From the mosque to the municipality : the ethics of Muslim space in a midwestern city

Perkins, Alisa Marlene
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This dissertation analyzes the pluralist religious claims that ethnically and racially diverse Muslim American communities make on the public and political culture of Hamtramck, Michigan. These claims include appeals for recognition, such as in a campaign for municipal approval to issue the call to prayer. They involve bids for resources, such as the use of public funds to establish alternative Muslim-majority public education institutions. They entail struggles for representation, such as political interventions into LGBTQ-rights debates to safeguard a “traditional” moral order in the city. The study also examines how transnational Islamic frameworks for organizing gender and public space influence the civic engagement strategies of South Asian and Arab American Muslim women respectively, in ways that sometimes challenge dominant gendered spatial norms. With this, the study explores women’s leadership in mosques and religious study circles, examining how gender and generation shape female religious authority, and also present opportunities for women to cross racial, class, and ethnic lines within the city. Postulating a charged, dynamic and mutually constitutive connection between the development of religious, racial, and ethnic identities and the production urban space, the study analyzes how individual and collective forms of minority identity find expression in urban public and political projects, and how liberal secular frameworks in turn condition the production of minority religious sensibilities, affiliations, and practices in American cities. In analyzing how these dynamics shape civic life and local politics, the study approaches Hamtramck as a "post-secular city," or a zone of interchange and heterogeneity in which religious, secular, and humanistic frames of reference converge to configure new possibilities for urban change. This work advances interdisciplinary scholarship on how religion impacts the civic engagement of immigrants and minorities; on how gender systems are preserved, challenged, or transformed in migration; and on how diverse communities living in close proximity negotiate conflicting ideas about the common good.