Sociology and Anthropology

Sociology and Anthropology

Social Capital, Civil Society, and the Question of Values

The rising interest in the idea of civil society in the last decade highlights the problematic place of values in social sciences.  Social sciences, seeking scientificity through mostly empirical verification and positivistic methods, presented themselves as the neutral guarantor rational and free society. Epistemological and metatheoretical discussions gradually retreated from social sciences, for those dimensions do not represent real research and they may bring back the shadow of religion and the less-than-relative. On the other hand, social experience continuously provides compelling evidence on the solidity and viability of the “natural social order” in which values are central. The concept of civil society and social capital were reincarnated only to face the perennial question of values. The inevitability of thinking in terms of values, where do they come from, and how they govern modern societies was asserted again.

Translation as Event: The Impact of Variation in Translation and Interpretation of Islamic Text in Informal Religious Educational

This paper will explore the development of hermeneutics as an approach to text interpretation, and show how it later came to be used as a theoretical tool in the social sciences. Using the Muslim community in New York City as a case study, I will present a two-fold approach to establishing a better understanding of a Qur’anic hermeneutic. On the one hand, providing a history of the development of Tafsir Qur’an as methodology for Qur’anic exegesis, and on the other hand exploring theories of interpretive anthropology and how they can be used to analyze the process of translation and interpretation of Islamic text by Muslims as meaningful action, to be seen in itself as an event for hermeneutic analysis.

Developing Identities: What is Progressive Islam and Who are Progressive Muslims

Progressive Islam is a deeply contentious term for some and yet so empowering for others. It remains, however, an ambiguous term, with little clarity around the identity. Though the identity is by no means a new one, it has gained greater prominence post 9/11. With the publishing of the book "Progressive Muslims: On Gender, Justice, and Pluralism," discussions about progressive Islamic theology have become popular in academia. Additionally, many articles have appeared in the news, lauding progressive Muslims as “moderate” Muslims, and the hope for the Muslim world. This identity has even found its way into the mainstream Muslim community, where people are labeled “progressive” in connection to their vocal opposition to several trends and belief systems within the Muslim community. The question, however, still remains: What exactly is progressive Islam? And who are progressive Muslims?

Values and Their Relationship to Social Problems in Malaysia: An Islamic Framework

This study analyzes the relationship between values and social problems for Malaysian teenagers. Malaysia has undergone a tremendous social transformation that has affected many of its traditional and religious values and norms. This development is said to have contributed to a rise in social problems. Our basic premises are that values are reflected by behavior and that religion plays an important role in Malaysians’ value formation. In this context, and since Islam is Malaysia’s official religion, the measurement of values is based on the works of al-Ghazali and Rokeach.1 Some suggestions also are provided for future development policies.

Modernity and Culture: From the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean

This book contains the output from a series of discussions leading to an American Social Science Research Council (SSRC) conference in Aix-en-Provence, France in September 1998. The 18 essays address some aspects of the history of the Mediterranean-Middle East and Indian Ocean-South Asian areas between the 1890s and 1920s, when modernity and colonialism struck these areas. Despite the lack of a precise definition of modernity, the contributors unravel how the advent of “European” modernity in transportation, military power, media, and imperialistic or colonial tendency shaped these areas’ culture and social structures.

Social Justice in Islam

The dynamics of Islamic revival/activism have been the subject of renewed interest in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. Most of this interest has been confined to media sound bites that present little or no appreciation for the linkages between cause and effect, despite appeals by some conscientious commentators for balanced analysis. Deina Abdelkader’s Social Justice in Islam, therefore, is a fresh contribution to studies on Islamic revivalism in its contemporary context. Even though the study covers the period from 1988 to 1993, its examination of revivalist (or, as Abdelkader prefers, activist) sentiment and activities in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey through the dual lens of maqasid al-Shari‘ah (aims of Shari‘ah) and the legal doctrine of maslahah (public good) is timely, for it connects popular sentiment to expression. The legal convention of maslahah and the paradigm of the maqasid serve as baselines from which the author seeks to create a method to understand the revivalists’ thoughts and actions, as well as the feedback mechanisms created by them to understand how they must function in future contexts.

Islam and Civil Society: From the Paradigm of Compatibility to Critical Engagement

This edited volume is a welcome addition to the growing literature of Islamic political ethics. These collected essays address some of the most difficult and urgent issues facing the Islamic world today. Political rule, pluralism, civil society, nation-states, constitutionalism, and the religio-ethical foundations of Islamic politics are just a few of the issues that the contributors analyze in their respective chapters.

The essays’ overall tone is affirmative, for the apparent tension between Islamic politics and the universally accepted values of democracy and civil society is reducible to historical and political factors rather than to an innate incompatibility between the two. While there is some wisdom in emphasizing this, it considerably weakens the articles’ critical nature.

Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith

This book is divided into nine sections: an opening section with introductory essays, followed by eight chapters that discuss the writers’ views on certain issues. Each section contains several essays of anywhere from between three to six pages. Given the number of authors, I will mention only some of the points made in each section. In his introduction, Michael Wolfe lays out the book’s general premise: Maybe it is time to stop looking to the “motherland” for our understandings of Islam and Islamic tradition. Maybe it is time to grow up. This call is sure to find a resonance among the many Muslims who are tired of imported imams and imported books that are so far removed from our own reality in the West. Farid Esack brings up an interesting point: Historically, Muslims have known only two paradigms: oppression (Makkah) and governing (Madinah). However, given current realities, they must adopt a third kind: peaceful coexistence in a state of equality, as done by those Muslims who emigrated to Abyssinia.

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