The ‘Islamic’ Deployed

The Study of Islam in Four Registers

In: Middle East Law and Governance
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  • 1 University of Toronto, Canada

Abstract

This Fieldnote challenges scholars of Islam and Muslims to consider how the production of knowledge on Islam and Muslims has long been, and continues to be, intimately associated with projects of governance, whether by the modern state or premodern regime. The present is simply a particularly robust historical period during which, wherever one might stand on the political spectrum, the study of Islam is undertaken in the shadow of the state—a disaggregated project of law and justice, border control, national security, and regulation. This Fieldnote recasts Islam and Muslim in an adjectival sense—‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’—in order to highlight their variability in relation to the purposes for which they are deployed. To better understand the dynamics by which the ‘Islamic’ is deployed for purposes of state projects, this Fieldnote outlines four registers of analysis—time, space, scale, and rhetoric—to inspire new research on the production of knowledge in the academic study of Islam and Muslims today.

Abstract

This Fieldnote challenges scholars of Islam and Muslims to consider how the production of knowledge on Islam and Muslims has long been, and continues to be, intimately associated with projects of governance, whether by the modern state or premodern regime. The present is simply a particularly robust historical period during which, wherever one might stand on the political spectrum, the study of Islam is undertaken in the shadow of the state—a disaggregated project of law and justice, border control, national security, and regulation. This Fieldnote recasts Islam and Muslim in an adjectival sense—‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’—in order to highlight their variability in relation to the purposes for which they are deployed. To better understand the dynamics by which the ‘Islamic’ is deployed for purposes of state projects, this Fieldnote outlines four registers of analysis—time, space, scale, and rhetoric—to inspire new research on the production of knowledge in the academic study of Islam and Muslims today.

1 Introduction1

Depending upon where one lives, calling September 11, 2001 an epic moment in world history is either cliché or hubris. Horrifying in its flash-bang scale and scope, it nonetheless sits amidst a distressing spectrum of violence, pogroms, and genocides—the 1994 Rwandan genocide of Tutsis (approx. 800,000-1,000,000 dead);2 the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre (approx. 8,000 dead); and the 2002 Gujarat riots (approx. 1,044 dead, 223 missing)3—to list a few examples. But unlike these other incidents of violence, the September 11 attacks unleashed on an enormous scale state-coordinated military and national security campaigns against non-state actors, namely the “War on Terror”. That war has had its casualties too. One of the more immediate campaigns was the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Lancet estimates that between March 2003 and June 2006, the US campaign against Iraq led to 645,965 Iraqi deaths, of which 601,027 were due to violence and caused mostly by gunfire.4

Certainly, the events of that day launched a spate of new and enhanced state security and military regimes. For those of us in North America and Europe—especially those of us in the privileged North Atlantic academy—9/11 instigated a paradigmatic change (with epistemic implications to follow) as a new global threat took the place of the ussr and its communist ideology. Francis Fukayama had declared the “end of history” in 1992—when the telos of liberal democracy had apparently materialized.5 But now, with the new global threat—variously labeled, “Islamic terrorism,” “Islamist extremism,” “radical Islamism,” or “Muslim extremists”—he has retreated from that position,6 while others have gone so far as to turn away from the ideal of liberal democracy as both intellectual norm and political telos.7

In the halls of advanced research, the memory of September 11 and the ensuing “War on Terror” it spawned has had the effect (whether deserved or not) of signaling a sea change in the formation of research agendas, the development and deployment of expertise, and the marshaling of resources to support both. 9/11 began to affect “who” could study and produce research and to what ends. The security-conscious environment that became the norm ushered in a regime of immigration restrictions in the United States that limited who could study and produce knowledge, where they could go, and which borders they could cross in pursuit of ideas.8 9/11 informed a more robust policing of academia, with “watchdog” organizations like Campus Watch featuring dossiers on faculty who espoused views deemed contrary to national values.9 Importantly, the imperatives of national security arising from 9/11 helped to define the questions for academic study, often in the service of the state.

To use the US as an example, political debate concerning public funding of research began to emphasize the public purposes to which research ought to be directed. Rep. Peter Hoekstra introduced, not coincidentally, on September 11, 2003 the “International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003” (HR 3077). Passed by the House of Representatives on October 21, 2003, it amended the Higher Education Act of 1965, which was set to expire. HR3077 never passed the Senate. But from the date of its introduction and its content, there is no hiding the bill’s purpose: to create American scholars who produce knowledge to serve the American state’s interest.10 Given this purpose, one can appreciate how the immigration law restrictions on who could study and produce knowledge, and how such knowledge production should be framed, together lean toward a single direction, namely in the service of the state by those loyal to it.

While some vehemently decry the militarization of universities since 9/11,11 a less extreme position—and one especially relevant for this study—suggests that 9/11 effected an epistemic shift in how scholars understood the world and its implications for research design.12 Scholars across a range of departments, centers, institutes, and clinics now increasingly examine the measures taken to combat the presumed ‘Islamic’ threat and those who embody it. In law schools, scholars interrogate immigration and national security rules that guard against an ‘Islamic’ threat.13 In psychology departments, researchers advance or critique government programs that counter violent extremism (cve) by using the Muslim extremist as paradigmatic.14 In these and other instances, scholars engage, critique, support, or otherwise address state practices in the shadow of varying constructions of the ‘Islamic’ or the ‘Muslim’. The confluence of governance projects (both in the ‘West’ and the so-called ‘Muslim world’)15 and constructions of the ‘Islamic’ demands that we interrogate our understandings of how we construe the ‘Islamic’ in relation to governance. What is represented as ‘Islam’ is all too often selectively structured to serve a range of governance projects that take shape across time, space, and scalar variation.

This Fieldnote avoids construing ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ as passive objects of knowledge. Instead, it adopts a two-part argument. First, it casts ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ (in the adjectival sense) as rhetorical, socially constructed ‘terms of art’. Second, it shows how a given construction of ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ is strategically deployed in the service of state governance projects in the West and in the Muslim-majority world. Although numerous scholars have addressed this deployment piecemeal in Europe and North America (e.g. niqab bans and Sharia bans), this project simultaneously analyzes how these terms are deployed in the West and the Muslim-majority world. For example, debates about Sharia in the US, Europe, and Canada are less about Sharia and more about contests about core values of the state (e.g. democracy and rule of law) in light of competing assumptions about what Sharia is. This is no different from Muslim-majority states. Understanding the confluences and divergences across regional, state, and local contexts will allow a more robust appreciation of the shared logics that inform how these terms get construed and deployed across regions that are rarely addressed together. By examining these contexts together, this Fieldnote suggests scholars can gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between the epistemic conditions for producing knowledge about Islam and Muslims, and the material consequences to which that knowledge is put.16 Arguably, the insights gained will better ground understandings of the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ in a historical moment when the signifying scope of these descriptors is more fluid than ever.

My grammatical preference for the adjectival forms of ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ emphasizes how both are, to borrow the language of cultural theorist Stuart Hall, “sliding signifiers.”17 As sliding signifiers, these terms demand that we understand them as replete with epistemic assumptions and material implications, where both inform and are informed by each other. For example, the deployment of ‘Sharia’ will in part depend on whether the governance project concerns US or Saudi Arabian development aid to Afghanistan, the criminalization/legalization of polygamy in Canada or Jordan, or programs in Indonesia and France to combat violent extremism. Policy makers pursue a “War on Terror” often by treating ‘Islam’ as a constant, if not caricature, to rationalize, justify, normalize, and thereby legitimize coercive policies of the state. In such contexts, the state is the site of variability, particularity, and difference. However, as this Fieldnote suggests, recasting ‘Islamic’ as a trope—whether referenced by the left or the right, progressive or conservative, liberal or neo-con—allows us to better appreciate the relation between the production of knowledge on Islam, and the explanation, if not justification, of state projects of security and surveillance,18 refugees, militant democracy,19 secularism,20 and the return of history.21 ‘Islam’ as a rarified object of analysis is instrumentalized in and for knowledge, such as when the Syrian refugee or the migrant laborer is construed as “only Muslim”,22 and as such informs a range of state policies on citizenship, immigration, and refugee law. As this study will show, attention to scalar variation across different deployments of the ‘Islamic’ will showcase how current trends in the production of knowledge on Islam, particularly the ‘anthropology of Islam’, would do well to pay greater heed to the state as disaggregated. Drawing upon the longue durée of Islamic history and European encounters with Islam, this Fieldnote argues that scholars would do well to examine the interplay between the epistemic assumptions and material (in particular, governmental) implications in deployments of ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ in both the West and the Muslim-majority world. By recasting ‘Islamic’ as a sliding signifier, this study brings to the fore the intersection between epistemic assumptions and state practices. The implications of this study, it is hoped, will extend beyond the academy to policy debates that enhance respect for human dignity at the same time policy makers promulgate state projects of surveillance, security, citizenship, and immigration.

2 Registers of Analysis and the Polizei of Deployments

I will adopt four registers of analysis to frame the investigation: time, space, rhetoric, and scale.

Time: Attention to time will ensure that ‘Islamic’ is not reductively defined in terms of the present. Situating a deployment of ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ in the longue durée of Islamic history and European encounters with Islam will reveal the long-standing and complex politics that inform today’s epistemic assumptions about what Islam is or is not. Moreover, a temporal analysis will permit considerations of futurity, such as how the ‘clash of civilizations’ trope inspires policy making given its claim to predictive power.

Space: Space allows us to reflect on the strategies of deploying ‘Islamic’ in both the West and the Muslim-majority world, where such deployments are often addressed in isolation from one another.

Rhetoric: A rhetorical approach will reveal the epistemic assumptions at play in any deployment of ‘Islamic’ or ‘Muslim’. When viewed as figures of speech, these terms are understood as referring to something more or greater (e.g. synecdoche – where ‘Islamic’ is cast as ideology or civilization), or indirectly referring to something else (metonymy – as in cases of ‘Muslim’ and ‘extremist’ serving as metonyms for one another). We can appreciate the role of rhetoric in the construction of both the ‘Islamic’ and the development of a range of state projects. While today’s Left may take aim at the state as an agent of repressive politics, William Novak’s impressive People’s Welfare reminds us that the state as political form can just as well be cast as progressive and redistributive,23 such as when nineteenth and early twentieth century state-based institutions recalibrated the balance of power between laborers and industrial capitalists at the expense of an unchecked freedom of contract.24 Similar rhetorical strategies are at play in the construction of ‘Islamic’.

Scale: The above three registers of analysis allow us to examine varying constructions of ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ across a range of governance projects. However, operating across all three registers is an attention to scalar variation. Scale is important for the study of Islam, if only to overcome the tendency among scholars of Islam to elevate the state to a unitary, centralizing, theophanic Goliath when it may actually be more centrifugal than centripetal, more inconsistent (if not bumbling) than rationally coherent,25 and even more compassionate than brutally coercive.26 Scale is addressed below alongside Space, but it is immanent in each register, as the various analyses that follow will illustrate.

Certainly with the aid of Foucauldian bio-political theory, we might locate governance projects far afield from the formal structures of the disaggregated state. State projects are the focus in this study, in large part, due to the author’s positionality as a scholar of law and legal history in which the state looms large as positivist, voluntarist legislator, rational adjudicator, and coercive enforcer. Nevertheless, the centrality of the state in this analysis is significant for others outside that particular positionality. Attempts to define ‘Muslim’ for purposes of regulation27 and exclusion28 often operate on constructions of ‘Islamic’ that get deployed in the service of varying state projects. Moreover, critics of those deployments too often cast the ‘state’ in no less unitary, monolithic terms as the characterization of the ‘Islamic’ they so ardently oppose.

This Fieldnote insists that scholars of Islam across the longue durée have a unique capacity to ‘think the state’ (or more broadly, governance) at a time when ‘Islamic’ is deployed by and against the state as no less a theophanic Goliath.29 In fact, the passive tense in this Fieldnote’s title (e.g. deployed) is a grammatical gesture to the universalizing, normalizing claims about the state and the ‘Islamic’—claims that all too often operate as blinders to how we might approach the study of Islam today, as well as identify its operationalization in the intricacies of modern state governance. To adopt such an approach is to recognize that in both cases, ‘state’ and ‘Islamic’ are always and at all times impersonal and intimate, institutional and human, powerful and frail.30 Importantly, as a call to those who study Islam, the two are intimately intertwined at a time when the ‘Islamic’ cannot be imagined merely as Europe’s (sick) Other and the embodied Muslim is not simply foreign spectre.31 The ‘Islamic’ and the embodied ‘Muslim’ are at the same time both foreign and domestic, existential threat and domesticatable (if not already domestic). Attempts to regulate32 and exclude33 the Muslim, as domestic subject, civic participant, and laborer, operate on logics that relate to and reinscribe the state. To juxtapose the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘state’ will illuminate not only how both remain contested categories, but are also increasingly informed by reference to each other.

