Urban and Urbanization

Street Salafism: Contingency and urbanity as religious creed

Muslims living in European cities have come under increased public scrutiny over the past two decades for alleged links with overseas governments as sponsors of extremism. Media representations such as the documentary ‘Undercover Mosque’ that aired on a British television channel in 2007 is a poignant example of how the banal, everyday life of religious spaces can be folded into – while also give succour to – such narratives. Against the backdrop of such constraints, young Muslim men who identify as Salafi, inhabit the same street featured in the documentary with its dense and evolving Islamic infrastructure, in ways that evade easy capture of authorial gazes as well as local sensibilities of what it means to be Muslim. They do so through a hermeneutical method that I describe here as street Salafism. This involves a range of corporeal strategies that enable them to exist in and beyond the material and narrative life of the street that is seen as determining of them. In doing so, street Salafism reveals new ontological conditions of difference that test the limits, but also possibilities, for multicultural life in diverse cities such as the case described here.

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Volume 40 Issue 3

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