“We Forgive, But We Do Not Forget”: An Ethnographic Account of Assyrian Christians’ Trails of Trauma and the Making of ‘the Muslim’
This thesis highlights the multiple layers of how an Assyrian Christian minority group in Sweden constructs the image of ‘the Muslim’. The thesis contributes to a larger debate about diaspora, reconciliation, and local manifestations of Islamophobia by following the view of ‘the Muslim’ in a Syriac Orthodox Church in Gothenburg. The ethnographic study analyses how the congregational members tell of diasporic, collective memories of oppression and genocide committed by Muslims, and frames ‘the Muslim’ as a violent figure throughout history. Their narratives are also influenced by the Islamophobic discourse in Europe. The interlocutors draw on present day conflicts in their old homelands such as the civil war in Syria and Iraq, and the turmoil in Turkey. This amplifies their view of ‘the Muslim’ as static and radical, and thus ‘incompatible’ in Western society. When discussing individual Muslim friends, however, the interlocutors’ narratives are ambivalent and reflect an insight of Muslims as being children of their common God. Lastly, Christianity plays a vital and multifaceted role in the narratives of the Assyrian Christians; Christianity is in this study both the foundation of conflict and dichotomisation between Christians and Muslims, as well as the most potent source of reconciliation between these groups.