Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Commentary: G. Marranci's “Jihad Beyond Islam” , Western Muslims’ identity and Islamic Hermeneutics

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009   No comments

By: Adis Duderija

Gabrielle Marranci’s “Jihad Beyond Islam” is a novel attempt to shift the analyses ofdiscourse pertaining to ‘jihad’ ( customarily understood/perceived/interpreted as Islamicterrorism) away from primarily politically dominated to that of exploring the “dynamics of radicalization” by xamining the role of emotions on the processes of identityconstruction/maintenance and linking it to that of the concept of jihad .Relying on thefindings of some recent anthropological studies[1] the author’s major contention is that emotions and the feelings that these emotions induce are the key element in defining the behaviours and actions of Western Muslims(rather than their religious tradition, culture and/or society) , including their views on jihad, and thus their identity formation. In the words of the author “It is what I feel I am that determines my identity for me”( p.10).

This reasoning applied to Muslim identity would translate into: It is that I feel that I am a Muslim (indicative of what Marranci terms emotional commitment) which makes me have a Muslim identity and not its imposition by extra-individual elements such as culture or society.

Another important and useful distinction that Marranci advocates is that between the self and identity with which he attempts to find the solution to broader anthropological questions regarding issues pertaining to reflexivity, agency and the notion of multiple identities in individual selves. Since my critique will not concern itself with the broader anthropological questions of the relationship between the self, culture and identity, I shall leave them aside for those who are more familiar and better qualified than I am to deal with. Instead I would like to focus on Marranci’s views ,explicit or implied, on the role of religious tradition on identity formation among western (born) Muslims, given his overall thesis presented in the book.

I would like firstly to present, chapter by chapter, Marranci’s main arguments or more precisely the way I understand them and then offer a( hopefully constructive ) critique on several fronts.

In the introductory chapter Marranci stresses the importance of making a distinction between Muslims and Islam in order to emphasise ,unlike what he terms Neo-Orientalists and apologists essentialist approaches, the significance of interpretation and interpretability, or to borrow a phrase often used by those who concern themselves with Qur’anic hermeneutics and Islamic legal theory the Deutungsbedurftigkeit of the primary sources of the Islamic teachings ,namely, that of the Qur’an and Sunnah. As such, he highlights the need to study Muslims rather then their sacred texts (Islam) in order to explain their behaviour/actions. He argues that based on his methodology it is his main concern, as a trained anthropologist of religion, to understand and view Muslims as conscious feeling human beings not just as products of their religion. By developing this heuristic Marranci aims to critique and steer away from past but still influential scholars of Muslim societies and cultures such as C. Geertz[2] and E. Gellner[3]. Marranci , however, goes a step further by saying that Islamic concepts such as jihad are not only subject to various interpretations by Muslims ( as well as non-Muslims) but that due to the hostile political and international climate for Muslis and Islam, the “concept of jihad has developed an independent life” that has little to do with its Qur’ano-Sunnahic or for that matter its classical theological (and we should add jurisprudental[4]) meaning/s (e.g. p.9;p.94,p.114.)

In the second chapter Marranci presents the ‘intellectual phylogeny’ of jihad in the Islamic world in order to emphasise the semantico-contextual changes in the way jihad as a concept has been understood and employed throughout Islamic history. He starts with the Qur’an ( and here draws attention to the often overlooked difference in the terminology of the Qur’anic concepts such as qatl, harb and jihad, which are falsely regarded as one and the same) and that of the relevant ‘authentic’ hadith. Then he briefly compares the concept of jihad based on some of the authorities of the classical Islamic tradition to that of the distorted modern concept of jihad as being inextricably linked to the idea of suicide bombers as being firmly embedded in the imagination of both Muslims and non-Muslims. Here, again, he wishes to emphasise the fact that jihad as a concept has been subject to a number of different interpretations dictated by the broader historical, socio-political and cultural circumstances and the intellectual milieu of the Muslim interpreter that defines his or her Muslim identity. As such, he claims that “ the mother of all interpretations of jihad-whether political ,theological ,opportunistic, esoteric or materialistic –is personal identity”(p.30).

