The Challenge of Pluralism

The Challenge of Pluralism: Paradigms from Muslim Contexts

Abdou Filali-Ansary
Sikeena Karmali Ahmed
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    The Challenge of Pluralism
    Book Description:

    Current popular and academic discussions make certain assumptions regarding Islam and its lack of compatibility with pluralism. Some notable liberal thinkers have even argued that pluralism itself is inherently antithetical to Islam. This volume addresses these assumptions by bringing clarity to some of its key suppositions and conjectures.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-7963-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction: Theoretical Approaches to Cultural Diversity
    (pp. 1-6)
    Abdou Filali-Ansary

    Pluralism, as a concept, has only recently emerged as an important category to consider for those who are interested in religion and politics and their relations in contemporary contexts. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it was attested as a term in philosophy in 1882 and, in political science, only from 1919. In 1933 it is recognised as referring to a “theory which opposes monolithic state power” and in the general sense of “toleration of diversity within a society or state”. One can add to this that major philosophical works dedicated to the concept of pluralism have been produced in...

  4. Part One: The Heritage:: Historical Contexts
    • Chapter 1 Pluralism in Muslim Societies
      (pp. 9-15)
      Aziz al-Azmeh

      A widely-held and disseminated thesis maintains that so-called “Muslim societies” possess a rigorous generic unity and internal coherence of such import that the question of pluralism within them – its presence, its absence, its legal, social and political forms and otherwise – is one which may credibly be treated in a general way of broad applicability. The assumption made implicitly or explicitly is that “Muslim societies” form a self-consistent unit which may be summarised by a small number of definitively constituted features transcending space, time and circumstance, features that are at once derived from, and foreclosed by, Muslim scriptures and...

    • Chapter 2 The Public and the Private in Middle Eastern History and Society
      (pp. 16-30)
      Sami Zubaida

      The theme of “public” and “private” has been widely discussed and debated in social theory as well as in feminist literature. The concept and distinctions between the two spheres are often found problematic. The notion of the “public sphere”, introduced by Habermas in relation to its postulated emergence vis-à-vis bourgeois modernity in Europe, has proved popular in many sociological and ideological contexts, and thus has been “hijacked” from the very specific history stipulated by its author.¹ A consideration of the debates relating to that theme would not be directly pertinent to the task in hand, which is to explore the...

  5. Part Two: Contemporary Thought
    • Chapter 3 Civil Society and Conflict Management: Bangladesh’s Experiences
      (pp. 33-48)
      Amena Mohsin

      It is ironic that South Asia, the land of Gandhi, Tagore, Lalon, a land immersed in an ocean of civilisations, cultures and syncretism, today finds itself torn by politicised ethnicities and religions. Much of it, however, is a construct of “secular” politics, the ongoing militant politicisation of governance structures and ethos, and also the creation and re-creation of knowledge systems. It is therefore no surprise that conflict and security discourses have remained trapped within the language of insecurity and war. The periodisation that accompanied the formal onset of these discourses and disciplines since the end of the Second World War...

    • Chapter 4 Pluralism and Liberalism in Contemporary Islamic Thought
      (pp. 49-61)
      Ridwan al-Sayyid

      The inception of cultural debates over liberalism – and I consider pluralism a part of the domain of liberalism – in the Arab world began in the 1960s. Prior to that, debates over issues of modernisation and the relationship with the rest of the world were conducted in terms of secularism or secularism vis-à-vis Islam. This was unfortunate, as the secularism associated with modernisation was the French version, characterised by an uncompromising separation between state and religion. For Muslim thinkers, it is primarily due to this factor that debates on liberalism and Islam contain a great deal of negative residue...

    • Chapter 5 Democracy, Pluralism and Political Islam
      (pp. 62-77)
      Adel Daher

      The aim of this chapter is to address whether political Islam, in some of its well-known versions, is compatible, as far as its socio-political ends are concerned, with the requirements of just, democratic institutions. The emphasis here is on the term “just”, as certain understandings of democratic institutions have no conceptual connection between justice and democracy. In theory, a state may be democratic but not just, where “just” is understood in its broad sense. I argue that democracy without justice, though logically conceivable, is democracy only in form but not in substance. At best, it is procedural democracy. Therein lies...

    • Chapter 6 Islam, Conflict and Democracy
      (pp. 78-93)
      Akeel Bilgrami

      There is a very familiar cautionary response that one finds oneself constantly making when engaging in discussions about Islam these days. This is the response of saying, “There are many Islams!” In fact, this has become something of a mantra and, given the strenuous simplifications one finds in the media and on the lips and in memos of politicians, as well as in continuing forms of “orientalist” academic writing, expressions of such caution are thoroughly warranted. However, it should not become a conversation-stopper; nor should it be inconsistently deployed. There is no doubt that there are many Islams. That should...

    • Chapter 7 The Diversity of Cultures in the Crucible of Globalisation
      (pp. 94-109)
      Nur Yalman

      What does “globalisation” mean? The term came into general use in connection with the opening of the financial markets in London some years ago. This was to be the “Big Bang” that would suddenly tie financial transactions in different parts of the world into a single large and efficient market. To some extent we have seen the economies of many nations increasingly linked to the capital markets of the Western world. This is a major element of “globalisation” which brings out the “hegemonic power” of major financial interests that dominate our lives.

      The “soft” cultural aspect is only one facet...

  6. About the Contributors
    (pp. 110-113)
  7. Index
    (pp. 114-122)