Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Diaspora by Design: Muslim Immigrants in Canada and Beyond

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Diaspora by Design: Muslim Immigrants in Canada and Beyond

Article excerpt

Haideh Moghissi, Saeed Rahnema and Mark J. Goodman, Diaspora by Design: Muslim Immigrants in Canada and Beyond (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), 224pp. Cased. £40. ISBN 978-0-8020-9787-3. Paper. £15. ISBN 978-0-8020- 9543-5.

Based on over 2,300 questionnaires and 60 in-depth interviews, Diaspora by Design is a multifaceted investigation into the experiences and beliefs of Muslim immigrants in Canada, the UK, Palestine and Iran. Examining class, education, religious background, gender and family roles, employment and sense of belonging, the study focuses primarily on four groups of Muslims living in Canada: those who emigrated from Iran, Palestine, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The first chapter of the book provides a detailed critique of the idea of a Muslim diaspora. The term 'Muslim' itself is problematised, acknowledging not only the different schools of thought within Islam (which are far more complex than a division between Sunnis and Shi'as), but also a diversity of religious practice and belief (not all people who identify as Muslims are highly religious, and some even regard themselves as atheists). The authors argue that the events of 11 September 2001 brought Muslims in Canada together, in the sense that they became identified first and foremost as Muslims by other Canadians, irrespective of any other identity they may see as equally or more important: 'They are Muslims, regardless of the fact that many, at least until recently, did not care to identify themselves with Islam or be identified as such by others' (p. 12).

However, the central tenet of this book is that the four groups examined often exhibit different attitudes and beliefs and have very different experiences in Canada. Just 14 per cent of Iranian males and 21 per cent of females identified very strongly as Muslims, compared to 85 per cent of Pakistani men and 88 per cent of Pakistani women. …

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