Congrès Mondial des Études sur le Moyen-Orient et l'Afrique du Nord

Barcelone du 19 au 24 Juillet 2010


Being a Good Muslim. Comparative Perspectives on the Contested Fields of Religious and Moral Propriety (298) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Zentrum Moderner Orient, Germany / Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, Sweden

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Samuli Schielke & Tea Virtanen

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: The panel focuses on what has remained in shadow in the politically oriented studies of Islam and its more activist forms by exploring how people make sense of moral and religious ideals of the good in their everyday life. In the globalising world Muslims stand in the intersection of various competing normative discourses and practical possibilities, drawing from diverse sources of authority and models of good life that in the public debates may be represented as mutually exclusive. Therefore the question of being a good Muslim in the age of global Islam cannot be asked only within the realm of Muslim religiosity. Political movements, different socially shared moral sensibilities, competing normative discourses, and the suffering people face through various forms of oppression form an equally important part of the complicated search for being good among contemporary Muslims. Following questions thus stand at the centre of the panel: How are diverse cultural movements, global ideologies and normative schemes (revivalist religiosity, discourses on democracy, human rights and women rights, consumerists practices and lifestyles etc.) embedded in the daily lives of Muslims? How do they seek to balance between different moral and doctrinal frames? And why has the issue of being a ‘good Muslim’ becomes so charged in the global era? The participants of the panel tackle this issue from different angles, developing a shared focus on the manifold paths of everyday religious and moral lives that are essentially characterised by compromises, ambivalence, pain and uncertainty.

Chair: Samuli Schielke, Zentrum Moderner Orient

Discussant: Patrick Desplat, Free University of Berlin

Paper presenter: Tea Virtanen, Nordic Africa Institute in Uppsala, “Islam and good practice: Constructing indigenous Muslim identity in Cameroon”
The paper explores the ways in which Islam is integrated into the formation of a modern indigenous identity in contemporary Cameroon. It focusses on the Mbororo, traditionally known as pastoralists, the status of whom as indigenous people was implicitly recognised by the Republic of Cameroon in 1996. It investigates how an urban ‘moderate’ version of Islam is harnessed by the educated Mbororo for the construction of a modern Mbororo identity. The main focus will be on the notions of Islam and ‘good practice’ as a constituent of ethnic identity spread by the activists of MBOSCUDA, the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association. The paper thus explores how a ‘moderate,’ modernist version of Islam is used as a vehicle for removing certain traditional practices considered in opposition to a ‘pure’ Islam and seen as obstacles in the construction of a modern culture of progress.

Paper presenter: Pekka Tuominen, University of Helsinki, “Constructions of Muslim spaces in the Beyo’lu district of Istanbul”
This concentrates on how representations of Islam and religiosity in general are expressed and understood in the urban centre of Istanbul. Beyo’lu has long history being the European and modern centre of the city in contrast to the old Stamboul side of the city that is associated with tradition and conservatism. However, in the streets of Beyo’lu there are significant borders within the cityscape and these are often expressed according the oppositions of religious and secular. Some streets are acknowledged as borders between the modern centre and traditional neighbourhoods (mahalle) which are associated with a strong sense of community and traditional Islamic values. The paper examines in what situations these borders become significant, how they have different meaning to the inhabitants of the city and how the often paradoxical understandings of modernity, urbanity and Islam are present in the experience of spatial mapping of the city.

Paper presenter: Fadi Kabatilo, University of Eastern Finland, “Divorcing the Islamic state from the Islamists: A study of the Jordanian university students’ perceptions”
To what extent Jordanian university students believe in an Islamic state? More important, do they identify an Islamic state with the Islamists? Finally, what are the factors which contribute to the students? Political positioning, and through which processes do these factors function? Based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative interviewing, this paper aims to answer the first two questions and tackle possible answers to the third one. The paper argues that for Muslim Students, the Islamic state is an abstract ideal made up of few vague religious opinions. Moreover, supporting this ideal does not imply joining Islamists or supporting them, rather it represents a demand for justice, welfare, transparency, security, freedom, development and power.

Paper presenter: Henri Onodera, University of Helsinki, “Many routes from transference: On youthful despairs and cognitive acts of ‘doing good’ in Egypt”
Based on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth interviews with four Cairenes in their twenties, this paper examines the different viewpoints that urban middle-class youth have with regard to their involvement, or the lack thereof, in public life in contemporary Egypt. Despite their seemingly differing positionalities in the prevailing society, they exhibit rather similar conceptions of the predicaments that afflict their current lives, and the Egyptian youth in general, which include economic hardships, political negligence by older generations, lack of direction and depression, and growing uncertainties about the future trajectories at personal and societal levels. In particular, this paper shows how their decisions to participate in, or disengage from, public life pertain to different conceptions of what constitutes a good deed and, similarly, to different social, moral and, indeed, cognitive registers through which they account for their everyday actions and experiences.

Paper presenter: Marko Juntunen, University of Helsinki, “Pain, memory and the Iraqi drama”
This presentation, which is based on ethnographic fieldwork in Finland, the Netherlands and Belgium, focuses on five Iraqi refugee men, who share painful personal memories from Abu Ghraib prison dating back to the late 1980s. How do they perceive the rapidly globalising diasporic spaces in the increasingly securitized and politically polarized atmosphere of post-War on Terror and post-Occupation of Iraq era? How do the globally produced religious and political influences that are increasingly communicated via Internet and satellite TV channels affect the contest over public space? What kinds of social boundaries, silences and perhaps forms of silencing does this contest generate?