Muslims, Multiculturalism and Trust: New Directions

Date: Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd June 2013pattern2
Event: Two-Day Conference
Title: Muslims, Multiculturalism and Trust: New Directions
Venue: Khalil Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London



This conference brought together leading experts from across the social science/humanities divide to examine the intersections and tensions between different approaches to questions of multiculturalism and trust, and to explore the possibility of developing mutually informative interdisciplinary approaches to shed new light on this topic. The aim of the conference was to analyse current critiques of multiculturalism, measure them against other, perhaps more progressive interpretations, and consider the potential offered by lived experience and creative visions of intercultural exchange to offer new ways of envisaging multicultural experience.

Invited participants include: Rehana Ahmed, Valerie Amiraux, Claire Chambers, Sohail Daulatzai, Salah Hassan, Yasmin Khan, Tony Laden, Alana Lentin, Nasar Meer, Tariq Modood, Anshuman Mondal, Peter Morey, Stephen Morton, Jorgen Nielsen, Lord Bhikhu Parekh, and Amina Yaqin.


Panel Descriptions

Rehana Ahmed and Valerie Amiraux: ‘Multicultural controversies’

Rehana Ahmed discusses the (mis)reading of literary controversies such as the Satanic Verses and Brick Lane affairs as indictments of multiculturalism, emphasizing instead the unequal access to social, cultural and economic capital that characterizes the disputants. Valerie Amiraux discusses the unease generated by the visibility of Muslim modes of dress in the EU, and the tension with established notions of the public and the private. She argues that, in the case of Muslim, religious identity has been racialized, leading to a legal framework that in some instances effectively works to criminalize it.

 Speaker Podcasts

Tony Laden and Stephen Morton: ‘Conditions of Trust’

Tony Laden offers a philosophical overview of recent thinking on trust, democracy and reason. He suggests a model of trust as a gift that may help mitigate situations where there is an imbalance of power – as is the case in modern multicultural states. Stephen Morton critiques the financial practices of non-governmental organizations, such as the Grameen Bank, in providing female entrepreneurs with small, low-interest loans, suggesting that these are still subject to the constraining operations of patriarchy, notions of honour and the operations of the market. He takes as his literary focus the relationship between the protagonist, Nazneen and the moneylender, Mrs Islam in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane.

 Speaker Podcasts

Tariq Modood: Keynote Lecture - Trust, Integration and Multiculturalism

Extending his important critiques of contemporary multiculturalism, Tariq Modood argues that trust and respect for difference require a shared symbolic sense of belonging. Arguing against the reductiveness of many modes of integrationism, he advocates instead attending to the concerns of both majority and minorities in shaping a new kind of Britishness.

 Speaker Podcasts

Anshuman Mondal and Yasmin Khan: Islamism, Integration and Cultural Engagement

Anshuman Mondal criticizes Kenan Malik’s account of the debilitating and socially divisive effects of multiculturalism in his well-known book, From Fatwah to Jihad. Mondal argues that Malik’s account is blind to its own debt to identity politics and the accusations against multiculturalism are indicative of a willed blindness to matters of social and economic inequality and the impact of global politics. Yasmin Khan takes examples from recent, high profile exhibitions with a Muslim theme to look at minority (especially Muslim) engagement with the arts, examining what stands in the way of their fuller involvement and thinking about ways to encourage participation in the future.

Claire Chambers and Salah Hassan: Islamophobia and its Consequences

Claire Chambers examines the rhetoric of Salman Rushdie uses to dismiss the notion that such a thing as Islamophobia exists in his memoir Joseph Anton. She suggests that his hardened attitude – while an understandable product of experience – is nonetheless insufficiently nuanced and unaware of the dangers of conflating criticism of a religion with vilification of its followers. Salah Hassan cites instances of increasing harassment and surveillance of Muslims since 9/11, culminating in the police shooting of a religious leader in Dearborn, Michigan in 2009. Hassan situates this in the context of strained intercultural relations of trust and shows a clip from the documentary he produced about the shooting.

