Accepted paper:

Old industrial space, new suburban uses: the Ahmadiyya mosque

Author:

Marzia Balzani (New York University, Abu Dhabi)

Paper short abstract:

The conversion of a suburban dairy into a mosque described as the largest in western Europe in 2003 provides the setting for an ethnographic exploration of the discourses, and practices, of urban regeneration, sectarian conflicts, Islamophobia and the challenges of community building in London.

Paper long abstract:

Built on the site of a disused former dairy, the Baitul Futuh mosque in south west London is simultaneously a testament to how post-industrial sites may be transformed for uses unimagined at the time of the original development; a signal achievement for the Muslim community which raised the funds to build it while denied the right to call its places of worship 'mosques' in its homeland, Pakistan; an affront to local orthodox Sunni Muslims; a focus for Islamophobic protest, and a much needed boost to local council plans to regenerate the area and even contribute to local tourism. Using town planning documents, media articles and more traditional forms of anthropological research, this paper considers the conflicting discourses available to locals, both Muslim and non-Muslim, which centre on the mosque. These are located in the broader historical and contemporary transnational contexts of sectarian violence and the creation of community where ethnicity, faith and immigration status marks those who attend the mosque as recent arrivals in Europe, even when this is patently not the case. The strategies diverse local groups use to the define the space in their own different and conflicting terms and their multiple and cross-cutting claims and goals, now rooted in one small corner of London which has become the worldwide centre of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, are discussed to present a range of religious, political and ethnic positions shaping ideals of self-realisation and aspirations for the future at both individual and community levels.

panel P097
Post-industrial revolution? Changes and continuities within urban landscapes