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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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

Placards and pins: Muslim and Jewish student associations

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

Introducing Twitter-Lectures

Dear all,
A couple of flus and packing my home to move back to Australia (more information later) made my blog inactive. Yet I will post something soon.
Today I wish to announce a new idea. I have started some twitter-lectures: a short number of tweets discussing a specific topic and then opening the topic to debate. 
You can follow my tweet-lectures and discuss them @AnthroLectures or#AnthroLectures  Please, feel free to contribute.
Yours
Gabriele

Genes, marriages, cousins and upset British Muslims

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

Five years of Contemporary Islam

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