Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

Being Muslim, Being Cosmopolitan: Transgressing the Liberal Global

Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

Being Muslim, Being Cosmopolitan: Transgressing the Liberal Global

Article excerpt

The rights and duties bestowed upon citizens are dynamic, diverse, and often contested but are ultimately defined by a relationship with a state. Under the regime of the modern state, the concept and practice of citizenship is universalized as both a right and an imposition that naturalizes the penetration of the state into the everyday in order to actively produce and regulate citizen-subjects. States claim the right to declare who is and who is not a citizen, transforming some human beings into "illegals." Even where legal citizenship status is bestowed, many states fail to provide and protect basic human needs, resulting in the need for a cadre of professional activists to assist, donate, and lobby to advance the human and civil rights of those whose states fail them. Global citizens express concern for the rights of others, being advocates and agents for responsible social change.

A global citizen is often one who is seen as acting beyond the narrow interests of a particular nation-state, showing concern for citizens of other countries, participating in and creating transnational institutions to protect and advance the interests and welfare of those marginalized by "failed," illiberal states, and moving across national borders not only in a show of solidarity but to assist those who are oppressed by a national regime. The concept of a global citizen is, however, at its core, contradictory, as there is no state from which to claim rights in the global sphere; meanwhile, perceived as inherent to being a global citizen are acts that transcend the borders of the liberal nation-state while simultaneously reaffirming those borders through a rhetoric of the need for liberal polities, citizen rights, and national development.

These tensions and inherent contradictions in the idea of global citizenship expose the limitations of the concept as a meaningful category of analysis and social action. At a deeper level, what is exposed by an examination of the global citizen is the inherent biases of the term and the practices espoused by its users as integral to global citizenship. The concept is embedded within a modern, Western liberal framework, tacitly universalizing a particular vision of modernity and the global, realized through the liberal nation-state idea, while simultaneously constructing a hierarchy between good citizens and bad citizens (or even non-citizens) as well as between good states (i.e., those that foster liberal globalization) and bad states (or those that resist or outright reject liberal aggrandizements). In so doing, the concept of global citizenship maps a liberal activist saving others from their illiberal states. By proclaiming that particular peoples are in need of saving, of liberalizing, of being recipients of a global citizen's largess, the notion of the liberal activist as savior creates a hierarchy, structuring difference between the global citizen as savior and the disenfranchised poor and oppressed as the fortunate recipients of the global citizens' attention, reproducing the inherent contradictions and hypocrisy of the "white-savior industrial complex." (1)

Beyond these inherent contradictions, the idea of global citizenship is singularly liberal and thus absolutist in its missionary zeal to spread liberal values. Global citizenship falls short of being truly global; it is Western, with an assumptive claim to being universal and thus global. By focusing on two case studies from the Muslim world, this essay exposes the limitations of liberal global citizenship and rather reaffirms the idea of cosmopolitanism as a much more inclusive set of values. Cosmopolitanism takes on a variety of cultural forms that though they might be liberal, include possibilities for diverse cultural formations, one of these being a Muslim cosmopolitanism that offers a critique of global citizenship as well as liberal notions of cosmopolitanism. The apocalyptic violence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL or the Islamic State, IS, or, in Arabic, Daesh) and the coming together on Tahrir Square on January 25, 2011 provide critical perspectives on the concept of global citizenship and, ultimately, its limitations. …

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