NCSR 2008 - Urban Diversity and Religious Traditions
13-15 August 2008, Åbo Akademi University

Globalisation and Religious Diasporas: A Reassessment in the Light of the Danish Muhammad Cartoon Crisis

Margit Warburg, University of Copenhagen

The large-scale, world-wide migration of the late twentieth century - one of the salient features of globalisation - has given rise to a proliferation of ethno-religious diasporas in the West. The first Muslim immigrants to Denmark in the 1970s were typical examples of such diasporas. This paper uses the Danish Muhammad cartoon crisis to discuss the usefulness of characterising Danish Muslim groups today by the notion of diaspora. The appeal to the Arab world mediated by a group of Danish Imams touring the Middle East could be interpreted as a typical diasporic reaction to hostile conditions in the host country. In fact, the Muhammad cartoon affair seemed temporarily to unite a considerable fraction of Danish Muslims across ethnic boundaries to take distance from Jyllands-Posten's initiative to invite the drawing of caricatures of Muhammad. However, this unity soon evaporated, and the affair accelerated an already ongoing process, where different Danish Muslim individuals and groups are moving from past diasporic positions to occupying new positions in Danish society aligned along dimensions of attitudes to secularism and political involvement, respectively.