Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari'a

The Muslim world is not a monolith. It contains far more disagreement about the future of Islamic politics than is imagined by those who think that all Muslims are “Islamofascists.” Nothing illustrates this lively debate better than an arresting new book by Emory University’s Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na‘im, who challenges the Muslim world to embrace the idea of the secular state—for the sake of Islam.

Writing in the New Yorker, George Packer reported in 2006 that An-Na‘im referred to his book—then in manuscript form—as “a work of advocacy more than of scholarship.” For that reason it might seem odd that Harvard University Press is the publisher. After all, one would not think that the main thesis of the book—that Islamic ideas of law should not be mandated by a political state—is the sort of thing that would be disputed by most readers of books published by Harvard’s press.

 

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