Hooligans of Islam: understanding the Sydney Muhammed video riots

On a normal Sunday in Sydney’s CBD people started to gather to protest against an offensive short YouTube clip that misrepresented Muhammed, the main Prophet of Islam, in a vulgar, a-historical and in most parts, ridiculous way. What was supposed to be a ‘peaceful’ protest (but the banners being waved were anything but peaceful), turned violent with protesters attacking the police, screaming abuse at Christians and smashing properties. After the Cronula riots, the Muslim communities in Sydney together with the rest of Australian society had worked hard to reestablish trust in multiculturalism as an Australian way of life. Last Sunday multiculturalism and Islam faced criticism again. Questions such as “is there something wrong with Islam?” resurfaced in forums and even in the mass media. Continue reading

Burma, ethno-Buddhism, racism and religious persecution

I have written before about Burma (Myanmar) and its persecuted Rohingya population as well as the lack of interest both in the ASEAN countries as well as in the western mass media (see The other, invisible suffering of Burma, Rohingya Odyssey: a silent cultural genocide?, Rohingya Muslims and injustice: a security issue, Rohingyas: not solely a political problem, Selling lives: Rohingyas face deportation from Bangladesh). Since June, Burma and its Rohingya Muslim population have attracted a wider mass media presence. On May 28, in a village in the central part of Rakhine State, three Muslim members of the Rohingya ethnic group allegedly raped and killed a Buddhist woman. Retaliation did not take long and on June 3, a group of Arakan attacked a bus carrying Rohingya in southern Rakhine and 10 people were killed. Continue reading

Gianluca Casseri: the Dracula of Florence? Making sense of racism and Muslim-phobia that kills

On the 13th of December, in my birthplace Florence, an Italian gunman killed two street vendors from Senegal, wounded another three, and committed suicide when the police reached him. The killing was racially-motivated and Gianluca Casseri, 50, was a writer for and member of CasaPound, a neo-fascist group. The Senegalese street vendors he killed (Samb Modou, 40yrs old, and Diop Mor, 54yrs old) lived in Italy for a considerable time and leave behind their wives and children in Senegal. The life of migrants in Italy, in particular for Muslims such as the Senegalese, is known. The xenophobic Lega Nord has built its political reputation on the exploitation of Italians’ frustration with a badly managed migration policy and an increase of refugees.  Continue reading

Jihad Beyond Islam: open access book

I am pleased to inform you that my publisher Berg has decided to join the Social Science Open Access Repository and to make my first book, Jihad Beyond Islam(2006) available legally for download with no costs but strictly under the Creative Common License.

In this first work I discussed through an anthropological approach how we can make sense of violent actions perpetrated by a minority of Muslims. I try to show why these Muslims may ‘feel’ the necessity of be part of a violent movements or engage in isolate violent actions. Yet the book is also a strong criticism of how anthropologist have understood Muslims (discourse continued, developed and expanded in The Anthropology of Islam) and even the concept of personal ‘identity’ and culture. Continue reading

9/11 commemorations: ritualizing and celebrating civilization rhetoric

Yesterday the tenth anniversary of 9/11 was commemorated in New York. Yet the commemorations started more than one week in advance with newspapers, TVs and magazine building up the momentum. There is little need to summarize the incredible amount of special dossiers, reports, commentaries and documentaries which have been written during these days for a tragedy that happened ten years ago. The commemoration of 9/11 is becoming increasingly interactive with questions like: “do you remember 9/11?” or “share your 9/11” and similar collective archiving of personal memories, often shared every year for the past decade. Continue reading

What was Osama bin-Laden for Muslims?

bin-Laden is dead. A decadent symbol has been assassinated. For some time before his demise, his influence on contemporary terrorism had been on the wane. Most likely Osama had little choice but to agree to retire to his Pakistani prison under the ‘supervision’ of the Pakistani secret services and Taliban tribes.  I did not write any blog post at the time of bin-Laden’s execution. There was nothing to say. His story has had the feel of a work of fiction from beginning to end, complete with impressive pyrotechnics, blood and splatter, where the director, producer and star of the drama was none other than bin-Laden himself. He died as he wished: one bullet in the chest, a few stumbling steps, and a final gore splattering bullet in the head. Continue reading

The English riots: multiculturalism, ‘the roba‘ and the crowd

Many questions remain unanswered in the violent riots which have shaken England recently. As could be expected, some have blamed the “failed” experience of multiculturalism. In reality these riots are very different from previous ones that have thrown neighborhoods into chaos (see the 2001 English riots, the Leeds 2001 Harehills riot, the 2005 Birmingham race riots, or even the most recent 2010 UK student protests). While the context in which the above riots developed are clear (community frustration, neighborhood-specific inter community tensions, and traditional student protests gone wrong), the recent riots are unusual in many aspects, such as the heterogeneity of those involved, the dynamic of how they started, a lack of apparent common strategy and a lack of shared reasons for rioting. Continue reading