European States and their Muslim Citizens: The Impact of Institutions on Perceptions and Boundaries
John R. Bowen, Christophe Bertossi, Jan Willem Duyvendak, Mona Lena Krook (eds) (Cambridge University Press, 2013)
By Eleni Polymenopoulou
This book is certainly worth reading; it is rich, inter-disciplinary and noteworthy in its attempt to outline some of the main challenges faced by Muslim citizens living in the ‘multi-cultural’ western European cities. The editors have opted for the difficult way; namely, to adopt an ‘institutional’ rather than an ‘ideological’ analytical framework, and to start from the assumption that policies within institutions may have an impact on ideologies – rather than the other way round. Namely, the book interrogates Muslims’ representations and policy framing within institutions such as schools, hospitals, the military and law courts, and only after that interrogates the impact of such representations and policies on debates such as ‘immigrant integration’, ‘citizenship’ or ‘religious diversity’. In terms of terminology, the term ‘institutions’, according to the authors, is used in its sociological rather than political meaning, taking also into account the context of institutional actions. It is equally clarified that that the term ‘Muslim’ encompasses ‘people whose background and traditions form part of the long history of Muslim civilization’, as well as those who citizens who ‘consider themselves Muslims and are seen as such’ (p.4) – yet in many cases, the book discusses rather also migrants, and second generation migrants. To its merit, ‘national ideologies (or ‘imaginaries’) such as ‘laicité’ in France and ‘multi-culturalism’ in Britain are equally questioned, rather than used as analytical tools –precisely because of their inadequacy and inherent limitations.