, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 99-112

The Tablighi Jama‘at in Southwestern Ontario: making Muslim identities and networks in Canadian urban spaces

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Abstract

This ethnographic paper builds on previous research on the Tablighi Jama‘at by delving deeper into the ways in which the movement creates identity and community among Muslims living in modern/post-modern urban spaces. The paper is grounded in the theoretical framework provided by Robert Orsi in his introduction to Gods of the City (1999). In his lengthy introduction, Orsi describes contemporary urban cultural theory. This theory posits metropolitan regions as comprising “complex networks of “pathways” that city people travel in” (51). Along these “pathways” city dwellers create networks of association that in turn become ways of life and communities. Orsi notes that, “urban religious idioms have responded to the spatial dilemmas created by the circumstances of diaspora and dislocation” (51). These urban religious idioms often involve intra-communal outreach that seeks to inculcate community members with a cognitive “map” of the surrounding urban spaces, marking off both desirable and forbidden places. I argue that this is precisely what the Tablighi Jama‘at seeks to engender in urban spaces such as Southwestern Ontario, and this study is undertaken to better understand this process of identity construction and community creation.