Tag Archives islam

Terrorism not in my name by Tariq Modood

Muslims are now at the centre of two forms of terrorism. On the one hand, acts of terror carried out in the name of Islam and/or to defend a Muslim population by fellow Muslims. And on the other, acts of terror by white supremacists carried out in the name of western, Christian, or European civilisation. How should one respond to terrorism carried out in one’s name?

I put aside for now forms of state terrorism such as those carried out by the US-led alliance in Iraq, by Israel, by the Assad regime in Syria, or by China in Sinkiang, for example, because they deserve a separate discussion.

The first thing to note on the two kinds of terrorism I am interested in is that, globally speaking, the overwhelming majority of the victims are Muslims (just think of Pakistan and countries such as those in which groups like ISIS operate). I shall, however, confine myself to western or white-majority countries. In other words, I am thinking of attacks such as those carried out on the London transport system in 2005 and on Muslim worshipers in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019 – where Muslims are a minority and also a minority – albeit not an insignificant one – of the victims.

There are a number of interesting questions that can be asked about the two kinds of violence mentioned at the top of this blog. For example, the two seem to have some kind of causal or reactive connection and one could explore that aspect and wonder if both are set to increase as they feed off and copy one another. One may also ask about the role of religious identity, especially as there seems to be two different dynamics at work. In the case of Islamist-inspired violence, the relationship with religious identity seems direct, even if based on deviant interpretations of Islam. In the case of the Christchurch killer, a direct appeal to Christianity seems to be at best civilizational rather than faith-based; its relationship to religious identity is that it is explicitly in the name of opposition to a specific religious identity, namely Islam, or more precisely to a hatred of Muslims, in other words, Islamophobia.

My question here is: how should those who share the relevant generic named identity (eg., being Muslim, being white, being a Westerner) respond to the violent evocation of their identity by perpetrators of violent crimes? And, further, can there be a basis of cross-arching unity through such responses and bi-sided condemnations?

Since 9/11 many western (and other) Muslims have been numerously asked to condemn Islamist acts of atrocities. While all or nearly all do so, some Islamists and left-wing Muslims also object to non-Muslim fellow citizens asking them to do so. They bristle against the assumption that they might be supportive of such atrocities and ask why is the condemnation sought only from Muslim citizens. Isn’t the desire for public condemnation by their fellow citizens a kind of collective suspicion of all or most Muslims, which is only one step short of collective blame, which would be racist?

Requiring rituals of public condemnation of jihadi terrorism by co-citizens just because they are Muslims may indeed be Islamophobic. But perhaps Muslim co-citizens not spontaneously – without being asked to – distancing themselves from Islamist terrorism shows a diminished civic identity? Or perhaps not?

One test of this, or at least an opportunity to reflect on it, presents itself with the growing white supremacist terrorism. Should white citizens – in virtue of being white and co-citizens – feel obliged to say anything to groups victimised by such terrorists? Are Muslims or other relevant minorities owed a condemnation by co-citizens? Does it matter that such condemnation by white people would reassure and express solidarity with their Muslim co-citizens? Is the requesting of white people to make such a condemnation or the spontaneous making of it by them an acceptance of collective blame and the not making of it, siding with racism and Islamophobia?

While we should not overlook that western Muslims live under a burden of suspicion and stigmatisation with constant pressure to conspicuously exhibit they are good citizens in a way that most white people do not have to, we should all indeed strive to be good citizens. Zealous witch-hunting of Muslims is not good citizenship; but nor is not spontaneously attending to one’s co-citizens fears and anxieties and cultivating forms of solidarity.

Given that the two kinds of attacks that I have been discussing here are likely to grow at least in the short and medium-term and that they are meant to divide communities and citizenries, can bi-sided ‘not in my name’ condemnations rather than the silence of ‘nothing-to-do-with-me’ be the appropriate response of citizens and political leaderships?

This article was originally published on openDemocracy and is part of a series on Global Extremes.

