Ten years after – the Muhammad Cartoons: Perspectives, Reflections, Challenges International Conference, Aalborg University

Ten years after the newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 12 cartoons the Muhammad Carton Crisis continues to be a discursive reference point for new controversies involving artists and threatening Muslims. When the cartoon story (and stories about the cartoons) and the global violence peaked in early 2006, the different actors and events at different times and places were reified into a single event, a global story about a clash of civilizational values. Yet the event had no clear beginning or end, which indicated that underneath the complexity was different and vast.

In this conference five scholars with different relationship to the Muhammad Cartoon Crisis and its aftermath will present their research and additional scholars are invited to contribute to access the development since the cartoon crisis, whether this is issues of integration, the relationship between terrorism, islamophobia and integration, women’s right, racialization, inequality, right wing populism, or polarization.

Ten years have gone since the Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten decided to publish 12 Muhammad cartoons of the prophet Muhammad as cartoonists ‘imagined him’. The cartoons and the stories about them cost the lives of 150 people. Denmark’s reputation abroad and export to Arab speaking countries were severely impacted. In addition, it has affected the opportunities of immigrants, who experience they are being stigmatized and not fully allowed to be Danes. Many Danes have had their ideas of womanhood among Muslims re-enforced, ideas of incompatible values have been strengthened, and the debate about freedom of speech reified. For many non-Western Muslims, the cartoon story has become an icon of Western arrogance and hatred towards Islam. Their anger came from a deep sense that they are not respected, that they and their most cherished feelings are “fair game.”

New research suggest that increased racial discrimination and enforcement of racial-cultural logics of belonging facilitates mobilization of minority youth groups to crime, violence, political activism, carelessness and terrorism. This development exposes a “schismogenetic” process that merits academic attention analysis and solutions.

Read more on the official conference page

New article out: “Cultural War of Values: The Proliferation of Moral Identities in the Danish Public Sphere.”

In Becoming Minority: How Discourses and Policies Produce Minorities in Europe and India, Tripathy, Jyotirmaya and Sudarsan Padmanabhan (eds.), pp. 154-173. New Delhi: Sage Publications, India.

The Muhammad Cartoon Crisis was not the outcome of statements or actions of angry, threatening Muslims, but is best seen as the direct outcome of neo-conservative values and the “cultural war of values?” In the chapter on the “Cultural War of Values: The Proliferation of Moral Identities in the Danish Public Sphere”, I show with reference to editor-in-chief of Jyllands-Posten and the general historization of the War of values idea of how the publication of the cartoons was the predictable outcome of this war. We new something would happen. We didn’t know what form it would take.

The cultural war of values incorporates a neonationalist defense of Danish “cultural values” such as democracy and freedom of speech, which are actually not specific to Denmark. The solutions offered to problems related to immigration, migrant presence, poverty, unemployment, and feminist demands for gender equality often center on restoring authority based on family values, national values, and (to some extent) male power (Hervik 2012b). The emphasis on values, cultural difference, and incompatibility can be seen as a new moral logic of exclusion and inclusion: one that constructs a national, or “Western,” community pitted against a minority of non-western mostly Muslim minorities. In Balibar’s words, the logic behind the use of these categories in the mediated political debates is that a “we-group” emerges by promoting itself through its opposite, which it negates. This group does its identity work by opposing the “cultural other,” or establishing “itself as the other’s other” (Balibar 2005). On their part, these Muslim minority others make up a category of people (not a group), who do not identify with this image (Hervik 2002). One expression of this is the eager military engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such activist foreign policy rests on the neoconservative premise that there can be no moral equivalency. The example makes clear that the logic that embraces the neocolonial idea of Western superiority is revived (Huntington 1993, 1996), this time in terms of “cultural superiority” (Blaut 1992, Hannerz 1999).

Yet, building the nation’s psychological bonding through aggressive policy making, confrontational media coverage, military presence in Muslim countries, and framed within a classic populist scenario of elite pitted against ordinary folks is not exclusively a neoracist matter, even though it builds on a hierarchization or inferiorization of Muslim others, which is used to control and deny their presence. Instead, the moral identities proliferating in the Danish public sphere are fundamentally anti-politically correct, antimulticulturalist, and anti-Marxist as confrontation is also directed at political adversaries using the same fighting spirit rhetoric as used when talking about Muslim minorities. The social construction of thick minority identities can only be understood in relation to the cultural war of value strategy aimed at domestic political opponents.



