Remembering Islamic empires: speaking of imperialism and islamophobia

New Formations - ISSN 0950-2378
Volume 2010 Number 70

Remembering Islamic empires: speaking of imperialism and islamophobia
Richard Phillips pages -


In the aftermath of 9/11, debates about Islam and the West have taken some unprompted historical turns. In Europe and America many people who have spoken out, either as or for Muslims, have appealed to histories of Islam. Ordinary anti-war activists, public intellectuals, museum and gallery curators, even captains of industry: all have spoken of Islamic civilisation and empires of the past. These everyday representations of empires speak to postcolonial and cultural debates about the form and significance of contemporary colonial discourse, and also to controversies in academic and school history about memories of empires and languages of imperialism. Representations of the Islamic past are both reactive and pro-active. First, they can be read as interventions against the colonial present: contesting Islamophobic ideology in the context of the war on terror by rejecting allegations that Islam is careless about liberty and human rights, primitive and uncivilised. This interpretation is qualified, however, with the acknowledgement that these histories are not consistently anti-imperial; they can better be described as anti-western. But, more pro-actively, these histories also advance positive ideals of tolerance and citizenship, using Andalucía to substantiate claims that Muslims did not simply or grudgingly conform to European ideas of tolerance and liberty; they pioneered these values. Moreover, these historical claims are brought to contemporary debates about how to make tolerance work, identifying points of contact between British values and Islamic histories, and showing how Muslims can imagine not only adopting, but actively shaping British citizenship and other forms of belonging in Europe and America.

SORRY - you are not registered as being permitted online access to the full text of this article

You have the following options:

  1. If you are viewing this via an institution or academic library you can ask that your institution takes out a Subscription to this journal.
  2. If you already have a Personal Subscription please login below

    Forgotten your username / password? Click here to locate

  3. Purchase an annual Personal Subscription
    PRINT + DIGITAL personal subscription (£45 / year)
    DIGITAL personal subscription (£30 / year)
    A Personal Subscription provides immediate access not only to the single article you are seeking, but also to all past and future articles in this journal up to the expiry of your annual (calendar year) subscription.
  4. Purchase immediate access to this single article (UK£7.00) - Buy article Coming Soon

To cite this article
Richard Phillips (2010) Remembering Islamic empires: speaking of imperialism and islamophobia, New Formations, 2010(70), -

Share this