Conference: Religious Minorities' Self-Representations

Panel 6A

Religious Minorities, Space and Embodiment

Chair: Nina ter Laan (Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University)
Room: Sweelinckzaal, Drift 21

‘Young Muslims in Copenhagen: Representation through City Spaces’ – Amani Hassani (PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal)
This paper will explore how Muslims in Copenhagen, Denmark, use and relate to the city they inhabit. How do city spaces become part of a life narrative that root these young people’s sense of self, belonging and social mobility? Muslims in Denmark often face stereotypes that portray them not only as a religious minority, but also a cultural and ethnic Other. By empowering young Muslims to construct their own representations through the city spaces they inhabit, I highlight how their nuanced experiences and spatial narrative challenge monolithic representations of Western Muslims. Focusing on “Muslim” as a social category is only one factor of many to appreciate the complex lives of these young adults. The cases presented demonstrate how spatial accounts can depict these complexities by going beyond representational discourse, and thus appreciate the social navigational skills these young Muslim Copenhageners have.

‘Being Young and Muslim in a Dutch Multicultural Neighbourhood: Playing Football as Alternative Citizenship Practices in Urban Public Spaces’ – Kathrine van den Bogert (PhD-candidate, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Utrecht University)
In the Netherlands, Muslim citizens are increasingly represented as cultural and religious “others”, supposedly lacking successful integration and emancipation in Dutch society. These national discourses materialize locally, in actual neighbourhoods where Muslim and non-Muslim citizens live. In this paper, I discuss the experiences and practices of young Muslims living in the Schilderswijk, a well-known urban, multicultural and multi-religious neighbourhood in the Netherlands. I show how young Muslim residents (between 12 and 20 years old) resist dominant discourses in the Netherlands that position them as “other”, and how they negotiate daily experiences of Islamophobia, (religious) racism and sexism. Through playing football on public playgrounds, young girls try to challenge the gendered, racialized and secularized power relations that shape public spaces. By “invading” football playgrounds, which are normatively constructed as masculine and as secular spaces, they show that also Muslim girls belong in these public spaces as Dutch citizens.

‘Shia Muslim Youth in the Netherlands: Balancing between Islamic Practice and Dutch Mores in Everyday Life’ – Annemeik Schlatmann (Independent Researcher, Previous position: PhD Candidate, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Utrecht University)
‘In the Netherlands we shake hands. This act represents equality. Whoever does not want to shake my hand because I am a woman, doubts my equality.’ This statement was made last year by the Dutch Minister Edith Schippers in her Schoo-lecture titled ‘The paradox of freedom’. In Dutch public debate, Islam is often considered to be irreconcilable with western values such as freedom, equality and tolerance. Moreover, Muslims are lumped together as a category of ‘other’. In this paper I argue that Shia Muslim youngsters in the Netherlands in their interaction with the non-Islamic Dutch majority are seeking to counter this dominant image of Islam and to avoid being ‘othered’. They do so by constantly balancing between correct Islamic practice and Dutch mores. I will give an insight in their personal considerations in making choices on how to act, thus uncovering their perspective on Dutch standards.