Should Muslims Apologise for Muslim Terrorists?

The debate, particularly in Australia, about whether Muslims should apologise or not for the acts of terrorism of some individuals whom are identified or identify themselves as Muslims, is in full spin. Recently a Twitter hashtag was developed where Muslims started to apologise for everything you may imagine. Some, during conversations with me, expressed their strong viewpoints:

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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

Prayer bumps, Muslim haters, and the danger of scientific popularization

Recently I came across a short article titled: The Muslim ‘prayer bump’ and Traumatic Brain Injury. Since I am interested in both religion as well as neuroscience, I eagerly read the short post. To my disappointment, I had to conclude that this was another, yet more sophisticated and insidious, attempt to demonstrate that Islam has horrible consequences for practising individuals. The gist of the article is as follows. Muslims pray five times per day, and as part of the Muslim prayer (salah), the Muslim prostrates and  touches the ground with his or her forehead and nose (sujud). The article proceeds to inform the reader that in doing so, millions of Muslims develop what, in Islamic jargon, is called  zebibah (Arabic for raisin), or a prayer bump. In other words, the repeated pressure of the head on the prayer mat will produce a discolouration of the skin in the area of contact, and in some cases, apparently, provoking a ‘bump’. Continue reading

Announcing the Study Contemporary Muslim Lives Research Hub at Macquarie University

As director, I am pleased to inform you that today the website for the Study Contemporary Muslim Lives Research Hub at Macquarie University was officially launched.
Study Contemporary Muslim Lives (SCML) is a research hub based within the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University. It undertakes research on social, cultural and political aspects of contemporary Muslim communities and societies and is committed to the advancement of social scientific understandings of Muslim lives in different social and geographical contexts through excellent empirical research, scholarly publications, and active postgraduate programs.
SCML also has, among other activities, a Visiting Scholar Program. SCML welcomes applications from academics who want to carry out research as visiting scholars at Macquarie University. Visitors participate in and enrich the research-intensive and vibrant communal life of the Research Hub, which is part of the Department of Anthropology. Continue reading

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

An Islam lost in transition? Emotions, piousness and lack of intellectual genealogy

Today I have have found several messages in my email referring to a youtube video that is going viral among Muslims. The video  shows a Muslim student  praying  publicly during his graduation ceremony at WSU (Washington State University). The public appeared oblivious to what may be perceived as a  ‘strange’ performance by anyone unfamiliar with the Islamic style of prayer. By contrast, many Muslims have praised this action as being a courageous display of faith. Also, in the messages,  you can read the list of “miracles’  that accompany such act of devotion: ‘he was not noticed, he may have been invisible’;  ‘the people did not clap their hands until the end of the prayer’; ‘the  direction of the Qiblah and the stage were the same’ (but was it?). 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