Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
September 2011


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Book Reviews
Guest Reviewer: Anne Aly

Essays on Muslims and Multiculturalism

ed. Raimond Gaita, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2011.


One could be forgiven for assuming that Essays on Muslims and Multiculturalism is yet another book on the trials and tribulations of being Muslim in a post 9/11 world. The book does not disappoint in this regard and delivers much of the usual fare, but it also offers some surprisingly refreshing contributions. Edited by Raimond Gaita, it features contributions by some well-known Australian names including Geoffrey Brahm Levey, Ghassan Hage and Shakira Hussein (incidentally the only female contributor to the book).

Each of the chapters covers some aspect of Muslims, multiculturalism, the media and identity since the 2001 terrorist attacks. While Levey does a good job of untangling some of the mythical links between multiculturalism and terrorism he neglects to address how multiculturalism, a policy originally introduced to deal with cultural diversity, can also deal with religious diversity. Luckily, Hage picks up on this theme in his chapter called "Multiculturalism and the ungovernable Muslim". Waleed Aly’s chapter is another addition to the literature that deconstructs popular media bias against Muslims. While it reads well, Aly’s chapter comes across as little more than a response to Melanie Phillips’ book Londistan. Indeed most of the chapter is focussed on debunking each of Phillips’ arguments in great detail.

Graeme Davison’s chapter is a refreshing read on the citizenship and values tests and perhaps stands out because it does not just focus on Muslims. The most enjoyable chapter is Shakira Hussein’s. Her innovative approach guides the reader through some complex and challenging themes through a narrative that will capture your imagination.

If you already have a collection of books on the subject of Muslims in Australia, you may not find much value in also adding this one to your collection. The book is worth reading but just don’t expect it to open any new insights for you.