The book's heuristic and methodological novelty and its main thesis is fully explicated in the third chapter. Being essentially ethnographical in nature Marranci’s book departs from the majority of traditional anthropological enterprise ( which largely denies anthropological subjects independent selves[5]) by bringing into focus the individual rather than ‘culture’ as the primary locus of anthropological investigation and conceptual analysis. It has been documented elsewhere that this heuristic is methodologically sound and especially relevant to the dynamics pertaining to western –born Muslims’ identity formation. This is so because many of them undergo a process of individualization of religious faith and practice that ought not only be seen as a liberation of autonomous selves from the constrains of pre-modern religious tradition embodied in certain social and cultural practices moulding and constraining individual behaviour but also as a result of a production of (post) modern subjects associated with broader social, cultural, political and economic forces in forms of migration, modernization and globalisation

which transform religious identities and practices of Western Muslims especially in relation to reproduction of Islamic authority and normativity and the transmission of Islamic knowledge.[6]

Lamenting the neglect of the importance of emotions on the formation of individual self and identity in anthropological studies, Marranci, relying on recent anthropological theories, argues that the environment ( in which he includes the natural, social or cultural elements) can engender emotions ( that manifest themselves as observable bodily responses ) which in turn provoke feelings affecting the self (which resides in the conscious mind). The impact of emotions and emotion induced feelings can lead the self to take certain actions. Every human being has a stable and individualistic self that needs to be made sense of and expressed in a meaningful manner. This self exists in a relational equilibrium with one’s identity which Marannci defines as the “process that allows human beings to make sense of their [autobiographical] self and to express it ” (p.47). Furthermore, the self is expressed through symbols which act as ‘storage units’ to communicate otherwise directly incommunicable inner feelings. The mechanism linking the self and identity is circuit-like (each part affects and produces a change in the other)

and self-corrective. This mechanism, however, is also subject to ‘schismogenetic’ processes (a term borrowed from G.Bateson[7]) defined as “the tendency for individuals to move apart through a systematic and divergent interaction produced by negative feedback’(p.11). These processes can break the circular system. Certain events or contexts can ‘trap’ people into schismogenetic processes that affect the delicate relationship between the self and identity. The schismogenetic processes, in turn, often are result of ‘circles of panic’. Citing H.Bhaba[8], Marranci asserts that the ‘circle of panic’ “develops when within a community an undefined and a-testable rumour is spread”(p.10), such as the one spreading among contemporary Muslims that Islam and Muslims are under attack or that the West wishes to exterminate Islam and Muslims. The schismogenetic processes may affect the emotions of some Muslims creating a disequilibrium and a ‘circuit breaker’ between the self and the identity to produce what Marranci terms ‘acts of identity’. The ‘acts of identity’, such as jihad, derive from a strong emotional reaction to a schismogenetic event and aim to self-correct the delicate mechanism. So jihad becomes an ‘act of identity’ , a part of the process of identity itself, that wishes to re-establish the fragile balance between the self and identity. Thus, it looses and no longer has any obvious connection to its religious or the meaning derived from the Islamic tradition (pp.94-95).

In the fourth and subsequent chapters Marranci proclaims his task to be the one of explaining the dynamics through which schismogenetic processes take place and the manner in which ‘circles of panic’ develop and are maintained. He states that the general surroundings in which western Muslims live could influence the degree of schismogenetic process developing in the psyche of western Muslims. I shall only focus on the arguments inn the subsequent chapters that have a direct bearing on the question of the factors that could be seen as being responsible for and can cause Muslims to be trapped into these circles of panic, as I wish to critique it later on.

In the fourth chapter in the context of discussing jihad with immigrant men Marranci considers that the migration experience ( and the associated change in the role and the status of men as husbands and sons in the family) , as well as the legacy of colonialism and post-colonialism, can be considered as one of the factors that could trap some Muslims into the circle of panic. One way of this being done is by the means of inducing guilt into the attendees of the Muslim Friday congregation by emotionally manipulative and eloquent sermons given by khatibs that address the Muslims misfortunes of what Moosa terms the “post-empire Islam” and Islam’s subjugation and /or humiliation at the hands of the western colonial powers. It is not only the content of the sermon itself , but also the preacher’s general demeanor and external appearance (which is supposed to convey and depict the khatib’s piety and “Islamic “ authentic dress that some Muslims consider to be Sunna) that can have the same desired effect .

In the fifth chapter it is the shocking and disturbing images of Muslim suffering around the world broadcast by Arab satellite channels and other media (such as the internet, DVDs ,audio cassettes etc.) that could engender strong emotional reactions and thus, can generate a schismogenetic effect resulting in jihad being appropriated as ‘an act of identity’.

