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  • Securitized Citizens: Canadian Muslims' Experiences of Race Relations and Identity Formation Post-9/11 by Baljit Nagra
  • Abdie Kazemipur
Baljit Nagra. Securitized Citizens: Canadian Muslims' Experiences of Race Relations and Identity Formation Post-9/11. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2017. 272 pp. Appendix. Notes. References. Index. $21.71 sc.

In this book, Baljit Nagra capably addresses one of the major issues of our time – the treatment of Muslim minorities in western countries – in a Canadian context. The background research for this book consists of a focus group and, later, 50 in-depth and mostly face-to-face interviews with second-generation self-identified Canadian Muslims aged 18-31. These interviews were conducted in Toronto and Vancouver in the years between 2004 and 2008 and, through them, Nagra has managed to map out some of the fundamental elements of the interviewees' experiences in post-9/11 Canada, particularly as related to their sense of belonging to the country.

As it is now almost public knowledge, in the post-9/11 environment, many Muslims living in western countries came under an unprecedented level of public scrutiny and governmental surveillance, which resulted in an environment filled with suspicion, misunderstanding, discrimination, and racism. For many second-generation Muslim youth, such experiences questioned some of the very fundamental understandings they had about: a) their countries of residence (in this case, Canada), and their own place in them; and b) their identities, and the place of religion, ethnicity, and belonging to Canada in those identities. The first set of questions forced them to engage in a re-conceptualization of the meaning of their experiences; the latter in a re-configuration of their identity portfolios. Nagra's research addresses the first set of questions in chapters 2-4 of the book, and the second set in chapters 5-6. The book starts with a somewhat unusually long Introduction chapter (of 40 pages); and it ends with a surprisingly short Conclusion (of 8 pages). Perhaps with some degree of subjectivity, I find the contents of the Introduction, as well as those of chapters 5 and 6, to be the most interesting parts of the book.

The Introduction chapter of the book does a good job in situating the research problem within the existing field, and in developing a relatively coherent conceptual framework to guide the study. For the building blocks of her conceptual framework, Nagra relies on a wide range of scholarly works, including Edward Said's notion of Orientalism; Thobani's discussion on the mixture of race and religion in the debates on Muslims; Razack's emphasis on the gendered nature of those debates and the failure of mainstream western feminism in recognizing the intricate connections between the [End Page 187] colonial narratives and the western debates on gender issues in the Muslim world; and Glenn's and Hage's distinction between formal (or legal/official) citizenship and what has been called substantive (or social/practical/communal/full) citizenship. Drawing on these elements, and with some degree of simplification, one can perhaps summarize the main argument of the book as follows: a) in the post-9/11 period, a new colonial discourse has emerged, which has a clear racist foundation, and in which Muslims are treated as inferior and second-class citizens; b) in response, Muslims (or more precisely, some of the young second-generation Muslims interviewed) have simultaneously engaged in re-asserting their Canadian identity, while also giving a bigger place to Islam in defining their own identities, a process similar to what Portes and Rumbaut had called the 'reactive ethnicity'.

Nagra's book has made a great contribution to this field of research by providing a rich empirical foundation for understanding the experiences of Canadian Muslim youth in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. One may wonder how the dynamic of these experiences might have changed almost a decade later, after the occurrence (and discovery) of some deadly terrorist attacks in Canada by people of Muslim backgrounds (e.g., in 2014) and the high-casualty attack on Quebec City's mosque by a native-born Canadian (in 2017). It is unfortunate that a book on such...