Pooyan Tamimi Arab, "Amplifying Islam in the European Soundscape" (Bloomsbury, 2017)


In mid-March, Europeans observed the Dutch national elections with intense interest. Onlookers believed that a victory of the Party for Freedom led by Geert Wilders will influence the results of coming elections in France, the UK, and Germany. It was thought that it would impact these countries immigration policies, and shape their attitudes to their Muslim population. The media coverage stressed the racist and xenophobic rhetoric of Wilders and his supporters, and emphasized the growing tensions between the Netherland's Muslim and non-Muslim citizens. In Amplifying Islam in the European Soundscape: Religious Pluralism and Secularism in the Netherlands (Bloomsbury Press, 2017) anthropologist and scholar of religion Pooyan Tamimi Arab uses sound to suggest a counter-narrative about the state of the Dutch nation. This exceptional monograph looks at debates over the azan, the Muslim call to pray, to reveal the civic negotiations between Muslim and non-Muslim citizens. Tamimi Arab looks to local town halls meetings where community representatives work to find a compromise between the wish for public worship and demands for a discreet practice. By focusing on the sonic dimensions of public worship, Tamimi Arab can expose hidden power struggles. He finds for example, that a dual desire to belong in the nation and to keep a connection to their countries of origin motivates many of those demanding the use of loudspeakers for the azan. In his field work, Tamimi Arab observed how although conflicting needs pose challenges to religious tolerance, tensions were often mitigated on the ground. His account of the process results in a more optimist portrayal of a society in influx than the standard narrative of Europe in the twenty-first century. This makes Amplifying Islam a useful example for scholars who aspire to challenge the privileged status of the text in current scholarship.
Tal Zalmanovich is a historian of modern Britain and media. She's currently researching the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Britain, and its activists impact on domestic politics in Britain. Prior to being an academic, Tal was a journalist. Podcasting is the fruitful convergence of the two. You can contact Tal at tal.zalmanovich@mail.huji.ac.il.

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