Since September 11, and with the more recent emergence of ISIS, the place of Islam in western societies has been consistently framed by a "clash of civilisations" narrative. This has prompted public anxieties and government responses which seek to contain and counter 'extreme' expressions of Islamic faith and practice. In turn these have fuelled moral panics which have activated equally 'extreme' civil society expressions of Islamophobia, nationalism and racism directed at Muslim communities. The latter have been made publicly visible with the recent 'Reclaim Australia' protests however the Cronulla riots shadow these expressions, directing attention to a decade in which such tensions have led to a sustained backlash against multiculturalism within the nation.
These concerns will be addressed in a joint symposium comprising two days with a specific, though interconnected, focus.
Rethinking the nexus between Islamic Religiosity, active citizenship and belonging to the nation
Day one will address the 'Muslim question' circulating in citizenship debates in the Western public sphere by calling for papers which identify and explore the authentic societal capacities that practising Muslims possess, including those informed by the ethical precepts which constitute the core of Islamic faith. Despite some notable scholarly contributions there is still a dearth of empirical evidence or objective examination of the relationship between Islamic belief, ritual and practice and civic attitudes and expressions of social responsibility toward the western political community. This empirical gap contributes to reductionist characterisations of Islam as a persistent threat to western societies, fuelling Islamophobic and "extreme" nationalist responses. It is our hope that this event will prompt new conversations and directions for policy and research.
Cronulla Riots 10 years on: Multiculturalism, Islamophobia and race relations in Australia
In reflecting upon the decade that has passed since the Cronulla riots, day two will address just how significant the Cronulla Riots were, then and now, and whether – in a world preoccupied with the War on Terror – the Riots remain a useful reference point for discussions of intercultural relations and multiculturalism in Australia. This is particularly relevant in a geopolitical context where Islam's compatibility with western liberal values continues to be contested at global, national and local scales.
Monday 14 December 2015
With geopolitical concerns surrounding the rise of ISIS and other militant, transnational groups who draw on Islamic sources for legitimacy, the place of Islam in western, multicultural societies has become a source of anxiety and concern. Underlying this problematisation is the question of whether Muslims living in the West have the capacity to become fully active citizens whilst maintaining their religious beliefs, rituals, practices, customs and transnational connections. In particular, the visibility of Islamic religious practices in public spaces circulates fear and anxiety and fixes Muslims as potential threats to national security. This anxiety has prompted a raft of exclusionary government programs across Europe, Australia and North America which seek to contain and counter what are considered to be 'extreme' expressions of Islamic faith and practice.
Despite being carried out in the name of so called western values based on civil rights and freedom, these measures are often experienced by Muslims living in the West as a barrier to experiences of citizenship and belonging. Moreover, such responses fail to recognise the authentic societal capacities that practising Muslims possess, including those informed by the ethical precepts which constitute the core of Islamic faith. Indeed, despite some notable scholarly contributions there is still a dearth of empirical evidence or objective examination of the relationship between Islamic belief, ritual and practice and civic attitudes and expressions of social responsibility toward the western political community. This empirical gap contributes to reductionist characterisations of Islam as a persistent threat to western societies.
This symposium seeks to address this gap by inviting papers from scholars across a range of disciplines (including Islamic studies, sociology, geography, media and cultural studies) whose work focuses on Islamic spirituality and citizenship practices. We are particularly seeking papers that expand normative understandings of citizenship to account for instances where Muslim religiosity, spirituality and faith, as they are practiced and experienced in everyday life and urban spaces of encounter, enable new modes of being a citizen and participating in the civic and political life of the nation. Papers may address the following questions:
- Do 'lived' and 'performed' expressions of religiosity lead to a rethink of current citizenship policies and practices?
- Do Islamic conceptions of social justice and rights nourish concepts of active citizenship and foster social cohesion?
- Does Islamic religiosity encourage emotions and loyalties that present barriers to inclusive and active citizenship?
- Do transnational and digital forms of citizenship contribute to the shaping of new, more inclusive publics and civic spaces?
- What role do sacred texts/interfaith dialogue play in exploring the challenges of living with difference in the city?
Tuesday 15 December 2015
Almost a decade has lapsed since the Cronulla riots, and we are still weighing up their significance and consequences. The riots, triggered by an altercation between Lebanese Australian youth and Anglo-Australian lifesavers, involved a 5000 strong crowd of mainly young, white males converging on Cronulla, adorned in Australian flags and racist slogans, to 'reclaim the beach' from those of Arabic-speaking and especially Muslim background. This incited reprisal attacks by youth of 'Middle Eastern appearance'. Images of the riots were transmitted through national and global media, presenting Australia as a nation in a state of moral panic and paranoid nationalism that had not yet moved out of the shadows of its colonial past, producing intense debate as to whether the riots represented the racist underbelly of Australian society or just a few 'bad apples'.
In reflecting upon the decade that has passed since the Cronulla riots, this conference will address just how significant the Cronulla Riots were, then and now, and whether – in a world preoccupied with the War on Terror – the Riots remain a useful reference point for discussions of intercultural relations and multiculturalism in Australia. This is particularly relevant in a geopolitical context where Islam's compatibility with western liberal values continues to be contested at global, national and local scales. We invite contributions on topics that engage with some of the following questions:
- Is there potential for another Cronulla, particularly in a world in which incidents of violent extremism continue to provoke anxiety?
- Was Cronulla a peculiarly Sydney event? Could it happen elsewhere in Australia?
- Does the tabloid fascination with Cronulla as a spectacle of large-scale racial violence distract from the more everyday racisms in Australian society?
- Cronulla occurred in a largely pre-social media era – to what extent are some of these expressions of racism migrating into online environments?
- How well did schools, governments and community organisations react to the Cronulla events?
- What role can individual and collective anti-racist practices play in thinking about how we might live with ethno-religious difference?
- What role can emotions and affects play in thinking about embodied difference, and gestures of judgement and welcome in public spaces?
- Do questions of gender and sexuality continue to structure interethnic relations amongst youth?
- What challenges/opportunities do ethnic minority youth face as Australian citizens?
- Is the use of the terms 'white', 'Arab' and 'Muslim' helpful? Should a more considered approach to how people enact racisms and nationalisms be more mindful of how Muslim and Anglo Australian subjectivity is positioned in local, national and global spaces?
Does current discourse around 'Team Australia' seek to trade on the confluence of patriotism and racism performed at Cronulla?