Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

John Porter Book Prize Lecture: Bringing the Social Back In-On the Integration of Muslim Immigrants and the Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Sociology

John Porter Book Prize Lecture: Bringing the Social Back In-On the Integration of Muslim Immigrants and the Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities

Article excerpt

THE GLOBAL DEBATE about the integration of immigrants in western liberal democracies is increasingly turning into a debate about religion. In Canada, religion has become the focal point in the third phase of country's Multiculturalism policy, after the latter's initial preoccupation with culture and race in the two preceding phases (Kymlicka 2015). But, as Beyer (2013) argues, this preoccupation with religion has been mostly focused on the effects of religion rather than "the consequences for religion" (p. 6). The goal of The Muslim Question in Canada is to examine the interplay of immigration and religion, along the line with what Beyer (2013) suggests--that is, the impact of immigration on religion--with a focus on Muslim immigrants.

In The Muslim Question in Canada, I argue that, as far as the integration of Muslim immigrants in Western liberal democracies is concerned, the heavy preoccupation with Islam and Islamic theology is unproductive, and that there is a need to shift our focus from the theological to the social (Kazemipur 2014). In this article, I make an attempt to demonstrate how the theological itself is influenced by the social. This argument consists of three parts. First, I offer a conceptual backdrop to illustrate the three modes in which the role of Islam in Muslim affairs has been, and could be, understood. Second, I offer a case study of a new branch of Islamic thought known (in Arabic) as fiqh al-aqalliyyat al-Muslema (jurisprudence of Muslim minorities). This is an immigration-friendly school of Islamic legal thought that has been developed to address the concerns of Muslim immigrants. Third, I discuss the influence of social forces on the development of this new branch of jurisprudence and the implications of the proposed perspective.

CONCEPTUAL BACKDROP

There are three ways in which the role of Islam in the lives of Muslims has been understood. The first two involve treating Islam primarily as an independent variable, and the third one as a dependent variable.

Islam as Constant or the Sole Independent Variable

The essence of this approach is the assumption that the opinions and behaviors of Muslims are strongly and exclusively informed by the contents of their religion, and that those contents are relatively fixed. As a consequence, then, in order to understand Muslims, one needs to understand Islam--and Islam only. One can find the barest formulation of this approach among the European and American right-wing politicians such as Geert Wilders (the Netherlands), Marie Le Pen (France), and Donald Trump (the United States), as well as among the atheist academics and political activists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Ayyan Hirsi Ali. Sam Harris (2004), for instance, states, "We are at war with Islam.... It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been 'hijacked' by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in Koran" (p. 109). As for the solution to this problem, he adds, "A future in which Islam and the West do not stand on the brink of mutual annihilation is a future in which most Muslims have learned to ignore most of their canon" (Harris 2004:110).

But such a view is not only adopted by those opposing Islam and/or Muslims; there are others who have more positive views of Islam yet who subscribe to the same formulation about the place of Islam in the lives of Muslims. For this group, the essence of Islam is good and positive; and that, given the strong attachment of Muslims to their faith, the solution to many of the problems in the Muslim world is to ensure that Muslims get the right interpretation and the precise understanding of the teachings of their faith. A prime example of this position can be found in the writings of the former U.S. Secretary of State under Bill Clinton, Madeleine Albright (2006), who, for example, argues for a different interpretation of the word jihad, in order to confront the jihadi groups, or for emphasizing the condemnation of suicide by Islam, in order to stop suicide bombings. …

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