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About the author:

Tariq Modood is Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy and Director of the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol and a Fellow of the British Academy. His latest books include Multiculturalism: A Civic Idea and Essays on Secularism and Multiculturalism (2019). He recently held a seminar about ‘Accomodating Religious Diversity in Secular Institutions’ at the ISS.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, under the GREASE project (grant no. 770640) and the BRaVE project (grant no. 822189).

The opinions expressed in these blog posts are the sole responsibility of the authors. The European Union is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information or opinions contained herein.




Religion within development, or development within religion? by Fernande Pool

Religion should not be considered one among many wellbeing dimensions that development enables people to engage in, but one among many ontological sources that enables people to engage in development, Fernande Pool, postdoctoral researcher at the ISS, argues. A truly inclusive and respectful dialogue on development would go beyond a secular/religious binary and allow for alternative sources and conceptualisations, whether embedded in religious or non-religious sources.

What is the place of religion in development? Since the 1970s, development practitioners and theorists have gone ‘beyond GDP’ to describe people’s wellbeing. Committed to value-driven, human development, they have started to pay attention to religion. In human development, religion is no longer merely considered an obstruction to, or instrumental to, development, but itself is a valuable part of wellbeing. Yet, if religion is regarded as one dimension of wellbeing, the development framework usually remains secular, whereas this does not align with the lived reality everywhere. So I argue that we still need a cognitive turn.

Engaging development through religion

My contribution is based on two years of ethnographic research with devout Muslims in an Indian village I call Joygram. I suggest that religion should, when appropriate, not (only) be considered a sub-category of development—something development allows people to engage in. Instead, it can form the basis from which to engage with development to begin with. Human development implies some normative ideas of what being human means and what kind of society would allow one to be ‘more human’.

For the research participants, notions of what being human means, and the ethical freedom to discuss these normative ideas, are embedded in the Islamic dharma. To approach religion as a sub-category in an otherwise secular development framework excludes these religious life experiences and ideas from the outset. The scope of this blog is merely to show how different ontological notions underpinning human development can be, and that a proper understanding of these differences requires a cognitive turn.

Including different ontologies

A next question to ask would be: if secular and religious ideas of being would be considered as equally valid in an inclusive dialogue on worthwhile development, would development interventions be not only morally better as a process but also better in terms of their outcomes? A brief example from Joygram seems to suggest so.

In Joygram, the values driving development, including conceptualisations of the human person, life, and society as mentioned above, are embedded in what I call the Islamic dharma: the locally specific, all-encompassing ethics of justice and order to which religion—in this case Islam—is integral. Muslims in Joygram foster a dynamic concept of the human as emerging from divine submission and constant interactions within social networks. First, humanity emerges from the acknowledgment of the eternal indebtedness to the creator-god for the gift of life. Subsequently, the being is made a ‘human person’ through exchanges within a network of social relationships.

So, Joygramis believe that relationality comes into existence before the individual. This doesn’t take away, however, that every person has a right to the same human dignity. It is just that the human is conceptualised differently from, for instance, the human as a sovereign individual in most liberal theories. What it means to be human is deeply embedded in dharma, which includes religion. So without the notion of dharma as the basis for dialogue, one cannot even begin to talk about humans, let alone human development. Indeed, outside dharma, there is no humanity, because there are no values. So, if development in Joygram is to be worthwhile, it has to be embedded in dharma, too. Development dialogues outside the space of dharma would be reduced to purely technocratic and instrumental measures.

The need for a cognitive turn

A dialogue on development that would include and respect the Islamic dharma would require a cognitive turn, otherwise the starting position of a discussion is still within the hegemonic secular ontology. This is not unlike the cognitive turn required to shift the focus from GDP to individual capabilities. Perhaps development should not merely take religious values into account, or enable or liberate people to engage in religion. A development dialogue could be more inclusive if it acknowledges that the entire meaning of the world, the human, and key values like freedom and dignity may be informed by religious ideas and experiences. This means allowing for alternative conceptualisations of being human, but also of autonomy, relationships, and so on.

