Maps of Belonging: Muslims in Halifax
Mclean, Donald James
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With a growing Muslim population in Canada, questions about their integration are typically framed in terms of a problem of national belonging most often directed at the larger communities found in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. This does not address where, when and how belonging takes place: through complicated personal, social, cultural and spiritual negotiations in the locally grounded everyday life of cities. My research analyzes the alternative maps of Halifax, Nova Scotia produced by a diverse group of twenty Muslim men and women through auto-photography and photo-elicitation interviews. I highlight the complex, diverse and multiple ways in which Muslims negotiate a sense of place and belonging in the city. I examine why understanding the different objectives, motivations, challenges and approaches of participants that make up ‘participant methodologies’ is critical for analyzing the meanings of and relationships between place and belonging. I replace one-dimensional representations of Muslims with narratives of a racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse group of Muslim converts, Canadian-born Muslims, and foreign-born Muslims whose different roots/routes to Islam and Halifax produce different maps of belonging. Muslims negotiate multiple and simultaneous belongings through the experiences and practices of intersectional identities and through the use and creation of ‘halal’ space in the city. I argue that participants’ embodied practices as well as their social and cultural frameworks produce a complicated terrain of connections and disconnections through which participants negotiate everyday life in ‘Halalifax’: a city made congruent with Islamic practices and Muslim belonging. I map the challenges of fostering a sense of ‘ummah’ or community against the internal divisions of the Muslim community to reveal a complex cartography of the politics of belonging. I demonstrate how faith spaces are fought for and created and address the promise and politics of UMMAH Masjid, the city’s newest mosque under construction in Halifax. Mapping the city in these ways demonstrates not only the diverse and complex histories and politics of Muslims and Muslim community in the smaller city of Halifax, but also the efforts to create a sense of place and belonging despite them.