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episode 181: Yassir Morsi, “Radical Skin, Moderate Masks: De-radicalising the Muslim and Racism in Post-racial Societies” (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017)


Muslims living in locations like Australia, Europe, or North America exist within a context dominated by white racial norms and are forced to grapple with those conventions on a daily basis. If they succeed in meeting the presiding criterion of secular liberalism they can be dubbed a “moderate” Muslim by mainstream society.

In Radical Skin, Moderate Masks: De-radicalising the Muslim and Racism in Post-racial Societies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017), Yassir Morsi, Lecturer at La Trobe University, explores these contemporary social dynamics and considers the various ways Muslims don a mask in order to navigate the expectations of the dominant society. Here he offers three paradigms, what he calls the “Fabulous Mask,” the “Militant Mask,” and the “Triumphant Mask,” that represent changing tensions for the “moderate” Muslim. Morsi deconstructs the “radical” vs. “moderate” binary through the forces of racialized structures that shape everyday life and the historical circumstances of Muslims in the “West.” This is achieved through an auto-ethnography that destabilizes traditional scholarship and enables the reader to come to a better understanding of the psychological and material effects of being a Muslim in the times of the “War on Terror” and government funded deradicalization programs. In our conversation we discuss the relationship between religion and race, the category “moderate” Muslim, Frantz Fanon, being a cultural translator, U.S. Muslim scholar Hamza Yusuf, an Islamic art museum exhibit, Australian media personality Waleed Aly & comedian Nazeem Hussain, readings of Edward Said’s Orientalism, British commentator Maajid Nawaz, Friedrich Nietzsche, and confronting the theoretical and practical norms of academic scholarship.

Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy & Religious Studies at Old Dominion University. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at kpeterse@odu.edu.

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