In the sixth chapter the author deals with the questions over loyalty of western born Muslims to their birth countries, epitomised by the oft repeated question “ Are you (British , French, Italian ….) or Muslim are explored as potentially trapping western born Muslims into ‘a circle of panic’. The seventh chapter does not directly address the question of factors generating schismogenetic processes, but demonstrates that , contrary to much of the previous work on immigrant Muslim women who have been portrayed as voiceless and passive, some Muslim women develop strong ‘jihadi rhetoric’ and can be trapped into the circle of panic just like men. He also notices a very interesting phenomenon ,namely, that of the reverse of the ‘shame-honour complex’)[9] by confronting their husbands or brothers for not adopting a jihadi rhetoric thus inducing guilt and shame in them and making them feel that they are bad Muslims .Muslim men become the ‘victims’ of Muslim women’s jihadi rhetoric. Also some Muslim women develop this jihadi rhetoric to emphasize the importance and ‘ religious virtue’ of women suicide bombers as a continuation of an historically established practice. Indeed, at one point, Marranci suggests that this type of rhetoric could have trapped the first British citizen, suicide bomber in Israel, Asif Hanif, into the ‘circle of panic’, as he was incited to conduct jihad by his sister’s jihadi rhetoric (pp.133-134).

In the eight chapter Westernophobia in guise of anti-Semitic attitudes among western Muslims is identified as potentially leading to schismogenetic process and the employment of jihad as an ‘act of identity’. I would like to criticize Marranci on two main fronts. Firstly, on the issue of interpretation and secondly the way he envisages what role Islamic religious tradition, and its main sources, namely the Qur’an and the Sunnah, play in his main theory of the importance of emotions on identity formation among western (born) Muslims.

As mentioned previously in the introductory and the second chapter, Marranci’s major thesis is that to truly understand certain key Islamic concepts such as jihad the focus ought not to be on how they are discussed or presented in the Islamic tradition but rather how they have been interpreted and employed thought out Islamic history by the actual agents and makers of the Islamic civilization , the Muslims themselves. This argument , of course, is linked to the broader discussions pertaining to questions such as: is there one (normative) Islam or many species of normative Islams or for that matter many Islams as well as to the issue of whether there can be any Islam without Muslims andvice-versa.[10] Speaking from an anthropological perspective this conundrum translates itself into the question whether it makes sense to talk about and make a distinction between the ‘great’ and the ‘little’ traditions i.e. the Hoch or cripturalist Islam of the Muslim religious elites and professionals and the that of the Volksislam of the rural peasants.[11]

While Marranci is certainly correct in emphasizing the interpretability of the Islamic tradition, especially its fountainheads , the Qur’an and the Sunnah, by making a statement mentioned earlier that ‘the mother of all interpretation is personal identity’ one wonders whether or not Marranci gives too much leeway to the reader in the process of derivation of meaning/reading. The process of interpretation or derivation of meaning is a result of three factors: the nature of the text , the intention of the author (and the belief or otherwise of it principal discoverability) and that of the reader itself (who has a number of assumptions and is a product of a particular socio-historical and educational context). Because each reader has a different , to borrow Marranci’s terminology, ‘personal identity’, this will affect the process of meaning derivation which will, in turn, reflect itself upon the way the text is interpreted. As such every text or discourse exhibits semiotic polyvalency. [12]That much is agreed. However, the interpretational process is constrained by a number of factors most importantly the nature of the text itself (such as it content, composition, mechanisms of the language it was written in ) and the nature of the reader. For example, when readers share many of the factors governing the "nature of a reader" (e.g. same socio-cultural norms or historical context) a notion of “interpretive communities,” that is, a group of individuals who share similar interpretive strategies in reading, arises. These communities of interpretation impose some reading uniformity in an inherently divergent process of meaning derivation, thus curbing and narrowing

down alternative readings. In the words of El-Fadl they "objectify the subjective" and marginalise "unreasonable interpretations."[13] Hence, commitment to textual polysemy

does not mean having to embrace unrestricted interpretational relativism, because texts can withstand only “ a limited field of possible constructions.”[14]Furthermore, communities of interpretation can “resist imposed interpretations in details”[15] and only certain interpretations of texts can be considered as “ contextually legitimated.”[16]

Now Marranci asserts on several occasions (p.9 ,p.94,p.114) that Islamic theological (and I ‘d again add juristic) discussions and views on jihad are developed independent of and are of no significance on the way his respondents used and developed the rhetoric of jihad. In other words Marranci is prepared to say as noted above that the concept of jihad “has developed a life of its own” and that the religious tradition of Muslims plays little or any role in the way they conceptualise and use the terms. In other words the actor does not even consider nor is constrained in any way neither by the primary texts nor the meanings given to jihad by the subsequent communities of interpretation. In other words using his example of Mr. Hussein, Mr.Hussein is either not aware of or his actions are not constrained by the ‘textual indicators’[17] set by the normative teachings and the still widely authoritative classical accumulated tradition (which are interpreted , admittedly, in a number of different ways as they always have been) in relation to jihad . This does not only go against a number of studies , including his own as we shall see below, which have emphasized the growing importance of the scripturalist, and what Roy terms ‘accultural’ Islam[18] embodied in the Qur’an and hadith texts among Western born Muslims[19] but his own ethnographic findings.

