Liberalism and Liberal Muslims

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In this paper I propose an approach to thinking about religion and politics that should inform how we think about liberalism and religion. I also consider how the conception of political authority defended by the prominent Muslim public intellectual Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na’im is a paradigm example of liberalism. In Part I I consider two approaches to religion and politics. According to the reductionist view, whether values that are central to a religious tradition can be reconciled to liberalism is more a matter of doctrine than practice. By contrast a non-reductionist approach emphasizes that the relationship between political and religious values is influenced by a number of variables in addition to religious doctrine, including ethnicity, historical memory, political economy, and local politics. On this view, the path between religious and political convictions is anything but a straight line. In Part II I examine central arguments in An-Na’im’s work that are central to his version of liberalism, with a focus on liberty of conscience and religious freedom. To illustrate An-Na’im’s liberalism I focus on examples of claims about morality and theology, politics, and history. I conclude in Part III by considering how An-Na’im’s position is one example of what we would expect from a non-reductionist understanding of religion and politics.
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Archival date: 2021-04-13
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