Contemporary Islam

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 67–84 | Cite as

The ‘new’ barbarians: governmentality, securitization and Islam in Western Europe



In the post 9/11 context new forms of governance of Muslims based on the resurfacing of old colonial ideas have emerged. Micro-surveillance measures involving the hyper-legalization of settled Muslim populations in Western Europe have led to a curtailment of rights through legal measures and political discourses. A new form of governmentality identifies signs of religious belief, such as the hijab, as a potential threat to national identity and security. Operating through a combination of legal mechanisms and popular narratives based on themes associated with colonial governance, Muslims have been ‘cast out’ of law and politics. With decolonization, this narrative has been transformed into one about a ‘home-grown’ alien force whose transnational attachments, thought to be evident in a refusal to confine religious identity to the private sphere, are presented as a risk that needs to be contained. European Muslims have rebelled against their removal from the protection of the law by declaring their rights as citizens and as humans as a way of combating religious and cultural discrimination. Historically, human rights have emerged out of processes of containment and exclusions. Today, a new generation of Muslims has appropriated the language of rights to protest against these exclusions, holding the mirror up to the transgressors of human rights: their original proponents. This is a case of ‘realized citizenship’ in which European Muslims gain access to and mobilize resources and skills to bridge the gap between the promise of citizenship and human rights.


Governmentality Securitization European Muslims Human rights 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Development StudiesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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