We see the evidence of this in Marranci’s own ethnographic material used in the book. For example, his interview excerpt with Tahar on p.64 in which Tahar cites parts of the the Qur’an and the well-known (but controversial in terms of authenticity) hadith of the greater spiritual and the smaller physical or military jihad in order to develop his own interpretation of jihad.

The importance of the Qur’an and hadith on shaping of behaviour of western Muslims is particularly well-illustrated on p.66 where his interviewee Husayn defends the actions of Hamas’ suicide bombers by asserting the following : “I do not have any personal opinion about jihad because the Qur’an and the prophet’s Sunnah [by which he really means hadith – and we will come back to this point later] are neither questionable nor negotiable…Jihad means fighting an enemy , as you can read [pointing to an opened page of Sure 2: 90-1]….jihad is total war and this is clear when Allah says ‘Slay them wherever ye catch them…”.

In the same section of the book on the controversial question of the legitimacy of killing innocents Husayn takes recourse to a hadith to deduce that combatant women should also be killed . Elsewhere Husayn is recorded to have stated in the same context “ as for children , another hadith explains that jihad should not be stopped because of the presence of women and children or in general what you [talking to Marranci ] call civilians.”

Another example in which a certain interpretation of the Islamic tradition plays the most important part in shaping Western Muslims views and , at times, actions is that of Haroun, who not only interprets certain Qur’anic verses to label Jews and Christians as unbelievers (kafirun) but resorts to more sophisticated arguments stemming from Islamic legal theory of abrogation (naskh wa mansukh) to ground his interpretation with an aura of authenticity and normativeness and prove his fellow Muslim Ratib wrong who disagrees with him ( Ratib disagrees by also relying on his own interpretation of the primary Islamic teachings(pp.68-70).

My point here is not , like many others have, to hastily proclaim that the Islamic tradition condones the killing of innocent civilians (the majority interpretation clearly prohibits it ) or that it considers Jews and Christians as unbelievers ( again in contrast with the majority view) but to demonstrate two broader broader points:

1.) Western Muslims increasingly resort to ‘scripturalist normative Islam’ to develop their interpretations of the Islamic tradition. Speaking in the context of Muslims in Europe Waardenburg, for example, asserts that what he refers to as the normative character of Islam for Muslims is a social fact and that normative Islam based on literature on Islamic law and its theory ( usul-ul-fiqh) has “obtained a new relevance for Muslims living in Western societies,” that it is of “utmost importance” and that is has “practical relevance”.[20] Furthermore, as demonstrated by the hearted exchange of views between Haroun and Ratib in marranci’s book, this quest for normative Islam in the western context is constantly re-constructed by successive generations of Muslims who appeal to a ‘true ‘normative’ Islam along variant lines so that one is faced with the dilemma of the multiplicity of normative Islams.[21]

2. A certain interpretation of what Muslims consider to be a normative Islamic teaching plays an important (if not decisive)role in shaping the views and at times actions of Western (born) Muslims.

Based on the above I find Marranci’s assertion that jihad among Muslims has developed a life of his own irrespective of the Islamic tradition difficult to accept. His own fieldwork presented in the book is a testament to the contrary. For example, his interviewee Farouq uses Qur’anic and hadith material to define jihad as foremost a spiritual struggle ( p.63) or the already above mentioned views of Tahar who considers it a foremost physical ,armed struggle as employed by Muslim groups such as Hamas.

However, I am not disputing or questioning his overall thesis of the importance of the role of emotions and that of jihad as a preferred ‘act of identity’ but would argue that certain interpretations (manahij) of the Islamic tradition ,and its literalist, decontextualised and piecemeal Qur’an and hadith –based ones in particular, are employed to either further reinforce and facilitate this process or to shield and protect Muslims from falling into the circle of panic.

This leads me to the second larger criticism of Marranci’s ideas, this time more closely related to his main thesis. Namely, as mentioned above in the summary of the third chapter Marranci gives himself the task of explaining which factors influence the degree of schismogenetic processes which could trap a person into Bhaba’s circle of panic. He states that they are all ‘environmental’ (p.51) and, as we saw above, in the subsequent chapters cites the experience of migration , the discourses on (post)colonialism , the questioning of loyalty to the birth countries of western born Muslims and that of westernophobia in the guise of anti-Semitic attitudes. Thus, he does not mention religion or the Islamic tradition at all as playing a part .

