A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America

A Call for Heresy: Why Dissent Is Vital to Islam and America

by Anouar Majid
     
 

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A Call for Heresy discovers unexpected common ground in one of the most inflammatory issues of the twenty-first century: the deepening conflict between the Islamic world and the United States. Moving beyond simplistic answers, Anouar Majid argues that the Islamic world and the United States are both in precipitous states of decline because, in each, religious,

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Overview

A Call for Heresy discovers unexpected common ground in one of the most inflammatory issues of the twenty-first century: the deepening conflict between the Islamic world and the United States. Moving beyond simplistic answers, Anouar Majid argues that the Islamic world and the United States are both in precipitous states of decline because, in each, religious, political, and economic orthodoxies have silenced the voices of their most creative thinkers—the visionary nonconformists, radicals, and revolutionaries who are often dismissed, or even punished, as heretics.

The United States and contemporary Islam share far more than partisans on either side admit, Majid provocatively argues, and this “clash of civilizations” is in reality a clash of competing fundamentalisms. Illustrating this point, he draws surprising parallels between the histories and cultures of Islam and the United States and their shortsighted suppression of heresy (zandaqa in Arabic), from Muslim poets and philosophers like Ibn Rushd (known in the West as Averroës) to the freethinker Thomas Paine, and from Abu Bakr Razi and Al-Farabi to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. He finds bitter irony in the fact that Islamic culture is now at war with a nation whose ideals are losing ground to the reactionary forces that have long condemned Islam to stagnation.

The solution, Majid concludes, is a long-overdue revival of dissent. Heresy is no longer a contrarian’s luxury, for only through encouraging an engaged and progressive intellectual tradition can the nations reverse their decline and finally work together for global justice and the common good of humanity.

Anouar Majid is founding chair and professor of English at the University of New England and the author of Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the Post-Andalusian Age; Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World; and Si Yussef, a novel. He is also cofounder and editor of Tingis, a Moroccan-American magazine of ideas and culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Majid, a professor of English at the University of New England, argues that the practice of discussion and dissent, which he broadly dubs "heresy," has died in Islamic cultures and in America, resulting in a dangerous stagnation of thought in both groups-a trait the two groups have in common despite their opposition to each other. Majid is tough on Muslims for reacting to the challenge of modernity by desperately clutching to their faith, even where he believes it's unwarranted as with the use of hijab(the veil). He says that Muslims, and some Americans, are incapable of engaging in critical self-examination, afraid to suspend their beliefs even briefly for analysis. He laments that his own native, once cosmopolitan Morocco is currently being overtaken by Wahhabism. Heresy, he believes, will revitalize both societies and rescue them from their current suffocation by right-wing conservatives on both sides. His assertion that the Qur'an is of mixed and possibly nondivine origin will certainly not win any Muslim readers to his view, and his assessment of American culture as too religious is not particularly surprising. Majid mainly and excessively quotes other scholars' works, whereas Majid's own original arguments are preferable but too infrequent. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780816651276
Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
Publication date:
09/18/2007
Series:
The Moving Image Ser.
Pages:
280
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Anouar Majid is professor and founding chair of the Department of English at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine. He is the author of Freedom and Orthodoxy: Islam and Difference in the Post-Andalusian Age and Unveiling Traditions: Postcolonial Islam in a Polycentric World, which was recommended by the American Association of University Professors as a book for understanding the context of 9/11. He is also the cofounder and editor of Tingis, a Moroccan American magazine of ideas and culture.

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