Buckling European Identity with Postcolonialism: Start by Acknowledging Al-Andalus

I want to start my reflection by drawing attention to the title of Nilufer Gole’s reading this week: “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam.” I found myself shaping my view of this article quite closely with what I experience in Medieval Studies; as we saw in first week, the study still struggles to escape its Eurocentric time-space setting. Gole’s understanding of postcolonialism, and even arguing beyond the mirror of postcolonialism, buckles the outdated European Identity that still lives. One example given by Gole is Al-Andalus (although not explicitly named in the article), the Islamic region of Spain for over 400 years, as well as a region that continued to have a large Muslim population for another 400 years before they were expelled by Christians. Notably, it is a history that is contested today, especially by the far-right Vox in Spain currently and it links into the Othering of Islam.

By recentering Islam and decentering Europe, this specific postcolonial movement may indeed be the solution needed in the current politically climate to be able to show the interconnectedness of Islam to Europe. Seen in the New York Times article, Renaud Camus’s “great replacement theory,” or equally seen by Viktor Orban’s “Christian” Hungary in the Guardian article, the far-right holds close to a European identity. Gole expresses yet another example with the EU denying Turkey as a European country. It is certainly problematic, and Fatima El-Tayeb best summarizes why by explaining the thinking of a coalition of queer activists, feminists, conservatives, nationalists, and white supremacists alike. As she argues “what they have in common is an understanding of Islam as not a religion, practiced in a variety of forms, but as an all-encompassing ideology, stripping its adherents of all individuality.” (82)

The Othering of Islam, often from Western perspectives, fails to showcase the individuality of all who follow the faith, emphasis here on faith as the ideology exists only through Islamism. El-Tayeb’s study on queer Muslims, for example, proves how specific studies can combat the European (Western) identity that places the West in a position of modernity over the East – specifically showing Said’s theory of Orientalism. Queer Muslims and their coming out shows the connection of Islam to Europe and proves individuality away from this believe that every Muslim is traditionalist. On the Christian side, here too is postcolonialism working to counter the “Christian Europe” identity. Dan Stone’s article on Holocaust Memory and the European refugee crisis shows how the current climate has the likeness to the Holocaust, and although not the same, it is critical for many to avoid falling into that environment, especially with the Othering of refugees. Orban as an example also shows hope by Christians like Pastor Gabor Ivanyi as he calls out that Hungary is not a Christian-state for actions that no Christian should ever do. Just as one example, outside of academia, Ivanyi shows the separation from European Identity.

Thus, as a question for a multi-cultural Europe? I point once again to al-Andalus as proof, just as Gole suggests, to show how medieval Europe already was multi-cultural and interreligious. Islam already exists interconnected with Europe – the issue is that some do not want to except that. In which case, European Identity should buckle the further scholars move forward in decentering Europe and recentering Islam.

References:

Julian Coman, “The Pastor and the Populist: Hungary’s New Faith Faultline” https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/29/pastor-v-populist-viktor-orbanhungary-faith-faultline

Fatima El-Tayeb, “”Gays Who Cannot Properly be Gay.’ Queer Muslims in the Neoliberal European City” European Journal of Women’s Studies 19/1, (2012): 79-95.

Nilüfer Göle, “Decentering Europe, Recentering Islam” New Literary History, Volume 43, Number 4 (Autumn 2012): 665-685.

Norimitsu Onishi, “The Great Replacement and Renaud Camus” (September 20, 2019) https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/20/world/europe/renaud-camus-greatreplacement.html

Dan Stone, “On Neighbours and Those Knocking at the Door: Holocaust Memory and Europe’s Refugee Crisis.” Patterns of Prejudice 52, no. 2/3 (May 2018): 231–43.

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