Anti-Muslim Attitudes Rise in Europe

Winter 2008

Prejudice against Jews and Muslims is increasing in Europe amid heightened worries about globalization and immigration, according to a new international poll. Nearly half of Spanish respondents reported unfavorable attitudes toward Jews, followed by 36% of Poles, 34% of Russians, 25% of Germans and 20% of French people interviewed, according to a spring 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. In all of those countries, the percentage of people with a poor opinion of Jews has risen since 2006. While much of the upswing in anti-Jewish sentiment has occurred in the past two years, the increase in anti-Muslim feeling has taken place over a longer period of time, according to the Pew report. In addition, anti-Muslim attitudes are far more pervasive than anti-Jewish attitudes in most of the countries surveyed. Fifty-two percent of Spanish people expressed a negative opinion of Muslims, a view shared by 50% of Germans, 46% of Poles, 38% of French people and 32% of Russians. “There may be some backlash toward minority groups going on in Europe as a consequence of the EU’s [European Union’s] expansion and globalization,” Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, told the International Herald Tribune. The attitudes reflected in the Pew survey have found expression in such events as an anti-Islam conference that took place Sept. 19-20 in Cologne, Germany’s fourth-largest city. But that gathering did not come off as its organizers had planned. Backers of Pro-Cologne, which had set up the “Anti-Islamization Congress,” found themselves massively outnumbered by roughly 40,000 protesters, some of whom obstructed train lines and roads into the city. Although the protests were mostly nonviolent, a small group of demonstrators smashed the windows of a riverboat where Pro-Cologne had scheduled a press conference. Because skirmishes continued between members of both sides, police shut down the event about 45 minutes into the Sept. 20 Pro-Cologne rally, according to Der Spiegel.

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Secularisation & Secularism

Secularisation – the process of a dividing the realms of politics and religion – has been influencing national and worldly affairs for several hundred years. The idea of the desirability of such a division – secularism – is nowadays a given backdrop for public policy issues regarding education, family, gender, media, migration, personal integrity and freedom, reproduction and sexuality. But globalisation and multicultural trends, as well as claims from religious groups for increased political influence or autonomy and the uncertain and varying responses to these from society, have made us aware that the secularist ideal has been realized through the process of secularisation in radically different ways in different settings. As a result, an identity crisis is presently afflicting secular societies. It is no longer as clear what secularism is supposed to amount to, why secularisation is desirable and where its proper limits are. To investigate questions about this is the focus of a newly initiated multidisciplinary research theme at the University of Gothenburg.

Speakers

  • ABDULLAHI AN-NA’IM, Human Rights Law, Emory University
  • KENT GREENAWALT, Law, Columbia University
  • BRIAN PALMER, Anthropology & Religion, Uppsala University & University of Gothenburg
  • PAUL WEITHMAN, Philosophy, University of Notre Dame
  • LINDA WOODHEAD, Religious Studies, Lancaster University

Venue

Registration

The conference is open to the public and free of charge. Registration is required for attendance.

Contact & Information

Website

Email: secularism@filosofi.gu.se

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.

The Clash

It would have been unlike Samuel P. Huntington to say “I told you so” after 9/11. He is too austere and serious a man, with a legendary career as arguably the most influential and original political scientist of the last half century – always swimming against the current of prevailing opinion.

In the 1990s, first in an article in the magazine Foreign Affairs, then in a book published in 1996 under the title “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” he had come forth with a thesis that ran counter to the zeitgeist of the era and its euphoria about globalization and a “borderless” world. After the cold war, he wrote, there would be a “clash of civilizations.” Soil and blood and cultural loyalties would claim, and define, the world of states.