With this in mind, the four registers are designed to integrate studies of Islam and the state, and thereby overcome the limits of studying only one in the shadow of the other. This is especially illustrated by the register scale, which incorporates into an analyses of the ‘Islamic’ and of state projects the broader field of police power (German: polizeiwissenschaft, or simply polizei). Rather than simply reduce ‘Islamic’ to the machinations of power, or resort to some monolithic ideal of the state, polizei offers a middle term that opens up an inquiry into the intricacies that attend to any project of governance. In his 1904 masterpiece, The Police Power, Ernst Freund defined “police” as “a power and function of government, a system of rules, and an administrative organisation and force.”34 Police power, on his approach, “aims directly to secure and promote the public welfare, and it does so by restraint and compulsion.”35

For Michel Foucault, two early modern ideas provided form and content to the intellectual history of the state. First, raison d’État, he argued, offered a mode of thought about the scope and limits of government, forestalling the premodern tendencies (if not aspirations) toward global empire.36 Recognizing that the medieval Church cast the art of government in universalist, imperial terms,37 seventeenth century thinkers offered a different, bounded model that made the state (and thereby the pluralist state system) imaginable. The second early modern idea was police, drawing upon the German science of polizeiwissenschaft. Police or polizei was the inward-facing art of government. By police, Foucault meant “not only a matter of taking into account and taking charge of the activity of groups and orders, that is to say, of different types of individuals with their particular status, but also of taking charge of activity at the most detailed, individual level.”38 On this approach, the police power of the state is “unlimited”; it operates as a set of practices that reveal the “art of the state’s splendor as visible order and manifest force.”39 At a formal level of state practice—for, indeed, “the state is a practice”40—“the objective of police is […] control of and responsibility for men’s activity insofar as this activity constitutes a differential element in the development of the state’s forces.”41 Yet, for Foucault, to inquire into the art of governing is also to identify the conditions that limit the scope of government, those “de facto limitations” that delineate when government is too little, too much, or just right.42

The police practices of the state can take formal, regulatory shape, as Marc Raeff has shown for German society from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries.43 As the power of the Church to order society declined; as towns grew and required increasing labor forces; as rural inhabitants moved to urban centers; and as new arrivals were either productive members of this new urban environment, or trouble-makers—police regulations constituted a regulatory practice across different institutions of nascent states, and facilitated their growth.44 The police practices of the state, at least in the early sixteenth century, were premised upon the “widening area of competence that the secular power arrogated to itself, an arrogation that not only bespoke increased power and strength in the material sense but also the innate self-perpetuating tendency of social, political or economic public functions to create further demands and grounds for political intervention and control.”45 Raeff provides an exhaustive account of such interventions in early modern Germany to reveal how “rulers and administrators move[d] their societies in specific ways and directions, to shape their population, economies, and cultural life according to set standards and norms.”46 These interventions, according to historians of Germany in this period, were meant to support “the ‘common benefit’ and to establish a ‘well ordered republic’.”47

Police power operates in those interstitial moments when agents of the state interact with the citizenry, enacting the state through their performative entanglements. For Didier Fassin and his colleagues, the state operates in those discretionary moments when state bureaucrats engage the public: when a social worker for the state visits a family home to determine the well-being of children therein; when a sentencing judge has to decide on the sanction for someone convicted of a minor offense; when a police officer decides to stop to talk to someone for no other reason than to seek information. In all these cases, officials of the state are invested with a certain coercive authority; but they exercise it at their discretion. The discretionary authority they exercise means they are not so easily collapsed into the state as such. Their agency in and through their office requires that we see them in those moments as not merely the state and not merely as private citizen, but as somewhere in-between. 48 This in-between-ness reflects the complex operation of the state that Scale captures in this study. Each level of government, each bureaucratic ministry, each office constitutes a scale, and in the aggregate reveals the scalar variation that constitutes the state as such. Each scalar variation plays its role. None dominates the state; each operates pursuant to a scale of activity defined, often in advance, and in relation to other institutions. Scale allows us to ‘see’ the state in its particularity and thereby gives us greater insight into the mechanics of how the ‘Islamic’ is deployed.

3 Deployments of the ‘Islamic’: Time

The adjectival use of ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ provides an analytic standpoint from which to interrogate the strategies and programs of governance in a fraught historical moment when ‘Islam’ is too often imagined in presentist terms. But the dynamics that we observe today have a history that does not fit in neat sequestered periodization schemes in university history departments. To presume that our contemporary moment provides the impetus for this Fieldnote ignores how what seems very current is in fact built upon a history that we have either forgotten or simply not correlated as salient to our present. The virtue of casting the ‘Islamic’ as a construct across the longue durée is precisely to appreciate how the present is yet another instantiation of what has been the sometimes express and overt, and at other times, implicit and hidden, relation between the ‘Islamic’ and projects of governance.

Anne Norton’s provocative On the Muslim Question purposely draws on Marx’s famous essay to suggest that we are living in an era when the “Muslim” is the new “Jew” of the North Atlantic world. The analogy is, of course, not exact.49 For Marx and those who came before him, the “Jew”—though to be clear, the Western European Ashkenazi Jew—was the minority within, who was granted privileges by the avowedly Christian state, but felt the “pressure of all the other separate spheres of society […] more intensely because he is in religious opposition to the dominant religion.”50

Norton’s analog between the Jew and the Muslim, while a powerful indictment of our present, nonetheless forces us to understand the ‘Muslim’ and ‘Islamic’ as metonymically representing complex and even contradictory ideas in the shadow of the state, such as the foreign and domestic; economically productive (e.g. for labor, surplus capital, and oil) and national security threat. Around the same time Marx wrote “On the Jewish Question,” the prevailing European conception of ‘Muslim’ and ‘Islamic’ was as the foreigner and foreign power. Asli Çirakman tracks a changing European narrative of the Ottoman Empire across the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries from being feared as the “terror of the world” to being polemically sidelined as the “sick man of Europe”.51 Denise Spellberg, writing about the image of the ‘Muslim’ at America’s founding, writes how debates on religious tests for office were informed by European ideas about Muslims. As Spellberg points out, what these early delegates knew about Muslims “had been filtered through a complex web of associations both foreign and frightening, as attested by their persistent allusions to Islam as a civilization of threat.”52 Without irony, slave-holding delegates debating religious tests construed the ‘Muslim’ and the ‘Islamic’ by reference to “Ottoman despotism or the predations of the four pirate states of North Africa”, despite the likelihood that “they themselves may have lived in proximity to real Muslims of West African origin, for whom they were the oppressors.”53 Whether as waxing or waning, the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ in the European, and later US, imaginary principally remained utterly foreign.

This applies as well to Andalusian Spain, despite various attempts to cast it as a period of pluralist harmony.54 Thanks to the growth in the academic study of Christian missionaries in the Muslim world, we now know that the ‘Islamic’ in the context of medieval Spain was construed by medieval Europeans as an incursion to be pushed back through conquest. As medieval missionaries sought to create a universal church, they believed that to convert Muslims posed particular challenges. First, they presumed that Muslims generally refused to convert from Islam to another faith, let alone Christianity. They held this view despite the fact that some Muslims were said to have converted to Catholicism in ninth century Italy.55 Second, they were convinced that any attempt to proselytize Muslims, in part by proclaiming the falsehood of Islam, would be met with violence. As Kedar remarks, while most medieval Europeans knew little or nothing about Islam, “one facet of Islam must have been surprisingly well known: the absolute prohibition of attacks against the Muslim creed.”56 This understanding of Islam and its prohibition against attacks on its creed, writes Kedar, may explain why there was little or no peaceful attempts at conversion in Muslim lands: “the Catholic abstention from efforts to convert the Muslims resulted to a considerable extent from an awareness of the Muslim prohibition of attacks against their religion, attacks that were bound to be intrinsic to Catholic missionary efforts of that age.”57 In other words, to proselytize Muslims to convert to Christianity, it was believed, posed inherent risks of violent reprisals. It stands to reason, therefore, that any attempt to proselytize successfully would need to be on the heels of military intervention in the region, such as the Crusades.58

Consider Pope Urban ii’s speech at the Council of Clermont in 1095, as recounted by Balderic of Dol in the early twelfth century. In it, the Pope called upon Europe’s knights to stop fighting amongst themselves, and instead embark upon the First Crusade. The language he used to characterize Islam, Muslims, and their law is worth examining:

Of holy Jerusalem, brethren, we dare not speak, for we are exceedingly afraid and ashamed to speak of it. This very city, in which, as you all know, Christ Himself suffered for us, because our sins demanded it, has been reduced to the pollution of paganism and, I say it to our disgrace, withdrawn from the service of God. Such is the heap of reproach upon us who have so much deserved it! Who now serves the church of the Blessed Mary in the valley of Josaphat, in which church she herself was buried in body? But why do we pass over the Temple of Solomon, nay of the Lord, in which the barbarous nations placed their idols contrary to law, human and divine? Of the Lord’s Sepulchre we have refrained from speaking, since some of you with your own eyes have seen to what abominations it has been given over. The Turks violently took from it the offerings which you brought there for alms in such vast amounts, and, in addition, they scoffed much and often ‘at Your religion.

In this brief passage of Pope Urban ii’s speech, as later recounted, we find certain tropes about the ‘Islamic’ that are designed, in part, to reflect back on the construction of what will become ‘Europe’. Words like “pollution”, to recall Mary Douglas,59 imply danger and destruction. “Withdrawn from the service of God” calls into question competing approaches to the teleologies of governance, of what may broadly be captured by the science of police or polizei.60 “Barbarous” both invokes its opposite, civilization (and by implication Huntington’s thesis of clash),61 but also implies the Muslim as unredeemable and unteachable. “[C]ontrary to law, human and divine” raises concerns either about the quality of the law in Islam (e.g. the iterations of Max Weber’s kadi justice), if not the absence of ‘real’ or ‘true’ law in Islam. 62 All these phrases and terms, when taken together, force us to consider how constructions of the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ are not merely designed to construct, as others have shown already, an image of ‘Europe’ or the ‘West’, or the ‘European’ or the ‘Christian’, broadly construed.63 Rather, I argue these long-standing constructions of the ‘Islamic’ are an epistemic inheritance that cannot help but inform state projects of governance, even in narrow, specific particulars.

In 2015, Canada’s Conservative-led government introduced Bill S-7 to combat certain practices like forced marriage. The short title for the Act, later passed into law, is “Zero-Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act”. The Act amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to exclude permanent residents and foreign nationals on grounds of “practicing polygamy” in Canada.64 To combat forced marriage, the Act amends the Civil Marriage Act to require as a condition of a valid marriage the “free and enlightened consent of two persons to be the spouse of each other.”65 The phrase is a translation of a French legal term of art, but reads here as if gesturing to a seventeenth century Enlightenment telos of maximizing the freedom and autonomy of the individual.

Of course, there is no suggestion here of an express or direct link between Pope Urban ii or the Crusades, and this piece of legislation. But if we juxtapose this statute with Pope Urban ii’s call for the First Crusade, it is hard to avoid appreciating how certain constructions of the ‘Islamic’ constitute an epistemic heritage, repeatedly used time and time again to justify a range of coercive measures. The statute’s use of “barbaric” in its title, and the description of certain practices as cultural, and thus outside law, make it hard to miss how this Act seems to target an imagined Muslim who is full of culture and tradition but not the law of a civilized society. Moreover, by rendering practices as cultural, the Act invokes a certain liberal project that casts such practices as something one can choose to abandon, presumably in pursuit of the state’s preferred telos of liberal individualism.66 In both the medieval speech and modern legislation, overlapping constructions of the ‘Islamic’ justify practices of governance with varying degrees of violence, whether in the medieval or modern periods.

The interdependent relationship between constructions of the ‘Islamic’ and coercive state projects is also evident in the language employed by various US states in a slew of statutes described as Sharia bans.67 In an early version of its Sharia ban (which was subsequently amended extensively), Tennessee Senate Bill 1028 defined Sharia as follows:

Sec. 39–13–904

As used in this part, unless the context otherwise requires:

(1) “Sharia” means the set of rules, precepts, instructions, or edicts which are said to emanate directly or indirectly from the god of Allah or the prophet Mohammed and which include directly or indirectly the encouragement of any person to support the abrogation, destruction, or violation of the United States or Tennessee Constitutions, or the destruction of the national existence of the United States or the sovereignty of this state, and which includes among other methods to achieve these ends, the likely use of imminent violence. Any rule, precept, instruction, or edict arising directly from the extant rulings of any of the authoritative schools of Islamic jurisprudence of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali, Ja’afariya, or Salafi, as those terms are used by sharia adherents, is prima facie sharia without any further evidentiary showing68

In this passage, we certainly find law in Islam, but it is in the service of a telos that poses an existential crisis for states in the US who seek to remain free and sovereign. Like Pope Urban ii’s barbarians whose polluting traditions laid waste to Jerusalem, so too does Sharia apparently threaten an entire way of life. This explains why a year earlier, Oklahoma’s constitutional amendment to ban Sharia was called, without irony, the “Save Our State Amendment”.69

More recently, we have seen US President Trump issue executive orders that ban immigrants and refugees from Muslim-majority states. The objective of these Executive Orders is framed in terms of national security amid regions of instability where terrorist groups may operate freely and cross borders. An early version of the travel ban read as follows:

Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.

