Representing Islam: Comparative Perspectives

’Representing Islam: Comparative Perspectives’ is an international conference organised jointly by the Universities of Manchester and Surrey and supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Britain. It has attracted over 100 eminent national and international speakers.

Representations of ’Islam’ have a profound influence on political cultures and national identities, as well as on attitudes to immigration, security and multiculturalism. The complexity of the notion of ’Islam’ and the heterogeneous responses that it elicits are such that there is no uniform approach to its representation and social construction. The conference addresses this complexity by treating the comparative dimension of recent representations of Islam, encompassing different nations, political institutions, media institutions, and cultures. The conference will be primarily concerned with the press, television, radio, film and the internet. However, it will also include other channels of communication, such as translations, speeches or pamphlets, political discourse, and the visual arts.

Anyone interested in more information should contact the Conference Administrator,  Shishir Shahnawaz (shishir.shahnawaz@manchester.ac.uk).

No to Headscarf, Yes to Nun’s Habit

The judgement that allowed the Muslim teacher to wear her headscarf in school in a showcase trial is about to be challenged again. Helmut Rau (CDU), Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport for Baden-W_rttemberg, announced that he will file an appeal against the recent judgement in favour of Doris G. by the Stuttgart Administrative Court. “A nun’s habit”, argues Rau, “is her working clothes, and moreover a permissible expression of Western Christian culture.”

Immigrants Have To Pass A Racy Test; Netherlands Shows Its Liberal Culture

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Want to go Dutch? The Netherlands now has a test for would-be immigrants to see whether they’re ready to participate in the liberal Dutch culture. It includes watching a film of gay men kissing in a park and a woman, topless, emerging from the sea to walk on a crowded beach. Can’t stomach that, don’t apply. Despite whether they find the film offensive, applicants must buy a copy and watch it if they hope to pass the Netherlands’ new entrance examination. The test — the first of its kind in the world — became compulsory Wednesday, and was made available at 138 Dutch embassies. Taking the exam costs $420. The price for a preparation package that includes the film, a CD-ROM and a picture album of famous Dutch people is $75. The test is part of a broader crackdown on immigration that has been gathering momentum in the Netherlands since 2001. Anti-immigration sentiment peaked with filmmaker Theo van Gogh’s murder by a Dutch national of Moroccan descent in November 2004. Both praise and scorn have been poured on Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk, the architect of the new test and other policies that have reduced immigration by at least a third. “If you pass, you’re more than welcome,” Verdonk said. “It is in the interest of Dutch society and those concerned.” Not everyone is happy with the new test. Dutch theologian Karel Steenbrink criticized the 105-minute movie, saying it would be offensive to some Muslims. “It is not a prudent way of welcoming people to the Netherlands,” said Steenbrink, a professor at the University of Utrecht. “Minister Verdonk has radical ideas.” But Mohammed Sini, the chairman of Islam and Citizenship, a national Muslim organization, defended the film, saying that homosexuality is “a reality.” Sini urged all immigrants “to embrace modernity.”