Islam in the Hinterlands: Muslim Cultural Politics in Canada is a recent book that looks at the place of Muslims within Canadian media, schools, politics, and laws. Edited by Jasmin Zine, the collection provides insightful analysis on a number of current topics related to Muslims in Canada, and is a valuable resource for those of us working as scholars, writers, and/or activists in the field.
The first section of the book, “Gender and Cultural Politics,” begins with a chapter by Zine that maps out issues of gender and race in a number of recent events involving Muslims in Canadian news and politics. Zine identifies three major lenses through which these issues get discussed: “disciplining culture,” where Muslim cultures are defined as dangerous and needing to be contained within Canada’s multicultural framework; “death by culture,” where Muslim women are portrayed as being under threat from the beliefs and practices of their communities, and “death of culture,” where Muslims are seen as a danger to Canadian society as a whole. In the second chapter of this section, Itrath Syed writes about debates in 2003-2005 around the use of Islamic family law in Ontario (short overview of the issue here, in PDF), arguing that in the way that the debates were framed, “Muslim women were infantilized, the Muslim community of Canada was denationalized, and Islamic law was fossilized” (p. 61). The third chapter, written by Katherine Bullock, looks at how we might do research on political engagement among Muslim women in Canada, and provides a useful framework for how we might understand definitions of “Muslims,” “political engagement,” and “activism” more broadly. [Read more...]