Being British, Feeling Muslim

On April 5, 2005, in cooperation with the European Studies program at Boston University, and the Departments of Anthropology and International Relations, the Institute organized a conference on the role of Muslims and Islam in the European public sphere. Today’s podcast is an edited recording of the keynote address by Farhan Nizami, Director of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and Prince of Wales Fellow in the Study of the Islamic World, Magdalen College, Oxford.

In his lecture, entitled “Being British, Feeling Muslim,” Nizami asked whether a religious commitment to Islam is compatible with being a citizen in a modern European state. According to Nizami, living in accordance with faith inevitably puts the believer in a position at odds with the values and assumptions of a materialistic culture, but the resultant threat is perceived differently when the challenge comes from Islam versus the established religion. The stereotypes of Muslims create a climate of fear and distrust. He stressed the need for a new definition of European identity in which all citizens have an experience of tolerance and belonging. Muslims for their part do not possess the confidence to respond to this challenge, giving rise to helplessness, anger, and extremism. The world is changing, Nizami concluded, and our categories of self-image have to grow with these changes.

You will hear introductions by  Irena Grudzinksa Gross, former director of the Institute for Human Sciences, and Professor Augustus Richard Norton, Professor of Anthropology and International Relations at Boston University. Nizami’s keynote address aired on WBUR’s “World of Ideas” program on April 24, 2005. We are grateful to WBUR for making the recording available to EU for You.

Nizami’s speech was followed by a panel discussion featuring Jocelyne Césari, Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Harvard and the Harvard Divinity School; Jytte Klausen, Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at Brandeis University, and Ahmet Yukleyan, PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Boston University and IWM Junior Visiting Fellow (July – December 2005). Speakers discussed the diverse ethnic, religious, and generational identities among Muslims, exploring the different ways in which Muslims are adapting and integrating as well as resisting their European setting. Jenny White, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, served as moderator.

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