Magazine article Islamic Horizons

Yes, Islam Really Is a Religion

Magazine article Islamic Horizons

Yes, Islam Really Is a Religion

Article excerpt

WHAT YASMINE TAEB, A CO-AUTHOR OF "FEAR, INC. 2.0: The Islamophobia Networks Efforts to Manufacture Hate in America" (Center for American Progress, 2015) calls a "transatlantic network of hate" is actively promoting Islamophobic prejudice and racism throughout the U.S. and Europe. In Europe, this network has led to such institutionalizations of Islamophobia as Austria's Islam Law, while its transatlantic nature is best exemplified by the U.S. Department of State's casting of Dutch-American Islamophobe and former Muslim, Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a "Muslim reformer."

Among its tactics is to argue that Islam is not a religion due to its relationship with politics. When running for office, now-Representative Jody Hice (R-Ga.) stated that while "most people think Islam is a religion, it's not. It's a totalitarian way of life with a religious component" and that "although Islam has a religious component, it is much more than a simple religious ideology. It is a complete geo-political structure and, as such, does not deserve First Amendment protection." State Representative John Bennett (R-Okla.) told HuffPost Lives Alyona Minkovski that, "I would even submit to you that Islam is not even a religion. It's a political system that uses a deity to advance its agenda of global conquest."

Evangelist Pat Robertson, founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and host of its popular 700 Club, made a similar statement on more than one occasion while on the air, "Islam is not a religion, it is a political system ... bent on world domination." This mode of argumentation has led Republican presidential hopefuls like Ben Carson to claim that a Muslim should not be president until he/she rejects the tenets of Islam, the Sharia, and embraces American values and the Constitution.

And yet many of the same politicians who make this claim actively seek to promote Christianity in the political sphere. From abortion to gay marriage, they continue to base their positions, at least partially, on Christian morality framed as American values. Several states, among them Indiana and Arkansas, enacted the Religious Freedom Bill in the wake of federal legalization of same-sex marriage, a bill that ISNA and other religious associations have contended could be used to discriminate against religious minorities. Presidential candidates like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who counts the ultra-conservative Evangelical Christian Movement as his primary constituency, have been blessed and anointed by Dominionist - a political and religious philosophy that seeks to make the U.S. government a Christian theocracy - pastors who consider the Constitution to be rooted solely in Christian Biblical law and call for an end to all forms of secularism.

This political Christianism is part of a larger trend that began in the 1960s, one which sociologists such as the Austrian-American Peter L. Berger have referred to as the "desecularization of the world," where, except for Western Europe and Western academia, religion in the public sphere, particularly in politics, has surged. This distinction between a secularized Western academia and a descularized American public sphere is important. Scholars like German sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas have shed light on the fact that the U.S. represents a global norm of modern religiously committed citizenry, whereas academic studies continue to suffer from Western Eurocentrism.

This outlook can best be seen in the writings of Danish-American author, scholar and orientalist Patricia Crone (1945-2015), a historian who specialized in early Islamic history and religious freedom in Islam. A close study of her definition of secularism will disclose that it is at odds with its historical American understanding, but completely in line with the European view identified by Habermas.

Berger, one of the mid-20th century's foremost theorists of secularization who predicted religion's inevitable socio-political irrelevance due to modernization, was forced to revise his views by the end of the century. …

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