Remaking Muslim Politics: Pluralism, Contestation, Democratization

Remaking Muslim Politics: Pluralism, Contestation, Democratization

Remaking Muslim Politics: Pluralism, Contestation, Democratization

Remaking Muslim Politics: Pluralism, Contestation, Democratization


There is a struggle for the hearts and minds of Muslims unfolding across the Islamic world. The conflict pits Muslims who support pluralism and democracy against others who insist such institutions are antithetical to Islam. With some 1.3 billion people worldwide professing Islam, the outcome of this contest is sure to be one of the defining political events of the twenty-first century. Bringing together twelve engaging essays by leading specialists focusing on individual countries, this pioneering book examines the social origins of civil-democratic Islam, its long-term prospects, its implications for the West, and its lessons for our understanding of religion and politics in modern times. Although depicted by its opponents as the product of political ideas "made in the West" civil-democratic Islam represents an indigenous politics that seeks to build a distinctive Islamic modernity. In countries like Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, and Indonesia, it has become a major political force. Elsewhere its influence is apparent in efforts to devise Islamic grounds for women's rights, religious tolerance, and democratic citizenship. Everywhere it has generated fierce resistance from religious conservatives. Examining this high-stakes clash,Remaking Muslim Politicsbreaks new ground in the comparative study of Islam and democracy. The contributors are Bahman Baktiari, Thomas Barfield, John R. Bowen, Dale F. Eickelman, Robert W. Hefner, Peter Mandaville, Augustus Richard Norton, Gwenn Okruhlik, Michael G. Peletz, Diane Singerman, Jenny B. White, and Muhammad Qasim Zaman.


Robert W. Hefner

The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq placed the question of Islam and Muslim politics squarely in the American public's mind. in bookshops and classrooms, and on radio and television talk shows, Americans were treated to crash courses on the history of Islam, Muslim attitudes toward democracy, the reasons (some) Muslim women veil, and the question of whether the Western and Muslim worlds are indeed fated to a “clash of civilizations.”

The impact of this heady media brew was decidedly mixed. in February 2002, a half year after the 9–11 attacks, the liberal-minded leader (imam) of one of Washington D.C.'s largest mosques told me that the number of invitations he had received to speak at churches and synagogues had increased twentyfold from the year before, and the number of American citizens whom he had helped to convert to Islam had quadrupled. “Never in my eighteen years of living in the United States have I encountered such an outpouring of interest in Islam, most of it quite sympathetic!” On the other hand, in the months following the 9–11 attacks, there were dozens of unprovoked assaults on Americans of Muslim and Middle Eastern background. Several prominent conservative evangelists blamed the 9–11 attacks not just on individual extremists, but on Islam itself, which they decried as worship of a false god (Cooperman 2003). More alarming yet, surveys conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life revealed that, two years after the terrorist attacks, growing numbers of Americans believed that Islam encourages violence among its followers (Pew Forum 2003).

In a society as culturally diverse as the United States, it was inevitable that there would be contrary pushes-and-pulls to the post 9–11 reaction. With the passage of time, it was not surprising too that the events of September 11 came to be seen against the backdrop of other events: the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the conflict in Chechnya, border skirmishes between India and Pakistan, the war in Iraq, and continuing strife between . . .

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