In order to protect Americans, the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles. The United States cannot, and should not, admit those who do not support the Constitution, or those who would place violent ideologies over American law. In addition, the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including “honor” killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation.70

The language of purpose and policy speaks to a governance objective that is certainly not the same as Pope Urban ii’s “way of God”, but certainly speaks to what twentieth century theorists of the state would consider the police power of the state (polizei). Police power, and its potential for domestic absolutism, were powerfully on display in the Ninth Circuit appeal on the temporary restraining order against Trump’s first Executive Order banning travel from Muslim-majority states. Lawyers for the government argued that the president’s power over national security and immigration was “unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections.”71 In other words, the government claimed a power to police in a manner that no other institution of government could or should check. The potential danger of such a position was not lost on the Court of Appeal, which insisted on its institutional capacity to review Executive decisions. The Court’s analysis was pregnant with considerations of constitutionality and vague notions of “public interest”—or, in other words, judicial considerations of what is otherwise the police power of the state.72 The Ninth Circuit decision on Trump’s first travel ban recognized the importance of both national security and the discretionary authority “of an elected president to enact policies”, and balanced it with the public’s interest in the “free flow of travel in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from discrimination.”73 As much as the Court may have been an obstacle to the Trump Administration, its decision was no less embedded in the police power of the state than the Executive Order. The Court’s analysis of the scope of government was consonant with the imperatives of polizei in a liberal regime, declaring in its analysis “how not to govern too much,” as Foucault wrote.74

Importantly, the police power implicit in governance projects such as those above are notoriously framed (rhetorically at least) by certain constructions of the ‘Islamic’. Trump’s first travel bans began by identifying disfavored practices in its purpose statement. This inclusion of belief and practices, specifically bigotry, violence against women, and the persecution of minorities, speaks to the police function of regulating the state’s subjects (and thereby their subjectivities). Given the scholarship in the study of Islam, it is rather obvious that these beliefs and practices serve as facially neutral proxies for the ‘Islamic’ in the service of national security. The Executive Order’s inclusion of these beliefs and acts speaks implicitly, but in facially neutral and negative terms, to a long-standing construction of the ‘Islamic’ as supersessionist, patriarchal, and intolerant of other religious beliefs. That this construction of the ‘Islamic’ is fueled by continued debate in some quarters about whether Islam is a ‘religion’ or a ‘way of life’ or a ‘political ideology’, and reflects a concern that Islam is a totalizing tradition that stands in contrast to, and seeks to supersede, all other political ideologies such as democracy and liberalism. On this construction of the ‘Islamic’, proponents of democracy must be wary of creating space for the ‘Islamic’ lest it erode the very fabric of a democratic public sphere. In the Center for Security Policy’s 2010 report, Sharia: The Next Threat to America, the authors characterize Islam, and in particular Islamic law (Sharia), as a “totalitarian socio-political doctrine […] Translated as ‘the path,’ shariah is a comprehensive legal and political framework. Though it certainly has spiritual elements, it would be a mistake to think of shariah as a ‘religious’ code in the Western sense because it seeks to regulate all manner of behavior in the secular sphere—economic, social, military, legal and political.”75 On this reading, Sharia doctrines reinstantiate patriarchy,76 supercession, and intolerance77 as evidenced by the rules on marriage, divorce, inheritance, child custody, and the so-called ‘dhimmi rules’ of premodern Islamic legal history. On this doctrinal basis, ‘Sharia’ stands in for the ‘Islamic’ writ large, and thereby threatens to unravel the very fabric of liberal democratic orders such as the US. Of course, these ideas take shape in the Executive Order only implicitly—anything more express would be tantamount to an unconstitutional targeting of a particular faith practice. Rather, the implicit construction of the ‘Islamic’ are operationalized by reference to the states identified on the list. Though the Order does not expound in great detail, countries like Somalia, Yemen, and Libya have suffered years of conflict and have limited institutional capacity to manage their domestic affairs, let alone their borders. Into the vacuum of these underperforming states, we find groups such as al-Shabab in Somalia, al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, and isis exporting what some characterize as an existentially threatening, all-encompassing ideology of ‘Islamism’. With these ‘Islamic’ groups presumably in mind, but without mentioning them, the Executive Order espouses a concern about its domestic security by reference to mere states.

4 Deployments of the ‘Islamic’: Space and Scale

Considering the construction of the ‘Islamic’ in spatial terms calls into question how ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ inform the creation of a range of state projects, not only in countries in Europe and North America, but also in Muslim-majority states around the world. To posit the ‘Islamic’ (and the ‘Muslim’) as constructs in the service of state projects of governance cannot, on this basis, merely inform a Saidian critique that the very construction of the ‘West’ is by reference to the ‘Islamic’.78 Rather, viewing that construct in terms of space calls for greater appreciation of how the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’, when deployed inside the Muslim-majority world, are no less related to governance than when employed by states in the so-called ‘West’.

Counter-intuitively, I start with the non-state actor al-Qai’da. Al-Qaida expressly maintains itself as a non-state actor, not seeking to claim territory as a state or caliphate.79 Its non-state status offers an important insight into why and how Osama b. Laden deployed the language of jihad in his declarations or fatwas. In one fatwa, he argued that “ulema have throughout Islamic history unanimously agreed that the jihad is an individual duty if the enemy destroy the Muslim countries.”80 Importantly, a historical analysis of Islamic legal debates on jihad reveals that it is generally a collective duty, fard kifaya, which is satisfied when a sufficient number of people undertake it. In other words, action taken by a subgroup fulfills the obligation for the entire community. However, in very limited, exceptional circumstances, such as when a regime is over-run by its enemies, the duty of jihad becomes personal and individual. For al-Qa’ida to invoke the ‘Islamic’ by employing ‘jihad’ as an individual duty indicts Muslim-majority states (such as Saudi Arabia) as ineffective, incapable, and over-run by foreign regimes. In Enlightenment terms, al-Qa’ida does not believe the state as a political form (whether the US, Israel, or Saudi Arabia) is capable of upholding the welfare of the people (salus populi).81 This not only explains its targeting of certain states in the Muslim-majority world, but also helps illuminate a fundamental split between it and isis, from which al-Qai’da broke relations.82

Importantly, while Bin Laden’s suspicion of the state presents an extreme example, that suspicion is actually quite common. As shown in recent studies on Christian missionaries in Egypt, Muslim groups like the Muslim Brotherhood arose in part because the nascent, quasi-independent state of Egypt proved itself incapable of upholding what they considered, in Islamic terms, to be the welfare of the people.83 Ironically, groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan and Egypt, which have changed tactics to engage the state apparatus, have increasingly articulated their politics within the administrative machinery of the state, in contrast to non-state actors like al-Qaida, and subsequently isis, the latter of which took aim at existing state regimes in part by recasting the state-as-form in its own distinctively ‘Islamic’ terms.

Saudi Arabia offers an example that not only illustrates the importance of Space but also Scale. The relationship between the ruling Saʿud family and the family of Muhammad b. ‘Abd al-Wahhab gave a religious imperative to what was otherwise a regional claim by the Saʿud’s family.84 Internally, the country’s governing rules are informed by a combination of royal decrees and historic Islamic law, though the latter operates only to the extent not preempted by royal decree.85 Moreover, the operation of the ‘Islamic’, such as the predominance of Hanbali doctrine in matters of law, extends only to the extent such provisions also uphold the claims of the state to an Islamically grounded form of domestic legitimacy in an international state system. This complex legal environment creates at times a dissonance in constructing the ‘Islamic’ – a dissonance that, when taken in the aggregate, can be made to work in the service of the state.

One example of such ‘dissonance’ concerns the rather ordinary, if not mundane, issue of insurance. Insurance is a contract that often involves purchasers making payments on a regular basis to control for the financial challenges that arise in the event of an untimely accident. A student of Islamic economics will immediately identify this contract as problematic: it involves current payments for a payout at an unknown time, and thereby violates a core Islamic prohibition of speculation (gharar). Saudi Arabia’s government institution of clerics, the Permanent Committee (lajna al-daʾima) has pronounced insurance a violation of Islamic law. In fatwa 3249, the Permanent Committee for Scholarly Research and Fatwa states:

Commercial insurance is a commitment to do something that is not legally obligatory ( fi ʿaqd al-taʾmin al-tijari ilzam bima la yalzam, sharʿ). The insurance company is not responsible for the accident; it only makes a contract with insurers to protect them against accidents, in case they take place, in return for a sum of money which the insurer pays to the insurance company and the latter does nothing for the insurer to deserve this money. Hence, commercial insurance is haram.86

On this reading, one could easily presume that insurance is unavailable in Saudi Arabia. Rather, in the case of injury or accident, one is simply left to the court adjudicated schemes that prevail in the country.

If we stopped our analysis here, we would presume Saudi Arabia adopts a very narrow construction of the ‘Islamic’ for domestic political consumption. The problem, though, is that Saudi Arabia also exists in an international context in which migration flows, capital flows, oil wealth, and political multilateralism situate it as a significant political player on the world stage. Consequently, while the state may be able to pacify a conservative demographic by reference both to the Permanent Committee and the application of premodern fiqh rules, it must also assure its global partners in trade and labor migration of some degree of egalitarianism among those coming to work in Saudi Arabia, assuming they have enough market power to enter the commercial insurance regime. According to Saudi Arabia’s Monetary Authority (sama), commercial insurance is indeed a vibrant reality in the Kingdom. Principally seen as a risk-moderating device to promote greater investment in the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s relatively new insurance sector “is to be a cornerstone of the Saudi financial services sector by providing reliable risk transfer mechanisms, promoting long-term savings, and serving as a conduit to channel funds from policyholders to investment opportunities, thus being a key enabler of a healthy Saudi economy.”87 According to the Law on Supervision of Cooperative Insurance Companies (Law No. 32 of 1424 AH), insurance in the Kingdom is a regulated activity subject to sama’s oversight. Insurance companies are to operate in accordance with earlier legislation on cooperative insurance, as well as “in accordance with the principles of Islamic Shariʿa” (wa bi ma la yataʿarud maʿa ahkam al-shariʿa al-islamiyya).88 Defining what counts as permissible falls within the administrative oversight of sama, and is outlined in its Implementing Regulations.89 The Implementing Regulations, importantly, specify the objects of both Law No. 32 and sama’s regulatory oversight:

  1. 1.Protection of policyholders and shareholders.
  2. 2.Encouraging fair and effective competition (tasjiʿ al-munafisa al-ʿadala wa al-faʿala).
  3. 3.Enhancing the stability of the insurance market (suq al-taʾmin).
  4. 4.Enhancing the insurance sector in the Kindom and provide training and employment opportunities to Saudi nationals.90

Nothing in these stipulated objectives mention Sharia, nor do they expressly engage the Permanent Committee’s fatwa. Rather, the fatwa, domestic law, and sama’s regulatory oversight of the insurance market in Saudi Arabia, through an aggregated dissonance, contribute to the project of the Saudi state in different ways, depending on who the relevant audience is. The respective audiences of the Permanent Council and sama are unlikely the same. In each case, the Saudi state can say it remains committed to Islamic law, whether by referring to the fatwa or by the opening provisions of Law No. 32, which caution against any contradiction of Islamic principles. Yet it can also re-assure its international trade partners and foreign investors that any risk in their Saudi investments can be mitigated and controlled by insurance. By attending to Scale, we can better appreciate how maintaining an ‘Islamic’ milieu and a vibrant economy demands the very inconsistency or dissonance observed here; and in the end, the dissonance across different scales of governance remains in the service of the state. Whether observers will feel the same way is a different matter, but that indeterminacy is endemic to the rhetorical dynamic of any deployment of the ‘Islamic’.

The register of space emphasizes that the relation of the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ to projects of state governance is not simply a European or North American dynamic. The relation spans space and is as much a dynamic in Muslim-majority states as in North Atlantic ones. If any image captures the shared utility of the ‘Islamic’, it would be the March 2017 picture of President Trump, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and President Sisi of Egypt putting their hands on a glowing orb to inaugurate the Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The Global Center boasts advanced technologies to combat the spread of extremist ideologies through various forms of surveillance software monitoring the internet. Most notably, it is bolstered by international cooperation, consisting of member states and other organizations.91 Certainly what the ‘Islamic’ is made to represent will vary across regions. But the purpose of Space as a register is to recognize that the ‘Islamic’ is a signifier that operates across continents and oceans, across Muslim-majority states and North Atlantic ones, and across scales of state projects that in the aggregate are not shy of inconsistency or contradiction.

5 Deployments of the ‘Islamic’: Rhetoric

Classics scholars will know that among Aristotle’s tomes is one devoted to Rhetoric. For him, Rhetoric was the art of persuasion. In this era of fake news and alternative facts, it is important to emphasize that I am not embracing Rhetoric here as a way to dupe an audience. As Danielle S. Allen writes, Aristotle’s Rhetoric is “neither a guide to manipulation nor a superficial manual of style.”92 As Aristotle said, Rhetoric’s function “is not simply to succeed in persuading, but rather to discover the means of coming as near such success as the circumstances of each particular case allow.”93 Those circumstances relate not only to the audience but also to the subject matter being discussed. Rhetoric, as the study of persuasion, is a reminder that alongside disciplinary inquiries into a range of subject matters, persuasion exists as a catalytic agent enabling the professing of a claim or truth (or a claim as truth) to an audience. This is not to suggest that Rhetoric is nihilistic about the truth. Rather, as Marianne Constable convincingly reminds, Rhetoric explores “what claims are, how they assert truth and demand recognition, and in what ways they bind us.”94

As a register of analysis, Rhetoric examines the interrelation between projects of governance and constructions of the ‘Islamic’ across time, space, and scale, thereby prompting questions about how that interrelationship works and why. Thinking about the state in the register of Rhetoric raises important questions about who or what (per)forms the state, and how it is understood, experienced, or otherwise felt. Whereas the register of scale may require analysis of governance projects in terms of a sovereign or local official issuing regulations that are backed by a claim to legitimate authority with coercive effect, Rhetoric is more ideational.95 In terms of Rhetoric, we can better appreciate how governance projects, such as those of the modern state, operate in terms of an “internal productive power”,96 or through communicative regimes by which the subject is fashioned as an “isolated, disciplined, receptive, and industrious political subject.”97 To understand the performance of the state in the register of Rhetoric (along with Space and Time) and across scalar variation allows us to view governance generally, and the state specifically, as being both bureaucratic and coercive on the one hand, and a “repository of ideas, images, and ideologies which are not predetermined”, on the other hand.98 On this approach, the state is both “an open notion and an entity, the presence and content of which is not taken for granted but is the very object of inquiry.”99 In the context of both projects of state governance and constructions of the ‘Islamic’, this communicative aspect is expressed in a range of ways, many of which pertain to the formation of compliant and participatory subjects.

