Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives

Front Cover
Salman Sayyid, AbdoolKarim Vakil
Columbia University Press, 2010 - Political Science - 319 pages
Islamophobia is a widely used but inconsistently defined term, hotly disputed and frequently disavowed. To its supporters, it captures a defining phenomenon of our times and is an important tool in highlighting the injustices Muslims face. Yet its effectiveness is weakened by the lack of an agreed meaning and relationship to racism and orientalism. To its detractors, Islamophobia is either a fundamentally flawed category or worse, a communitarian fig leaf, shielding "backward" social practices and totalitarian political ambitions. The figure of the Muslim forms the backdrop to these debates and, more generally, to the mobilizations and contestations of "moral panic" that follow.

Adopting a global perspective, this collection provides four distinct contexts for the problematization of Muslim identity and the deployment of Islamophobia. Drawing on diverse fields of disciplinary and geographical expertise, twenty eight contributors address the question of Islamophobia in a series of interventions, ranging from large and sustained arguments to illustrations of particular themes in the following real-world contexts: "Muslimistan" (broadly within OIC member countries); states in which Muslims either form a minority or hold a subaltern socioeco-nomic position yet cannot be easily dismissed as recent arrivals (much like immigrants from India, Russia, China, and Thailand); lands in which Muslims are represented as newly arrived immigrants (such as Western plutocracies); and regions in which the Muslim presence is minimal or virtual, and the problematization of Muslim identity is vicarious.

Rejecting uncritical, transhistorical uses of Islamophobia in its vigorous investigation of the term, this collection pioneers a nuanced picture of contemporary Islamophobia and its relationship to Muslim agency.

About the author (2010)

S. Sayyid is director of the Centre of Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding at the University of South Australia and a reader in Rhetoric at the University of Leeds. He is the author of A Fundamental Fear and co-editor of A Postcolonial People.
Abdoolkarim Vakil is lecturer in the departments of History, Spanish, and Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at King's College, London.

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