Muslim Migration and the Borders of European Identity

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Drawing on migration studies and critical theory, this paper argues that the ambivalent responses of European legal and political mechanisms to the influx of migrants in 2015 should be located within a longer history of European-Muslim relations. Specifically, I argue that European political theory, be it laïcité, church-state separation, or semi Christian establishment, has been partly constructed over and against a perceived illiberal Muslim body politic. The Spanish border in North Africa and the island of Lampedusa become sites of cultural and political contestation that divide the liberal from the illiberal world. With the movement of a large number of Muslims into Europe in recent years, Western political ideology finds two major features of its identity and practices at an impasse. On the one hand, Europe has longstanding commitments to nurture a political space of liberal tolerance, human rights, religious freedom, and porous borders—including the right to asylum. On the other hand, this tradition has been constructed, both in rhetoric and borders, over and against a perceived illiberal Muslim. The liberal tradition of the Genevan Convention demands legal welcome for the Muslim refugee, even as the longer political ideology of Europe questions the possibility of Muslim integration into and acceptance of political liberalism. The varying responses to the migration crisis from Germany, the U.K., Hungary, and France—and the debates over Dublin IV and shared responsibility—might be better understood as highlighting and employing distinct modalities of this European political and legal history.
Period19 Apr 2017
Held atAmerican University in Cairo