Racialization, Racism and (anti)Racism in the Nordic Countries

New conference on Racialization, Racism and (anti)Racism in the Nordic Countries

Aalborg University
Kroghstræde 3, 1.119
27 and 28 November 2014, “1 pm to 1 pm”

To participate you need to register:
1) If you come for the two keynotes only, you do not need to sign up
2) If you participate in the event (Thursday and/or Friday) please sign up via this link:  www.racialization.aau.dk



Researchers in the Nordic countries agree that the discrimination of visible different minorities have become more subtle within the last 20 years, which still has serious consequences for many of these minorities as both groups and individuals. Issues of racism have attracted researchers from different disciplines to examine these often hidden and subtle practices of racism and racialization. Such practices rely on polarization of society based on ideas of “incompatibility” and not “natural belonging” while resting comfortably on the proliferation of morality as the basis for understanding “difference” which creates an environment, where violence, confrontation, zero-tolerance and negative dialogue are the chosen forms of expression. Yet, many of these researchers know relatively little about each other. This conference will address the issues of racism and related phenomena, seek grounds for new Nordic network initiatives, through a comprehensive effort to dig deep into the academic experiences and apparatus in order to understand the discrimination, racialization, racism (including Islamophobia), anti-racism, inclusion and exclusion of especially so-called non-Western (co)citizens and adoptees in the Nordic countries.

Yet racism and the naturalization of cultural difference are historical processes and not restricted to the Nordic countries. Therefore, we are joined by two non-Nordic keynote speakers, who are prominent scholarly experts on racism. Evelyn Alsultany, University of Michigan, and Nasar Meer, University of Strathclyde, will bring the conference right into the heart of new research on racism, its varieties, its core features and getting rid of its accidental baggage. During the conference they will help us keep a tighter focus on racism in the responses to presentations by Nordic scholars, who have carried out research with the expressed aim of trying to understand racism and racialization practices that comes with it.

We bring together in this project a core of mainly younger researchers who have taken up highly relevant and difficult issues on the basis of empirically grounded, conceptually strong, and theoretically anchored analysis. Each of these has been ask to reflect on one or more of the following questions:

  • How does racism (and anti racism) relate in theory and practice to the popular resistance to “non-Western” migrants (often synonymous with Muslims and Islam) relate to anti-feminism, anti-multiculturalism, anti-cultural-Marxists and perhaps even pro-animal welfare?
  • How do these different forms of negativity connect in people’s reasoning about newcomers, whether in direct conversations, social media or major media events?
  • Is racism in the Nordic countries an issue that was basically overcome long ago, or are we witnessing new kinds of more subtle racial practices?
  • To what extent can cherished national self-images block effective learning in a new situation?
  • Can the ability to practice critical self-reflection become part of a national self-image?
  • Does the enhanced effort of anti-racism and diversity programs make a difference or do they contribute to the reproduction of mutually exclusive ways of categorization and reasoning?

Keynote Speakers

Evelyn Alsultany is an Associate Professor in the Department of American Culture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she coordinates Arab and Muslim American Studies. She teaches courses on media representations, U.S. cultural and racial politics, and Arab and Muslim Americans. She received a Ph.D. in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University (2005), an MA in Gender Studies and Feminist Theory from the New School for Social Research (1998), and a BA in Women’s Studies and Political Science from the University of Michigan (1995). She is the author of Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 (2012). She is co-editor (with Rabab Abdulhadi and Nadine Naber) of Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, and Belonging (2011), winner of the Arab American National Museum’s Evelyn Shakir Book Award. She is also co-editor (with Ella Shohat) of Between the Middle East and the Americas: The Cultural Politics of Diaspora(2013). She is guest curator of the Arab American National Museum’s online exhibit, “Reclaiming Identity: Dismantling Arab Stereotypes,” that can be viewed at www.arabstereotypes.org. In 2012, she was awarded a Jack G. and Bernice Shaheen Achievement Award.

Dr Nasar Meer, is a Reader and Chancellor’s Fellow in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Strathclyde University, and in 2014 he was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Young Academy. He was previously a Reader in Social Sciences and co-Director of the Centre for Civil Society and Citizenship (CCSC), in the Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences at Northumbria University.  During 2013 he was a Minda de Gunzberg Fellow at Harvard University, a Visiting Fellow with the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh, and a member of the British Council’s Outreach Program. He is currently a Routledge ‘Super Author’ and has previously studied at the Universities of Essex, Edinburgh, and Bristol, and held visiting fellowships with the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Studies, Harvard University, and the University of Aarhus. Nasar’s research spans a number of topics. Firstly, with respect to his over-arching study of citizenship, he is especially interested in arenas of political participation, education policies, approaches to anti-discrimination, public and media representation, and the ways in which collective membership is conceived and operationalised. Secondly, he is engaged in a European reading of the African-American scholar W. E. B. Du Bois, and the relationship between his concept of ‘double consciousness’ and ideas of recognition and misrecognition. Thirdly, he is studying developing international legal frameworks concerning the status of former political elites (and is working on a monograph on this topic Palgrave). Fourthly, he is researching the sociology and politics of racism, Antisemitism and Islamophobia. Fifthly, he is interested in the relationship of journalism to ‘public intellectualism’, and, finally, he is completing a study of Scottish Nationalism and ethnic minorities.