This does not mean, however, that universal values have to be discarded in favour of cultural relativism. It means, rather, that certain universal values or development goals, such as Martha Nussbaum’s list of basic capabilities, may be pursued on the basis of different ontological grounds. The Joygrami worldview and Nussbaum’s capability approach are not incompatible, even if they are based on different notions of what being human means. Yet in Joygram, the capabilities would be striven after within dharma, not as side by side with dharma, because then they would lose their ultimate value.

I reiterate that religion is more a complex social phenomenon than a static and compartmentalised set of norms and symbols, and dynamic religious ideas of being and sociality interact with ideas of being and sociality outside of that discreet religion—if there ever was one. Religions constantly change, partly because of those interactions, but also because of internal reasoning. Moreover, religion is nothing special, yet central: it seems likely that every human being lives with ideas of being and sociality, whether consciously or not, and there are always elements that transcend everyday life, whether directly associated with a particular religion or not. A truly inclusive and respectful dialogue on development would go beyond a secular/religious binary and allow for alternative sources and conceptualisations, whether embedded in religious or non-religious sources.

Image Credit: Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC BY-SA 3.0

About the author:

Picture-d5a9-41db-ab99-ac23fa465eb8.jpgFernande Pool is a Marie Skłodowksa Curie “Leading” Fellow at ISS. Her current ethnographic research with Muslims in the Netherlands aims to destabilise hegemonic conceptualisations of religion and secularism, wellbeing and development. Her PhD thesis, completed in March 2016 at the London School of Economics anthropology department, explored the ethical life of Muslims in West Bengal, India. She is the co-founder and co-director of Lived Religion Project and AltVisions



Diversity in the Dutch local elections by Kees Biekart and Antony Otieno Ong’ayo

‘Migrant-led’ political parties are on the rise in the Netherlands—a natural reaction to extreme anti-migration populism of the past decade. Insights into the local elections held on 21 March 2018 across the country show us how the rise of parties led by migrants (so-called allochtonen) can diversify the Dutch political landscape in a positive way.


New political parties established by Dutch people with a migration background have been quite successful in the recent municipal council elections in The Netherlands. Especially DENK, a new party formed by people with a migration background (largely from Turkish and Moroccan descent) managed to attract unexpected levels of support. This is quite a contrast with four years ago, when the Freedom Party (PVV) of anti-Islam activist Geert Wilders secured a landslide win in two Dutch cities (The Hague and Almere).

This year, Wilders’s party decided to compete in thirty cities—the ones in which his support was largest during last year’s parliamentary elections. However, his performance was rather disappointing. Wilders and his party lost most of the seats it had acquired four years ago to local parties that the PVV had competed with. These local parties won almost a third of the municipal votes—an increase of ten per cent compared to four years ago. EU nationals and non-EU citizens who lived in the Netherlands for more than five years were also allowed to vote in the local elections. This feature of the Dutch electoral system makes the municipalities an important battleground of political participation.

‘Migrant’ parties: countering anti-migration populism

hsp logoThe boom of the new ‘migrant’ political parties—next to DENK also NIDA, the Islam Democrats, Platform Amsterdam, Ubuntu Connected Front, BIJ1 and the Party for Unity—can be understood as a natural reaction to extreme anti-migration populism of the past decade. This anti-migration sentiment has been echoed by several mainstream political parties, desperately trying to capture the Wilders constituency. That is why the Christian Democrats rallied for the reintroduction of the national anthem in primary school classes, and the liberal governing party VVD reconfirmed its support for Zwarte Piet, a popular (though racist) traditional celebration for young children which is increasingly challenged by a variety of Dutch citizens.