Having elaborated on the importance of normative Islam/s for western Muslims above I wonder as to why couldn’t the Qur’ano-Sunnahic textual indicants ,given their nature , in particular that of the powerful, evocative ,emotion stirring Qur’anic discourse[22] be considered as Marrarni’s symbols which affect the self by rousing vigorous emotions inducing feelings that could lead to acts of identity such as that of jihad. This could be especially so if they are manipulated , as Marranci’s own evidence demonstrates and that of Q. Wictorowiz[23] confirms , at the hands of charismatic and eloquent imams who weave their particular approaches to the interpretation of Qur’an and Sunnah and Islamic history skillfully into the socio-politically and economically unenviable contemporary reality in which many Muslims find themselves in order to effect and , indeed, question the emotional commitment, and thus the identity of Muslims to Islam. So , in other words, certain interpretations of the Islamic tradition, especially if reinforced by other factors mentioned by Marranci ought to be considered as potentially playing a part in the development of schismogenetic processes that could trap some Muslims into the circle of panic.

Again, Marrannci’s own fieldwork data confirms this. Muslims who did not fall into the ‘circle of panic’ ,such as Rabit, had developed an interpretation of Qur’an and the Sunnah which ‘prevented’ them from considering suicide bombing , the killing of innocent children or branding Jews and Christians as unbelievers because they were seen as unislamic.

Another criticism I need to level at Marranci is his lack of making a distinction between Sunnah and hadith although he points to the work of I. Goldziher (who considers hadith as being indicative of the prevalent political and socio-cultural context and views of Muslims prevalent during the first two to three centuries of the Islamic calendar rather than deeming them to be the reports that can be historically traced back to the Prophet as the opre-modern Islamic tradition does) and asks for revisiting of his main arguments rather. This has very important implications for the themes discussed here given that as noted above, physical jihad and the killing of innocent civilians are often justified on the basis of hadith as in the case of Husayn. In the second chapter Marranci notices the difference in which the word jihad is employed in the Qur’anic and hadith body of knowledge and examines ‘authentic’ hadith to show that jihad cannot be interpreted as an aggressive war against non-believers. By considering only the works of Sunni scholars of M. Bukhari (d.870 hijri )and his disciple Muslim al-Hajjaj (d. 875 hijri) as being truly ‘authentic’, he is not only partaking in the practice of ‘hadith hurling’, a practice common not only among Muslims but also in scholarly discourses , but he is also excluding other hadith corpuses used by Muslims , (as identified above in the instance of Husayn who argued for the legitimacy of killing of women and children on the basis of a hadith), he falls into the trap of implicitly subscribing to , like many others, the epistemologically and hermeneutically hadith-dependent concept of Sunnah.

However, it is very important to note that during the pre-classical ,formative period of Islamic thought Sunnah was not epistemologically and hermeneutically independent of hadith , and existed in a hermeneutically symbiotic relationship with the Qur’an.[24]

If what I have argued for holds true, this leaves us with two broad questions, namely:

1. Which factors determine different types of western Muslim identity formation?

2. Which interpretational assumptions are responsible for the development of different interpretations of the Qur’an and Sunnah ?

A modest proposal in relation to the first question has been made where, among other factors, the importance of scriptural hermeneutics has been highlighted . [25]However this can be further fine-tuned with the works of scholars such as Marranci (to incorporate the role of emotions and feelings on identity formation ), Wictorowitz (to highlight the role of the charismatic Muslim scholar ) and R. Hood(jr.), P. Hill and P. Williamson (the psychological aspect of scriptural formation on development of fundamentalist thought) .[26]

Since the focus of this review article is to draw attention to the importance of the Islamic tradition and its primary sources on identity construction in what follows I’d like to outline the arguments presented by Hood,Hill and Williamson on how scriptural hermeneutics can affect identity formation ?

Let me here briefly discuss the theoretical framework of R.W. Hood ( jr.) ,P.C. Hill and W.P.Williamson who in their book The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism (New York, Guilford Press, 2005) have developed a theoretical framework which purports to explain the structure and the processes that lead to what the authors term fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist thought in major scripture-based world religions. The book’s heuristic is based on a sociologico-psychological approach to understanding thephenomenon of fundamentalism as a system of meaning[27] that relies exclusively upon a religious text in order to interpret the world and give meaning to all life.

The fundamentalist model is based upon the principle of ‘intratextuality’ in which the use of the sacred text as a point of reference for all thoughts and action is adhered to.[28]This intratextuality in which reality is interpreted through a sacred text refers to the process of reading a sacred text and is central to fundamentalist thought. Wood, Hill and Williamson argue that the logic of this principle “refers not to content but to process: The Text itself determines how it ought to be read.”[29] Thus, the reading or deduction of what the sacred text means or intends to mean comes only from within the text.[30]This is what Wood, Hill and Williamson understand by the term intratextuality.

