Muslims in the West after 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Law

Muslims in the West after 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Law

Muslims in the West after 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Law

Muslims in the West after 9/11: Religion, Politics, and Law


This book is the first systematic attempt to study the situation of European and American Muslims after 9/11, and to present a comprehensive analysis of their religious, political, and legal situations.

Since 9/11, and particularly since the Madrid and London bombings of 2004 and 2005, the Muslim presence in Europe and the United States has become a major political concern. Many have raised questions regarding potential links between Western Muslims, radical Islam, and terrorism. Whatever the justification of such concerns, it is insufficient to address the subject of Muslims in the West from an exclusively counter-terrorist perspective. Based on empirical studies of Muslims in the US and Western Europe, this edited volume posits the situation of Muslim minorities in a broader reflection on the status of liberalism in Western foreign policies. It also explores the changes in immigration policies, multiculturalism and secularism that have been shaped by the new international context of the 'war on terror'.

This book will be of great interest to students of Critical Security Studies, Islamic Studies, Sociology and Political Science in general.

Jocelyne Cesari is an Associate at Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Center for European Studies, teaching at Harvard Divinity School and the Government Department, specializing in Islam and the Middle East.


Since 9/11 the debate on the compatibility between Islam and Western political and cultural values has become increasingly public. It follows a pattern that Mahmood Mamdani refers to as “cultural talk” in his book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim. “Cultural talk” is based upon an essentialized approach to Islam as a unified ideology spreading from Europe all the way to Iraq and Afghanistan. In this structure, Muslims are petrified in history and occupy a mold from which they cannot escape, defined by their so-called conformity to the past and their incapacity to address the current challenges of political development and liberal religious thinking. Such an approach justifies the creation of an insurmountable boundary between modern and pre-modern, between secularism and Islam.

For a long time, the antinomy between Islam and modernity was centered on democratization and the perspective that it was impossible for Muslim countries to achieve democracy. This dichotomous way of thinking has now transferred to the domain of international relations for the purpose of addressing the issue of secularizing Muslim societies since 9/11, as well as discovering the root causes of global crises like the Danish cartoons. Furthermore, the role of Islam at the international relations level is now part of the debate on the integration of Muslim immigrants within Western democracies. In other words, the boundary between domestic and international politics is becoming less distinct in terms of assessing the role of Islam in the West.

National and international components of cultural talk

The reason why “cultural talk” is so strong at the international level is because religion has long been absent from most international relations discourse. Through the 1960s and 1970s, international relations discourse had maintained that religion and modernization were incompatible. However, by the 1980s, the Iranian Revolution and the rise of the “religious right” in the US led to a re-assessment of the place of religion in international relations. Now, many scholars of modernization and secularization theory have begun reformulating their approaches with the belief that . . .

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