His most recent book “Concepts in Race and Ethnicity” was published August 2014. Other publications include “Racialization and Religion. Race, Culture and Difference in the Study of Antisemitism and Islamophobia” (2012), “Citizenship, Identity and the Politics of Multiculturalism, The Rise of Muslim Consciousness” (2010).


To participate you need to register:

1) If you come for the two keynotes only, you do not need to sign up

2) If you participate in the event (Thursday and/or Friday) please sign up via this link

(Catering includes coffee, reception (Thursday) and a sandwich lunch (Friday) for registered participants – NB! Students are welcome but no catering is included for student participants).
Conference website and registration: www.racialization.aau.dk



Preliminary program for the international conference
“Racialization, Racism and (anti)Racism in the Nordic Countries”

November 27
Venue: Kroghstræde 3, room 1.119

13.00 – 13.15 [xx]
Peter Hervik

13.15 – 14.15 Keynote:
Nesar Meer, University of Strathclyde, “How can ideas of racialization help us theorise Islamophobia and Antisemitism?”


14.30 – 16.00 Session One:
Sindre Bangstad. “’The Racism That Dares Not Speak Its Name…’ igjen?”
Tuija Saresma “Racism, sexism, misogyny, and homophobia? The intersections of resentment speech in the Nordic Masculinist Blogs”


16.15 – 17.30 Session Two:
Lene Myong and Iram Khawaja, Århus University, “Teaching Race in the White Classroom”

17.30 – 18.30 Reception

19.30 Dinner for presenters

November 28
Venue: Kroghstræde 3, room 1.119

8.30 – 9.30 Keynote:
Evelyn Alsultany, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “Arabs and Muslims in the U.S. Media after 9/11: Racialization in a “Post-Race” Era”


9.45 – 11.00 Session Three:
Camilla Havista, University of Helsinki, “Anti-what? An overview of anti-racist social movements, non-profit organizations and their mediated claims-making in Finland”
Mahitab Ezz El Din, University of Örebro, “Media construction of the Other in reporting intercultural conflicts.”

Coffee Break

11.15 – 12.30 Session Four:
Christian Stokke, Buskerud College. “Norwegian Muslims’ antiracist activism in the public sphere”
Evin Ismail, University of Uppsala, “The Naturalization of Islamophobia in Sweden, France and the United States after 9/11”

12.30 – 13.00 “Meeting about future initiatives”

END of conference


“Off we can go”


New project in Egypt

“A project with and about Women in Egypt, post 25 January Revolution”

Outline by Mette Toft Nielsen, Samar Roushdy and Peter Hervik

“A backlash against women’s rights emerged in post-revolutionary Egypt”. This is the opening sentence of a study published in 2012 examining why Egyptian women have been loosing rights after the 25 January revolution in 2011 (Dawoud, 160:2012). One year later, on 12 November 2013, the Thomson Reuters Foundation concluded that Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world when it comes to “violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy”.
 As the studies referred to above prove, women’s rights in Egypt are facing significant challenges, particularly after the 25 January revolution. This must be understood as an important threat to the development of the country, as we believe that one of the biggest assets of the Egyptian society lays in its women, particularly young women. Such belief is based on previous experience as university professor at Cairo University (AAU representative). Sadly the lack of inclusion and participation of women makes it hard to improve these rights, as the women seldom have an influence on the societal matters.

In 2009 the now toppled president, Hosni Mubarak, provided a quota in parliament for women, additional to other laws to protect and increase the rights of women (Dawoud, 161:2012). However, we do not believe that giving the women specific privileges, based on the fact that they are women, are enough to solve the challenges faced by women in Egypt. We believe women are counterparts to men, therefore we want to apply a new and different approach to the field of women studies: We focus on identities and personal experiences, recognising the Egyptian women as individuals, rather than a focus on women as a homogenous group in the society, who only needs gender-related rights. Thus we believe that the identities of the Egyptian women are fluid, ever-changing compositions. Through this project we would like to get an insight in their experience of living through these different identities as well as get to know how they would like to develop such identities in the future. Through our study we want to stress the fact that women are equal to men, thus in addition to women’s rights, they need human rights, one of which is inclusion. We believe such inclusion can only be achieved through influence and to gain influence one needs to speak up and express the perspectives and ideas one believe in.


Our aim is for the Egyptian women to develop skills and tools allowing them to participate in the public debate in Egypt, for them to be included and have an influence on the post-revolutionary society, especially matters related to women’s rights. To get an insight in their lives, we will interview women of different backgrounds and talk with them about being a woman in Egypt, especially after the 25 January revolution (2011). We will host workshops to develop their debating and presentation skills, allowing them to address the topics they have identified to be of importance in the interviews. This because, we want them to develop skills and tools that are of directly relevance for them. To improve our understanding and ability to relate to what the women address, we will initiate the project with a factual overview of how the situation of women in Egypt has changed during the past decades. Finally, through a book, we will bring all of this information to different audiences: Egyptians and other MENA citizens as well as Westerners and others who find the topic interesting.


Photos: Sarita Marchesi