Exploring the Identities of a Madrassah Student in Canada: Navigating Constructions of the Menacing Muslim Man

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 09:10
Oral Presentation
Aamir AMAN, McGill University, Canada
Islamic Madrassahs have been painted as houses of terrorism and spaces for radicalization by Western discourses in the post 9/11 period. These discourses spread the continued misunderstanding of Muslims, their faith, and Islamic ways of knowing, creating a binary juxtaposition of Islam and the West, where the West is viewed as rational, humane, and developed, while Islam is inherently irrational, undeveloped and inferior. Similarly, Muslims are perceived as of two varieties: good Muslims and bad Muslims. Where good Muslims are rational, western educated and secular, while bad Muslims are irrational, extremist and undeveloped. Consequently, Madrassah students fall under the categorization of the “bad” Muslim for their adherence to Islamic ways of knowing and being. Therefore, a “counterstory” narrative is required to empower and repair identities that have emerged from generations of dominant-group representation of Madrassahs and the students that attend them.

The lived experiences of Madrassah students are vital to the understanding of identity creation and management within a society that marginalizes their ways of knowing with fear-inducing narratives of extremism and terrorism. The literature available on Islamic seminaries focuses on issues of radicalization, terrorism, indoctrination, and extremism. These discourses ignore the lived experiences of the Muslims that attend these Islamic seminaries, as they have insisted on an implicit or explicit relationship between Islamic seminaries and terrorism, which has resulted in creating a generation of Islamic seminary students who are powerless to address the labels that have been imposed upon them.This paper explores how a Madrassah student negotiates his identities in a climate of Islamophobic narratives in popular media, as it constructs and reinforces the image of the “Menacing Muslim Man” through movies, television programs, and news stories. Understanding the lived experiences of Madrassah students can be an important means to dispel myths of a pervasive Muslim threat.