This article analyzes how images of evil are used by Muslim young people to categorize the other and to define themselves. The concept of evil plays a role in the construction of a Muslim identity and therefore widens the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims. This contribution will also show how young Muslims change this concept in order to close the gap between themselves and non-Muslims. This article sees Islam as a complete repertoire of activities, a type of toolbox containing practices (such as prayer and fasting, the wearing of a headscarf) and beliefs (such as in Shaitan [the devil], taghut [tyrant or false god], kafir (unbeliever), dajjal [liar, anti-Christ] and evil) and experiences. Most Muslims see evil as coming from outside. Every Muslim is born neither good nor evil and has the possibility of reaching perfection. At the same time, "evil" is not a clearly defined element of the Muslim repertoire but something that has to be negotiated. This means that "evil" is part of the identity politics of young Muslims: the negotiations about the definition and interpretation of ideas, practices and experiences that constitute a certain identity. Distinctive for Muslim identities or Muslim politics is the reference to experiences, beliefs, practices, symbols, and traditions that constitute "Islam."
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The various Christian, Muslim, traditional (African), and secular (Western) ways of imagining and coping with evil collected in this volume have several things in common. The most crucial perhaps and certainly the most striking aspect is the problem of defining the nature or characteristics of evil as such. Some argue that evil has an essence that remains constant, whereas others say its interpretation depends on time and place.
However much religious and secular interpretations of evil may have changed, the human search for sense and meaning never ends. Questions of whom to blame and whom to address—God, the devil, fate, bad luck, or humans—remain at the center of our explanations and our strategies to comprehend, define, counter, or process the evil we do and the evil done to us by people, God, nature, or accident. Using approaches from cultural anthropology, religious studies, theology, philosophy, psychology, and history, the contributors to this volume analyze how several religious and secular traditions imagine and cope with evil.
Taking as its starting-point the ambiguous heritage left by the British Empire to its former colonies, dominions and possessions,
And the Birds Began to Sing marks a new departure in the interdisciplinary study of religion and literature. Gathered under the rubric Christianity and Colonialism, essays on Brian Moore. Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood and Marian Engel, Thomas King, Les A. Murray, David Malouf, Mudrooroo and Philip McLaren, R.A.K. Mason, Maurice Gee, Keri Hulme, Epeli Hau'ofa, J.M. Coetzee, Christopher Okigbo, Chinua Achebe, Amos Tutuola and Ngugi wa Thiong'o explore literary portrayals of the effects of British Christianity upon settler and native cultures in Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, and the Africas. These essays share a sense of the dominant presence of Christianity as an inherited system of religious thought and practice to be adapted to changing post-colonial conditions or to be resisted as the lingering ideology of colonial times. In the second section of the collection, Empire and World Religions, essays on Paule Marshall and George Lamming, Jean Rhys, Olive Senior and Caribbean poetry, V.S. Naipaul, Anita Desai, Kamala Markandaya, and Bharati Mukherjee interrogate literature exploring relations between the scions of British imperialism and religious traditions other than Christianity. Expressly concerned with literary embodiments of belief-systems in post-colonial cultures (particularly West African religions in the Caribbean and Hinduism on the Indian subcontinent), these essays also share a sense of Christianity as the pervasive presence of an ideological rhetoric among the economic, social and political dimensions of imperialism. In a polemical Afterword, the editor argues that modes of reading religion and literature in post-colonial cultures are characterised by a theodical preoccupation with a praxis of equity.