Sunday, January 14, 2007

Secularism, Hermeneutics, and Empire:

The Politics of Islamic Reformation by Saba Mahmood

"Taking the U.S. government’s current project to reshape and reform Islam on a global scale as my focus, I want to think about the place of the secular in relation to the current strategies of domination pursued by the United States. As I will show, over the last two years, in addition to its military “war against terror,” the United States has embarked upon an ambitious theological campaign aimed at shaping the sensibilities of ordinary Muslims whom the State Department deems to be too dangerously inclined toward fundamentalist interpretations of Islam.

As such, it is the ideological arm of an otherwise military campaign to subdue and discipline the vast population of Muslims who, in their religious beliefs and lifestyles, are judged to be the recruiting ground for more extremist and fundamentalist forms of Islamic opposition to U.S. strategic interests and what are now loosely termed “Western values.” In this elaborate undertaking, the U.S. government has found an indigenous ally in the form of moderate or liberal Muslims who, in the opinion of State Department planners, are most open to a “Western vision of civilization, political order, and society.”

The core problem from the perspective of U.S. analysts is not militancy itself but interpretation, insomuch as the interpretive act is regarded as the foundation of any religious subjectivity and therefore the key to its emancipation or secularization. In this understanding, the U.S. strategists have struck a common chord with self-identified secular liberal Muslim reformers who have been trying to refashion Islam along the lines of the Protestant Reformation.

Aware of these recent setbacks, the White House National Security Council (NSC) formally established a new program named Muslim World Outreach in 2003, with as much as $1.3 billion at its disposal (and with more allocations to come). This is a project aimed at “transforming Islam from within”:

Among the reformers the Rand Corporation mentions are Khaled Abou El Fadl, Serif Mardin, Abdulaziz Sachedina (United States), Bassam Tibi (Germany), and Muhammad Shahrur (Syria). They are upheld as “good Muslims,” distinct from their “bad” counterparts.

more here (pdf document)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If any nation or state or continent should undertake the task of supporting reform in Islamic countries. Then it should be Europe.
The war in Iraq, Abu-Gharaib, Guantanamo speak levels of the lies and deceits that the American government has used for its monetary/safeguarding-its-energy-resources-suppy for the next 40 yrs agenda. Rather then to do with encouraging reforms in these countries. All of these together contribute towards MORE TERRORISM then the contrary.
Specially alarming is the fact that an insane % of Americans believe in the notion that for Jesus Christ to return back to earth, armageddon should start soon. And that alone is justification for all the wars being waged. America is a Fascist Theocratic state run by White men who are still stuck in a WWI era.

So this 1 billion $ outreach program does not mean a thing, when you have Fundamentalist Christian sitting in White House and Pentagon, who believe it to be their holy right to wage a war on Muslim countries.

All the sensible individuals should move towards the Red States or Canada. If the blue states are left to fend for themselves, that is going to fix 90% of the earths problems right there.
Then we can deal with these militant jihadists and fundamentalist. Tackel global warming, poverty and put a full stop on terrorism.

Alexander Patico said...

The writer said:
"...the U.S. strategists have struck a common chord with self-identified secular liberal Muslim reformers who have been trying to refashion Islam along the lines of the Protestant Reformation."

This strikes me as odd on more than one score. First, while there may well have been a reaction against the rigid hierarchical superstructure of Roman Catholicism, the most ardent Protestant reformers were certainly not "secularists." They considered their conception of the Church to be more devout and truer to first principles than the Church of the Pope. Therefore, what could this statement really mean in the present context?

Second, Islamic advocates of reform have included (in the West, for example) individuals such as Reza Aslan and Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who would never accept a label of "secularist" being placed beside their names.

I am puzzled by the seeming equation of "secularist", "liberal" and "reform."

Alex Patico