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Mosques in the Metropolis

Incivility, Caste, and Contention in Europe

Mosques in the Metropolis offers a unique look into two of Europe’s largest mosques and the communities they support. Elisabeth Becker provides a complex picture of Islam in Europe at a particularly fraught time, shedding light on both experiences of deep and enduring marginalization and the agency of Muslim populaces. She balances individual Muslim voices with the historical and structural forces at play, revealing, in all their complexity, the people for whom the mosques are centers of religion and community life. As her interlocutors come to life in the pages, the metropolis emerges as a space alternative to the nation in which they can contend with degrading images of Islam and Muslims. Ultimately Becker insists that caste is a crucial lens through which to view Muslims in Europe, and through this lens she critiques what she perceives as the failures of European pluralism. To amplify her point, she brings Jewish history and twentieth-century Jewish thought into the conversation directly, drawing on scholars such as Walter Benjamin, Zygmunt Bauman, and Hannah Arendt to describe both Jewish and Muslim life and marginality. By challenging Eurocentric notions, from “progress” to “civility,” “tolerance” to “freedom” and “equality, what is at stake, Becker insists, is the possibility of a truly plural Europe.


"Mosques in the Metropolis is packed with interesting ideas, not the least of which is Becker’s provocative intellectual fusion of Jewish thought with classic sociological theory to understand how Muslims in Europe have become marginalized as strangers and Others."

American Journal of Sociology

“Evocative, stirring, and thought-provoking are terms that capture Becker’s compelling narrative about the complex lives of faithful Muslims in several European contexts. Mosques in the Metropolis cunningly and creatively brings the reader into the folds of Europe’s tortured history with Islam and Muslims, which continues to this day. Becker artfully interweaves the stories of Muslim communities with the larger questions of citizenship, faith, and belonging. Punctuated with the voices of strangers of another time, namely European Jews, this readable book teems with insights and makes for indispensable reading.”

Ebrahim Moosa, Mirza Family Professor of Islamic Thought & Muslim Societies, University of Notre Dame and author of What Is a Madrasa?

Mosques in the Metropolis is a poetic analysis of Muslim lives in Berlin and London. Becker insightfully weaves together the discernments of nineteenth- and twentieth-century European Jewish thinkers with the experiences of contemporary Muslims inhabiting the same spaces. This is one of the most inspiring discussions of palimpsests of history in Europe that shows how the past, present, and future are intimately and unexpectedly connected.”

Esra Özyürek, University of Cambridge

Table of Contents

Preface. Spirit Meeting Stone
Chapter 1. The European Metropolis: Where Doors and Walls Meet
Chapter 2. Caste, or the Order of Things Defied
Chapter 3. Kaaba in Papier-Mâché: Inside the Şehitlik Mosque
Chapter 4. Ordinary Angels: Şehitlik Mosque and the Metropolis
Chapter 5. Messianic Horizon: Inside the East London Mosque
Chapter 6. Hope, Interrupted: The East London Mosque and the Metropolis
Chapter 7. Unsettled Europe: On the Threshold of Remembrance
Afterword. The Memory of Trees


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