According to this model, the principle of intratextuality is associated with two related components of fundamentalist thought ,namely the existence of a sacred text and absolute truths. Based on the principle of intratextuality a certain text is considered sacred and, in turn, only this sacred text is able to specify absolute truths. As a result of this process a dialogic encounter between the reader and the text, based on the principle of intratextuality, emerges. An absolute truth, on the other hand, is that which is essential for maintaining the fundamentalist worldview. This worldview, in turn, is based solely on written , fixed ( rather then oral) authoritative text/s within the tradition and is constructed as objective fact or reality. Absolute truths derived from the dialogic process are not subject to any criticism outside the principle of intratextuality. The outside world is viewed though this lens based on the dialogic process of intratextuality. Any “peripheral beliefs” ( of religious or non-religious kind) that fall outside the realm of absolute truths or any extra-intratextually derived interpretive processes are not allowed to penetrate the processes that produces and maintains absolute beliefs that characterise fundamentalist thought. Moreover, a crucial assumption of this fundamentalist thought, argue its authors ,is that “one need not subject the revelatory text to “interpretation” in the sense that modern and post-modern literary explore.”[31] They are rejected as “higher criticism” or forms of intertextual criticism considered to be fallible commentaries on an infallible text.[32] Text’s infallibility is , in turn, based on the fact that fundamentalist thought considers the principal discoverability of, in the words of Hirsch , the “authorial intent” or “authorial consciousness”.[33] By the phrase the principal discoverability of the authorial intent is meant the ability of the reader to completely and fully understand authorial intent thus , the view that a reader’s understanding of the author’s intent does not function at the level of interpretation but that author’s intent and that of the reader’s reading of it completely overlap. This view is rejected by modern and post-modern literary criticisms. Furthermore, another feature of this intratextual model is it’s claim to objective truth that is insisted upon that is not always based upon a literal reading of the text. Wood , Hill and Williamson assert in this context :

In fact, an objective understanding of the text requires an appreciation for when it is and when it is not appropriate to treat the text “literally”. Fundamentalists only insist that discernment must come from intratextual considerations. In other words ,the text itself reveals when it is and it is not appropriate to take it literally.[34]

In addition to the intratextual model Wood, Hill and Williamson have developed an intertextual model which aims to describe the structure of non-fundamentalist thought.

According to Wood, Hill and Williamson this model defines modernity and what fundamentalist thought opposes. The principle of inter-textualism maintains that no “single text speaks for itself”.[35]Furthermore, according to this model all texts are authoritative and interrelated and are to be involved in the process of deriving truth which is understood as relative truth. The relative truths extend outwardly to peripheral beliefs but these peripheral beliefs “may filter back into the interpretative process and exert continual influence on the understanding of texts and relative truths.”[36]Thus, instead of a single sacred text a number of authoritative texts are consulted that may contain various relative truths. According to Wood, Hill and Williamson this intertextual model ”permits and fosters change and openness”[37] It is important at this point to reiterate that Wood ,Hill and Williamson emphasise that in both of their models the principles of inter and intratextuality emerge from the use of sacred or authoritative texts and the process of reading the same.[38]

As such the work of Hill, Hood and Williamson makes a clear connection between a particular scriptural hermeneutic and the nature of the resultant perceived reality that can lead to a particular formation of self and identity through the processes described by Marranci.

However, the work of Williamson, Hill and Hood did not identify specific interpretational assumptions that can lead to the formation of what they term ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘non-fundamentalist thought’.Elsewhere a number of interpretational assumptions governing the interpretational models of two contemporary Muslim ‘groups’ referred to as Neo-Traditional Salafis(NTS) and Progressive Muslims(PM) which have the explanatory power to elucidate the interpretational mechanisms and assumptions underlying certain interpretations (and applied to how they help construct certain ‘normative’ Muslimah images) have been pinpointed and

discussed.[39] NTS approach to conceptualisation of the nature and interpretation of Qur’ano-Sunnahic teachings can be seen as being primarily based upon the principle of intra-textuality as defined by Wood, Hill and Williamson. PM approach , on the other hand, is in accordance with the inter-textual model.

To the best of my knowledge there is no study yet which would be able to explain why certain interpretations of the Islamic tradition are accepted and or rejected by certain Muslims. Following Wictorowitz and given the accumulative and authoritative nature of the Islamic tradition[40] I would argue that the role of authoritative and charismatic religious ‘preacher’ or ‘scholar’ whose views can be accessed via a number of different media may they be print-, audio ,electronic or T.V. or radio-based plays an important part in this dynamic. If we consider the findings of Marranci we would need also to take into account the importance of factors which potentially can cause schismogenetic processes to come into effect and ‘trap’ Muslims into ‘circles of panic’. In this context I would maintain that the ways in which the Islamic tradition is interpreted should be considered as one of these factors. Lastly and closely linked to the previous point , based on the works of Hood, Hill and Williamson as well as A.Duderija[41] in order to better understand the processes of identity construction among (Western) Muslims the researcher should also develop an understanding of the interpretational mechanisms and assumptions underlying certain interpretations of the Islamic tradition that can lead to the formation of certain worldviews and perceptions of reality.

