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Anthropology Professor Publishes Essay in Online Publication Hafsa Oubou’s essay “Churches Can, Mosques Can’t” appears in the January edition of Canopy Forum.

Hafsa-Oubou-scaled-600x400 Anthropology Professor Publishes Essay in Online PublicationHafsa Oubou, visiting assistant professor of anthropology

Hafsa Oubou, visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Washington and Lee University, recently published an essay in the Canopy Forum, a digital publication produced by Emory University’s Center for the Study of Law and Religion.

Oubou’s essay, titled “Churches Can, Mosques Can’t: Race, Immigration, and Islam in Belgium,” resulted from her fieldwork in Belgium where she studied the controversies around the teaching of Islam in francophone public schools in Brussels during the mid-2010s. Her research was supported by a National Science Foundation grant, a Wenner-Gren Foundation grant and the National Academy of Education/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship program.

The essay focuses on the paradox of religious neutrality in Belgium by analyzing how and why Islam is located at the core of the recent anti-immigration laws in Europe. Like many European countries, Belgium has struggled to navigate its religious and political practices, particularly concerning the migration policies targeting refugees from areas with large Muslim populations. While many European Catholic churches began housing refugees at the urging of Pope Francis, Oubou discusses why the same practice would be problematic for mosques.

“The question ‘Can we ever talk about migration today without talking about Islam in Europe?’ stimulated the premise of this essay to make sense of a 2018 tragic incident when Mawda Shawri, a 2-year-old Iraqi Kurdish girl, was killed by a Belgian police officer,” said Oubou. “The officer opened fire on a van transporting Mawda’s parents and other migrants towards the Belgian coast. They hoped to make it to the United Kingdom. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, I examine how the escalation of police violence and the paradox of religious neutrality reveal a steady rise in anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant far-right politics in Belgium, which has become a generalized trend throughout Europe.”

Oubou is in her first year as a faculty member at W&L. In addition to teaching anthropology, she is a core faculty member for the Middle East and South Asia Studies Program. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Northwestern University.

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