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Muslims in the Diaspora

Muslims in the Diaspora: The Somali Communities of London and Toronto

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 352
  • Book Info
    Muslims in the Diaspora
    Book Description:

    Explores the balancing act of living as a Muslim in the west. It is a comparison of the Somali communities in London, England and Toronto, and is based on a series of in-depth interviews with over 80 Somali women, men and teenagers in those cities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7747-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Glossary
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction: Challenges in the Diaspora
    (pp. 3-12)

    The cataclysm that was Somalia sent hundreds of thousands of its citizens, including Jamal Gabobe, into exile, most in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Like other upheavals before and since, it contributed to the global movement of peoples that the late twentieth century is witnessing on a level unprecedented in human history. Many of those people are migrating to the West, bringing with them a multitude of cultures and religions and the desire to maintain what they consider to be essential to their identities.

    The questions raised by this element of migration, particularly how the refugees have redefined their...

  6. 1 Context
    (pp. 13-42)

    Any appreciation of the words of a woman who says that she is afraid of losing her children in her new city, or a man who quits a job he badly needs because his employer would not allow him to attend the communal Friday noon prayer, would well begin with an understanding of what this woman and this man have come from and what it is they have come to. This first section sketches in the background - political, social, and religious - that the Somali communities in Toronto and London drew on when answering my questions on Muslim identity....

  7. 2 Cultural Integration
    (pp. 43-68)

    Integration is the two-sided process of immigrants′ adjustment to a new society without loss of what they consider essential to their identity (or self-definition, particularly in the sense of their religion or ethnicity) and, simultaneously, of the adoptive society′s accommodation of them. Critically, integration implies that both the immigrants and the adoptive society undergo change over time. This study argues that integration is best described as a two-stage process, encompassing internal and external components, as defined in the introduction and explored in greater detail below.

    Political culture plays a key role in affecting the integration of immigrants and minorities, in...

  8. 3 Islam in London and Toronto
    (pp. 69-100)

    Most Somalis are not Islamists, and their observance of Islam in Somalia varied widely, but moving to a largely secular Judaeo-Christian-based liberal democracy deprived them of their ability to take their identity for granted. If they had not done so before, they now had to examine what it was to be Muslim, how important their religion was to them, and how much inconvenience they were prepared to endure in order to practise it. The first two sections of this chapter illustrate how informants - adult men and adult women, respectively - answered questions on their practice of Islam in London...

  9. 4 Transfer of Values
    (pp. 101-135)

    The single greatest fear expressed by Somalis in both London and Toronto was a concern that they would be unable to teach Islam, and an Islamic value system, effectively to their children in a Western environment - with its multiplicity of choices and its seemingly endless smorgasbord of competing values. Even Somalis who were confident in their own ability to straddle two value systems were concerned about how to impart a solid grounding in Islam, because it is a minority religion and because so much of what competes for their offspring′s attention is so very alien. There were those, however,...

  10. 5 Bridging Two Worlds: Weaving Two Cultures
    (pp. 136-159)

    No matter how long they have been in the West - though bearing in mind that the same individual′s attitudes will change over time - all the persons interviewed had come to certain conclusions, whether consciously or subconsciously, about how to reconcile the values and practices of Islam with those of their new societies. Most informants saw the schism as one between a value system (both Somali and Muslim) that stressed responsibility to family and another that emphasized freedom and individualism. Asked to encapsulate their sense of the difference between Somali/Muslim values and those of the West, they frequently spoke...

  11. 6 London and Toronto
    (pp. 160-196)

    One of the major contentions of this study is that political culture profoundly affects the integration of immigrants and minorities. More specifically, a political culture that emphasizes the ability of immigrants and minorities to participate in society as full members of it, and that accords them respect as political and social actors, facilitates harmonious integration of immigrants and minorities.

    Political culture is apparent in almost every aspect of immigrants′ are minorities′ encounter with the society around them. It is apparent in the public pronouncements of public figures - politicians, whether members of the government or not; judges; media, sports, and...

  12. 7 Integration
    (pp. 197-227)

    This chapter reiterates and re-examines the process of integration - how it is that immigrants ′renegotiate′ their identity; how they retain part of their birth-culture and graft onto it a new culture, and what they end up with; what their children, born in the new land, retain of their parents′ heritage that is theirs as well, and how they stitch the home-world onto that of their schoolmates; and what society makes of the hybrid-citizens that it nurtures.

    The chapter is divided into three sections. The first re-examines the process of integration itself, both at the level of the individual and...

  13. Conclusion: Transformative Islam
    (pp. 228-238)

    The lives and experiences of Somalis in Toronto and London are illustrative of a number of striking developments within Islam. As portentous as Martin Luther′s Wittenberg launch of the Reformation, these developments point to the evolution of the practice of Islam in the diaspora in a way that is bound to affect it as well in the very heart of the Muslim world. These developments are neither absolute nor universal among diaspora Somalis, but they are clearly discernible, and they are profound.

    As diaspora Somalis establish themselves in the West, they identify themselves primarily as Muslims. Fading is the territorial...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 239-272)
  15. References
    (pp. 273-294)
  16. Index
    (pp. 295-302)