Beyond Islamophobia

Date: 7-8 June 2014

Event: Two-Day conference

Venue: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London.


This conference brought together academics and practitioners to review the rise of mainstream Islamophobia in recent years, while also situating it in its much longer historical context. The objective of the conference was to explore how Islamophobia manifests itself and to what extent it can be understood as a psychological self-defence reflex against a supposedly antithetical Other: the most recent instance of popular moral panic; the logic of neo-imperial foreign policies; or a manifestation of the unequal results of globalization. Conference participants suggested and argued for possible paths beyond the current impasse, emphasizing what is needed for Islam and Muslims to gain greater acceptance in civil society, how understanding can emerge, and how trust can replace mistrust in intercultural relations.

Speakers include: John L. Esposito, Chris Allen, Houria Boutledja, Shenaz Bunglawala, Madeline Clements, Peter Gottschalk, Nathan Lean, Maleiha Malik, Peter Morey, Fiyaz Mughal, Geoffrey Nash, Sherene Razack, Stephen Sheehi, Asmaa Soliman, Sarah Soyei, Abdoolkarim Vakil, Amina Yaqin


Maleiha Malik and Houria Bouteldja: Islamophobia, the Law and the State

Maleiha Malik offers an insight into controversies over sharia law in the UK and how they have been a source of racialization in the USA, UK and Canada. She argues for the need to have an accurate terminology that communicates the modest accommodation of minority religions norms instead of the fear mongering that is generated by the suggestion of a parallel legal system for Muslim minorities in a liberal democracy. Houria Bouteldja discusses Islamophobia as state racism and its institutionalisation in French law, giving the example of the headscarf ban in 2004 as a betrayal of France’s republican spirit.


Peter Gottschalk and AbdoolKarim Vakil: Historical Roots of Islamophobia

Peter Gottschalk examines the historic contexts of Islamophobia that can be found in the imperial archive of the British empire. He argues that the construction of the Muslim as an invader figure in imperial discourse created fixed stereotypes such as Muslim tyranny, masculine fanaticism and feminine oppression. Abdoolkarim Vakil explores the uses and abuses of history in the contemporary formations of Islamophobia.


Sarah Soyei and Shenaz Bunglawala: Education and Community Empowerment

Sarah Soyei speaks of her experience working with educators and young people in England over the last 7 years to challenge Islamophobic attitudes and practices. She notes that young people are fed a steady diet of Islamophobic messages through the media, family and friends and are vulnerable targets for prejudicial hatred campaigns. Shenaz Bunglawala examines the letters pages of national newspapers to consider the extent to which they underpin or contest dominant narratives.


Amina Yaqin and Madeline Clements: Challenging Islamophobia: Gender and Art

Amina Yaqin analyses the Islamic consciousness in Leila Aboulela’s novel Minaret arguing that her fiction is responding to Islamophobia not through a strident anti-Islamic feminism but through an activist faith led agenda of personal piety and familial mistrust represented through the actions and reactions of the protagonist. Madeline Clements interrogates contemporary Pakistani art post 911 and its responses to the ongoing war on terror and consequent perceptions of Islamophobia.


Faiza Butt introduces Second Glance/Double Take art exhibition

The Pakistani artist Faiza Butt introduces the Second Glance/Double Take art exhibition curated by Madeline Clements. Faiza Butt talks about her aesthetics and politics as a diaporic artist located in London with reference to her exhibited paintings.


Salah D. Hassan introduces Migrations of Islam: Muslim American Cultural Expression in the 21st Century.

Salah Hasan, presents Migrations of Islam (2014) a documentary film that follows a series of public performances held in Michigan to explore the different ways that Muslims in the US have negotiated the relationship between their faith and their society. It offers an engaging sample of Muslim Americans challenging Islamophobia on a range of issues, from the wearing of hijab to the making of hip-hop music.


Chris Allen and Nathan Lean: Islamophobia and Governmental Policy

Chris Allen takes a critical retrospective on the policy impact of the Runnymede report as and related policy developments and initiatives that have since sought to address the rising spectre of Islamophobia in the British setting. Nathan Lean examines Islamophobia as a product that is marketed to the American public through three specific outlets: Imperialism, Institutionalization, and Industry. He discusses this in relation to its impact on foreign policy and domestic security.


Fiyaz Mughal and Asmaa Soliman: Internet and New Media

Fiyaz Mughal describes from a practitioner’s perspective the proliferation of Islamophobic material in social media and on the internet. He discusses some of the ways in which Faith Matters and the Tell Mama project have tried to gather evidence of the extent of the problem. Asmaa Soliman examines two young German Muslims who both use the internet differently to resist Islamophobic attitudes and negative associations with Islam and Muslims. Her German case studies can be understood as counterpublics that challenge Islamophobia, which is visible within the mainstream public space.


Keynote Address


John L. Esposito, Islam, Islamophobia & the Role of the Media in America

John Esposito argues that the modern roots of Islamophobia are to be found in the last decades of the 20th century, which provided the backdrop for an increase in anti-Muslim discourse and behavior. In a lively and engaging talk he analyses the role of media, especially the “Organized Islamophobia Network” in social media, and its impact on American politics and the image vs. the reality of American Muslims in popular culture.


Geoffrey Nash and Peter Morey: Islamophobia and Literature

Geoffrey Nash considers whether contemporary British literature is Islamophobic. He argues that, while the stances adopted towards Islam in postcolonial writing have often been complicit in actively disseminating Islamophobic attitudes, however recent postcolonial writing can also enter into positive dialogue with aspects of Muslim belief and practice. Peter Morey examines ‘Muslim misery memoirs’, arguing that while they partake in culturalist discourse that sees Muslims as inherently different and threatening, at the same time they display an unexpected level of anxiety about the project of 'unveiling' the East to the West.


Sherene Razack and Stephen Sheehi: Islamophobia, Race and Racism

Sherene Razack considers how law’s contemporary preoccupation with the Muslim psyche renders all Muslims as less than human. She explores the logic of this eviction both from law and from humanity through the case study of a Muslim prisoner interned at Guantanamo.Stephen Sheehi argues that the ressentiment between white majoritarian North American culture and its racialized minorities, in this case Arab and Muslim Americans, is determined by a blend of class interests and domestic politics that perpetually manage and reconfigure America’s racial hierarchy in relation to its socio-economic structure.


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  Welcome and Opening Remarks

Panel One


 Maleiha Malik

 Houia Bouteldja

 Q & A

Panel Two


 Peter Gottschalk

 AbdoolKarim Vakil

 Q & A

Akbar Ahmed Talk


 Akbar Ahmed

 Q & A

Panel Three


 Sarah Soyei

 Shenaz Bunglawala

 Q & A

Panel Four


 Amina Yaqin

 Madeline Clements

 Q & A

Faiza Butt Talk


 Faiza Butt

 Q & A

Salah Hassan Talk and Film


 Film Audio

 Q & A

Panel Five


 Chris Allen

 Nathan Lean

 Q & A

Panel Six


 Fiyaz Mughal

 Asmaa Soliman

 Q & A

John L.Esposito Keynote


 John L. Esposito

 Q & A

Panel Seven


 Geoffrey Nash

 Peter Morey

 Q & A

Panel Eight


 Sherene Razack

 Stephen Sheehi

 Q & A







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