Ideology of mixing? Should tolerance be acceptance?

Recently a piece of news from an otherwise internationally unknown college attracted the attention of social media, news, and created a huge twitter and blog response. The object of such (probably unwanted) attention  is the  South Puget Sound Community College where  staff members decided to hold a ‘happy hour’ to ‘build support and community’ for ‘people of color’ (interesting how this terminology is back by the way) as long as the color was not White. The  exclusion of White people provoked the expected reaction of the ‘happy hour’ being canceled and the activity labelled racist in itself. Yet the organisers — after apologies — insisted that their request to exclude Whites originated from a rational and not racist fact: members of an in-group communicate and understand each other better. Continue reading

Anti-liberal attempts: between burqa and criticism demonization

Yesterday, the British Parliament debated the ban of a garment, something that the British Parliament had not discussed since Victorian times. This time it was not the length of skirts or sleeves that the honorable parliamentarians addressed, but rather the well known (but rarely seen in western cities) burqa; banned in France, threatened in the rest of Europe, and now also under threat in the UK.

As other attempts, however, yesterday’s debate failed in imposing a burqa ban in the UK, and as the minister confirmed, Great Britain will not follow France.

The burqa is not an Islamic fashion per-se, but rather a tradition not opposed by Islamic teaching, which is probably the best way to present it. Covering the face, and in particular the mouth, has a geographical and environmental genealogy (such as the protection of skin and eyes from the dust and sand of, for instance, the Afghan desert). If such a garment is anything in Islam, it is a scholarly theological diatribe, with some sheikhs ready to wrap a baby in it, and others stating that it is not Islamic dress per-seContinue reading

Why we need an anthropology beyond good and evil

As some of you may have noticed, not only has my blog shifted from a specialist focus within the field of anthropology to a more generally anthropological one, but the new name of the blog wishes to challenge how we do anthropology.

Overall my aim now is to push towards a different way of doing anthropology. When I say a different way, I do not mean a ‘new’ way. Indeed, the roots of my attempt have a rather well established pedigree in the field. Yet long years of self-criticism and reflection within the discipline known in the US as ‘cultural anthropology’ have caused many to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

The established pedigree I am referring to originates with Malinowski and perceives anthropology as a scientific effort aimed to explain or to highlight facts about cultures and in particular, in my case, humans. Within this tradition, I can also mention another anthropologist whom has greatly influenced my work, Gregory Bateson, and another, whose theoretical discussion of anthropology and relativism I appreciate despite my strong criticisms of his study of Islam (Marranci 2008), Ernest Gellner. Surely in the case of Malinowski and most of the anthropology of those times, the issue of colonialism had an impact and should be considered. Yet in the attempt to get rid of the bath water (the moral mistake of colonialism), during the 1970s and in particular 1980s, anthropologists threw out the baby itself by adopting post-modernism and relativism as an approach to reality.  Continue reading

Restarting from Anthropology Beyond Good and Evil

starting overMy blog Islam, Muslims and an Anthropologist started in 2007 and since then 228,803 people (an average of 38,000 per year) have read my posts concerning various aspects of Muslim lives.

During this time I had the honor of discussing events and topics with readers on this and other platforms. Some posts have been extremely popular such as Gaza: bad politics needs blood (which had 13,000 readers) to “Mamma li Turchi!!”, Italy and the Saladin Syndrome (discussing the situation of Italian Muslims) and back in 2007, this blog was among the first to highlight the condition of Rohingya Muslims in The other, invisible suffering of Burma.

We also cannot forget the ‘polemics’ with some of the main demonizers of Islam, such as with Dr Denis MacEoin regarding his infamous report for Policy Exchange (my blog was the first to highlight the incredible problems with the methodology); or my, sometimes sarcastic, exchanges with Mr Jihad Watch.

Today Islam, Muslims and an Anthropology moves on to another more general dimension, a blog titled Anthropology Beyond Good and Evil, a blog which encompasses all my interests in the field of anthropology, from anthropology of  religion, youth, globalization and modernization processes, to the anthropology of crime, identity, and so on. Surely Islam and Muslims will remain one of the main topics of discussion, but I felt that after six years I needed to expand the themes to more fully reflect my research and interests.

Another change will be the length of the posts. Other than for some exceptions, my posts will be normally between 500 and 1000 words in length, so that I can contribute more often than usual and keep up with current events with short commentaries.

I hope that many of you whom have followed Islam, Muslims and an Anthropologist for these past six years will find the change interesting and refreshing. As usual you are welcome to debate the posts and I hope to read more of your comments.

Gabriele

Think Tanks, weak research and the case of Hizb-ut-Tahrir in Australia

Think Tanks, often linked to a party in the nation’s political system, are becoming increasingly popular (particularly in the US and the UK), receive funds, and produce very easily digestible research, ready-made for the rushed politician. Think Tanks do not have to adhere to the same quality standards that university research has to or, when they are supposed to meet similar standards,  there is no effective means of monitoring it. Ethical issues, ethical conduct of research and often methodology remains unexplained in reports written to impress more than explain complex issues. In an era where simplification often resembles “The Complete Idiot’s” guides, Think Tanks provide a fast, public friendly, easy to use policy support for difficult decisions.

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American Muslims, Muslimphobia, and dangerous chemerias

The debate concerning Islam and Muslims in the US is a very heated one – sometimes beyond metaphors. The fear that Sharia will rule in the land of the free is a strong one, so much so that there has been more than one attempt to legally ban ‘sharia’.  Newt Gingrich, former House speaker who led the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, exclaimed

Stealth jihadis use political, cultural, societal, religious, intellectual tools as a way to “replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Sharia

The list of American anti-Muslim politicians, commentators and pundits is long and often all linked to the Christian Republican right. The most quoted are  Ann Coulter, whom invited a Muslim student to take a camel instead of a plane, Fox News personality Sean Hannity, whom drew a parallel between Islam and Nazism, Glenn Beck,  Daniel Pipes , as well as showbiz personalities such as the well known “Jihad watcher” and the “femme fatal” of  fear mongering, author of “Stop the Islamization of America“. Continue reading

Not all children are the same – some are collateral damage

President Barack Obama, looked terribly distressed at the vigil to commemorate the victims, twenty of whom were children. Obama’s words, as well as his emotions, were sincere. He said

 The majority of those who died today were children, beautiful little kids between the ages of five and ten years old..They had their entire lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.

The Newtown shooting has been a terrible tragedy, so shocking that it has reopened the debate about gun crime in a country with  300 million of them among a population of 311 million.  Could the massacre have been avoided? In the current situation, probably not. That school could have been anywhere, and the killer apparently acted out of his mind rather than out of a plan. Continue reading