World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Representations of Political Islam and Anti-Islam Ideology (271) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: WED, 21 / 5 -7 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Luz Gómez García (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)

Paper presenter: Larise Dunja (Lecturer, Institute for Political Science of the University of Vienna, Austria), “'Islamophobia' as Political Ideology?”
In the first decade of XXI century a number of notions were coined to indicate new phenomena in the field of social sciences corresponding to the emergence of new social and political realities. One of the most debated among them is one that was ought to designate a specific social phenomenon of resentment towards Islamic religion as such: ‘Islamophobia’. As many other, new-forged terms in social sciences the notion of ‘Islamophobia’ is far from being uncontested or even generally accepted within a scientific community. The decision to use or not certain term within a certain discursive context, unfolds not only an expected scientific caution towards new theoretical concepts but, very often also a deep-routed disagreements over the spectres of meanings, usage and social functions of a new-coined notions; a discord which is often deeply political in its nature. The notions and concepts used in the context of social sciences, but also beyond them, in mass media for example, are viewed by most people as politically neutral per se. Accordingly, for a general public their political content becomes evident only after they have eventually got instrumentalised in contexts of certain political ideologies. The notion of ‘Islamophobia’ widely used in both, scholarly literature and public media of the last decade, seem to be such profoundly politically contested concept par excellence. Its adversaries underline the necessity to react discursively to a new emerged social reality. They stress that the notions commonly used to designate irrational resentments towards otherness, incorporated in form of a religion, ethnicity, sex or race, like xenophobia or racism do not suffice to designate this new phenomenon of a focused resentment towards Islamic religion as such. They stress also that all existing concepts of social sciences are either too general or too narrow to designate that, what they see as an autonomous socio-political phenomenon. Accordingly, they underline the necessity to position resentments towards Islam in a specific socio-historical context, similar to that of the commonly accepted notion of ‘anti-semitism’. The critics on the other hand question the political motives behind the new notion, claming that the so called ‘Islamophobia’ were not a social phenomenon for itself, but a resentment of complex nature, explainable only in broader terms, as an interaction of racism, xenophobia, nationalist chauvinism, euro centrism and other social and political phenomena. The insistence on an sharp discursive borders between alleged ‘Islamophobia’ and terms like racism or xenophobia, reveals according to the critics not only an insufficient analytical work on investigation of the phenomena of social resentments, but also an attempt to create a discursive foundation for a political strategies of political Islam aiming at stratification of societies along the lines of an religious allegiance. This paper intends to give an insight in the recent history, contexts and actual debates over this high contested term in the context of social- and political science.

Paper presenter: Jeong-Min Seo (Professor, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea), “From Anti-Islamism to Islamophobia: The Case of Korea”
The Korean Center for Arab and Islamic Culture was de facto closed down in December 2008. The Center, which was launched at Incheon Metropolitan City in October 2007, was the first cultural center in Korea dedicated to Arab and Islamic civilization. However, Incheon City suddenly decided to shut it down after around one year of its activities.The city?s excuse for closing the place down was vague, only claiming that it needed to build something called as a ?global center? in its place. But the alleged reason behind the closure was the pressure from Christian circles in Incheon City. It has been revealed that some Christian leaders in the city described the center as a vanguard organization for Muslim missionaries. It is no wonder that Arab countries criticized the decision. Ambassadors from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries called on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and argued that the closure would not only seriously tarnish South Korea's image in the Arab world but also deal a blow to Seoul's economic cooperation with Arab states.Dealing with this incident as a symbolic phenomenon, this research will examine the transformation process of Korean public opinion from anti-Islamism to the so-called Islamophobia. Even before the 9/11 attack, anti-Islamic or anti-Arab sentiment had been widespread in Korea due to the dynamic activities of various Christian circles as well as the misunderstanding or ignorance of the remote region. Nevertheless, the US-led war on terrorism and Korea?s participation in it has triggered a stronger anti-Islamism and consequently Islamophobia. Upon the US request or pressure, the Korean government has sent its troops to the Middle East, Iraq and Afghanistan. It has resulted in several attacks against Koreans in the region. And eventually the more Korean, who have witnessed the antagonistic attacks by Islamists or opposition Middle Eastern groups, are likely to accept the paradigm of ?clash of civilizations? or other radical Christian views toward the Middle East.To demonstrate the change of the public opinion, this study would rely on two methods of data collection. It will conduct a survey of public opinion toward Islam and terrorism. It will also apply a content analysis on the news article on the Middle East in general and on Islam and terrorism in specific. In so doing, the research would demonstrate how the Korean public opinion has been affected by the US-led war on terrorism.

Paper presenter: Fernando Bravo López (Taller de Estudios Internacionales Mediterráneos (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid)), “The image of the Islamic threat: continuity and change in anti-Muslim prejudice”
During the last decade there has been much scholarly, social and political debate about the phenomenon of Islamophobia. There has also been discussion about the meaning of the term, and even about its validity for designating anti-Muslim prejudice or anti-Muslim practices. Almost all participants in the debate have thought of the term ?Islamophobia? as though it was a recently created term. Moreover, they have perceived the phenomenon in two different ways: whether it has been perceived as a century-long phenomenon -Islamophobia being a ?new term for an old hate?-, or it has been perceived as a completely new phenomenon, a kind of racism directed against Muslims residing in the West.In order to throw some light on the debate, we propose to adopt an historical perspective capable of identifying change in the historical continuum. That perspective will show that Islamophobia, as any historical phenomenon, is rooted in the past, but it has also undergone changes over time.In the present paper we will show how, at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, some authors wrote about Islamophobia. We will show that they already defined the phenomenon, and we will defend the relevance of incorporating their definition to the current debate on the term ?Islamophobia?. Our contribution will show that what they called Islamophobia is a phenomenon that can be identified today and that it is precisely that phenomenon what should be called Islamophobia, and not other phenomena that sometimes are called so. That will lead us to discuss how, although the image of Islam as a threat has remained unaltered throughout the last two centuries, changes in the historical context has led to changes in the way anti-Muslim prejudice is expressed in discourse. Finally we will discuss whether those changes have caused the emergence of a new phenomenon or they have given a new face to Islamophobia.