Islam and Modernity: An unfinished project (Paperback)
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In this compelling book, Rafik Abdessalem unpacks two major lines of thought. Firstly, he examines why many Westerners dismiss Islam's vast intellectual, social, theological and cultural heritage as flawed, violent, rigid and fanatical, despite knowing virtually nothing about it. He usefully traces the genesis of this attitude, focusing on how scholars such as Weber, Habermas and others have helped to consolidate the West's view of itself as civilised, superior, developed and progressive, and how the demonisation of Islam acts as a necessary foil for these notions. Secondly, he explains that Islam is subject to a variety of interpretive choices and schools of thought ranging from legalistic fundamentalism, through rigid rationalism, to spiritual Sufism. By treating Islam, secularity and modernity as distinct and separate, rather than as interconnected and overlapping, Abdessalem makes no attempt to reconcile Islam with modernity or secularity, nor does he place one in opposition to the other. Instead, he looks at the interconnections between these broad and complex subjects. Abdessalem's analysis is useful in encouraging us to rethink both modernity and Islam, and their relationship with each other. In this rethinking lies the potential for a better understanding of the geopolitics of what is often called 'the Muslim world', including the MENA region.