5.1 Rhetoric and the ‘State’

There is no shortage of literature on the rhetoric that makes state projects possible. The sociological historian Philip Gorski advises that states are “not only administrative, policing and military organizations. They are also pedagogical, corrective, and ideological organizations.”100 State power is not merely coercive, but also communicative. States draw upon already existing local and non-state bodies (i.e. scale) that carry out the disciplinary pedagogy that makes the state felt and imagined (i.e. rhetoric).101 As anthropologist Begoña Aretxaga warns, while the bricks and mortar of the state and its practices constitute one site of inquiry, the state as a lived and felt experience is something that must be taught lest it be “devoid of content”.102 Likewise, Timothy Mitchell argues that we miss something important if we distinguish the state-as-material-substrate from the state-as-abstract-ideal.103 Political theorists may speak in abstract terms of the hidden, deep, or submerged state by examining bureaucracy, regulatory regimes, and sites of elite special interest negotiation. But ethnographers such as Katherine Cramer show how that same state can be so removed from the lives of rural citizens who do not “see” the state, and so consider it inept or incapable, out of reach or simply irrelevant.104

This is why Noah Salomon’s self-reflective admission in his study of the Islamic state of Sudan is so prescient for purposes of this study. He explains how, for his study of the ironically both persistent and yet ‘failed’ state of Sudan, he went to find it in the halls of government in Khartoum but only found the projects of international ngos. Rather than give up on the project, he soon realized that the state he was looking for, in particular the Islamic project of the Sudanese state, lay elsewhere. “So sure of the models of governance that I’d brought with me into the field, models that prepared me to find the state lodged in institutions that projected downwards onto ‘society,’ I had deafened myself to the resonances of the state that emerged in other places.”105 Paying attention to the Sudanese soundscape, he heard the government-supported and increasingly popular art form of Islamic poetry; the busy sounds emanating from state-sponsored mosques; the every-day interactions between service providers and patrons in the shadow of state-enforced norms of propriety. These ethnographic sites and moments revealed the state through its active forms of police regulations, and the passive forms of discipline that constituted citizen-subjects of the state. Salomon’s self-reflection and observation play out Joel S. Migdal’s State in Society paradigm, in which he argues that states are shaped by two elements, image and practices. The Rhetoric in Migdal’s paradigm lies in the constructed image of the state, which he describes is “of a dominant, integrated, autonomous entity that controls, in a given territory, all rule-making either directly through its own agencies or indirectly by sanctioning other authorized organizations—businesses, families clubs and the like—to make certain circumscribed rules.”106

In recent years, the rhetoric of the ‘state’ has increasingly drawn upon certain ideational elements of the ‘Islamic’ in the formulation of what the (good) state is and ought to be. This ideational link is embedded in a certain irony about the ‘state’ as a political form. At the very moment that many consider the state to be the political telos of history, we are also witnessing their dissolution at an alarming rate. Importantly for this study, many of these failing states are identified as part of the so-called Muslim world. Their failure as states, some argue, pose a security threat to the rest of the world and prompt policy reports advocating for governments, such as the United States, to intervene. The US Institute of Peace, in response to the nativist isolationism in the 2016 presidential campaign, advocated that the United States take greater global leadership rather than look inward and “hunker down”. Nowhere is US leadership more necessary, the authors argue, than in resolving the issue of “state fragility”. Fragile states “are at the center of much of today’s regional disorder and global upheaval. And the driver is the absence—or breakdown—of a social compact between people and their government.”107 Likewise, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in a conference on “Sovereignty as Liability: When Weak States Threaten Global Security,” explored “new ideas and policy tactics” when dealing with “weak or collapsed states”.108 That conference led to the Academy’s new project “Civil Wars, Violence and International Responses”, which focuses on weak and collapsed states in regions “ranging from North Africa to Central Asia.”109 For scholars of Islam and the Muslim-majority world, it is telling that the countries of greatest concern also happen to have majority Muslim populations.

Significantly, the “fragility” discourse has a rhetoric of its own. It fundamentally takes for granted the stability of North American and European states, which leads some to characterize such paradigms as echoes of prior colonial enterprises. 110 In his most recent critique of US foreign policy, Noam Chomsky inverts the gaze of “state fragility” by directing it at the United States. 111 Whether one agrees with Chomsky’s critique or considers it little more than polemical, the epistemic premise of his critique is valuable for exposing the ‘Islamic’ content in the rhetoric of the ‘state’. In many debates on state fragility, the ‘Islamic’ may not be expressed, but it is nonetheless implicit in the rhetoric of ‘developed’ and ‘undeveloped’, ‘strong’ and ‘fragile’, and ‘failed’.

Ironically, the study of Islam and Muslims offers a litmus test on the robustness of those states that are presumed developed, robust, and democratic. By examining the socially sliding image of the ‘Muslim’, scholars of Islam and Muslims can show how such states outright fail whole segments of their population. The Brexit vote in the UK demonized Muslims and now threatens the well-being of migrant laborers who have made lives and careers there. The Trump administration in the US has capitalized on fundamental undercurrents of inequality, dispossession, and outright hate, targeting a range of minority groups, including Muslims. Canada’s 2017 committee hearings on M103, a motion to study systemic discrimination, including Islamophobia, faltered on the indeterminacy of ‘Islamophobia’. Critics of the term ‘Islamophobia” feared that to use it in a policy document would chasten critics of Islamic fundamentalism and thereby undermine the country’s commitment to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression became the liberal parliamentary cover for hateful speech.112 To study Islam and Muslims in these contexts is to create a litmus test that measures the robustness of so-called liberal democratic regimes.

5.2 Rhetoric and the ‘Islamic’

To appreciate the rhetorical contribution of the ‘Islamic’ in the ideational formation of the ‘state’ demands that we pay closer attention to the ways in which the ‘Islamic’ gets construed. Of course, popular media have long been criticized for their perpetuation of certain stereotypes about Islam. Many in the academy would consider such media analysis below the dignity of their disciplinary training. And, to an extent, they are right. But curiously, there are certain patterns in the popular imaginings of the ‘Islamic’ that find a bases, if not common cause, with certain disciplinary orientations in the North Atlantic academy. Disciplinary orientations to the subject matter of Islam or Muslims constitute both terms of art with an ideational content not unlike the ideational rhetoric that makes the state possible. Consequently, this Fieldnote examines the disciplinary trends in the North America study of Islam and Muslims in order to genealogically and disciplinarily unpack the rhetoric of the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ as deployed.

For some, this turn to the academic to understand the popular or public may seem inapposite. Academics, who train for years in a specific discipline, take considerable pains to distinguish their work from what often passes as public or popular discourse. In order to make my case for the connection between the academic and the public deployment of the ‘Islamic’, I turn to the example of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or isis for short. In particular, I am especially interested in the academic debate that erupted shortly after Graeme Wood published an article in The Atlantic about isis’ religious bases. In short, Wood argued that isis was definitively ‘Islamic’. Colleagues in the field were critical of the Wood article for its lack of historical nuance, or over-determined sense of the ‘Islamic’. Of course, there is a more salient concern Wood’s piece posed, but which was more often subtext than overtly expressed: to call isis ‘Islamic’ raised fundamental fears about how the security apparatus of various states would scrutinize Muslims as they entered and exited airports, crossed borders, and otherwise went about their ordinary lives in a global marketplace. In other words, the construction of ‘isis’ as ‘Islamic’ had worrisome implications for projects of state security and border policing. What was arguably troubling for colleagues in the field was how little their academic training could counter these possible governance projects. For those trained in the textual study of Islam, with roots in philology, they could make little headway in the argument. Likewise, those who adopt anthropological approaches to the study of Islam, and employ ethnographic, participant-observer methods, could do little but shrug at the indeterminacy across a range of plausible interlocutors. Importantly, neither philological nor anthropological approaches can offer full-throated responses to these concerns. As suggested below, their limits lie in the implicit rhetoric underpinning their disciplinary methods. For philologically oriented scholars of ‘Islamic’ texts, philology’s historical positivism runs the risk of so over-determining the ‘Islamic’ that the very descriptor is pushed out of history. Anthropologists of Islam, who read the Muslim subject both atomistically and representatively, both collapse the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ and reduce them to a representative liberalism-cum-Protestantism.113

Textually oriented scholars can reasonably argue that ‘isis is Islamic’ by reference to the premodern scriptural and legal literary tradition. Rhetorically, this argument presumes that the textual tradition captures the normative content of Islam. Consequently, whether something is or is not ‘Islamic’ depends largely on its fidelity to the textual tradition. isis may very well draw inspiration from these texts, and abide by the doctrinal and theological dictates contained therein. For instance, in its decree on the Christians of Raqqa, isis invoked premodern rules on the dhimmi (non-Muslim permanent residents) when it imposed the historical poll tax ( jizya).114 The pedigree of these premodern texts, coupled with adherence to their content, allows some to call isis ‘Islamic’.

In contrast, one could just as easily argue, by reference to the same textual tradition, that isis is not Islamic. The argument would be that isis departs from an accepted literary canon of authoritative texts, misconstrues that canon, or cherry-picks from that canon without regard to the whole. This argument is simply the mirror image of the ‘isis is Islamic’ position above. In both cases, the ‘Islamic’ is determined (if not over-determined) by reference to textual pedigree. Certainly, one cannot deny that isis’s language, concepts, and intertextual references have a pedigree in the Islamic literary tradition. Nor can one deny that isis departs from that same textual tradition in a range of particulars. But, if that is the full scope of the inquiry, we must admit that the ‘Islamic’ on this account is reduced to a historically positivist focus on textual pedigree. The rhetorical implication of locating the ‘Islamic’ in the literary tradition is that the Muslim is defined by what the text says. This phenomenon is no mere hypothetical. Far too often, commentators overdetermine the subjectivity of real, live Muslims by reference to a collection of texts. Security studies on terrorism repeatedly cite verses from the Qurʾan on jihad to intimate the threat Muslim citizens of the state may pose as neighbors, let alone as candidates for immigration.

Alternatively, the question of whether isis is ‘Islamic’ need not rely on the textual tradition at all, given the ethnographic turn away from the centrality of texts. On this approach, we might characterize isis as ‘Islamic’ because some Muslims support isis and consider it ‘Islamic’. Media accounts are rife with stories about young Muslims leaving North America and Europe to join isis in Syria and Iraq. In fact, Wood’s Atlantic story features an interview with such a person. On the other hand, we can also characterize isis as not ‘Islamic’ by reference to other Muslims who condemn isis and disavow their brutal practices.115 These skeptics vehemently distance Muslims and/or Islam from isis. Given their sheer number, so their argument goes, it is outrageous to suggest that isis is Islamic. In both cases, we find an emphasis on the ‘Muslim’ subject as the locus of the ‘Islamic’. That emphasis arguably coincides with a given ethnographer’s sensibilities about where best to locate the ‘Islamic’. It is not that ethnographers are averse to other sites of the ‘Islamic’. Rather, their disciplinarily framed questions give pride of place to the interlocutor (here the ‘Muslim’) whose tellings and retellings they presume to be pregnant with symbolic meaning going well beyond the particularities of the mere interlocutor.

Anthropologists of Islam most certainly offer important insights about the range of possible meanings that can wear the label of ‘Islamic’. One might see their ethnographies as full-throated responses against the historical positivist textuality of philology. We cannot ignore how anthropologists of Islam are often positioned, rhetorically, in contrast to both the Orientalist priority of philology, and an older style of anthropology that treated its subjects as primitive and unmodern. If philology is premised on the centrality of an Islamic textual tradition, ethnography is premised on the centrality of the voices of ethnographized Muslim subjects, as documented in field notes, and from which generalizations are made to construct ‘Muslim’ as a group identifier. By nearly collapsing the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ by reference to a discursive tradition of present practice, the Muslim subjectivity is not vulnerable to the same over-determination arising from a philological orientation. Rather, the ethnographic method’s power lies in redistributing the ‘Islamic’ across diverse Muslim voices, leaving it to them to make sense of their literary tradition as they otherwise live their lives.

Rhetorically, ethnographization of the ‘Islamic’ by reference to lived experience reveals a representative liberal-cum-Protestant mode of analysis: Protestant in that what counts as Islamic is what any given believer says or does, without reference to an institutional or clerical authority; liberal in that the ethnographic subject, before being ethnographized, maps neatly onto the atomized rights-holder subjected to state law;116 representative in that while the ‘Islamic’ is diffused across all Muslims, the ethnographized ‘Muslim’ interlocutor is one from whom the ethnographer can generalize to a group. On this approach to the ‘Islamic’, the religious experience starts atomistically, but can be made to represent something more collective.

This representative liberal-cum-Protestant view of religious experience runs the risk of making the voices of individuals (whether many or few) to stand for more than the particulars of any given ethnographic interlocutor. This approach to the ‘Islamic’ is no less vulnerable to certain state deployments than a textual approach. For instance, in 2015, Canada’s federal government introduced Bill C-51 to enhance the security apparatus of the state. Then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper argued the bill was an important tool for the state to combat “[v]iolent jihadism […] [Violent jihadism] seeks to harm us here in Canada—in our cities and in our neighborhoods, through horrific acts, like deliberately driving a car at a defenceless man or shooting a soldier in the back as he stands on guard at a War Memorial.”117 Harper had in mind two particular acts of violence that occurred in Ottawa: acts that had a factual reality to them. But to infer from those acts of purportedly isolated individuals118 that Canada is vulnerable to violent jihadism writ large reflects a logical leap that is only possible by generalizing from what a few Muslims have done.

Ethnographies of Muslims are made at a time when Muslims are under increased surveillance and scrutiny. For the political right, that surveillance and scrutiny reflects a view of Muslims as potential threats, based on what a limited sample of Muslims have said or done. For the political left, that surveillance and scrutiny are palpably unfair, again, based on what a limited sample of Muslims have said or done. To characterize these two arguments as representative liberal-cum-Protestant is thereby to reveal their rhetorical possibilities for state projects of governance. While colleagues in the academy will no doubt shudder at collapsing academic ethnographies with popular media deployments, the argument here identifies an analytic continuum relying upon rhetorics that share family resemblances, which we in the academy ignore to our (and others’) peril. Ethnographizing particular Muslims’ experiences to generalize about Muslims as a group or Islam as a religion can equally uphold and subvert the securitization narrative that has informed so many states since the events of 9/11. Consequently, when Muslims in North America and Europe (however few they may be) claim that isis is Islamic, or even commit lone-wolf acts of aggression (as in Ottawa and Paris), is it surprising that many view individual Muslims proponents of isis-like ideology as anything but individuals? These Muslims are made to symbolically represent, through their embodied performances and utterances, the threat of more to come.119

In order to illustrate the limits of the above two academic orientations to the study of Islam, the following sections will examine the textual study of Islam through an analysis of German philology, and the ways in which the anthropology of Islam has attempted to respond to those textual limits, while also redressing its disciplinary complicity in the colonial project.

5.2.1 Philology and the Over-Determinacy of the ‘Islamic’

The academic study of Islam in Europe began originally with a focus on the study of Arabic. Scholars in France and Rome in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries pursued the study of Arabic for two main reasons: “the political and commercial intercourse between France and the Ottoman Empire resulting from the capitulations of 1535, and the links between the papacy and oriental Christian sects, especially the Maronites after the foundation of the Maronite College at Rome in 1584.”120 Moreover, Arabic was essential for students of Christianity who regularly participated in theological polemics with Muslims and required Arabic for their broader study of Biblical history.121 Importantly, the study of Arabic (and thereby Islam) in Europe was and remains marked by this Christian confessionalism. As J.W. Fück wrote, “[e]ven after 1800 there are still traces of the religious antithesis which determined the European judgment of Muhammad and his works, and which found its pithiest expression in the slogans concerning Muhammad ‘the false prophet’ or ‘the antichrist’, and Islam as a heresy ‘spread by fire and sword’.”122 Moreover, across the Atlantic Ocean, the founding fathers of the US imported these long-standing European images of Islam as contrary to the “‘true faith’ of Protestant Christianity, and the source of tyrannical governments abroad […] false, foreign, and threatening […] and thus antithetical to American ideas of liberty.”123

Given the centrality of Arabic in the early study of Islam, it is not surprising that philology would assume prominence in the study of Islam. While an overt Christian mission may have waned over the centuries, it is unavoidably the case that the study of Islam, in particular in North America and Europe, emerged from nineteenth century European, and in particular German, philology. Sheldon Pollock recounts competing understandings of philology, “either as close reading (the literary critics) or historical-grammatical and textual criticism (the self-described philologists).”124 He regards philology as the “discipline of making sense of texts. It is not the theory of language—that’s linguistics—or the theory of meaning or truth—that’s philosophy—but the theory of textuality as well as the history of textualized meaning.”125 Suzanne Marchand explains, in her masterful study on nineteenth century German orientalists, how philologist engaged in an “internalist source criticism, perfecting attempts to take texts apart from the inside, and to determine their authenticity, date, and authorship. Combined with ‘external’ testimony […] these findings could be, if one dared, used to recreate lost worlds.”126 The power of philology was attractive for those looking to the Arabic literary tradition for hints about the Bible and the history of Christianity, as it was presumed that these old Arabic texts were windows into the cultural milieu from which they emanated. In other words, embedded in the philological project was (and arguably remains) an avowed historical positivism whose promise was the draw to philology: “the lasting beauty of it was that at least in principle, one listened to the texts themselves, speaking in their own tongues, and even sometimes trusted their testimony over and against that of traditional authorities” such as those assuming canonical status in European academe (e.g. Herodotus).127

While philology has an important role to play in the historical account of language, its standing in the academy has suffered. Latinist and medievalist Jan Ziolkowski recounts the polarizing effect of the term “philology” across various departments. For some, philology is “belittled as being a set of basic tools or data rather than as an approach valid in its own right.”128 Its historical positivist presumptions run contrary to the interpretive turn in the humanities and social sciences, leading some to suggest that philologists are unable or unwilling to “test their own presuppositions and to ask new questions,” and instead produce studies that are little more than “stale and irrelevant”.129 Its adherents insist on its centrality to the humanistic endeavor,130 as a discipline of “refined techniques acquired through centuries of learned enterprise.”131 Beyond such polarities, we might appreciate philology as a “slow reading that aims at establishing and commenting upon documents.”132 At its most aspirational, it “involves restoring to words as much of their original life and nuances as we can imagine.”133 Whether a mere set of techniques or a historical positivism through the study of language and documents, philology offers either a great deal or very little depending on the question being asked.

The primacy of philology, though, remains wedded to the study of Islam, so it seems.134 As Bernard Lewis wrote in 1979, “At this time major progress in Arabic and related scholarship was made in the West, especially in the fields of grammar and lexicography and, toward the end of the century, in the study of Muslim law, theology, and history.”135 Just as Lewis emphasized the centrality of philology to what he called Islamic “classical and scriptural studies”, Charles Adams passingly remarked on the “strong, indeed, almost exclusive, textual and philological orientation of traditional Islamic studies” as he contrasted it with a broadly social scientific approach to the study of religion.136

Take for instance the late Shahab Ahmed’s What is Islam? 137 Dissatisfied with the “prevailing conceptualizations of ‘Islam’ as object and ‘Islam’ as category,”138 Ahmed shifts the spatial register of the ‘Islamic’ (e.g. Balkans-to-Bengal complex) and the temporal register of the ‘Islamic’ (from the formative/classical to the post-formative or thirteenth century).139 But he does so in order to identify, with an echo of historical positivism, when and where the ‘Islamic’ informed a cosmology of the ‘Islamic’ life,140 or more specifically, “the most geographically, demographically and temporally extensive instance of a highly-articulated shared paradigm of life and thought in the history of Muslims.”141 Despite shifting some, but not all registers, Ahmed presumed that “Islam” is an object of analysis, a phenomenon to be identified and defined as if there is an essential core to the ‘Islamic’.142 While Ahmed’s contribution is important, it nonetheless perpetuates a philologically inspired phenomenological approach in its focus on texts and the literary tradition.143

By the twenty-first century, scholars of Islam explained the marginality of Islamic studies by reference to its philological orientation. As Richard C. Martin and Carl W. Ernst recount, “what we today call Islamic studies emerged from Orientalism, the erudite study of texts and ideas that became a highly developed field in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Europe and the United States.”144 Moreover, even in his, at times, irascible critique of the Ernst and Martin volume, Aaron Hughes passingly presumes the philological feature of Islamic studies.145 Without wanting to abandon the study of “foundational texts”, Martin, Ernst, and even Hughes would rather associate the study of Islam with a range of questions that connect it to the broader academy of religious studies.146

The methodological significance of philology in the study of Islam has implications for the rhetorical possibilities of the ‘Islamic’, and the scalar variation of its application. The global business of Islamic finance is premised upon a formal, textualist reading of premodern legal sources, as if Islamic finance is not also a construct doing political work in the service of enterprising capitalists.147 When self-proclaimed security experts such as Frank Gaffney and Sebastian Gorka cast the ‘Islamic’ as a threat, they rarify it by general references to pedigreed texts, which is ironically what many ‘Muslim’ extremists such as Bin Laden and al-Baghdadi of isis have done as well.148 In all these attempts to define the ‘Islamic’, a philological orientation to the study of Islam remains primary.

Importantly, philologists implicitly adopt a disciplinary posture in their studies without fully accounting for its rhetorical implications. In 1963, William Arrowsmith was particularly strident in his derision of philology. He took aim at Wilamowitz-Moellendorff’s critiques against Nietzsche’s philological inexactitude in the latter’s The Birth of Tragedy. A trained philologist, Nietzsche was skeptical about philology’s disciplinary content and contribution. His Birth of Tragedy shocked his colleagues in philology for its departure from the narrow confines (in scalar terms) of philology, opting instead for a philosophical orientation for which he is remembered. Arrowsmith’s retort to philologists is worth reading:

Classicists, of course, have unanimously preferred to believe that Wilamowitz—who caught Nietzsche in several factual errors—had the best of it. But in point of fact none of Wilamowitz’ arguments disproves or even seriously damages Nietzsche’s thesis; for the notion, particularly dear to philologists, that a thesis (or interpretation, translation, etc.) is only as good as its author’s philological expertise—the ad scientatum argument—is clearly a fallacy. For although sorites of rigorous argument and proofs may be relevant to strict philological work […] a thesis like Nietzsche’s—a large, intuitive, esthetic insight addressed finally to esthetic experience—cannot be defeated by showing errors in fact in the argument. And to think that it could be is the kind of crude category-mistake to which philologists, in so far as they are primarily technicians, are professionally susceptible.149

It is not that factual accuracy was unimportant to Arrowsmith. Rather, it was the “apparently boundless” pretentions (or, Rhetoric) of philologists that he found objectionable.150

Islamic studies has witnessed its own version of philological hubris. Perhaps the most recent and well-known account concerns a review of Wael Hallaq’s The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law, written by Mohammad Akram Nadwi in the Journal of Islamic Studies. Nadwi began the review expressly hoping that Hallaq’s book would not be influential given its “gross failings”, which for Nadwi amounted to “not checking simple facts”; “not checking original sources”; and “a quite incredible indifference to the meaning of Arabic terms”.151 As if channelling Wilamowitz-Moellendorff on The Birth of Tragedy, Nadwi remarked that such errors “are symptomatic of indifference to accuracy and fair-minded commentary.”152 In a fiery and indignant response, Hallaq retorted that Nadwi “combed the book” to find “miniscule technicalities” without actually engaging the interpretive framework of the book.153 Moreover, in a review of six pages, “[t]here is absolutely no review of five out of the eight chapters making up the book.154 The language used by Nadwi and Hallaq against each other maps onto the debate within the humanities more broadly about the hegemonic potential of philology in the determination, if not construction, of the ‘Islamic’ as an object of analysis.155

5.2.2 Anthropology of Islam and the Liberal-cum-Protestant Representativeness of the ‘Muslim’

If philology is a methodological proxy for a formalist, historically positivist approach to Islam, ethnography can serve as a methodological proxy for an informal approach to Islam. For ethnographers of Muslims, the historical positivism of philology is displaced given the methodologically radical redistribution of the ‘Islamic’ in the subjectivities of ethnographized Muslims. Ethnography allows one to infer an (if not the) ‘Islamic’ from the ordinary, day-to-day experiences of Muslims, thereby collapsing the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ while pluralizing their range of signifying possibilities.

The radicalness of ethnography lies not only in decentering the text, but also in rendering the positivist questions of authenticity and authority irrelevant. Another way to say this is that the ethnographic approach reallocates the authoritatively and authentically ‘Islamic’ in radical democratic terms by presuming it already in the lived experience of a Muslim qua Muslim. We can see this radical democracy in the way anthropologists have defined the purpose of their craft. Bronislaw Malinowski famously described the goal of an ethnographer: “to grasp the native’s point of view, his relation to life, to realise his vision of his world.”156 Pregnant in this statement is regard for the native as both liberal individual subject, and representative of communally shared meaning. Clifford Geertz held that through fieldwork ethnographers can understand who their subjects “think they are, what they think they are doing, and to what end they think they are doing it.”157 Take for example the work of political scientist Katherine J. Cramer, whose 2016 study of rural Wisconsin presented an ethnographic account of rural voters’ understandings of politics. In contrast to quantitative political scientists, Cramer had a more qualitative orientation: “my main motivation was not to get at how well people make sense of politics, but to get at how they do so.”158 Rather than judging her subjects using theorized standards of analysis that stand outside them, she scrutinized their own words and identified a specifically “rural consciousness” about the world. Specifically, she showed how that rural consciousness helped “to organize and integrate thoughts about the distribution of resources, decision-making authority, and values into a coherent narrative that people use” when they vote on election day.159 Taking their subjects as they find them, ethnographers do not test how well their subjects know what they claim to know. Rather, an ethnographer tries to understand the thought world they inhabit “in order to grasp what they experience as meaningful and important.”160

In the study of Islam, ethnographers influenced by the work of Talal Asad study Muslims in order to identify the moral frameworks that inform how they understand themselves and their world. Critical of then-existing approaches to the anthropology of Islam, Asad wrote in 1986 that “Islam as the object of anthropological understanding should be approached as a discursive tradition that connects variously with the formation of moral selves, the manipulation of populations (or resistance to it), and the production of appropriate knowledges.”161 Casting Islam as a “tradition”, Asad countenances a discourse among adherents regarding the “correct form and purpose of a given practice that, precisely because it is established, has a history.”162 Examining such practices in real time allows Asad to incorporate, if not collapse, the past and future in the observable present of participant-observation. As he remarks,

[t]hese discourses relate conceptually to a past (when the practice was instituted, and from which the knowledge of its point and proper performance has been transmitted) and a future (how the point of that practice can best be secured in the short or long term, or why it should be modified or abandoned), through a present (how it is linked to other practices, institutions, and social conditions). An Islamic discursive tradition is simply a tradition of Muslim discourse that addresses itself to a conception of the Islamic past and future, with reference to a particular Islamic practice in the present.163

Drawing upon the past by reference to a future mediated by the present does not necessarily ignore the literary tradition, but rather mediates textual authority by reference to those who adhere to that tradition in the present. Rather than abiding by notions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, which already imply the operation of (elite) power in the construction of knowledge, an anthropology of Islam begins with the “instituted practices […] into which Muslims are inducted as Muslims.”164

The use of the passive tense in that last sentence (are inducted) signals a rhetorical shift from the centrality of the textual to a radical redistribution of the ‘Islamic’ in the ‘Muslim’. If philology rhetorically privileges the text (with its almost aristocratic elitism) in informing the ‘Islamic’, ethnographies have the potential to relocate the ‘Islamic’ in the ordinary, everyday practices of Muslims as they participate in an otherwise mundane world. This is not meant to invoke the debate within the anthropology of Islam on ‘everyday Islam’. That debate has had its time already, raising the question of what comes next.165 Through the selection of a research topic and fieldwork site, and the identification of ethnographic interlocutors, anthropologists of Islam examine a ‘discursive tradition’ whose content is dependent on individual Muslims in community (or at least in conversation) with other Muslims.166

Take for example Charles Hirschkind’s masterful study of cassette tape-listening Muslims in Cairo. He describes them as average “men and women who hold regular jobs, study at the university, send their kids to public schools, and worry about the future of their communities.”167 Hirschkind’s field sites of taxi cabs and shisha parlours, for example, allow him to feature the ‘ordinary’ Muslim subject, and capture a sense of the “common and valued” through the seemingly routine practice of listening to cassette tape sermons.168 Through an examination of this practice of listening, Hirschkind posits the existence of an ‘Islamic’ counterpublic where the “activities of ordinary citizens […] through the exercise of their agency in a context of public interaction, shape the conditions of their collective existence.”169 This imagined counterpublic is where Hirschkind locates the ‘Islamic’ by focusing on Muslim subjects who actively interact, debate, and participate. In contrast, while the Egyptian state always exists in the backdrop, it passively frames Hirschkind’s ‘Islamic’ counterpublics.

