Muslims and the Possibility of “Critical Citizenship”

Dec 10

There is little doubt that religious commitments often conflict with political ones, at least in circumstances where religious commitments are considered to be transcendental, and at least some of them will ultimately be non-negotiable for their adherents. In Islam, the prohibition against intentionally killing other Muslims or waging war against them are examples of such commitments Muslims may have that can cause them to question the validity of certain political obligations.  This dilemma has become even more acute for American Muslims in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and the decision of the United States government to fight a global war on “terrorism” which goes well-beyond the immediate perpetrators of 9/11.  In these circumstances, and particularly because many Muslims feel obligations of solidarity with other Muslims they are under attack, e.g., ‘Iraq, what is the responsible course of conduct for American Muslims?  In this essay published first in the Islamic Monthly, I put forward an argument that requires American Muslims to create a language of critical citizenship, one that incorporates Islamic moral concerns in a critique of US policy, but at the same time transforms Islamic moral concerns into more universal ones, with the hope of creating a political discourse that reconciles the political values of modern liberal citizenship with the political values of Islam.

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