Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus

Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus

Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus

Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus

Synopsis

How can Muslims be both good citizens of liberal democracies and good Muslims? This is among the most pressing questions of our time, particularly in contemporary Europe. Some argue that Muslims have no tradition of separation of church and state and therefore can't participate in secular, pluralist society. At the other extreme, some Muslims argue that it is the duty of all believers to resist Western forms of government and to impose Islamic law. Andrew F. March is seeking to find a middle way between these poles. Is there, he asks, a tradition that is both consistent with orthodox Sunni Islam that is also compatible with modern liberal democracy? He begins with Rawls's theory that liberal societies rely for stability on an ''overlapping consensus'' between a public conception of justice and popular religious doctrines and asks what kinds of demands liberal societies place on citizens, and particularly on Muslims. March then offers a thorough examination of Islamic sources and current trends in Islamic thought to see whether there can indeed be a consensus. March finds that the answer is an emphatic ''yes.'' He demonstrates that there are very strong and authentically Islamic arguments for accepting the demands of citizenship in a liberal democracy, many of them found even in medieval works of Islamic jurisprudence. In fact, he shows, it is precisely the fact that Rawlsian political liberalism makes no claims to metaphysical truth that makes it appealing to Muslims.

Excerpt

This book examines whether Muslims, qua Muslims, can regard as religiously and morally legitimate the terms of citizenship in a non- Muslim liberal democracy. This involves asking what is involved doctrinally in constructing as religiously legitimate practices such requirements as living in and being loyal to a non-Muslim state, regarding non-Muslims as political equals with whom one might cooperate socially and politically, contributing to non-Muslim welfare, and participating in non-Muslim political systems.

Although I am focusing in this book specifically on the relationship between Islamic doctrine and liberal citizenship, the inquiry itself is a generic one. All religious and philosophical doctrines or, indeed, noncomprehensive collections of beliefs and preferences can be presumed to provide their bearers with a wide set of motivations for action, some of which may conflict with liberal terms of social cooperation. These questions would be of interest even without the recent public examples of value conflict in Western societies, simply because Islam is an important comprehensive doctrine that has achieved a critical presence in existing liberal democracies recently enough for there not to exist a significant philosophical literature on its relationship to liberalism and citizenship. Lest it be thought that asking these questions suggests a particular background suspicion or mistrust of Islamic political ethics, it should be borne in mind not only that these questions can be and are posed to all non-Islamic doctrines flourishing in liberal societies but also that these very questions are the subject of earnest, and constant, internal debate among Muslim religious scholars and intellectuals. That internal debate provides the material for this book.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.