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Katherine Bullock



This issue goes to press as we reach the half-way mark of another month
of fasting, the blessed month of Ramadan. A month when Muslims abstain
from food and drink between sunrise and sunset is bound to bring to the fore
questions of identity, especially for Muslims living in non-Muslim societies.
I marveled as two of my non-Muslim students blithely ate their fruit before
our morning class while the Muslim students and I could only eye their food
with envy – the pungent smell of orange peel only heightened by the fast.
That the students seemed totally oblivious only increased my wonder. It is,
perhaps, an odd example to mention, but as we proceeded to have a heated
discussion of the position of women in Islam, it reminded me of the daily
complexities of maintaining an Islamic identity in the West.
This question of identity and what it means to be Muslim has, perhaps,
never been so under the spotlight or so hotly debated. That is why academic
analysis, done under the constraints of the noble ideals of academia (a
search for as dispassionate and objective meaning about the human condition
as is humanly possible) is more pressing than ever. The fate of
Muslims in the West depends on it, and on the dissemination of good academic
thought through the media into popular culture. The week of writing
this editorial saw the arrest of a young man alleged to be behind hate
literature left under the doors of the Arab and Muslim Student
Associations at a university in Toronto. Under a photograph of a white
male, a caption reads: “Those who follow the Islam faith [sic] need to be
killed in the worst possible way imaginable.” These are some of the results
of Bush’s “war on terror,” which, though meant to make the world safer
for freedom, democracy, and tolerance, is, in fact, polarizing the globe and
fuelling an ethnic and racial particularism that has been growing during
the past decade.
As with this year’s other issues, the articles in this issue deal with
these perennially important questions of identity, ethnicity, the state,
media, and war. Two of the three relate to the current predicament of
Muslims and the West, and the third looks at related questions in a historical
and intra-Muslim context – the role of Arab tribes in the eighth centu ry
`Abbasid revolution ...

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