Double Consciousness: Full Inclusion for the Muslim American!

Mark Gould, Haverford College

Christianity, grounded in natural law (God is understood to act justly and all have access to knowledge of justice), has facilitated the development of civil religions, which constitute social values that are more general than denominational precepts and are thus able to encompass diverse religious traditions. Islam, which is rooted in moral voluntarism, where God’s revelatoin constitutes our understanding of justice, created a space for other religions, but only within the context of the implementation of the precepts constitutive of Shari’a. While Christianity facilitated a universalism that, in time, but not at all times, made possible the inclusion of diverse groups within a set of general social values that transcended denominational convictions and thus within pluralistic civil societies, Islam articulated a universalism that facilitated the inclusion of diverse groups within a specific, religiously constituted umma that was regulated by a set of precepts, but it was an exclusionary universalism that did not facilitate the full inclusion of non-Muslims within the larger society. In Christianity universalism trumps particularism, while, in Islam, particularism trumps universalism; the former facilitates full inclusion of the other, while the latter is a barrier to such inclusion. Given this analysis, I ask how Muslims may be incorporated into a civil religion that transcends denominational conviction, and whether the incorporation of Muslims within this civil religion may facilitate the development of Islam in a way that fosters a genuine reciprocity between Muslims and others. Such a development will require the development of a “double consciousness” among Muslim-Americans, a “double consciousness,” without Du Bois’s ambivalence, that involves the positive affirmation of both one’s own convictions and a more general set of principles, a civil religion, which might be generalized from one’s own and from other creeds.

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 Presented in Session 143. Politics of Civilizations and Empires