant and inclusive movement
That the mosque will be a facility that will benefit the wider community – library, bookshop, restaurant etc.
Mosque will be a space to facilitate inter-faith dialogue
Open to working with Council and wider community for partnership development of site
Does it matter if TJ doesn’t engage?
Largest Islamic Missionary movement in the world – 80 million followers
Very strong in Britain
Post 7/7 context – securitisation of Islam
Links to terrorism
Olympic Games and the London “mega-mosque”
A closer look at Dewsbury
Dewsbury is current HQ of TJ in Europe
Large mosque complex with facilities to accommodate TJs from all over world
The area around the mosque is heavily TJ
Shop signs in Urdu, halal facilities, Islamic dress – mono-culture
TJ School at Dewsbury
Education in 2 parts: Tablighi religious education in mornings/National Curriculum afternoons
A 2004 OFSTED School Report commented that secular education imparted in the afternoons is inadequate, and found the school to be placing too much emphasis on religious texts.
The TJ was not educating well-rounded pupils who could integrate into British society, but young men committed to dawah
'Since the TJ is at heart a fundamentalist movement, it embraces a conservative and undemocratic ideology. Aside from instructing its members to avoid entanglement in local politics, promoting the face masking of women, opposing coeducational schools and banning social contact with non-Muslims, TJ encourages Muslims already disenchanted with life in the west (who are searching for their identity) to disassociate from the world by pursuing a transnational, self-imagined construct that can be exploited by extremists' (Hargey 2011: 14)
Taj Hargey
TJ are ‘scornful of secular democracy and Western values’,
TJ see ‘voluntary apartheid as not merely beneficial, but crucial’.
Evidence: case of Zubair Dudha – the Dewsbury mufti who ‘tells parents that permitting their offspring to mix with non-Muslims is an evil that is bringing ruin to the holy moral fabric of Muslim society’
Hargey regards this as culturally isolationist and polar opposite of integration
Taj Hargey
Tehmina Kazi
The Tablighi Jamaat discourages this kind of integration into British society, especially of female members, since they essentially do not communicate with non-Muslims...Instead, female members of the Tablighi Jamaat are kept secluded, and the values surrounding this seclusion are transmitted to their children. Therefore, the female members of this movement – as well as future generations – do not integrate into mainstream British Society
The argument from Newham Concern has been that given that the TJ is so evidently ‘reluctant to engage in dialogue with people who are different’ and which under normal circumstances promotes ‘self-segregation’, the answer should be no to the extension, and most certainly no to the construction of a large and iconic mosque on the site.
Newham Concern
So what is really going on?
Why is the TJ saying one thing and its opponents another?
The TJ as a movement is very complex
TJ in Britain takes many forms – differences between Dewsbury and London
TJ in London has tried to demonstrate that it is changing in its nature
How strategic is this shift?
If they want the mosque they have to change and engage – but what happens next?

France: Laicite
communautarisme (“communalism”): ‘the priority of group over national identity in the lives of individuals; in theory there is no possibility of a hyphenated ethnic / national identity - one belongs either to a group or to the nation’
State traditionally seen as acting to guarantee national unity, as well as a rise of French republicanism, has led to an ‘obligatory and potentially repressive trend of the [assimilative] policy'
Germany: (20% migrant, 2/3 Turkish - Migration Policy Institute)
'While Germany has become a country of immigration in recent decades, the emotional public discourse often presents German society as a homogenous one, in which those with a migration background cannot fully belong'
Since 9/11, 'the image of Muslims as terrorists, archaic warriors or anachronsitic religious believers has trickled into the German national Diskurs-Raum (public dialogue) - seen as 'fanatic, intolerant and undemocratic' - worse perception in EU
Those of Muslim background significantly less likely to be hired
Integration focussing on settlement aid to newcomers but change evident towards increasing obligation of immigrant communities
‘has become aggressive in imposing Dutch “norms and values”’. Gone further than other European states in ‘expanding the repressive dimension of civic integration’, particularly following the rise of strong right-wing movement under Geert Wilders.

Increasing focus on the ‘obligation’ of migrant communities to integrate - and particularly assimilate - into host societies.
Why are the following symbols seen with such negativity within Europe?
The minaret
The burkha (and the hijab)
Was France right to ban the niqab?
it is not written in the Qur’an and therefore unIslamic
it oppresses women
it is a symbol of a lack of integration and presents security concerns
The state is dictating the women's dress code
Banning it conflicts with free speech and the right to religious belief and practice
it does not respect Islamic belief
Was Switzerland right to ban the minaret?
- Yes
- No
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