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Abdul-Azim Ahmed


There are nearly 2000 mosques in Britain by some estimates, however there is yet to develop a vocabulary to describe their diversity, akin to the common terms used to describe Christian places of worship (chapel, church, cathedral). I outline here the typology of the interspatial mosque to provide a coherent theorisation of how mosques operate, their priorities, and the ways in which they situate themselves as what are sometimes called “multipurpose” or “multifunctional mosques”. In order to pin the abstract typology to the empirical, I use several case studies, but contend that the findings can be generalised across Britain, with implications for research on mosques in other locations. The article argues mosques can be divided into three tiers, the fard, which focuses on the daily prayers, the fard kifaya, which hosts communal activities, and the sunna, which aims to recreate the prophetic example in the modern period in various ways.

Kathrin Herz and Chantal Munsch


The paper is based on an ethnographic study of Turkish Muslim Community Centres in Germany. It analyses the multiplicity of these centres at various levels on the basis of participant observations, interviews, plans and photographs. The article describes the multiplicity of religious, cultural, social and commercial functions in the multifunctional clusters that are constantly changing. It clearly shows how individual spaces house a variety of overlapping social practices and how users associate diverse meanings with the centres. The paper develops a new perspective on mosques by focusing on the space and the complexity of everyday routines.

Simon Stjernholm


This article investigates how a particular type of Muslim preacher, here conceptualised as a ‘do-it-yourself (DIY) preacher’, can propagate for and elaborate on Islamic teachings outside of and supplementary to mosques. A variety of physical and media spaces are used to reach audiences, especially youth, with religious messages. The article uses an analytical lens of DIY media, generational differences, religious authority and organic intellectuals to argue that such initiatives are important not only as counter-cultural expressions in relation to the majority society, but also in negotiations and authority struggles within diverse Muslim populations. The specific case used in the analysis is that of a Swedish Muslim preacher’s publicly distributed oratory.


Edited by Norbert Oberauer, Yvonne Prief and Ulrike Qubaja

Approaches to legal pluralism vary widely across the spectrum of different disciplines. They comprise normative and descriptive perspectives, focus both on legal pluralist realities as well as public debates, and address legal pluralism in a range of different societies with varying political, institutional and historical conditions.

Emphasising an empirical research to contemporary legal pluralist settings in Muslim contexts, the present collected volume contributes to a deepened understanding of legal pluralist issues and realities through comparative examination. This approach reveals some common features, such as the relevance of Islamic law in power struggles and in the construction of (state or national) identities, strategies of coping with coexisting sets of legal norms by the respective agents, or public debates about the risks induced by the recognition of religious institutions in migrant societies. At the same time, the studies contained in this volume reveal that legal pluralist settings often reflect very specific historical and social constellations, which demands caution towards any generalisation.

The volume is based on papers presented at a conference in Münster (Germany) in 2016 and comprises contributions by Judith Koschorke, Karen Meerschaut, Yvonne Prief, Ulrike Qubaja, Werner de Saeger, Ido Shahar, Katrin Seidel, Konstantinos Tsitselikis, Vishal Vora and Ihsan Yilmaz.

Jesper Petersen


The last few decades have seen the appearance of a number of mosques that do not constitute buildings; they are mosques without bricks. This article therefore defines a new concept, the pop-up mosque, as an analytical term for the temporary conversion of an other-purposed space into a mosque, which is used for Islamic rituals such as Friday prayer and marriages. The pop-up mosque can produce religious leaders such as female imams and it thereby becomes the stage on which nonconformist discourses such as Islamic feminism are embodied and enacted. The article also investigates the relation between social media and the pop-up mosque and defines the concept of ‘social media adhan’ as a prayer call that goes out through various channels on the internet. The article is based on field work and interviews conducted primarily in Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

Introduction: Operationalizing Power in the Study of Mosques

Special Issue on Mosques in Europe: Theoretical and Methodological Strategies in the Study of Mosques in Europe

Brian Arly Jacobsen, Kirstine Sinclair, Niels Valdemar Vinding and Pernille Friis Jensen

Torkel Brekke, Lene Kühle, Göran Larsson and Tuomas Martikainen


Previous research has questioned the use of mosques as points of entry for research about Muslims in Europe. Part of the background has been a new emphasis on lived religion and a critique of a one-sided focus on religious institutions. We argue that some of this criticism is theoretically ill-founded and we also point out that some trends may make mosques more important in research about Muslims. In section 1, we go through the most important literature addressing the methodological problems posed by using mosques in research about Muslims in the West. In section 2, we look at some of the fundamental problems of definitions in some of this critical methodological literature. In section 3, we discuss how the choice of methods, not least sampling modes, will be of significance for meaningful discussion about the appropriateness of using mosques in research, and in section 4, we present what we see as important advantages of using mosques as a point of entry to study Muslims. In section 5, we conclude with a brief summary and discussion.


Michelle Obeid

Border Lives offers an in-depth account of how people in Arsal, a northeastern town on the border of Lebanon with Syria, experienced postwar sociality, and how they grappled with living in the margins of the Lebanese state in the period following the 1975-1990 war.

In a rich ethnography of ‘changing times,’ Michelle Obeid shows how restrictions in cross-border mobility, transformations in physical and social spaces, burgeoning new industries and shifting political alliances produced divergent ideologies about domesticity and the family, morality and personhood.

Attending to metaphors of modernity in a rural border context, Border Lives broadens the sites in which modernity and social change can be investigated.


Katrin Seidel


In the Federal Republic of Ethiopia, the co-existence of local, religious and state legal orders that are entangled in multiple ways becomes especially visible in the arena of family law, where local and religious laws are the predominant normative regulatory tools. In navigating legal pluralism as well as in dealing with the influence of state law (which is in fact rather marginal), governmental actors have experimented with different techniques of governance to co-regulate local and religious conflict resolution mechanisms.

This chapter demonstrates how Ethiopian governmental actors seek to take advantage of the plural legal realities of the highly contested family law arena in order to position themselves as ‘wardens’ of plurality. Accordingly, for the first time in Ethiopian legal history, the application of Islamic law by the Sharia courts on specified personal and family matters has been accorded constitutional recognition. Currently, the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia of 1995 recognises Islamic law as well as jurisdiction and thus provides a legal frame in which this normative order is ‘permitted’ to operate. Unlike in state courts, the consent of both disputing parties to be adjudicated in these judicial forums is a precondition for the jurisdiction of Sharia courts. As a result of state actors’ efforts to ensure legal certainty and procedural justice, the state-funded Sharia courts are under legal obligation to apply only the state Civil Procedure Code of Ethiopia as procedural law. In addition, the power to review final judicial decisions as well as of constitutional interpretation rests with state organs.

This chapter outlines the interdependent relationships between Sharia courts and state courts. As will be shown, Ethiopian state legal pluralism not only inherently leads to tensions and conflicts of norms, but also to negotiations and mutual adaptation processes as reactions to divergent legal concepts. Moreover, various normative and institutional mechanisms of solving norm conflicts can be identified at various judicial levels. Finally, I will demonstrate that the plural judicial arrangements and the implementation of state regulations leave various problems unsolved.