Study of Secularisms article

Further Reflections on Muslimism

In response to FitzGerald’s summary and final question, I offer two things to consider: First, neo-liberalization was more than an economic shift. The crucial point is that is undermined state control on culture (as regards the definition of modernity, for example) and religion. In other countries, Muslimist-like sentiments may appear through other main determinants that could also result in reduced state control.

Second, though expressions of Muslimism emerged first through the markets (which is not at all surprising, since markets are more open to innovation than, let’s say, state institutions), they prevailed in the society at large through women’s movements to human rights associations, thereby articulating a political ethos as well. What matters most is that, in each of these areas, there is an emphasis on individual responsibility and a search for alternative establishments that would allow the pious to reshape modern practices through Islam (such as 5-star hotels that don’t allow alcohol, and a political discourse that sees the concept of iman as resulting in a liberal state).

When it comes to Mispters, Muslimism becomes more vulnerable I think. The Mipster movement being located in the youth and being oriented to social inclusiveness (not surprising given its diaspora status) make it much more open to liberal adaptation, which would bode ill to Muslimism, which would be challenged by liberal attitudes about homosexuality, for example. But even within the Mipster community there is constant negotiation: how much engagement is too much? where do we stop to preserve the symbolic boundaries? So change is not readily accepted, but filtered. Nevertheless, it does carry the risk of turning into liberal religion.

Now, the consumerist aspect of Muslimism is also under the influence of global markets. As the markets recognize the growth opportunities for Muslim lifestyles, they engage more actively with Muslims and their lifestyle needs. We may see markets co-opting Muslimism, just like political parties or states may. In that case, we would also have Islamist-like formations attacking Muslimism for being a degenerate extension of consumer culture, similar to the case of party co-optation, in which critics would argue Muslimism to be an extension of party politics. Indeed, such critiques have already begun (see Halil Ibrahim Yenigun, “Turkish Islamism in the Post-Gezi Park Era,” 2014). Muslimists will have to try and protect their independence with conscious effort. For that, they will need intellectuals.

Regarding Jakelić‘s first question, we do have to be careful about comparison. Conditions in each case will vary, but I simply point to the fact that not only Muslims but others too engage modernity through this alternative way, a way that looks neither liberal nor fundamentalist. I disagree, however, that an orientation toward the individual will lead to the rejection of community. What Muslimists achieve is a conservative transformation of the concept of umma as something that has acquired throughout the ages an authoritarian style and conceptualization. It is not a rejection of umma or communal experience per se, but it is the demand that community, as an external source of power, is not the main agent of morality. For example, many Islamists see the hijab as a making symbol of Muslim community, a symbol that creates the Muslim community in its differentiation from others. But hijab is simply an individual duty towards God. And that is where the judgment will be.

Regarding Jakelić‘s final question, to me this is a Christian take of Islam. Muslimists of course are aware of social inequalities and are not happy with them. But their battle, if there must be one for us to consider a movement to be ethical, lies somewhere else. Their battle lies in refusing Islamism and secularist approaches that violate moral freedoms. The Social Justice League marked First and Second Wave Jihadism since the 1960s, first anti-colonial discourse (the killing of Anwar Sadat, for example), then al Qaeda and the Taliban against the evil, imperialist West. With Muslimists, it is not that black and white. The articulation of social justice into the Islamic narrative has been ideological in general. Muslimists are not taking this bet.

Neslihan Cevik
Neslihan Cevik is a Turkish sociologist of religion. Cevik completed her PhD at Arizona State University (2010). She then joined Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia, for her post-doctoral research. She is the author of “Muslimism in Turkey and Beyond: Religion in the Modern World” (November-2015, Palgrave MacMillan). Currently, Cevik is a senior researcher at SESRIC,Organization of the Islamic Cooperation. Her work on religion appears in CNN-Arabic, Daily Sabah, OrientXXI, Informed Comment, and Political Theology Today, and is translated into Arabic, French, and Turkish. Cevik helped found the first postcolonial studies research center in Turkey, PAMER, Uskudar University. An engaged social entrepreneur, Cevik also is the founder of Mline Fashion, a modest wear and lifestyle start-up company that seeks to encourage Muslim women's economic and public integration.

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