Apart: Alienated and Engaged Muslims in the West

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Oxford University Press, Sep 14, 2010 - Social Science - 288 pages
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Muslim minorities comprise an ever-increasing proportion of Europe's population, but are official strategies to thwart home-grown terrorism forcing Muslims further to the fringe of our societies? For every terror suspect we see handcuffed in a televised trial, thousands of young Muslims outside the courtroom live an alienated existence in the boroughs and barrios of the Western world. Apart explores the nature of their disaffection and attraction to groups that undermine the system that remains their primary means of inclusion in society.

Based on research conducted in London's East End and Madrid's Lavapies district, and drawing on over one hundred interviews with extremists, gangsters, imams, elders, politicians, and those just trying to get by, Justin Gest explores young Muslims' daily realities. Taking issue with conventional interpretations of inequality, discrimination and religion, he argues that alienated behaviour is distinguished not by structural factors, but by the expectations and perceptions of social agents. Gest shows that-contrary to conventional wisdom-attempts at assimilation are often unconnected with an individual's sense of inclusion. Paradoxically, social and political integration are characteristic of those who spurn the social and political system, while the individuals most acutely aware of the rights, liberties and cultural mores of democracy are most likely to have the deepest sense of disappointment about their non-fulfillment. Gest also discusses young Muslims' need for norm-based stability in an era characterised by contested beliefs about nation, state, and faith. While sounding an unambiguous warning to European policy-makers,Apart presages an imminent American experience with the same challenges. How both government and peoples discipline their fear and understand their Muslim citizens may shape democratic social life in the foreseeable future.

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About the author (2010)


Justin Gest is a Harvard College Fellow in the Department of Government at Harvard University. He is the Co-Founder and Deputy Director of the Migration Studies Unit at the London School of Economics and Political Science. A graduate of Harvard and LSE, he has also written for American and British newspapers and is a regular contributor to The Guardian.

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