In another exceptional anthropology of Islamic practices in Egypt, Amira Mittermaier writes about the long-standing practices of dream interpretation by a group of shaykhs and their students. Complicating the image of a “monolithic Islam”,170 Mittermaier recounts the work, practices, and narratives of dream interpreters.171 As she remarks, dream interpretation and its related practices, “are dismissed by many reformist thinkers, but they are in continuous if ambivalent dialogue with reformism and constitute a vibrant aspect of the Islamic Revival.”172 Offering an account of an “anthropology of the imagination”, she examine dreams to explore how Egyptian Muslims “tell, understand, interpret, and live their dreams” and thereby map the “landscapes of a particular imagination.”173 Dreams are of course unobservable. But the interpretive “preludes and aftermaths” of dreams—their retelling, their interpretation, and their implications on creating a moral framework of being in the world—constitute her ethnographic material: “As the dreams that I describe are not contained within the night but affect and are affected by wakeful states, my fieldwork was never just about dreams but always also about everyday life.”174

Ethnographies of Muslims certainly offer a counterweight to philology’s historical positivism in the study of Islam. But in doing so, they posit the Muslim in representative-liberal-cum-Protestant terms, at the expense of ignoring the equally mundane regulatory reach of the state. For instance, while both Mittermaier and Hirschkind do their fieldwork in Egypt, Egypt-as-state serves as little more than rhetorical foil. For Mittermaier, Egypt represents the “undreamy”, and even exceptional, state of affairs in which she studies practices of dream interpretation—emergency laws, economic underdevelopment, unemployment. Egypt is the “secular imagined community of the nation-state”175 that allows Mittermaier to put into stark relief the distinctively ‘Islamic’ imaginings of a dreamscape. As a post-colonial modernizing project of state administration, national education policy, and military development, Egypt rhetorically serve as a foil for the dreamscapes that challenge Enlightenment-based ontologies of politics, rationality, subjectivity, and epistemology.176 In short, Egypt is little more than an ironic narrative device that rhetorically serves as a foil for Mittermaier to problematize the “line between a supposedly rational West and a supposedly irrational or viscerally driven Muslim world.”177

If we were to apply the register of scale to reflect on the work “Egypt” does in Hirschkind’s and Mittermaier’s studies, we can better appreciate the rhetorical work of these studies’ deployment of the ‘Islamic’. To start, Mittermaier introduces her reader to various shaykhs who are authorities in dream interpretation. Intriguingly, her shaykhs interact with various aspects of the Egyptian state, none of which can be reduced to the state simpliciter. Those aspects reveal distinct, but important, scalar variations that pose curious questions that remain unanswered across the study. We meet Shaykh Nabil, the guardian of Ibn Sirin’s shrine. Described as “Shaykh”, he had been the “guardian” of the shrine for over 30 years at the time of Mittermaier’s fieldwork.178 His claim of a genealogical link to the eighth century dream interpreter, Ibn Sirin, allowed him to collapse his own identity with the entombed historical figure. Indeed, his claim was compelling enough for an Egyptian magazine, we learn, to refer to Shaykh Nabil as “the little Ibn Sirin”.179 We can certainly see in the representation of Shaykh Nabil the operation of the registers of Time and Rhetoric in the construction of ‘Islamic’ authority. However, there is one issue that remains unclear. As guardian, Shaykh Nabil exercises not merely an ‘Islamic’ authority over the dreamscape of Egypt, but also a certain regulatory power over the built environment of Egypt’s municipal landscape. We have no idea what it means to be a “guardian” except that it is not the same as being one of the “imams of government-run mosques”.180 But it is precisely Shaykh Nabil’s status as guardian, which Mittermaier defines in opposition to the ambiguous government that employs imams, that propels him to become an ethnographized interlocuter, thus making him anything but ordinary. A scalar orientation would demand that we better understand what it means to be a guardian (appointment, term of office, and so on), given the governance implicit in the maintenance and preservation of the municipal site for the ‘Islamic’ project of dream interpretation. Another example of where scalar orientation would be helpful concerns the case of Shaykh Hanafi, who was a famous dream interpreter on a popular television show. Mittermaier describes him as having a Sufi background; but he also “takes pride in his affiliation with al-Azhar, the official institutional voice of Sunni Islam.”181 Describing al-Azhar as both “official” and an asset to a dream interpreter’s credentials, in contrast to Shaykh Nabil as guardian but not imam, is noteworthy because the construction of both shaykhs’ ‘Islamic’ authority is in each instance defined in relation (positively and negatively) to the ambiguously described state of Egypt.

For Hirschkind, Egypt serves a range of functions, all of which are meant to give greater definition to the counterpublics he identifies by reference to consumers of cassette tape sermons. Egypt on his account is:

  1. A secular, liberal legal and administrative governing regime, which serves as a foil for the Islamic welfare organizations that do what the state is either incompetent or incapable of doing;182
  2. A formal site of policy and electoral politics, which serves as a foil for the Arendtian politics of “ordinary citizens”;183
  3. An ongoing project of modernization that has incorporated religious institutions, specifically mosque preachers, into the bureaucratic structure of the state, and thereby serves as a foil for the “counterpublics” of cassette tape sermon consumers.184

The official mosque preacher presents a useful example to illustrate the rhetoric of the ‘Islamic’ in ethnography. Hirschkind outlines how the state bureaucratically manages official preachers in mosques around the country. Preachers in mosques (e.g. khatib, khutabaʾ) are “state appointed orators” whose knowledge and authority come from “their status as representatives of the state. Their words now became official, the address of a sovereign state to its subjects.”185 Later, Hirschkind casually remarks that “there is now a widespread opinion in Egypt that the khutaba’ under the ministry umbrella are little more than bureaucratic functionaries (muwazzafun) of the state, professionals without any personal commitment to the Islamic institutions they represent. Indeed, most khatib positions at government mosques today are filled by graduates from al-Azhar University who fail to obtain more lucrative assignments as teachers in the public school system.”186

Hirschkind’s move from “widespread opinion” to an empirical claim about al-Azhar graduates raises a curious question, when read alongside Mittermaier. If an al-Azhar affiliation is suspect in the case of an official mosque preacher, how can it also be a matter of pride for Mittermaier’s Shaykh Hanafi, and presumably not suspect for those who hear him speak? A scalar orientation to governance might allow us to appreciate the complex symbolic role al-Azhar plays between these two studies in the government-regulated public performance of prayer, on the one hand, and the construction of a dream interpreter in the informal communities of dream interpretation, on the other. In both cases, though, projects of governance (whether of al-Azhar or guardians of shrines) inform the deployment of the ‘Islamic’ in these two impressive scholarly studies. For Hirschkind, the ‘Islamic’ is vested in his counterpublics of cassette tape listeners, whereas for Mittermaier, the ‘Islamic’ is in the community of dreamers and dream interpreters. Rhetoric, as a link between the ‘Islamic’ and projects of governance, cuts across these studies in the case of al-Azhar. Al-Azhar operates as an institutional constant while at the same time serving up symbolic meaning that vacillates by virtue of its rhetorical effect in coordinating constructions of the ‘Islamic’ with projects of state governance.

6 Conclusion

In the various examples across this Fieldnote, the ‘Islamic’ has informed governance projects ranging from the military engagement of the Crusades to the formulation of short titles to federal statutes. From the mundane to the extraordinary, we can identify a range of state practices whose justifications rest on an explicit or implicit construction of the ‘Islamic’ across the four registers of time, space, scale, and rhetoric. This Fieldnote has attempted to examine the range of constructions by linking different approaches to the study of Islam to the governance projects they make possible.

The convergence of a wide range of state governance projects (both in the ‘West’ and the so-called ‘Muslim world’) and constructions of the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ demands that scholars of Islam and Muslims increasingly interrogate competing constructions of both terms in relation to projects of state, or more broadly governing regimes. What is represented as ‘Islam’ or a ‘Muslim’ is all too often selected in relation to a range of governance projects that take shape across time and space, and operate along a range of scales. Rather than construing ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ as passive objects of knowledge, this Fieldnote recasts the ‘Islamic’ and the ‘Muslim’ adjectivally to emphasize their variability in meaning as they are also deployed, whether in the West or the Muslim-majority world. This grammatical preference for the adjectival sense of the ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ emphasizes how both are, in Stuart Hall’s words, “sliding signifiers.”187 As sliding signifiers, these terms are replete with epistemic assumptions that have material consequences, each of which informs the other. Both ‘Islamic’ and ‘Muslim’ operate as terms of art whose meaning slides in relation to the time, space, scale and rhetoric of the specific project for which they are deployed.

It may be that some will read this essay and think that it is simply stating what others have done already, whether from a post-colonial perspective or a critical race theory angle. But I am not convinced. Specialization in the academy in fields like history and anthropology often involves defining relevant time frames, with increasing emphasis on the modern, due in part to various incentives around employment and skills-transfer. But the import of the Time register suggests that the challenge of examining the ‘Islamic’ as deployed in the present is its genealogy to either the European encounter with Islam, the Islamic expansion across the Arabian peninsula, North Africa and beyond, and quite often both. Area studies adherents will find the argument herein as simply a reiteration of post-colonial critiques of Europe. But the register of Space suggests that any analysis of the ‘Islamic’ as deployed demands examining the North Atlantic and the Muslim-majority world together in a shared analysis. Importantly, as the emphasis on both rhetoric and scale suggests, the novelty of this analysis requires that we look past the idealized images of the ‘state’ and ‘Islam’ to appreciate how projects of governance take shape through deployments of the ‘Islamic’.

A large number of examples in this Fieldnote were drawn from the North American context. This regional focus was not meant to suggest North America is somehow exemplary or illustrative of the whole. Rather, the examples are spatially specific illustrations of how the distinct registers allow robust analyses of the ‘Islamic’ as deployed. Moreover, by examining a narrow range of disciplinarily approaches, namely philology and anthropology, this Fieldnote hopes to broaden the scope of inquiry students of Islam can bring, in large part by a more overt engagement with the four registers of analysis. The North American examples are not intended to foreclose alternative accounts of how the ‘Islamic’ gets deployed elsewhere. It is hoped this Fieldnote will prompt others to reflect on the study of Islam in other regions of the world to account for different deployments of the ‘Islamic’ across the four registers examined herein. There are no quick and easy ways to overcome the limits in how the ‘Islamic’ is both construed and deployed. The analysis given here is preliminary and intended as a provocation for future research.

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1

This article is the result of extended discussions with colleagues and friends as we expressed shared concerns about the state of the art in the study of Islam and Muslims. Those concerns started for me when I spent a year as a member of the School of Social Sciences at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, reading across disciplines in conversation with exceptional scholars, particularly the intellectually generous and daringly innovative Joan Scott and Didier Fassin. My more extended work began at a writing retreat outside Toronto, Ontario in conversation with Nadia Marzouki (Sciences Po) and Noah Salomon (Carlton College). For nearly two years, they were my regular interlocutors, and read multiple drafts of this essay. To them I owe a debt of immense gratitude. For years, I have been in extended conversation with my long-time mentor and friend Denise Spellberg (University of Texas), who models breadth, depth, and innovative creativity in the pursuit of knowledge. She read early versions of this Fieldnote, and generously offered insights to improve it. The Social Science Research Council hosted a workshop on May 4–5, 2017 around the core themes that now feature in this essay. I am grateful to all those who contributed to the discussion: Mona El-Ghobashy, Mayanthi Fernando, Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Iza Hussin, Brannon Ingram, Darryl Li, Nadia Marzouki, Noah Salomon, and Denise Spellberg. Lastly, I presented the core themes and registers in this Fieldnote as the Clark-Horowitz Lecturer in Religion at Pomona College from February 19–23, 2018. I am grateful for the collegial support and engagement from Heather Ferguson and Ahmed Alwishah, and am especially thankful for the hospitality, engagement and discussions with Zayn Kassam and Jamel Velji. I want to thank Janine Clark, editor in chief of Middle East Law and Governance for her close reading of the Fieldnote and her enthusiasm to publish it in the pages of melg. Many thanks as well to the anonymous reviewers for their feedback and encouragement. Lastly, I want to acknowledge my dear friends and colleagues Rumee Ahmed and Ayesha Chaudhry of the University of British Columbia. As close companions in both life and the study of Islam in the academy, they bless me with their generous spirit each time they critically read my work. Needless to say, none of the above are responsible for any errors in this Fieldnote.

2

surf Survivor’s Fund, “Statistics,” http://survivors-fund.org.uk/resources/rwandan-history/statistics/.

3

“Gujarat Riot Death Toll Revealed, bbc, May 11, 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4536199.stm.

4

Gilbert Burnham, Riyadh Lafta, Shannon Doocy, and Les Roberts, “Mortality after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq: A Cross-Sectional Cluster Sample Survey,” The Lancet 368 No. 9545 (2006): 1421–8.

5

Francis Fukayama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992).

6

Francis Fukayama, Has History Restarted Since September 11? (St Leonard, nsw: Centre for Independent Studies, 2002).

7

Kim Lane Scheppele, “Autocratic Legalism,” The University of Chicago Law Review 85, No. 2 (2018): 545–84.

8

Shelly Warwick, “Will the Academy Survive 9/11? Scholarship, Security, and United States Government Policy,” Government Information Quarterly 22 (2005): 573–93.

9

Warwick, “Will the Academy Survive 9/11?” 585–6.

