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
Are Muslims integrating or not? Are they loyal to their non-Muslim nations or not? Do we have an enemy within? Many questions for many answers. Normally mass media and in particular newspapers are the main sources of these questions and surveys and polls are the answers. Many questions and many surveys, more or less official, methodologically sound or unsound, private and public, ideological or apologetic have followed 9/11 all around the ‘Western world’. Many numbers and few words are used to convince the public that Muslims are either dangerous aliens or better citizens than the non-Muslims. A battle of opposite perspectives with only one thing in common: numbers.
The main discussion tends to be integration. Muslims are tested and re-tested about the state of their integration, even when they have been an integral part of a country for three or more generations. Continue reading
During my career I’ve had the opportunity to observe several student association fairs in various countries, where dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of clubs and organizations campaign to attract new members. I am always interested in the Muslim associations and also the growing and increasingly visible Jewish-Israeli student associations. Recently I have accepted a new position at the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Continue reading
Some of you reading the title of this post may think that I am referring to the most hedonistic prime minister in the world: Silvio Berlusconi and his adventures with teenagers as well as professional, and well paid, escorts. Yet, I am actually referring to another, less known and less publicized, case which has been taking place in Australia since May 2009. A quite unknown filmmaker has decided to sponsor his new ideas through the ever- successful use of blasphemy.
The filmmaker Justin Sisely wishes to produce a ‘documentary’ that will follow two virgins (one male and female) as they auction their virginity to unknown bidders. To succeed in his attempt, he, of course, needs certified virgins. Today, as we know, (at least in the ‘Western’ hemisphere) this is not a simple task, and to find two who are willing to prostitute their first intercourse is probably even harder. Continue reading
On the 16th of July, UWS launched a new Centre for the Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies as part of its partnership with NCEIS (National Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies). I have received emails and queries about my involvement and position with the centre, as well as questions about its program and agenda. Since I have been mentioned as one of the ‘senior academics’ appointed to the new centre, and since some academic colleagues were aware of my intention and efforts for the past two years to start a centre along the same lines, I feel that I need to clarify the current situation and my collaboration on this project with my friend, and co-editor of the book series Muslims in Global Societies, Prof. Bryan Turner. Continue reading
More and more we can find examples in which Muslims are reduced to their material culture and religious culture: Muslim women reduced to their hijabs, niqabs, burkas, chadors; Muslim men represented as repressive, violent, fanatic and irrational and so on. Just read some commentaries about Muslim women, or about Muslim life in general, and you will be able to understand why I say that Muslims are reduced to their ‘material culture’.
Opening prayer rooms, mosques, Muslim schools, or even kebab shops is becoming an issue of ‘values’, and I am not referring here to economic ones. The values are often referred to as ‘western values’ and they appear to come in various shapes and colors (Italian, Australian, American, British and so on). Yet all have at least one similarity – feeling threatened by so-called ‘Islamic values’. In other words, much of the current debate on ‘values’ in western countries is today shaped by the rediscovered presence and practices (they have been in the West for centuries) of Muslims living in what an increasing number of people perceive as a sort of secular Christendom. Each day we can discover one place or another claiming to be the last bastion against the ‘Islamization of the West’. Continue reading