Reviewed 10 Dec 2011 by:
Jack David Eller
Community College of Denver
[The Sociology of Islam: Secularism, Economy and Politics, Imprint: Ithaca Press, Editor: Tugrul Keskin, ISBN: 9780863723711, Size: 235 x 155mm, 520pp]
ABSTRACT: This valuable set of essays explores themes and processes in modern global Islam as well as national cases of Islam, illustrating the diversity, dynamism, and modernization of Muslim religion and identity.
It is desperately important to sociologize Islam, especially because academia and the general public alike have so consistently essentialized and even demonized it. Of course, with or without our realization, Islam issociologized, that is to say, shaped and refracted by social context and social experience. And also of course, anthropology has been exploring and exposing the social diversity and the social construction of Islam with increasing frequency and success.For these reasons, The Sociology of Islam is a welcome addition to our knowledge of the religion. The collection consists of nineteen essays, including an introduction by the editor, organized into four sections. As Keskin explains in the introduction, a transnational sociological study of Islam effectively constitutes an anthropology of Islam, since both “can be described as a systematic study of the social, political, and economic aspects and transformations of Muslim societies in the context of an increasingly globalized world” (p. 1). Indeed, in addition to invoking anthropologists like Ernest Gellner and David Harvey, the introductory comments identify a number of themes and concerns central to anthropology, such as the definition of “a collective Muslim identity” (p. 5), modernity and secularization, and neoliberalism and globalization. Finally, Keskin emphasizes the variety of Islam, in particular the shari’a-based Islam that most people know (and fear) as well as the market-oriented Islam that Keskin regards as “the ‘modernity-friendly’ version of Islam” (p. (16). In a word, “Islam is not a static religion” nor is it a single monolithic and asocial religion.
The first section, containing four chapters, is Islam, Economy, and Politics. These selections are particularly wide-ranging and thematic. For instance, Basak Ozaral examines the ‘moral economy’ of Islam or a specific ‘Islamic economics,’ characterized by “its emphasis on morality governing economic transactions, [which] has developed a substantial response to the challenges posed by a global economy shaped by modern rational capitalism” (p. 21). This articles provides some valuable information about Islamic concepts and institutions such as waqf (Muslim endowments), zakat (mandatory charity), and riba (usury or interest). Ovamir Anjum gives an analysis of ‘Islamic political tradition’ in the light of modernity in the Middle East, jumping off from the work of Olivier Roy and concluding that most Muslims seek both shari’a and democracy—seriously complicating both the question of the ‘compatibility’ of Islam with democracy and the very meaning of the term ‘democracy.’ Joshua Hendrick describes a particular instance of ‘neo-liberal’ and modern Islam, the Gulen Movement with its education network and its ‘apolitical politics.’ (For more on the Gulen Movement, see Turkish Islam and the Secular State: The Gulen Movement, also reviewed in ARD.) Husnul Amin reports on ‘post-Islamism’ in Pakistan, which differs from Islamism in that (1) “the appeal of Islam has dwindled,” (2) the more exclusive and puritanical form of Islam has yielded to “more inclusive, society-centric, vigilant accounts of individual liberties,” and (3) it promotes a secularization of state with being “anti-Islamic or secular” (p. 91-2). (For more on the sort of post-Islamism discussed in the chapter, see Islamism and Democracy in India: The Transformation of Jamaat-e-Islami, also reviewed in ARD.)
The second section, Globalization and Islam, also features four chapters, beginning with Corri Zoli’s discussion of ‘the multicultural ummah (Islamic community). Zoli argues effectively that a global deterritorialized Islam forces us to question the familiar state/territory frame of culture, as Muslims themselves “are actively contemplating Islamic identity and practice today in ways that delimit the contemporary ummah and, at the same time, define the limits of the nation state as a vehicle to capture this dynamic Muslim identity” (p. 138). Melanie Reddig follows with an overtly Bourdieu-ian approach to the ‘religious field’ of contemporary Islam, focusing on the Salafi school and the impact of colonialism and post-colonialism on “traditional religious authority in Islam” (p. 154). David Johnston adds a selection on two Islamic reformers, Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Chandra Muzaffar, who differ strongly in the future Islam they envision but who “share the burden of reshaping the way the Islamic tradition has been co-opted both authoritarian regimes and by extreme ‘puritanical’ movements such as the Taliban and al-Qa’ida” (p. 179). Jeremy Walton brings the section to a close with a presentation on ‘civil Islam’ and ‘liberal piety’ based on an ethnography of Muslim charitable foundations in Turkey.
The remaining ten essays, divided into two sections, are basically national case-studies. In the third section, Muslim Society in the West, authors investigate Islam in some surprising national settings for most audiences, including Poland (Katarzyna Gorak-Sosnowska), England (Leon Moosavi), Brazil (Cristina Maria de Castro), and Italy (Enzo Pace and Annalisa Frisina). In these instances, Islamic identity and organization are clearly linked to immigration and to the existence (if not establishment) of non-Islamic religion. Moosavi’s article on Britian particularly raises the issue of ‘Islamophobia’ (for more, see Thinking Through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives, also reviewed in ARD).
The final part, Islam and Muslim Societies, brings the discussion ‘home,’ after a fashion. Six essays consider Islam in Nigeria (Ogunbile), Malaysia (Joseph Tamney), Syria (Radwan Ziadeh), Indonesia (Siti Kusujiarti), and the United Arab Emirates (Kathryn Schellenberg and Mohamed Daasa). Collectively, they demonstrate the diversity with and the local influence on Islam, related in the various cases to ethnicity, economic development, and national politics. Two of the chapters are more thematic than the others: the chapter on the UAE explores expatriate workers in that small state, while Rachel Woodlock’s article on Islamic female dress is not only cross-cultural but also ‘cross-philosophical,’ importantly studying the question of female dress through four different Islamic ‘orientations,’ traditionalist, secularist, fundamentalist, and contextualist.
The Sociology of Islam is a very interesting and consistent anthology. Of course, as vast and complex as the topic, no single book could achieve the grand claim of being the sociology of Islam. However, these essays accomplish the goal of establishing that a sociology of Islam is possible and, more, that it is urgent. The chapters mostly represent ‘macro-sociology,’ most not engaging in the statistical preoccupations of much of ‘small’ sociology. In that regard, then, they have more in common with anthropology, which tends to explore and describe themes, processes, institutions, and experiences. Anthropologists can take some inspiration from the collection, which, most fundamentally and significantly, proves once and for all that Islam is not a static religion, nor a monolithic religion, nor an un-modernizable religion.