Doubters, Believers, Seekers in Literature and Film
Edited By Julian Ernest Preece, Frank Finlay and Sinéad Crowe
MONIKA SHAFI - Constructions of Islam: Select Voices from Germany and the Netherlands 163
MONIKA SHAFI Constructions of Islam: Select Voices from Germany and the Netherlands In performances of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), a popular spoof on Shakespeare’s dramatic works, the actors begin by testing the audience’s knowledge of the plays. Virtually all hands go up when asked about having read or seen a play by the famous author. Raising the difficulty of questions and inquiring about Titus Andronicus or Timon of Athens dramati- cally reduces this show of hands, and in the end only the English professors in attendance profess familiarity with a play like King John. Shakespeare, as the actors’ witty innuendo reveals, designates both an over-determined cul- tural icon and a void to which a plethora of associations and representations can be attached. Among audiences in the West, Islam, it seems to me, functions in a some- what similar manner. The very word conjures strong images – rows and rows of Muslims bent in prayer, head scarves, or in recent years, suicide bomb- ings committed in the name of Islam – and it also conjures over-determined discourses, such as the conflicts over Muslim integration in Europe or the (in)famous clash of civilisations theory proposed by Samuel Huntington.1 Factual knowledge about Islam, its beliefs, practices and history, however, is rather limited. Moreover, since 11 September 2001, and the ensuing events and developments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and the terrorist bombings in Madrid and London, Western popular and, to some extent, also academic discourses often present Islam as a unified, sinister,...
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