- Young British Muslims: Identity, Culture, Politics, and the Media by Nahid Afrose Kabir
Concerns about the radicalization of young Muslims, their identity formation, and the impact of the Western media on their identity construction since the 9/11 and 7/7 terrorist attacks in the United States and Great Britain, respectively, have heightened the fear of the resurgence of homegrown protests and unrest. In response to these developments, more restrictions on the civil and political liberties of minority groups, such as Muslims, have been imposed throughout the West. Such restrictions may well have provoked [End Page 791] a backlash that could further invoke extremism. Enforcing the ban against wearing the headscarf (hijab) in France and niqab in Great Britain has sent a message to Muslim citizens and immigrants that they are welcome in society only as long as they accept the secular laws and constitutions of their host countries.
And yet insofar as the legal restrictions placed on wearing the hijab and/or niqab are concerned, there is no evidence that banning Islamic dress has substantially reduced the risk of Islamic radicalism. Similarly, it is evident that Muslims have become a permanent presence in the West and, even more obvious, that they and their host countries, together, must find a way to negotiate a mutually acceptable future. Throughout the West, Islamic radicalism is attributed largely to the disaffected youth of North African origins or converts. Since the tragic events of 9/11 and 7/7, several factors have contributed to the radicalization of a minority within Muslim communities, including a new wave of intolerance toward Muslim immigrants and the widespread economic deprivation as well as socio-cultural stigmas associated with these communities. Members of such communities tend to regard their segregation in poor suburbs as proof of the absence of any prospects for a hopeful future.
In an empirically grounded and timely volume, Nahid Afrose Kabir examines the case of the young British Muslims and the way in which politics, culture, and media have affected their identity formation. After the 7/7 London bombing, Kabir writes, suspicion and Islamophobia in the wider British community have led to a tightening of tolerance for diversity and multiculturalism. The fears and concerns of the Muslims living in diasporic communities on the one hand, and those of the British public and policymakers alike toward their Muslim minorities on the other, have taken the center stage. Kabir attempts to put into perspective the identity of young British Muslims through exploring various social constructs: their migration history, family settlement, socioeconomic status, culture, education, community, and wider society. Given Muslim communities' cultural and religious restrictions, the mainstream media representation of Islam, and law enforcement agencies' rules and regulations (largely in relation to anti-terrorism laws), Kabir examines how young Muslims position themselves and define their highly fluid and evolving single, double, and multiple identities.
The book begins by describing Muslims in Britain as "ethnically diverse and heterogeneous in language, skin colour and culture. The only element they have in common is their religion."1 Having defined three components of group membership—cognitive, evaluative, and emotional—the author turns to the complexities of social identities. To place this issue within the larger literature, Kabir would have made a better case for her argument by making a reference to Bhikhu Parekh's Rethinking Multiculturalism: Cultural Diversity and Political Theory.2 Parekh argues for a plural perspective on cultural diversity, one which rejects the "moral monism" of much of traditional moral philosophy, including contemporary literature, and one which is also predicated on the assertion that only one way of life or set of values is meaningful and that the rest are either misguided or false. Having accepted cultural diversity as a fact, Parekh goes [End Page 792] on to argue that we should solely focus our attention on how we negotiate and understand the relationships between those different cultures.3
Throughout the book, Kabir pays attention to three external factors as impacting "the formation of Muslim identity today, namely foreign policy, social exclusion and...