Islam in Liberalism
Joseph Massad's Desiring Arabs (UCP, 2007) was an intellectual/literary history that sought out links between Orientalism and representations of sex and desire, rebutting in the meantime Western efforts to impose categories of heterosexual/homosexual where (in Islam) no such subjectivities exist. His new book broadens the purview to show us what Islam has become in today's world, attending fully to the multiplication of meanings of Islam.” Islam in Liberalism is an intellectual/political history, enabling us to understand that history in terms of how Islam operated as a category within western liberalism; another way to phrase this is to say that Massad underscores how the anxieties about what Europe constituteddespotism, intolerance, misogyny, homophobiahave gotten projected onto Islam. It is, he avers, only through this projection that Europe could emerge as democratic, tolerant, gynophilic, and hemophilicin short, Islam-free. But in fact Islam has been there since the birth of Europe. Liberalism has been the weapon of choice since the late 18th century against the internal” and external” others of Europe. Massad's brilliant critique of anti-Muslim sexual politics in Desiring Arabs is now broadened provocatively to include NGOs, international organizations, and therapeutic programs. He moves from consideration of the meanings of democracy” (and the ideological assumption that Islam” is not compatible with democracy) through chapters on women in Islam, sexuality and/in Islam, psychoanalytic interpretations of Islamic themes, and the more recent development of the idea of Abrahamic religions” among those valorizing an inter-faith agenda. Overall, Massad sets this book up as a biting critique of the sort of liberalism Euro-American propagated and brought as good news” to an unenlightened Islam.
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