At Freedom's Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament

At Freedom's Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament

Sadia Abbas
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13wzz49
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    At Freedom's Limit: Islam and the Postcolonial Predicament
    Book Description:

    The subject of this book is a new "Islam." This Islam began to take shape in 1988 around the Rushdie affair, the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the first Gulf War of 1991. It was consolidated in the period following September 11, 2001. It is a name, a discursive site, a signifier at once flexible and constrained--indeed, it is a geopolitical agon, in and around which some of the most pressing aporias of modernity, enlightenment, liberalism, and reformation are worked out. At this discursive site are many metonyms for Islam: the veiled or "pious" Muslim woman, the militant, the minority Muslim injured by Western free speech. Each of these figures functions as a cipher enabling repeated encounters with the question "How do we free ourselves from freedom?" Again and again, freedom is imagined as Western, modern, imperial--a dark imposition of Enlightenment. The pious and injured Muslim who desires his or her own enslavement is imagined as freedom's other. At Freedom's Limit is an intervention into current debates regarding religion, secularism, and Islam and provides a deep critique of the anthropology and sociology of Islam that have consolidated this formation. It shows that, even as this Islam gains increasing traction in cultural production from television shows to movies to novels, the most intricate contestations of Islam so construed are to be found in the work of Muslim writers and painters. This book includes extended readings of jihadist proclamations; postcolonial law; responses to law from minorities in Muslim-majority societies; Islamophobic films; the novels of Leila Aboulela, Mohammed Hanif, and Nadeem Aslam; and the paintings of Komail Aijazuddin.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5787-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VIII)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. IX-X)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. XI-XVI)
  4. The Argument
    (pp. 1-7)

    The subject of this book is a new “Islam.” This Islam begins to disclose its shape in 1988 around the Rushdie affair, the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, and the first Gulf War of 1991. It is consolidated in the period following September 11, 2001. This Islam is a name, a discursive site, a flexible and simultaneously constrained signifier, indeed a geopoliticalagon, in and around which some of the most pressing aporias of modernity, enlightenment, liberalism, and Reformation are worked out. In the formation that has clustered at this site, there are for Islam many metonyms: the...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Maintenance of Innocence
    (pp. 8-40)

    The sun pours down over Lord’s. A black man ushers one of Bollywood’s most amiably round-faced actors out from a dark corridor onto the unconfined open field. The men embrace. The stalls are empty, but ball and bat are found. The black man—athletic but young, sweet, and unthreatening—bowls; the South Asian bats and hits what could be a boundary or a winning stroke. He raises his bat, acknowledging the applause of the absent audience in a gesture straight from Bollywood and bearing all the marks of its sentimentality and melodrama. Both are transfigured by joy. It could almost...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Echo Chamber of Freedom: The Muslim Woman and the Pretext of Agency
    (pp. 41-71)

    “You’re all individuals,” cries Brian, the not-quite Jesus, of Monty Python’sLife of Brian. “We’re all individuals,” chant the followers, who want to turn him into their leader. “I’m not,” someone from within the crowd insists. “Shshhh,” says someone else.¹ This could be read as a punchy but slight comic identification of a paradox, but it turns out to be part ofThe Life of Brian’s larger exploration of the theme of how a life might acquire a transcendent shape, and of what makes a prophet singular. The prophet is, after all, a figure who is chosen and who uses...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Religion and the Novel: A Case Study
    (pp. 72-96)

    In current discussions, it sometimes seems as if conversations about religion can take place only as fights about literature. One need look no further for the reason than the Rushdie affair, which was central in the consolidation of the Muslim political presence in Europe and served as a vehicle for the expression of many of the disappointments of the (mostly South Asian) immigrant experience in Britain. The kind of protest that started with the burning ofThe Satanic Versesin Bradford, has become a template for expressions of militant Muslim anger elsewhere in Europe, in such controversies as the case...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR How Injury Travels
    (pp. 97-148)

    Why has injury come to govern so much of the contemporary academic discourse about Muslims? Why are pain and hurt the affective labels by which the outrage of some Muslims over disrespect for Islam are represented? Why is the response to what is loosely termed “blasphemy” used to constitute a Muslim polity by people who claim to represent “the Muslim community” and also, more surprisingly, by academic theorists? The quick answers that suggest themselves seem both obvious and inadequate: Hurt expresses the effects of the relentless racism and xenophobia faced by many Muslims in the West. It does not take...

  9. Color plates
    (pp. None)
  10. CHAPTER FIVE Cold War Baroque: Saints and Icons
    (pp. 149-182)

    The proposition that most political concepts are really secularized theological concepts has come close to attaining the status of intellectual doxa.¹ I am not interested in ascertaining, or disproving, the truth of this formula. Although one might suggest, by way of simple counterweight, that an equally accurate way of characterizing the same history of political thought is that all theological concepts are simply political concepts with metaphysical flourishes adapted to the historical necessities of their moments of production. Most concepts, conceived as political by such an intellectual history, are ideas of how to establish sovereignty—man’s or God’s—over the...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Theologies of Love
    (pp. 183-212)

    The year was 1985. Zia-ul Haq was in power. On a stage facing an audience of an estimated fifty thousand in a packed arena in Lahore, the very fine Pakistani singer Iqbal Bano sang an extraordinary rendition of Faiz Ahmad Faiz’s “Wa-yabqā wajhu rabbik” (The Face of Thy Lord Will Abide Forever) which is also, probably because of the performance, more familiarly known as “Ham dekhen ge” (We Will See). Bano’s performance that evening has become the stuff of political legend—so much so that people dispute the year and the place of the performance but not the effect of...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 213-240)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 241-248)