Friday, May 25, 2007

"I have violated the taboo with a clear conscience"

If I didn't have a migraine, I wouldn't be able to put down the latest book in the Cambridge Middle East Studies series, Contesting the Saudi State: Islamic Voices from a New Generation, by Madawi Al-Rasheed:

"It must be said that after fourteen centuries of its existence, neither Muslim governments nor colonial powers have been able to control religious debate within Islam. Throughout Muslim history scholars and others had to live with religious diversity and a general inability to control religious interpretation. In fact the more they tried to control [it] the more such interpretations proliferated. As a world religion with a sacred text that is constantly interpreted in specific contexts, Islam, its interpreters and their interpretations can never be successfully controlled or pointed in a particular direction.[...]

"[Yet in Saudi Arabia] To study religion and politics from a social scientific perspective, without demonstrating the umara and 'ulama's contribution to Islam and Muslims, violates the taboo. To study both and conclude that they mystify the world, legitimise authoritarian rule, sanction despotism and produce both consenting and rebellious subjects amounts to blasphemy. To capture the ongoing Saudi debate that contests official religious discourse amounts to privileging the despised and dangerous other. I have violated the taboo with a clear conscience."

No comments: