Muslim Community of Mollet evicted after illegally occupying a public space.

02 October 013

This Wednesday the Local Police of Mollet following a court order have evicted the local Muslim community from the property they were occupying for the last two months as a sign of protest.

The conflict between the Muslim community and the local government started when the first tried to buy a property in the center of town to use it as a Mosque even though they had been warn by the authorities that would not be allowed.

To aggravate the situation, the  Partido Popular (Popular Party) councilors distributed yesterday leaflets against the mosque. The town mayor condemned this action that according to him only instigates even more the conflict between the parts.

Seeing Islam in Global Cities: A Spatial Semiotic Analysis

Jerome Krase & Timothy Shortell, Department of Sociology, Brooklyn College CUNY NYC Turkish Day Parade

As noted by Krase and colleagues (Krase & Hum 2007; Krase & Shortell 2009, 2011; Shortell & Krase 2011, 2012), visual sociology of changing urban neighborhoods is not merely an aesthetic exercise of finding images to illustrate sociological concepts. Rather, it is an increasingly important way to investigate social change. Cities on every continent have been deluged by the rapid influx of large numbers of people and products from cultures different from native-born residents. Because of globalization, “cultural strangers” share common urban environments. Although these “strangers” frequently live within the same large-scale political boundaries, the real test of community takes place during the course of everyday life on the streets, in the shops, and public spaces of neighborhoods. At present, examination of the visual semiotics of difference is especially important as American and European cultures interact with Islamic cultures. Visual representations of Islam are common in the US and EU; these are generally negative and often derogatory, as a quick Google image search reveals. Local political talk about Islam tends to be critical and often panicked. Nativist politics are on the rise throughout the West and the central point of contention seems to be visibility. The “burqa controversy” in France and the conflict over a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan (the so-called “WTC mosque”) are recent examples of the disputes over urban public space involving representations of collective identity. Public space becomes the locus of the public sphere, where visibility conflicts—who is seen in public space—become disputes about who ought to be included in the national “public.” Using a spatial semiotic analysis, we investigate how the presence of expressive, conative, phatic, and poetic signs of recent Muslim inhabitants change the meaning of vernacular neighborhoods in global cities. Visual data from urban neighborhoods in the US and Europe will be presented as examples of different functions of semiotic markers, and exemplars of the data we collect using a neighborhood photographic survey technique. We discuss how these different functions interact with local policy to create interpretive landscapes, which can lead to dramatically different outcomes in terms of social conflict.


In the attached PDF is a small sample photographs that cover a tiny fraction of Islamic representations, these taken by Jerome Krase, that are part of our archive of galleries at:


download pdf

KraseShortell_SeeingIslamGlobalCities wfotos



Krase, Jerome & Tarry Hum. 2007. “Ethnic Crossroads: Toward a Theory of Immigrant Global Neighborhoods,” Pp 97-119 in Ethnic Landscapes in an Urban World, edited by Ray Hutchinson & Jerome Krase. Elsevier/JAI Press.


Krase, Jerome & Timothy Shortell. 2009. “Visualizing Glocalization: Semiotics of Ethnic and Class Differences in Global Cities.” Annual meeting of the Eastern Sociological Society. Baltimore.


Krase, Jerome & Timothy Shortell. 2011. “On the Spatial Semiotics of Vernacular Landscapes in Global Cities.” Visual Communication 10(3): 371-404.


Shortell, Timothy &  Jerome Krase. 2011. “Immigrant Islam: Politics of Representation and the Challenge of Seeing Collective Identity in Global Cities.” 10th conference of the European Sociological Association. Geneva.


Shortell, Timothy & Jerome Krase. 2012. “On the Visual Semiotics of Collective Identity in Urban Vernacular Spaces.” Pp  in Sociology of the Visual Sphere, edited by Regev Nathansohn & Dennis Zuev. Routledge.


New book: Building a Shared Future: Religion, Politics and the Public Sphere

During the last decade, debates on the role of religion in the public space, migration, social cohesion and other issues have revealed increasing social tensions and polarisation in public opinion. Misperceptions and misinformation often dominate public dialogue about relations between Muslims and others. Although they don’t speak with the loudest voice, academics, scholars and thought leaders have a key role to play in helping to rebalance these debates by providing fact-based opinion and informed arguments. In the ‘Building a Shared Future’ series, these opinion leaders offer insights into the issues facing Muslims through American and European communities today.

How successful have European models of integration been compared with the American model of multiculturalism? How can multiple layers of identity be accommodated in pluralistic societies? This volume explores a selection of these questions.

The book is available for download here.

UK Muslims Reconsider the Compatibility of Secularism and Islam

22 May 2012


Living in a secular environment has been a challenge for Muslims in the West. Islam is a religion that does not accept the separation between the public and private space. Thus it expects believers to adhere to its rules regardless of their environment; this inevitably positions it in a fundamental conflict with the secular system that has been fashioned to keep religion out of the public space.


However, recently the rigid interpretation of secularism has been put to question. Prominent scholars like Tariq Modood (1997, 2005) have suggested that secularism and Islam can co-exist provided that the former soften ups its radical discourse on religion and tries to recognize and support the religious needs of people.


The article published by Tehmina Kazi further examines the issue in the light of recent events and research and examples from the past, in order to find answers regarding the compatibility of the two concepts.

“A Mosque in the neighbourhood.”Conflict, public space and urban integration of Muslim mosques in Catalonia.

The author examines 25 conflicts in Catalonia between 1997 and 2008 related to the opening of Muslim places of worship. He presents and analyzes the different positions of participants involved in the conflicts (political actors, community members, and social representatives) and their evolution over time.

For the author, these conflicts take place when Muslim communities overcome certain economic difficulties and seek to build better places of worship. When analysed, the different conflicts show how the local authorities not just accepted the protests of local residents but incorporated them into their public policy as well. As a result of these protests, the building projects for new mosques have been blocked or obligated to move elsewhere, usually to the outskirts of cities or to industrial areas. Currently, the management of religious pluralism in Catalonia is an important and sensitive issue for different administrations making public policy.

New Publication: “A Mosque on the neighbourhood.”Conflict, public space and urban integration of the Muslim mosques in Catalonia.

The anthropologist, Jordi Moreras, has published his new book “A Mosque on the neighbourhood”. As a result of a research financed by the Jaume Bofill foundation, the book analyse the different mosque conflicts in Catalonia. The author studies the actors involved, in 25 cases of conflict related with the opening of mosques in Catalonia from the 1997.

Edition November 2009, published online in May 2010

Two new books out in France: profession imam and pari de civilization

Tareq Oubrou, imam in Bordeaux, has published a new book on his vision of “Occidental Islam” in Profession Imam (Albin Michel, 2009). Raised in Morocco in a non-practicing family, fifty-year old Oubrou claims that this Islam is capable of secularization theologically-speaking. He advocates a “minority Shariah” adapted to French laicite, wherein in the Western world Muslims make their faith less publicly visible.

In Pari de civilization (Seuil, 2009), writer and university professor Abdelwahab Meddeb calls for a reinterpretation of the Qur’an, notably that it is a direct revelation from God. Renegotiating this point allows for a modernization and neutralization of Islam in the public sphere.

Finland: Helsinki welcomes minarets

After the Swiss ban on minaret construction, many other European countries wonder how they would decide in case of a referendum, and they claim almost unanimously that they would choose to ban the ban.

In the Finnish capital of Helsinki, mosques and their minarets seem to be welcome. This is the view of Helsinki’s city planners and of the Finnish Lutheran Church. Helsinki’s freethinkers also seem to be in favor of a free public space for the towers from which calls to prayer are announced to those practicing Islam.

Even the most hard-boiled of Helsinki residents do not support a Swiss-style ban on the building of minarets. A quick interview round carried out by Helsingin Sanomat in downtown Helsinki showed that almost without exception the city’s residents adopt a positive view towards the Muslims’ wish to have a traditional Mosque in the Finnish capital. The plan, however, is still very much in its initial stages.

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.

Manual on the wearing of religious symbols in public areas

To address the issues surrounding the wearing of religious symbols in public areas, this manual explores how the European Convention on Human Rights relates to the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; identifies key concepts found in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights; and examines the role and responsibilities of both states and citizens.

The author then explores underlying motivations for wearing religious symbols, and the visibility of religions and beliefs in the public sphere. Essential questions policy makers should address with regards to this issue are then posed.

The manual seeks then to apply these principles and approaches to a number of key areas such as state employment, schools and universities, the private sector and the criminal justice system.