Marranci’s “Jihad Beyond Islam” is certainly a worthy contribution to our knowledge on identity formation among Western Muslims and that of the dynamics of radicalization, my criticisms notwithstanding. My call for the larger and better recognition of the role of the various interpretations religious tradition in these processes will hopefully not be seen /interpreted as essentialist, but as highlighting the need to improve our understanding of the mechanisms and processes that lead to different interpretational approaches to the Islamic normative sources and how they affect Western (born) Muslims’ identity formation and , as an essential part of that dynamic, how they contribute to the process of radicalization and extremism not just among Western Muslims, but Muslims worldwide.

A closing statement that sums up succinctly my main argument and critique of Marranci’s work, let me quote the words of Prof. Sardar :

One must contemplate the nature of Muslim identity .The Muslim is the adherent of Islam, whose basis is the Qur’an, the Word Of God, and the Sunnah, the life of the Prophet Muhammad. The whole of the Qur’an and Sunnah as exhortation, principles and prescriptions are the fundamental building blocks of what it means to be a Muslim. The nature and content[42] of these original sources are the ultimate definition of Muslim identity, and will remain valid for all time.[43]

Adis Duderija is a Ph.D. student at the School of Social and Cultural Studies, Centre for Muslim States and Societies , at the university o0f Western Australia in Perth. His research interests are in Islamic hermeneutics and contemporary Islamic thought and identity construction among Western Muslims. He has several publications in all of these research areas.

[1] Such as that of K. Milton and M.Svasek (eds.) , Mixed Emotions : Anthropological Studies of


[2] C .Geertz, Islam Observed: Yale University Press, New York, 1968.

[3]E. Gellner, Muslim Society, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge,1981.

[4]Jurisprudental because it is Islamic law and Islamic legal theory rather then theology that largely determine the meaning of concepts. For example, any book on fiqh would have a chapter devoted to jihad but to the best of my knowledge theologians who in most cases were jurists as well, rarely discussed jihad in any of its meanings. Of course, Sufi literature developed their own understanding and definition of jihad as an internal spiritual struggle.

[5]See M. Sökefeld, “Debating Self, Identity,Cultural Anthropology”, Current Anthropology,40,4,pp.417-447.

[6] A.Duderija, “Literature Review on religious identity construction in the context of being an new

immigrant minority religion: The Case of Western Muslims”, Journal of Immigrants and

Minorities,25,2,July, 2007,pp.141-162.

[7]G. Bateson, Steps to Ecology of Mind, Chicago University Press, Chicago,2000.

[8]H. Bhaba, The Location of Culture, Routledge, London and New York,1994,

[9]The victims of the ‘shame-honour complex’ have traditionally been Muslim women either in form of

what Mohammed terms socio-spatial regulatory mechanism being imposed on them (such as segregation, social isolation or wearing of niqab or hijabs, denial of education , work opportunities , choice of marriage partner and/or time of marriage) or at times murder. R.Mohammad, ‘Marginalisation, Islamism and the production of the 'other's' 'other', Gender, Place and Culture, Abingdon, Sep 1999. Vol. 6, Iss. 3, pp. 221-240.

[10] On this ee ,eg. E. Moosa , ’Transitions in the “Progress “ of Civilisation’, in O.Safi, 9 (ed.) “Voices of Change”,Volume 5, in V.J. Cornell( general ed.)Voices of Islam, Praeger, London, 2007,p.115-118. and E.Moosa, The Debts and Burdens of critical Islam’ in O.Safi (ed.), Progressive Muslims-On Gender, Justice and Pluralism,Oneworld,Oxford,2003,pp.111-128.

[11] On this see D. Varisco, Islam Obscured: The Rhetoric of Anthropological Representation, Palgrave

Macmillan, 2007.

[12] See S.Fish, Is There a Text in This Class?: The Authority of Interpretive Communities (Cambridge,

Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980), p.14, p.16, p.317; D.J.A. Clines, ‘Possibilities and Priorities of Biblical Interpretation in an International Perspective,’ Biblical Interpretation 1, 1,79, 1993; D. J.A. Clines, and J. Cheryl Exum, ‘The New Literary Criticism,’ in The New Literary Criticism and the Hebrew Bible, eds. J. Cheryl Exum and David J.A. Clines (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993, p.19. In Qur’anic studies, see Jane Dammen McAuliffe. "Text and Textuality: Q.3:7 as a Point of Intersection." Literary Structures of Religious Meaning in the Qur’an. Ed. I. Boullata. London: Curzon Press, 2000,pp.68-69.

