Warping faith: big brands & Gov are refashioning Muslim identity (head wear fashions)

C C Offline

EXCERPTS: The branded hijab works as a form of secular management of religion. It reduces the Islamic head wear to multicultural exotica - fashionable diversity - and re-fashions Islamic sartorial practices as culture. The public display of culture, rather than faith, is more comfortable for secular sensibilities usually affronted by the public reminder of religion. From this viewpoint, the branded hijab reforms the symbol to fit the norms of a public sphere aspiring towards a certain kind of secular society.

But, by extension, the reform of hijab is also intertwined with the reform of the Muslim subject. The branded hijab produces a secular Muslim subject - one whose cultural practices reference religion but which are actually about commodities and consumption.

The reform of the Muslim has long been a central goal of the European counter-terrorism agenda. Yvonne Haddad, Professor of the History of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Georgetown University, argues that “for many government leaders today, the question is no longer how to help Muslims feel at home in foreign societies, but how to ensure that these societies produce the right kind of Muslim… how to fashion loyal Muslim citizens that share European values.”

This quest is reflected in the Government’s Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, which has overseen state involvement in the management and re-making of Muslim institutions such as mosques, Islamic schools, and imam training institutes.

For example, Prevent supported the establishment of the ‘Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board’ - a regulatory body that oversees accreditation and good governance of mosques; the ‘Islam Citizenship Education Project’ - an initiative to produce teaching material on citizenship for use in independent Muslim schools; and the ‘Review of Muslim Faith Leader Training’ - an investigatory body that scrutinises the curriculum, pedagogy and links with mainstream education of imam training programmes.

These initiatives seek to permeate the institutions that produce the next generation of British Muslim leaders. ‘British values’, it is hoped, will make up part of the ethos within which British Muslims form their identity and faith practices.

Ultimately, the aim is to create ‘acceptable’ British Muslim subjects: appropriately secular, who separate private religious identity from obligations relating to public civic identity, and are moderate in faith practice, uninterested in transnational politics and loyal to the nation and secular law... (MORE - details)

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