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
I was in Florence spending some time with my family when yesterday the local news informed me of a car bomb in Oslo, followed only moments later by news of a horrible mass shooting. Immediately the newscasters told us that it may be an Al-Qaeda attack in revenge of Norway’s marginal role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the more recent Libyan air campaign. Islamic terrorism has hit Europe again. Immediately a flurry of comments about the high number of Muslims living in Oslo appeared – yet these were quickly substituted, upon confirmation that the culprit behind the bloodshed was a tall blonde man, with comments about the danger of ‘converts’. Continue reading
Recent headlines in British newspapers announce another controversy about Islam and Muslims. This time it is not a novel or another stupid cartoon to challenge the very much stressed British Muslim population, but instead a branch of science: genetics. Indeed, Prof Steve Jones, one of Britain’s most eminent geneticists, who lectures at University College London, has warned at The John Maddox Lecture at the Hay Festival that the level of inbreeding among the nation’s Muslims is endangering the health of future generations. Continue reading
In Italy it is time for the administrative elections. This electoral test has surely, as at beginning Berlusconi suggested, a national value. After the first electoral turn, last week, for Berlusconi things are not so good. In his Milan stronghold, the oppositional candidate, with a clear Communist past, has won the first part of the competition. Berlusconi’s main ally, the xenophobic and Islamophobic Lega Nord, was furious with the result and Berlusconi’s government now has to dance a different Bunga Bunga. The fear that the Left will take control of Milan, the city-symbol of Berlusconism, is enough to convince Berlusconi himself to adopt Lega Nord’s favourite weapon: what I call the ‘Mamma the Turks’ strategy.
I was a very young scholar, in the second year of my PhD, when I noticed how difficult it was to find an international academic journal that focused on social scientific, and multidisciplinary, approaches to contemporary Islam and Muslim lives. I then moved from reading articles to publishing them, and again, I discovered that although my first publications appeared in reputable journals, they were certainly not in those devoted to the study of contemporary Muslims. I then appreciated how important it was to have such an international forum for scholarly debate. I started to plan to found a journal. Continue reading
That body is of 14-year-old Bangladeshi girl, Hena Akhter. Her story has distracted the western mass media from the still very confused situation in Libya. Hena Akhter was sentenced to receive 101 lashes to be delivered with extreme force after a village court implemented the fatwa of the local imam, whom decided that she had committed fornication with her much older married cousin. She died a week later from the injuries. The story is a script seen too many times in rural Bangladesh, at least since 1991 when Bangladeshi villages increased these extra-juridical sentences (Riaz 2005). Continue reading
Many would have noticed that western leaders and countries seem to shift from one position to another about the wave of revolts in the Middle East and Arab world. One prime example: Tony Blair, who incidentally is the official envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, shifted from praising Mubarak on Wednesday 2 February 2011, to praising the protests for democracy on 13 February. At the same time, in those interviews, he first presented the Muslim Brotherhood as a dangerous para-terrorist organization and then ending in declaring that politicians should “not be hysterical about them, they are not terrorists or extremists”. Although we need to acknowledge that each revolt finds its raison d’être in local contexts and issues, we have also to recognize that Arab youth in the region want a change: they wish to end the long post-colonial period of time marked by dictators at the service of western economic and geopolitical interests. Continue reading