[13] K.El-Fadl, K. Speaking in God’s Name-Islamic Law , Authority and Women, Oneworld, Oxford, 2003 pp.132-141

[14] P.Ricouer, Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action and Interpretation,

edited and translated by J.B.Thomson.Cambridge,Cambridge University Press,1981, p.213.

[15] N.Wolterstorff, Divine Discourses: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks, Cambridge University Press,1995,p.202.

[16] U. Echo in D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God :Christianity Confronts Pluralism, Grand Rapids,

Michigan, Zondervan Publishing House,1996,pp.76-77.

[17] Phrase used in Islamic, legal theory to convey that primary sources of the Islamic tradition are merely indicators ( dalil) and guideposts in the overall process of explication of Islamic law.

[18] O.Roy, Globalized Islam -The Search for a New Ummah, New York: Columbia University Press, 2004,

[19] See footnote 6 and 24.

[20] J.Waardenburg, Muslims and Others –Relations in Context. Walter de Gruyter,Berlin,2003.,pp.343-345.Also, J. Waardenburg,’Normative Islam in Europe’, in F.Dassetto (directed by) Paroles d’Islam-Individus,Societes et Discours dans l’Islam Europeen Contemporain, Maisonneuve et Larose,Paris,2000,pp.49-69

[21] Ibid.

[22] That the Qur’an is primarily an oral discourse rather then a text has been convincingly demonstrated by M. Arkoun and more recently A. Souaiaia. See M.Arkoun, Rethinking Islam-Common Questions, Uncommon Answers. tr. by R.D. Lee , Westview Press, 1994.A. Souaiaia,’On the Sources of Islamic Law and Practices’, Journal of Law and Religion, pp.125-149. Also his The Function of Orality in Islamic Law and Practices : Verbalizing Meaning, Edwin Mellen Press,2006.

[23] In his book ‘Radical Islam Rising’ he argues that the main reasons why certain western Muslims have joined the ranks of Al-Qa’ida and other extremist Muslim groups is that they were convinced that the spiritual leaders of these groups were considered as the custodians of the ‘true’ Islamic normative teachings .This again confirms my argument that the Islamic tradition does play a major role in shaping Muslims’ views, behaviour and actions may it be in form of mediation by (charismatic)Islamic preachers. Q. Wiktorowicz, Radical Islam Rising-Muslim Extremism in the West, Rowman & Littlefield , Lanham,2005

[24] See A.Duderija, ‘Toward a New Methodology of the nature and the scope of the concept of Sunnah’, Arab Law Quraterly,21,3,2007. Also his ‘The evolution in the canonical Sunni Hadith body of literature

and the concept of an authentic hadith during the formative period of Islamic thought as based on recent Western scholarship’, Arab Law Quarterly, forthcoming.

[25] A.Duderija, ‘Identifying factors determining religious identity constructions among western born

Muslims: Towards a theoretical framework’, Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs,28,3,December 2008

[26] R. Hood(jr.), P. Hill and P. Williamson ,The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism, New York,

Guilford Press, 2005.The authors examine how different reading processes of a sacred text (which has the authority to provide meaning, a worldview, or a behavioral code from which his or her life can be lived)can lead to both fundamentalist and non-fundamentalist thought.

[27]A system of meaning is defined as “ a group of beliefs or theories about reality that includes both a world theory( beliefs about others and situations) and a self-theory ( beliefs about the self) ,with connecting propositions between the two sets of beliefs that are important in terms of overall functioning”. Wood, Hill, Williamson, The Psychology of Religious Fundamentalism, p.14.

[28]Ibid, p.21.

[29] Ibid.p.22

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid, p.192.

[32] Ibid.


[34] Ibid, p.193.

[35] Ibid, p.26

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid,p.28

[39]A.Duderija, ‘The Interpretational Implications of Progressive Muslims’ Qur’an and Sunnah Manhaj in relation to Construction of a Normative Muslimah Representation’, Journal of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 19,4,2008,409-427. A.Duderija, ‘Neo-Traditional Salafi Qur’an-Sunnah Hermeneutic and the Construction of a Normative Muslimah Image’,HAWWA, 5.2.&5.3,2007,289-323.

[40]Souaiaia, The Function of Orality ,op.cit

[41]See footnote 39.

[42]And author would add the way these are conceptualised and interpreted.

[43]Z.Sardar(ed.) ,in the journal Futures-Special edition on Islam and the Future, Butterworth-



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