10

International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003, HR 3077, 108 Cong. (2003), s. 2(a) (emphasis added). For brief reflections on this bill as it relates to Middle East Studies, see Seteney Shami and Maricial Godoy-Anativia, “Pensée 2: Between the Hammer and the Anvil: Middle East Studies in the Aftermath of 9/11,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 39 (2007): 346–9.

11

Henry A. Giroux, “The Politics of Higher Education and the Militarized Academy after 9/11,” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 29 (2009): 104–26; and Henry A. Giroux, “Militarization of US Higher Education after 9/11,” Theory, Culture and Society 25, No. 5 (2008): 56–82.

12

Eric Foner, “Rethinking American History in a Post 9/11 World,” Liberal Education (Spring 2003): 30–7.

13

See Kent Roach, The 9/11 Effect: Comparative Counter-Terrorism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

14

See, the Ministry of Public Safety (Canada) website highlighting psychology as part of a broad research endeavor on countering violent extremism (cve), http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/cntr-trrrsm/cntrng-vlnt-xtrmsm/cntrng-rsrch-eng.aspx.

15

Cemil Aydin, The Idea of the Muslim World: A Global Intellectual History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017).

16

Teemu Ruskola, Legal Orientalism: China, the United States and Modern Law (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013).

17

Stuart Hall, The Fateful Triangle: Race, Ethnicity, and Nation, ed. Kobena Mercer (Cambridge: MA; Harvard University Press, 2017).

18

Roach, The 9/11 Effect.

19

Kathleen Cavanaugh and Edel Hughes, “Rethinking What Is Necessary in a Democratic Society: Militant Democracy and the Turkish State,” Human Rights Quarterly 38, No. 3 (2016): 623–54, reflecting on the European Court of Human Rights decision in Refah Partisi v Turkey

20

Jürgen Habermas, “Notes on Post-Secular Society,” New Perspectives Quarterly 25, No. 4 (2008): 17–29; and Talal Asad et al, Is Critique Secular? Is Critique Secular? Blasphemy, Injury, and Free Speech, 2nd ed (New York: Fordham University Press, 2013).

21

For some, 1989 not only denoted the end of Communism, but also the impending “clash of civilizations”. Francis Fukayama first wrote in 1989, the end of Communism portended the “end of history” with the “victory of economic and political liberalism.” Francis Fukuyama, “The End of History?” The National Interest 16 (Summer 1989): 3–18, 3. Samuel Huntington, first writing in 1993, argued instead that new enemy to the “West” would be an “Islamic” civilization. Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs No. 3 (Summer 1993): 22–49.

22

Naomi Davidson, Only Muslim: Embodying Islam in Twentieth-Century France (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2012).

23

William J. Novak, The People’s Welfare: Law and Regulation in Nineteenth-Century America, Studies in Legal History (Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 2000).

24

See, generally, P.S. Atiyah, The Rise and Fall of Freedom of Contract (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985); and Novak, The People’s Weflare.

25

On the incoherence of the state, see James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).

26

William Novak’s significant study on nineteenth century legislation in the US illuminates how the state and federal governments utilized social welfare legislation to protect consumers and laborers in an otherwise booming industrial revolution that, under Common Law notions of freedom of contract, often operated to the detriment of the underclass and underprivileged. The People’s Welfare.

27

Davidson, Only Muslim.

28

Sherene Razack, Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims From Western Law and Politics (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008).

29

To focus on the state seems both appealing and even obvious. But such a focus, as Judith Butler warns, is a complex matter. Judith Butler, Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (New York: Verso, 2006), 56. That the state is a site of power is obvious. Max Weber’s description of the state as having the monopoly on legal coercion is both right and partial, as even he admitted, since the exercise of coercive power need not only be in formal, violent terms. Max Weber, Economy and Society, eds. Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich, 2 vols (1968, reprint, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 1:314, 316. In other words, as much as the state and power go hand in hand, the concept of “power” both under- and over-determines the state, often in top-down formalistic fashion and by reference to elites. The state is the subject of competing demands for regulation and deregulation, protection of property and welfare redistribution, security and freedom. Anne-Marie Slaughter, A New World Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005); and Wendy Brown, Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (New York: Zone Books, 2010). To view the state in terms of (merely) power too often mythologizes it as unitary and centralized, when it may actually be more disaggregated than unified. Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule, “Interpretation and Institutions,” Michican Law Review 101, No. 4 (2003): 885–951; and Adrian Vermeule, Judging Under Uncertainty (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).

30

This contribution from the standpoint of the ‘Islamic’ recognizes that there is already a vast literature on approaches to the state. The modern state has a history of its own, with some locating it (and its secular project) in the Treaty of Westphalia, and others situating it (and its expansion into vast regulatory agencies) as a nineteenth century response to the socio-economic effects of the Industrial Revolution. Novak, The People’s Welfare; and Atiyah, The Rise and Fall of Freedom of Contract. For some, the state is an autonomous entity, with the resulting debate focusing on how to locate that autonomy in relation to a range of external factors (e.g. market forces, political parties, social movements). For Max Weber, the state operates through bureaucracies that play a leveling function in mass democracies, despite also shielding their activities from the eyes of a voting democratic citizenry. Weber, Economy and Society, 2:983, 985. For a critique of the state as hidden from democratic observation, see Suzanne Mettler, The Submerged State: How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011). Others have developed Weber’s focus on bureaucracy to “bring the state back in” in response to social scientists who have adopted approaches that often looked past the state to class, market forces, and special interests. Peter B. Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol, eds., Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985). Refusing to look past the state, scholars such as Theda Skocpol have examined state policies in terms of a “structured polity”, which “views the polity as the primary locus of action, yet understands political activities, whether carried on by politicians or by social groups, as conditioned by the institutional configurations of governments and political party systems.” Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 41 (emphasis added). Samuel DeCanio, concerned about the democratic implications of the regulatory state, argues that the shielding effect of bureaucracies (e.g. the Interstate Commerce Commission), combined with voter ignorance, can contribute to the autonomy of the state at the cost of democratic transparency and responsiveness. Samuel DeCanio, Democracy and the Origins of the American Regulatory State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015). Suzanne Mettler, in a more Weberian approach to democracy, suggests that the threat to American democracy lies in the degree to which the state function operates out of the sight of most voters, in what she calls the “submerged state”, e.g., in the interstices of committees, commissions, administrative policies, and the technicalities of legal ordering. Mettler, The Submerged State.

31

Asli Çirakman, From the ‘Terror of the World’ to the ‘Sick Man of Europe’: European Images of Ottoman Empire and Society from the Sixteenth Century to the Nineteenth (New York: Peter Lang Publishers, 2002).

32

Davidson, Only Muslim.

33

Razack, Casting Out.

34

Ernst Freund, The Police Power: Public Policy and Constitutional Rights (Chicago: Callaghan and Co., 1904), 2.

35

Freund, The Police Power, 2.

36

Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, ed. Michel Senellart, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave, 2008), 6.

37

Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, ed. Michel Senellart, trans. Graham Burchell (New York: Palgrave, 2007), 260.

38

Foucault, Biopolitics, 7.

39

Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, 314.

40

Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, 277.

41

Foucault, Security, Territory, Population, 322.

42

Foucault, Biopolitics, 7–13.

43

Marc Raeff, The Well-Ordered Police State: Social and Institutional Change through Law in the Germanies and Russia, 1600–1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983).

44

Gerhard Oestreich, Neostoicism and the Early Modern Etate, eds. Brigitta Oestreich and H.G. Koenigsberger, trans. David McLintock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 156–7.

45

Raeff, Well-Ordered Police State, 19.

46

Raeff, Well-Ordered Police State, 44.

47

Oestreich, Neostoicism and the Early Modern State, 156.

48

Didier Fassin et al., eds., At the Heart of the State: The Moral World of Institutions (London: Pluto Press, 2015), 1–11, 255–61.

49

Anne Norton, On the Muslim Question (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013). Farid Hafez compares late nineteenth century Austrian anti-Semitism with contemporary Austrian Islamophobia. Farid Hafez, “From ‘Jewification’ to ‘Islamization’: Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Austrian Politics Then and Now,” ReOrient 4, No. 2 (2019): 197–220. Ivan Kalmar recognizes how contemporary Islamophobia departs from classical Orientalism precisely because, in part, the trope of the Semitic Jew is missing in contemporary Islamphobia. Ivan Kalmar, “The Jew and the Odalisque: Two Tropes Lost on the Way from Classic Orientalism to Islamophobia,” ReOrient 4, No. 2 (2019): 181–96.

50

Karl Marx, “On the Jewish Question," 1844. Heinrich Fichtenau explains how the presence of Jews in tenth-century Europe posed challenges to the priestly class, for whom the Jews “provided a sort of transitional zone to heresy.” Heinrich Fichtenau, Living in the Tenth Century: Mentalities and Social Orders, trans. Patrick J. Geary (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 401. In medieval Europe, before the Westphalian secular project of the state, truth was “that which leads to God”; since the Jew symbolized falsehood in knowledge, by implication the Jew posed a threat to the social order. Fichtenau, Living in the Tenth Century, 404. By the time of Marx, though, the Jew was not merely a non-Christian with false beliefs. Where Christianity and the state were fused, the Jew represented both opportunity by virtue of the stereotype of the Jewish entrepreneur, and danger where Judaism was none other than the “mortal enemy of the state religion.” Even that foundational testament to the rule of law, the heralded Magna Carta, could not help but cast the Jew in the role of vulnerable financier. See, Anver M. Emon, “Sharia and the Rule of Law: Preserving the Realm,” in Magna Carta, Religion, and the Rule of Law, eds. Robin Griffith-Jones and Mark Hill, 196–214 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

51

Çirakman, From the ‘Terror of the World’ to the ‘Sick Man of Europe’, 1.

52

Denise A. Spellberg, Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an: Islam and the Founders (New York: Knopf, 2013), 164.

53

Spellberg, Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an, 164.

54

See the discussion in Anver M. Emon, Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law: Dhimmis and Others in the Empire of Law, Oxford Islamic Legal Studies Series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

55

Benjamin Z. Kedar, Crusade and Mission: European Approaches Toward the Muslims (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 9.

56

Kedar, Crusade and Mission, 9.

57

Kedar, Crusade and Mission, 11.

58

None of this precludes, of course, the drive among some Christian missionaries to seek martyrdom. This is perhaps what gives such rhetorical force to the story of the Martyrs of Cordoba.

59

Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (1966, reprint, London: Routledge, 2002).

60

Freund, The Police Power; Foucault, Security, Territory, Population; Markus Dirk Dubber, The Police Power: Patriarchy and the Foundations of American Government (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005); Markus Dubber and Mariana Valverde, eds., The New Police Science: The Police Power in Domestic and International Governance (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2006); and Bernard E. Harcourt, The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).

61

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996, reprint, New York: Simon and Schuster, 2011).

62

Teemu Ruskola’s neologism “legal Orientalism”, as applied in his case to the US construction of law in China (or rather the absence of law in China), is particularly instructive here in identifying the political work done in construing an Other’s law. Ruskola, Legal Orientalism.

63

Most notably the work of Edward Said and those who have been influenced by his critique of Orientalist scholarship on Islam.

64

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, SC 2015 c. 29, s. 2.

65

Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, SC 2015 c. 29, s. 4.

66

On the liberal recasting of ethnicity and culture as subject to choice, see Michael Omi and Howard Winant, Racial Formation in the United States, 3rd ed. (London: Routledge, 2014), the chapter on ethnicity.

67

Anver M. Emon, “Banning Sharia,” The Immanent Frame (2011), http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2011/09/06/banning-shari%e2%80%98a/.

69

Legislature of the State of Oklahoma, Legislative Referendum No. 355, Received May 25, 2010, https://www.sos.ok.gov/documents/questions/755.pdf.

70

Executive Order (EO) 13769 of January 27, 2017; 82 FR 8977, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/02/01/2017–02281/protecting-the-nation-from-foreign-terrorist-entry-into-the-united-states.

71

State of Washington v. Trump, No. 2:17-cv-00141 (9th Circuit, 2017), 13.

72

State of Washington v. Trump, No. 2:17-cv-00141 (9th Circuit, 2017), 18.

73

State of Washington v. Trump, No. 2:17-cv-00141 (9th Circuit, 2017), 28–9.

74

Foucault, Birth of Biopolitics, 13.

75

William Boykin, Harry Soyster, et al., Shariah: The Threat to America: An Exercise in Competitive Analysis (Washington D.C.: Center for Security Policy, 2010), 6.

76

The academy has produced a wide range of gendered analyses of Islam. A small illustrative sample includes Kecia Ali, Sexual Ethics and Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur’an, Hadith and Jurisprudence, 2nd ed (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2016); Ayesha S. Chaudhry, Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition, Oxford Islamic Legal Studies Series (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); and Ziba Mir-Hosseini, Islam and Gender: The Religious Debate in Contemporary Iran (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999).

77

On the dhimmi rules, see Emon, Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law.

78

Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979).

79

On the divergence between al-Qa’ida and isis on the issue of accumulating territory in service of the caliphate, see Joby Warrick, Black Flags: The Rise of isis (New York: Doubleday, 2015); and William McCants, The isis Apocalypse: The History, Strategy and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State (New York: St Martin’s Press, 2015).

80

Bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa “Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders) can be found online: https://fas.org/irp/world/para/docs/980223-fatwa.htm (accessed October 26, 2019).

81

On the state as an instrument of welfare, see Novak, The People’s Welfare.

82

On the history of isis, see Warrick, Black Flags.

83

Beth Baron, The Orphan Scandal: Christian Missionaries and the Rise of the Muslim Brotherhood (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014); and Heather J. Sharkey, American Evangelicals in Egypt: Missionary Encounters in an Age of Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

84

Madawi al-Rasheed, A History of Saudi Arabia, 2nd ed. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

85

Frank E. Vogel, Islamic Law and Legal System: Studies of Saudi Arabia (Leiden: Brill, 2000).

87

Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority Website: http://www.sama.gov.sa/en-US/Insurance/Pages/AboutISD.aspx.

88

Saudi Arabia’s Law on Supervision of Cooperative Insurance Companies, Law No. 32 of 1424 AH), Article 1.

