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Title: Imagined Other or Next Great Threat: Perceptions of Muslims in the European Public Sphere
Authors: Ibrahem, Rana
Advisors: Danspeckgruber, Wolfgang
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: From the expansion of the Ottoman Empire to Europe’s borders, Islam immediately represented an adverse threat against which “the West” would prevail – effectively constituting Islam or the entire Muslim world, as an “Other”. Today Islam and Muslims again assume the role of the Other, except now it is from within Europe. This study attempts to answers the question: how does the non-Muslim majority in the EU perceive European Muslims as opposed to Islam as a religion? One main result from this study indicates that certain “trigger images” in the media set the tone for interactions that extend beyond just how non-Muslims view Islam in Europe but also how European Muslims will view Islam in Europe. The first case study, which addresses Islamic fundamentalism, examines the mechanisms through which fundamentalism is perceived by non-Muslim majorities in Europe. The case first identifies the role of the Iranian Revolution in the transformation of the way the West viewed Islamism. Since then and still today, securitized visual identifiers of Islam in the public sphere are used as a proxy for the whole of Islamic identity. Visual securitization of Islam is evident in the way so-called “homegrown” terrorists caused governments to turn their attention inwards and scrutinize relations with their Muslim populations. The second case study, which addresses Muslim women, examines the visual securitization of Muslim women in the media and the public sphere more broadly. The Muslim woman is transformed from historically “hidden” and “eroticized” figure into a caricature used by used by politicians, journalists to perpetuate the view that Islam is subversive threat lurking within Europe. The modern day European public sphere is tainted by a hypervisibility of Muslims and Islam. The distortion of Muslim precepts and practices by the media results in an ethnic exclusion and widespread silencing of Muslim voices. These elements contribute to a negative portrayal of Muslims and Islam within the European public sphere and ultimately sanction xenophobic narratives and prejudicial stereotypes. In order to test the accuracy of this assessment, two case studies are utilized in conjunction with the researcher’s interviews. Lastly, as Muslims have become more visible within the public sphere, national governments have the devoted efforts to the integration of the Muslims population in Europe.
Extent: 113 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

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