 Speaker Podcasts

Jorgen Nielsen and Amina Yaqin: Diversity and Cosmopolitanism

Jorgen Nielsen attends to those macro-narratives of irreconcilable difference that have characterized the clash between Europe as a space and Islam as a religion within that space. He gives examples of local contestations of monolithic perspectives and considers how a more realistic and representative views of complex relationships can find a space to speak. Amina Yaqin analyses two contemporary Muslim memoirs (Fawzia Afzal Khan’s Lahore with Love and Ali Eteraz’s Children of Dust) to identify aspects of elite cosmopolitanism that underlie the books’ reception in the West as representative of Muslim experience. Questions of trust are further highlighted by the controversial withdrawal of Afzal Khan’s book, owing to a complaint by a former friend.

 Speaker Podcasts

Peter Morey and Alana Lentin: “Good” and “Bad” Muslims

Peter Morey suggests that the post-Enlightenment liberal philosophical trajectory by which the modern state seeks to establish bonds of trust between citizens is incompatible with some of the aspirations of its multicultural citizens. Drawing on the work of Erving Goffman, he claims that, what results are unequal cultural exchanges in the public realm between Muslims and others that have as their aim impression management – especially at times of crisis – rather than more meaningful dialogue. Alana Lentin offers a trenchant critique of the ‘post-racial’ racism in accounts of the failure of multiculturalism, identifying what passes in this discourse for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ diversity and showing how these categories are a product of a ‘culturism’ which itself takes its cue from neoliberalism.

 Speaker Podcasts

Professor Lord Bhikhu Parekh: Keynote Lecture – Multiculturalism Past, Present and Future

The distinguished thinker and architect of British multiculturalism considers the origins of the idea in education policy in the 1970s and ‘80s and how multiculturalism’s central feature of respect for difference remains important and its practical achievements ought to be defended. However, he acknowledges certain shortcomings – such as a blindness to the desires and anxieties of the majority – and ends with a challenge to reshape multiculturalism for the future.

 Speaker Podcasts

Nasar Meer and Sohail Daulatzai: Muslims, Ethnicity and “the Nation”

Nasar Meer traces some of the tensions between multiculturalism and multinationalism in the current debate around Scottish identity in the run up to the independence referendum. He identifies how minorities are located in the process of nation-building, foregrounding aspirational pluralism, the legacy of Scotland’s place in the British Empire, and the challenges of multilingualism and multi-faithism. Sohail Daulatzai identifies a deep, enduring struggle around blackness and ‘the Muslim’ in American politics, through which even seemingly epochal events such as 9/11 and the election of Barack Obama must be understood. He sees the coalescing of a post-Civil Rights US imperialism in the 1970s and historical structures of race and racism that still shape debates and actions today.

 Speaker Podcasts


Introduction and First Panel

  Introduction - Amina Yaqin       

  Muslims, Multiculturalism and Trust: Opening Remarks – Peter Morey

  Rehana Ahmed - ‘A spike through the pages of love, a spike through the sacred’: Literary controversies, class and multiculturalism in Britain 

  Valerie Amiraux - Headscarves and Burqas in Europe: How the religion of some became the public concern of others 

  Q and A

Second Panel

  Tony Laden: The gift of trust: how to get there from here 

  Stephen Morton: Economies of Trust in Narratives of Microcredit 

  Q and A


  Tariq Modood - Trust, Integration and Multiculturalism 

  Q and A

Third Panel

  Claire Chambers - Rushdie’s Joseph Anton: Islamophobia in ‘A World Without Shadows’ 

  Salah Hassan - Muslim American Targets: Distrust, Surveillance and Detention after 9/11 

  Q and A

Fourth Panel

  Jorgen S. Nielsen - Islam and Europe: Interacting diversities 

  Amina Yaqin - Multicultural Memoirs: Cosmopolitan and translocal Muslim Narratives of “social trust”  

  Q and A

Fith Panel

  Peter Morey - Framing Trust: Impression Management and the Multiculturalism Debate 

  Alana Lentin - Good and Bad Diversity: The Crises of Multiculturalism as a Crisis of Politics  

  Q and A

Keynote and Sixth Panel

  Lord Professor Bhikhu Parekh – Multiculturalism Past, Present and Future 

  Q and A

  Nasar Meer - Multiculturalism from a multinational space: Scottish perspectives on the 'new Scots' 

  Sohail Daulatzai - Praying for Wind: Imperial Multiculturalism, Blackness and the Specter of the Muslim in post-9/11 America" 

  Q and A 


Video (video footage provided courtesy of Faculti media)



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