89

Saudi Arabia’s Law on Supervision of Cooperative Insurance Companies, Law No. 32 of 1424 AH), Article 2(2).

90

Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, “Implementing Regulations of the Cooperative Insurance Companies Control Law,” Article 2. For online text: http://www.sama.gov.sa/en-US/Laws/Pages/InsuranceRulesAndRegulation.aspx?View=%7B6f7f6ba7-7d8b-47a1-b118-df601b1481e1%7D&SortField=SAMAFilePublishDate&SortDir=Asc.

91

Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology (Etidal). “About Etidal.” https://etidal.org/en/about-etidal/.

92

Danielle S. Allen, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 141.

93

Aristotle, The Rhetoric, Book 1, Ch. 1. For a useful introduction to Aristotle’s The Rhetoric, see, Christoff Rapp, “Aristotle’s Rhetoric,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed Edward N. Zalta, Spring 2010, https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2010/entries/aristotle-rhetoric/.

94

Marianne Constable, Our Word is Our Bond: How Legal Speech Acts (Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2014), 11.

95

Timothy Mitchell, “Society, Economy, and the State Effect,” in State/Culture: State-­Formation after the Cultural Turn, ed. George Steinmetz (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999), 86.

96

Mitchell, “Society, Economy and the State Effect,” 86.

97

Mitchell, “Society, Economy and the State Effect,” 87.

98

Begoña Aretxaga, “Maddening States,” Annual Review of Anthropology 32 (2003): 393–410, 95.

99

Aretxaga, “Maddening States,” 395.

100

Philip S. Gorski, The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 165.

101

Gorski, The Disciplinary Revolution, 166.

102

Aretxaga, “Maddening States,” 395.

103

Mitchell, “Society, Economy, and the State Effect,” 77.

104

Katherine J. Cramer, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016).

105

Noah Salomon, For Love of the Prophet: An Ethnography of Sudan’s Islamic State (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 3.

106

Joel S. Migdal, State in Society: Studying How States and Societies Transform and Constitute One Another (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 16.

107

William J. Burns, Michèle Flournoy, and Nancy Lindborg, “U.S. Leadership and the Challenge of ‘State Fragility’,” United States Institute of Peace, September 12, 2016, http://www.usip.org/fragilityreport.

108

American Academy of Arts and Sciences: https://www.amacad.org/contentu.aspx?d=140.

109

American Academy of Arts and Sciences, “Civil Wars, Violence, and International Responses,” https://www.amacad.org/content/Research/researchproject.aspx?d=22262.

110

In a leading anthology on state fragility, Robert I. Rotberg precludes the developed world from scrutiny at the outset: “This book explores the nature of failure and collapse among developing world nation-states”. Robert I. Rotberg, ed., When States Fail: Causes and Consequences (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 1. In contrast, Charles T. Call expresses doubt about the meaningfulness of such terms of art. He argues that terms like failed and fragile operate principally to center the security considerations of the developed world. Moreover, such terms lump together states that are not meaningfully comparable except by reference to standards that universalize the particularities of the developed world’s understanding of successful state operation. Charles T. Call, “The Fallacy of the ‘Failed State’,” Third World Quarterly 29, No. 8 (2008): 1491–507. This is not to suggest that states in the developing world are not somehow weak, fragile, or collapsed, however measured. See Mehran Kamrava, ed., Fragile Politics: Weak States in the Greater Middle East (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), which examines post-Arab Spring Middle Eastern states using (while problematizing) the vocabulary and varying indices of state failure and fragility. Rather, this is simply to suggest that the binary that implicitly operates to narrow the scope of inquiry precludes a more robust inquiry into the purpose, function, and operation of the state, or as Foucault might call it, the art of governing.

111

Noam Chomsky, Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2006), 2.

112

Anver M. Emon, “The Paranoid Politics of Islamophobia,” The Hill Times, October 23, 2017.

113

In this same critical vein, see Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, A Theory of isis: Political Violence and the Transformation of the Global Order (London: Pluto Press, 2018), who relies on the registers of both space and time to locate isis as a product of varying contextual forces in operation over decades.

114

Richard Spencer, “Militant Islamist Group in Syria Orders Christians to Pay Protection Tax,” The Telegraph, February 27, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10666257/Militant-Islamist-group-in-Syria-orders-Christians-to-pay-protection-tax.html. On the historic rules regarding the dhimmis, see Emon, Religious Pluralism and Islamic Law.

115

A different version of this argument asserts that Muslim scholars around the world have condemned isis. For one such letter, see “Open Letter to Al-Baghdadi,” http://www.lettertobaghdadi.com/. These authorities on Islam presumably embody a professional training (and thereby an intellectual elitism), which makes their voices count far more than ordinary Muslims and isis leaders, let alone untrained media pundits. Their voices, so the argument goes, carry considerable weight in defining what is and is not Islamic. See Daniel Haqiqatjou, “What is ‘Islamic’? A Muslim Response to isis and the Atlantic,” MuslimMatters, February 23, 2015, https://muslimmatters.org/2015/02/23/what-is-islamic-a-muslim-response-to-isis-and-the-atlantic/.This argument is more akin to a representative liberal-cum-high church approach that invokes the voice of certain Muslims who presume representative authority by virtue of their scholarly credentials, though without occupying a formal institutional office, such as the Catholic Church or Lambeth Palace.

116

This is not to deny the critique of liberalism in the works of many compelling anthropologists of Islam and of law. See, Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004); and Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, The Impossibility of Religious Freedom, new ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018). Rather, this simply suggests that with inattention to the construction of the ‘Islamic’ in relation to the state, we remain wedded to the locally and informally ethnographized subject who is nevertheless at the same time subjected to the formal state, which operates across space and scalar variation.

117

Janyce McGregor, Kady O’Malley, “Stephen Harper Makes His Case for New Powers to Combat Terror,” cbc, January 30, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/stephen-harper-makes-his-case-for-new-powers-to-combat-terror-1.2937602.

118

On the isolated nature of the attack on Canada’s Parliament, see Michael Friscolanti, “Uncovering a Killer: Addict, Drifter, Walking Contradiction,” MacLeans, October 30, 2014, http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/michael-zehaf-bibeau-addict-drifter-walking-contradiction/.

119

See, “New Security Bill Aimed at Combatting ‘Lone Wolf’ Attacks Coming this Week,” cbc News, January 26, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/new-security-bill-aimed-at-combating-lone-wolf-attacks-coming-this-week-1.2931216.

120

P.M. Holt, “The Study of Arabic Historians in Seventeenth Century England: The Background and the Work of Edward Pococke,” bsoas 19, No. 3 (1953): 444–55, 445.

121

Holt, “The Study of Arabic Historians,” 446.

122

J.W. Fück, “Islam as an Historical Problem in European Historiography since 1800,” in Historians of the Middle East, eds. Bernard Lewis and P.M. Holt (London: Oxford University Press, 1962), 303. Bernard Lewis likewise recognized the early Christian interest in Islam as the incentive for the early study of Arabic texts: to gain access to the lost Hellenic literary and philosophical tradition, as well as to aid the polemical purposes of converting Muslims to Christianity. Bernard Lewis, “The State of Middle Eastern Studies,” The American Scholar 48, No. 3 (Summer 1979): 365–81, 365.

123

Spellberg, Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an, 6.

124

Sheldon Pollock, “Future Philology? The Fate of a Soft Science in a Hard World,” Critical Inquiry 35 (Summer 2009): 931–61, 934.

125

Pollock, “Future Philology?” 934.

126

Suzanne Marchand, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire: Religion, Race and Scholarship, Publications of the German Historical Institute (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 160.

127

Marchand, German Orientalism, 160. See also, Eckehard Simon, “The Case for Medieval Philology,” Comparative Literature Studies 27, No. 1 (1990): 16–20, 18, who recounts one view of philology as “having the capacity to retrieve the experiences of the past, of lost cultures, through close study of the written record.”

128

Jan Ziolkowsky, “‘What is Philology’: Introduction,” Comparative Literature Studies 27, No. 1 (1990): 1–12, 2.

129

Ziolkowsky, “‘What is Philology’: Introduction,” 3.

130

James Turner, Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).

131

Ziolkowsky, “‘What is Philology’: Introduction,” 3.

132

Ziolkowsky, “‘What is Philology’: Introduction,” 6.

133

Ziolkowsky, “‘What is Philology’: Introduction,” 7.

134

On the place of philology in Islamic studies, see Marchand’s masterful study, German Orientalism in the Age of Empire.

135

Lewis, “The State of Middle Eastern Studies,” 370. See also, Zachary Lockman, Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History of the Politics of Orientalism, 2nd ed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), 68.

136

Charles Adams, “Foreword,” in Approaches to Islam in Religious Studies, ed. Richard C. Martin (1985; reprint, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2001), vii–ix, viii. See also, Richard C. Martin, “Islam and Religious Studies: An Introductory Essay,” in Approaches to Islam in Religious Studies, ed. Richard C. Martin (1985; reprint, Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2001), 1–21, 3, 11, who highlights the relation between philological expertise and isolation from the rest of the academy

137

Shahab Ahmad, What Is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015).

138

Ahmed, What Is Islam? 6.

139

Ahmed, What Is Islam? 75.

140

Ahmed, What Is Islam? 79.

141

Ahmed, What Is Islam? 82.

142

For a critique of Ahmed’s book, see Mairaj Syed, “The Problem with ‘What Is…?’ Questions, the Literalism of Islamic Law, and the Importance of Being Islamic,” Journal of Law and Society (2016): 661–71. The possibility of a core object, in the adjectival sense of ‘Islamic’, is exactly what Sami Zubaida rejects. Sami Zubaida, Beyond Islam: A New Understanding of the Middle East (London: I.B. Tauris, 2011).

143

For others taking similar issue with Ahmed’s study, see the online forum at Marginalia Review of Books: http://marginalia.lareviewofbooks.org/islam-forum-introduction/.

144

Carl W. Ernst and Richard C. Martin, “Introduction: Toward a Post-Orientalist Approach to Islamic Religious Studies,” in Rethinking Islamic Studies: From Orientalism to Cosmopolitanism, eds. Carl W. Ernst and Richard C. Martin (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2010), 2–3.

145

Aaron W. Hughes, Theorizing Islam: Disciplinary Deconstruction and Reconstruction (Durham, UK: Acumen Publishing, 2014), 1.

146

Ernst and Martin, “Introduction”, 8, 11.

147

Mahmoud A. El-Gamal, Islamic Finance: Law, Economics and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

148

McCants, The isis Apocalypse; Anver M. Emon, “Sharia and the Rule of Law,” in Shari’a: Law and Modern Muslim Ethics, ed. Robert Hefner (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2016); and Anver M. Emon, “Is isis Islamic? Why it matters for the study of Islam,” The Immanent Frame, http://blogs.ssrc.org/tif/2015/03/27/is-isis-islamic-why-it-matters-for-the-study-of-islam/.

149

William Arrowsmith, “Nietzsche on Classics and Classicists (Part II),” Arion: A Journal of the Humanities and the Classics 2, No. 2 (Summer 1963): 5–27, 8–10.

150

Arrowsmith, “Nietzsche,” 9 No. 3.

151

Mohammad Akram Nadwi, “[Review] The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law,” Journal of Islamic Studies 19, No. 1 (2008): 109–15, 109, 110.

152

Nadwi, “[Review],” 109.

153

Wael Hallaq, “The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law: A Response,” Journal of Islamic Studies 19, No. 3 (2008): 456–66, 457.

154

Hallaq, “A Response,” 456 (italics in original).

155

Incidentally, this author’s own book, Islamic Natural Law Theories (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), has been the victim of such philological hegemony by a self-serving ingénue publishing in a student journal for which he served as editor. Rami Koujah, “A Critical Review Essay of Anver M. Emon’s Islamic Natural Law Theories,ucla Journal of Islamic and Near Eastern Law 14, No. 1 (2015).

156

Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonaughts of the Western Pacific: An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea (London: Routledge and Kegan, 1922), 25.

157

Clifford Geertz, Available Light: Anthropological Reflections on Philosophical Topics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000), 16.

158

Cramer, Politics of Resentment, 20.

159

Cramer, Politics of Resentment, 21.

160

Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw, Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 3.

161

Talal Asad, “The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam,” Qui Parle 17, No. 2 (2009): 1–30, 10, reprinting his 1986 contribution by the same title to the Occasional Paper Series of Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (emphasis added).

162

Asad, “The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam,” 20.

163

Asad, “The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam,” 20.

164

Asad, “The Idea of an Anthropology of Islam,” 21.

165

Mayanthi Fernando and Nadia Fadil, “Rediscovering the ‘Everyday’ Muslim: Notes on an Anthropological Divide,” hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 5, No. 2 (2015): 59–88.

166

For useful examples of the communal and/or conversational context, see Zareena Grewal, Islam Is a Foreign Country: American Muslims and the Global Crisis of Authority (New York: nyu Press, 2013); and Su’ad Abdul Khabeer, Muslim Cool: Race, Religion, and Hip Hop in the United States (New York: nyu Press, 2016).

167

Charles Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape: Cassette Sermons and Islamic Counterpublics (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 4.

168

Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape, 4.

169

Hirschkind, The Ethical Soundscape, 8.

170

Amira Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter: Egyptian Landscapes of the Imagination (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), 2.

171

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 4, 5.

172

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 5.

173

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 5.

174

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 21.

175

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 5.

176

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 7.

177

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 234.

178

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 23–4.

179

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 56.

180

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 74.

181

Mittermaier, Dreams that Matter, 25 (emphasis added).

182

Hirschkind, Ethical Soundscape, 6, 41.

183

Hirschkind, Ethical Soundscape, 8.

184

Hirschkind, Ethical Soundscape, 41, 42, 44–50.

185

Hirschkind, Ethical Soundscape, 46.

186

Hirschkind, Ethical Soundscape, 58.

187

Hall, The Fateful Triangle.

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