Arrests call upon US Muslims to publicly discuss their faith

The death of a Detroit Muslim leader and other recent terror-related arrests are forcing US Muslims to talk about their faith in public in order to ensure the world understands that they condemn violence.

Because religion is so integrated in American society, the dialogue is more natural than it might be in European countries such as France, which has derided some public discussions of religion, says Malika Zeghal, associate professor of the anthropology and sociology of religion and Islamic studies at the University of Chicago.

French Confusion On Meaning of Burqa, Niqab and Hijab

As the debate rages on in France over burqa, an outfit covering the whole body from head to toe and wore by some Muslim women, Muslims believe the fuss has served to highlight one scary fact; that French people don’t know a burqa from a niqab and hijab. The furor was sparked in France since Communist MP Andre Gerin proposed a parliamentary probe into what he describes as the rising number of Muslims who wear burqa.

But the debate saw politicians, opponents and advocates of the burqa using interchanged terms such as burka and niqab, despite the fact they describe very different types of Islamic dress.

John R. Bowen, a professor of anthropology who has been asked to testify by the parliamentary commission, agrees that there is confusion in France over the issue of burqa.

Bowen does not think there will be a law banning the niqab. Nor does Yazid Sabeg, Mr. Sarkozy’s commissioner for diversity and equal opportunity, who said it would be unenforceable.

Contemporary Muslim Consumer Cultures – an Emerging Field of Study

Consumer culture in the Muslim world, or Muslims as a specific target group who participate actively in a consumer market, are rather new realms for academic researchers. For many Muslims, consumption plays an increasing role in identity formation. Their growing cultural and religious self-awareness transforms markets, advertising strategies and consumer behavior. Muslim consumer culture is closely interrelated to globalization and is, therefore, of relevance to various areas of economic, sociological, anthropological, psychological and religious scholarship. However, so far scholarly research on this subject has been very limited. And though studies very often acknowledge or include the interdisciplinary character of Muslim consumer culture, there is still a need for a comprehensive analysis of its many aspects.

The conference aims at creating a network of international scholars and young researchers with various approaches to the subject, and it also aims at initiating exchange and cooperation between them to develop the basic grounds for this emerging field of study. It will include two invited keynote speakers, two panel discussions led by experts, and a number of workshops during which all participants will have the opportunity to present and discuss their research projects. There will be no more than 20 speakers to allow useful discussion. We especially encourage applications from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Submissions of abstracts and papers on the following broad themes are encouraged:

  • Issues of advertising products for a Muslim target group 
  
  • Gender-specific consumption behavior in a Muslim context 

  • “Western” versus “Islamic” brands 
  
  • The question whether there is such a thing as an Islamic consumer, and how it can be defined 
 Products geared toward a religious public (e.g. Islamic fashion) 
  
  • Recent developments in the consumer landscape of Muslim societies 
  
  • Religious and moral factors affecting individual patterns of consumption or legislation, e.g. questions of ritual purity.

All papers that are submitted by the start of the conference and successfully complete a peer-review process will be published in a concerence volume.

Please submit your application, including an abstract of about 150-200 words and a short c.v., by May 15, 2008, preferrably by e-mail. Registration fee is 50 €; lodging, breakfast and lunch meals will be provided. We offer a reimbursement of travel costs for participants from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Turkey, the Americas and the countries of the former Soviet Union if their institution is not able to cover them.

Contact: Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Islamwissenschaft, Dr. Johanna Pink, Altensteinstr. 40, 14195 Berlin, Germany, phone: +49 (0) 30-838-51437, fax: +49 (0) 30-838-52830, e-mail: jpink@zedat.fu-berlin.de.