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.
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