Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives
Insight Turkey, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2012, p.213
Thinking Through Islamophobia contains 27 essays examining the concept of Islamophobia through discussions that cut across continents and disciplines. The papers were originally developed for the 2008 workshop on this topic organized by the Center of Ethnicity and Racism Studies at the University of Leeds. Together the chapters provide a deep and comprehensive understanding of the history, impact and breadth of Islamophobia, even while their authors disagree on the utility and credibility of the term. Readers of the complete text will begin to appreciate the wide range of limitations on the life of Muslims imposed by the security lens through which Muslims have been viewed since 9/11 and by their historical “outsider” image in societies where they are represented as “the other”.
However, readers with only time to consider one or a few chapters may initially find it difficult to choose among the sociological, political, historical and philosophical selections that are focused on Russia, China, Turkey, Thailand, India and individual European states, including Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands. But a common thread runs through the chapters in that each seeks to clarify a specific aspect of anti-Muslim bias. Readers beginning the collection at any point will pick up this theme.
Terms central to understanding specific aspects of Islamophobia are developed in these chapters from a variety of perspectives by different authors. Conceptual facets of the problem that are contextualized both geographically and historically include, among others, racialization ( Vakil, p. 43, Meer and Modood, p. 74) and cultural racism (Meer and Modood, p. 83), images of gender subordination (Bano, p. 135), the “problemitisation of the Muslim presence” (Sayyid, p. 1, Vakil, p. 33); “micro inequities” (Khan, p. 88), images of “moderacy” (Tyrer, p. 105), “state level ‘dialogue’ with Muslim communities” (Birt, p. 123), perceptions of an inherent threat posed by Muslims (Hasimi, p. 131), and “moral panics” (Seddon, p. 199). Appadurai’s phrase “fear of small numbers” (Moors, p. 157) is developed as it applies to the politicization of “face veiling” by a small minority of Muslim women in the Netherlands. The impact of the neoconservative narrative in globalizing Islamophobia is explained (Hasimi), and the special historical circumstances of Islamophobia in Russia (Tlostanova), Turkey (Aktay), and China (Yi) are provided.
The collection will be appreciated by a wide and varied audience. Reading the complete text will leave students and scholars of minority/majority group relations feeling as if they had attended the conference that provided the book’s origins. The papers are fresh and appear to have been developed in a stimulating and collaborative environment. General readers searching for useful vantage points from which to evaluate public policies relating to Muslims’ life chances in contrast to those of their non-Muslim neighbors will find guidance here. Political leaders willing to reconsider the securitization of policies related to immigration and religious practice will come away from this text with a greater awareness of the talent lost to states where suspicion and distrust of Islam make it difficult for Muslims to fully engage in the societies in which they make their home.