Vol 34 No. 2 (2015)
An important component of the study of Islam in Canada would be a compilation of short histories of the most significant mosque communities in the country. This would give the reading public a snapshot of the tradition in situ. This selection is a gesture towards such a study. It highlights the principle achievements of the Edmonton Sunni community in its development from a tiny Lebanese Muslim community to a thriving, multidimensional religious enterprise that embraces more than fifty different nationalities and ethnic groups. As the oldest community in Canada, it represents how the tradition has adapted and grown in Canadian culture, despite major international occurrences like 9/11. Its story in encapsulated here as a contribution to the way the religion of the Prophet has become part of Canadian complexity.
Canadians have, as of late, been faced with such controversial clash of rights issues as the 2004 Ontario faith-based arbitration debate, the more recently proposed Quebec Charter of Values, as well as the ongoing hijab and niqab debates that continue to garner their collective attention. In the case of the Ontario faith-based arbitration debates, while the issue related to all religious traditions, the ensuing narrative around the case focused heavily on the Islamic faith alone, often symbolized by the “repressed” Muslim woman. The emerging sense is that the underlying objective, emblematic of these types of measures, continues to be a “saving” of the desolate Muslim woman against her patriarchal, aggressive husband whilst at the same time protecting esteemed “secular” values. Naturally, this stance begs whether or not the Canadian Muslim woman indeed needs “saving” and whether or not these “secular” societal values offer the best route to salvation.
The Hijab: A Personal Journey [+] 185-200
Hijab has taken on distinctive meanings according to its cultural contexts—it was part of discussions on women’s rights in Egypt in the 1930s, and women became a litmus test of modernity. At that time the full range of women’s lives was the focus, not a narrow concern about whether or not they wore hijab. Through the Nasser period the hijab could be associated with country women and thus rejected by the middle class; however, it was often worn to identify hajjis, those who had made the pilgrimage that year. This began to shift in the Sadat era as hijab was donned in affirmation of Islam and by the 1980s, with the influences of Wahhabism and the Muslim Brotherhood, hijab had become a political statement. In Canada, it often is associated with Muslim identity. Through the gaze of personal experience, Erving Goffman’s idea of impression management does not provide sufficient explanatory framework. There are many discourses around the hijab and no one discourse is sufficient to pin down the complexity of international hijab-wearing.
Muslim women living in Canada and the United States of America are subject to many influences and the global nature of Islam is one of them. While it is evident that research on so large and diverse a category as Muslim women’s health could flounder on a number of issues, it is nevertheless crucial that the cohort be examined, even if cursorily, so that we may appreciate the many subtle influences impacting the cohort. Furthermore, regardless of the difficulties in segregating these women from the social matrices within which they live around the world, the fact is they personally insist that the common label “Muslim” has validity. Hence no sampling of Muslim women’s lives in Alberta can be complete without highlighting how their health is registered through a “Muslim” cultural prism. That in turn indicates that global dimensions help shape their well-being. This essay aims to do a preliminary survey of the field with the hope that others will do a more comprehensive analysis.
Reflections from the Field
Reconsidering Limited Representations of Islam and Muslims: Guidance through Métissage and Learning from Lived Experiences [+] 235-240
The spirit and intent of this reflection is to open up the ways in which the “single storying” of Islam and Muslims limits more ethical forms of relationality. This reflective piece seeks to make evident the ways in which limited representations of particular faith traditions produces feelings of isolation, exclusion and a sense of disconnect from others. Drawing upon métissage principles, this reflection will elucidate lived experiences on their own terms. Métissage as a research sensibility and political praxis can validate ways of knowing and being that are often denied.
Ordinary Oblivion and the Self Unmoored: Reading Plato’s Phaedrus and Writing the Soul by Jennifer R. Rapp. Fordham University Press, 2014. 224pp. + xi. Hb., $55. ISBN: 9780823257430 241-243
Religious Education and the Challenge of Pluralism, edited by Adam B. Seligman. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. 254 pp. Hb., $135. ISBN 978-0-19-935947-9 244-246
Freud on Religion by Marsha Aileen Hewitt. Vol. 6 of Key Thinkers in the Study of Religion, edited by Steven Engler. New York: Acumen, 2014. 176 pp. + xi. Pb. $27.95. ISBN 978-1-84465-798-8 247-248