Tuesday, November 14, 2017

PhD: Islam in the West

Here are some notes on the Routledge Handbook of Islam in the West, a tome I am currently reviewing. It was published in 2015. The first set of notes are from the Introduction by Roberto Tottoli, the editor.

[01] So often do we hear about these entities "Islam" and "the West". The idea of "Islam" refers to a religious entity while "the West" is more of a geographical entity, a place. Islam is a faith and a community, an umma. I personally wonder whether this is (or at least was) the case. The umma represented a place where Muslims ruled, even if they were not in the majority. An example of this was the Mughal Empire which maintained a Hindu majority. Even Muslim Syria in its early days had a Christian majority.

[02] Tottoli writes of the ...

... supposed Islamic roots in the West. 

Islam has been in the West for only 3 centuries less than Christianity. In many parts of Europe, Christianity only spread after the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine. Indigenous European Islam existed in Spain as well as Bosnia and Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Kosovo, not to mention Russia. To suggest Islam has no roots in Europe is akin to suggesting Judaism has no roots in Europe. 

[03] Tottoli speaks of ...

... outer and Western umma.
Yet he denies the existence of a geographical umma. Furthermore some 6% of Muslims live in Europe. Indeed, the minority Muslim experience will soon become the norm as the country with the largest Muslim population is likely to be India in 2050. Then again, India will also have more Christians than any other nation. Exactly where is the outer or inner of Islam and/or Christendom?

[04] There is an enormous difference between looking at Islam in the West and Islam and the West. The former inquiry is far more nuanced.

More to follow.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

PhD: On Umma

We generally imagine ourselves to be citizens of a state or country to which we owe ultimate allegiance. But most of us also have other allegiances that go beyond the state. Such "transnational" allegiance and solidarity can include language, culture and even religion.

In some Muslim societies, this can include allegiance to a broader Muslim or Islamic space or sense of belonging.

Yet this broader sense, religious belonging beyond the nation state must inevitably be influenced by the nature of the nation state from which it emerges.Transnational religious culture is built upon national or regional religious culture as well as other forms of culture.

Your "Muslim"-ness or "Islam"-ness isn't purely related to doctrine.

Saunders (2008) argues that the identity based on umma membership is fast morphing into a form of nationhood. He makes an argument for

... treating the ummah (the transnational community of Muslim believers) as a nation.

This is something new, and has only been made possible by

... a potent nexus of information and communications technology (ICT), emergent elites, and Muslim migration to the West ... globalisation, Western media practices, and the nature of European society allow 'ummahist' elites to marginalise other voices in the transnational Muslim community.

That may be the case in Europe, but what about Australia? Do the forces of umma represent Muslim elites? Is this happening more and more thanks to media practices? What about the nature of Australian society?

Saunders (2008) concludes that we

... need to recognise ummah-based identity as more than just a profession of faith - it represents a new form of postnational, political identity which is as profound as extant nationalism.
RA Saunders, The ummah as nation: a reappraisal in the  wake of the 'Cartoon Affair' (2008) Nation and Nationalism 14(2), 303-321

... To be continued

J Piscatori, "Order, Justice, and Global Islam Justice in International Relations" in R Foot, J Gaddis & A Hurrell, Order & Justice in International Relations (2003) Oxford University Press

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