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Not surprisingly, the new political party DENK attracted its support especially in a dozen cities that are known for their elevated migrant (and especially Turkish and Moroccan) population such as Schiedam, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Utrecht. DENK launched a targeted and effective election campaign, largely focusing on young voters via social media. There are also concerns, as DENK leaders have repeatedly voiced their support to the Erdogan government, and some even labelled Turkish parliamentarians rejecting Erdogan’s policies as ‘traitors’. But that seems to be a sideline, as DENK mobilised support particularly from those migrants that feel alienated by mainstream political parties who tell them to ‘better integrate into Dutch society’.

Platform AmsterdamThese voters with a migration background feel offended not only because second or third generation migrants were actually born here, but also because they experience discrimination on the labour and the housing market (even if they feel totally ‘integrated’). DENK (as well as the other migrant-linked parties) offer those ‘new Dutch citizens’ a platform that was absent in most mainstream parties, which often moved (for electoral reasons) closer to the xenophobic and Islamophobic position of Geert Wilders.UCF logo_3

Not surprisingly, there is also tension amongst migrants competing for Dutch council seats. Sylvana Simons, originally part of DENK, left after a conflict over strategic positioning. She is from Surinamese descent, with a more diverse Amsterdam constituency, and decided to run with her own party BIJ1 (“Together”). This new party also includes anti-Zwarte Piet activists from the African and Caribbean community who are generally not very well represented at the political level. The Ubuntu Connected Forum and Platform Amsterdam with largely African and Afro-Caribbean candidates, for example, did not get any council seats in the big cities. Still, Ugbaad Killincci, a young Somali woman, who had arrived as a baby to the eastern city of Emmen, was elected after racist action against her triggered a national campaign in the Labour Party (PvDA) rallying to elect her with preferential votes.

The political party Bij1 (‘Together’) focuses on a ‘new politics’ of economic justice and radical equality.

Pre-election debates at ISSThe ISS was also involved in this debate on migration and its links to the Dutch elections by organising a public debate in which several local council candidates with a migration background participated. Half a dozen ‘migrant candidates’ brought their transnational linkages to the ISS in order to share their views and motivations to participate in these elections. Coming from Nigeria, Burundi, Suriname, as well as Turkey, they discussed how diversity played a role in the Dutch local elections. Key themes during the debate included perspectives on immigration and integration, economy and jobs, as well as public services.

Debate held at ISS with representatives of ‘migrant-led’ parties before the Dutch local elections on 21 March 2018.

However, identity issues such as racism, gender and discrimination also emerged as critical topics in the debate. The candidates highlighted the value of their multiple and multi-layered identities, their civic commitment, and the need to leverage these linkages for the benefit of the Netherlands and countries of origin. These multiple identities reflect a demographic shift in the Netherlands, especially the increased multicultural feature of municipalities.


Politically, some structural shifts are happening with the ‘migrant vote’. It is about time, many migrants argue, since the majority of the population in the three biggest cities in the Netherlands now has a migration background. Still, we see migrant interests underrepresented and migrant delegates remaining the exception: migrant parties and migrant candidates overall achieved less than 8 percent of the municipal vote.

It is yet to be seen whether the newly established migrant-linked parties will gain more electoral support in the major cities; the increased competition amongst them for the same migrant constituencies may have a divisive effect, leading actually to reducing their seats in municipalities and councils. Notwithstanding, the tendency towards more diversity in Dutch politics is in motion if we look at the Chair of the National Parliament plus the mayors of Rotterdam and Arnhem being from a Moroccan background. Even though similar positions are not yet filled by persons with a Turkish, African, Asian or Caribbean background, this seems to be only a matter of time. The successes of the new migrant-linked political parties certainly are a promising step in that direction.

Main photo: Picture from DENK’s political manifesto stating that ‘people should be able to be proud of their heritage’.

csm_166bed604f68c0443160dc5f1905fa7a-kees-biekart_6d238c8725.jpgAbout the authors:

Kees Biekart is Associate Professor in Political Sociology at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.

antony.pngAntony Otieno Ong’ayo is a political scientist by training and currently a Postdoctoral Researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University in The Hague. he focuses on diaspora transnational practices, civic driven change, political remittances and transformations in the countries of destination and origin