Western Muslims and the Future of Islam/Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the Post Andalusian Age

By Armajani, Jon | The Middle East Journal, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Western Muslims and the Future of Islam/Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the Post Andalusian Age


Armajani, Jon, The Middle East Journal


PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION, AND SCIENCE Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, by Tariq Ramadan. Oxford, UK and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. χ ?227 pages. Notes to p. 252. Gloss, to p. 259. Index to p. 272. $29.95.

Freedom and Orthodoxy: Mam and Difference in the Post Andalusian Age, by Anouar Majid. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2004. xv + 224 pages. Notes to p. 259. Index to p. 270. $49.50 cloth; $19.95 paper.

Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Hasan al-Banna (the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood), is at the time of this writing living betwixt and between. After receiving an offer for an appointment as Henry Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and obtaining the appropriate legal documentation, Ramadan had his visa revoked by the United States government under a section of the immigration law that refers to people who may be "a public safety risk or a national security threat." Ramadan, before receiving the appointment at Notre Dame, was Professor of Philosophy at the College of Geneva and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and has authored or coauthored over 20 books and hundreds of articles and other publications on Islam. He is part of a burgeoning group of late 20lh and early 21st century liberal Muslim scholars such as Khaled Abou El Fadl, Leila Ahmed, Mohammed Arkoun, the late Fazlur Rahman, Fatima Mernissi, and Amina Wadud, who have directed their works to Muslims and non-Muslims in the West and have opposed the contrasting worldviews of Islamists and authoritarian governments in the majority Muslim world. These liberal Muslims have offered their own alternative visions for Islam's future.

The book under review is a follow-up to Ramadan's previous volumes, such as Les musulmans dans la laïcité: responsabilités et droits des musulmans dans les sociétés occidentales (Lyon, France: Tawhid, 1998) and Muslims in France: The Way Towards Coexistence (Markfield, Leicester, UK: Islamic Foundation, 1999), which attempt to provide Western Muslims open-minded and flexible Islamically-based ideals and guidance for living as integral members of Western societies.

Western Muslims and the Future of Islam addresses a variety of issues, some of which have been of concern to Muslims from classic to contemporary times and others of which are emphasized in the contemporary period. The book is divided into two large sections. In the first part, called "A Universe of Reference," the author presents traditional viewpoints on God, tawhid, Shari'a, the Quran, revelation, ijtihad, dar al-Islam and dar al-Harb and attempts to elucidate these concepts in terms of the contemporary circumstances that Western Muslims face. In the second section, entitled "The Meaning of Engagement," Ramadan applies these classic concepts and his contemporary interpretations of them to such topics as reform of Islamic education, social commitment, political participation, and interreligious dialogue. In line with his elastic conception of Islam, Ramadan vehemently resists the "bipolar vision" which he believes has gripped Muslims and has contributed to hindering freedom of thought among Muslim intellectuals.This bipolarity can be summarized by such formulations as "Whatever is Western is anti-Islamic" or "Islam has nothing to do with the West" (p. 5). According to Ramadan, this dichotomous viewpoint is "widespread and gives some Muslims a sense of power, might and legitimacy in Otherness" while functioning as a decoy which isolates, marginalizes, and insidiously strengthens "the logic of the dominant system whose power, by contrast, lies in always appearing open, pluralistic and rational" (p. 5). The overriding hermeneutical orientation that shapes Ramadan's discourse is what he calls "the principle of integration." He characterizes integration in two ways. First, he attempts to integrate Islam's universal principles to the concrete realities of contemporary life in the West. …

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