Katherine Brown – “We are the West”: Muslim women’s claims of identity and belonging

Part of the Islam, Muslim Youth and Identity series

Katherine Brown (Kings College, University of London)
“We are the West”: Muslim women’s claims of identity and belonging

I have argued elsewhere that British security politics places Muslims on the margins of citizenship, operating as an internal ‘Other’ that is evoked in repeated discourses of fear, threats and danger. However while securitising narratives place caveats on Muslim claims of citizenship – based on ‘good character’, good behaviour, and adherence to ‘British values’ – it is set against alternative models of claiming belonging. These alternative models present Muslim identity within cultural discourses which normalise citizenship, based on participation in a broader gendered globalised culture, politics and economics, and are developed in Muslim media, civil society, and intellectual debates. One proponent of an alternative Islamic identity can be found in the monthly Muslim women’s life-style magazine ‘Emel’, which in an editorial in 2005 proclaimed “We are the West”. This paper examines the ways in which this magazine, as an example of this alternative model of citizenship, constructs a Muslim identity. The paper will also examine the narratives of identity and citizenship found in the ‘Muslim Women’s Power list’ sponsored by The Times, the Equality and Human Rights Commission. These alternative models of belonging are shown to be routed in successful employment, leadership and commitment to community. Consequently it is argued that these alternative models are embedded in a globalised consumerist consensus that is recognisable beyond a Muslim-specific.

Dr Katherine Brown is a lecturer at Kings College London. She has written on British Muslim politics and Muslim women’s rights and identities in the UK. Her current research examines the roles of British Muslim women in security politics/policies and their resistance to these processes. She also works on evaluating Muslim women’s participation in political violence, and the impact this has on dominant discourses of Islam, gender, and class.

Emel Magazine here

Seminar organizers: Professor Ravinder Barn (CrimSoc), and Profesor Humayun Ansari (History)



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