Access: Sidestepping Legitimacy in Deterritorialized Islam. A Preliminary Analysis of the Publications of Islamic Foundation. Paper at Religion, Orientalism, Globalization Workshop, Copenhagen University, Denmark

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Abstract

This paper is part a project studying the problem “How is globalization perceived and conceptualized”? Approaching this problem, my contribution to the project aims at an analysis of some of the publications of the British Muslim organization The Islamic Foundation.

A preliminary analysis of the publications suggests the usefulness of a globalization perspective. However, since the perceptions and conceptualizations of globalization present in the publications considerably differ from “mainstream” social scientific definitions, the publications must be regarded as representing responses to globalizations as well as expressions of globalization.

My study is in correspondence with theorists such as Appadurai, Beyer, Hannerz, Meyer, Robertson and Turner, pointing to the fact that globalization comes to expression in localized, particular forms, that in no way bring about any “homogenous global culture”. Still, the particularizing tendency itself seems to follow a universal pattern, or in the words of Robertson, the interpenetration of the universalization of particularism and the particularization of universalism. The analysis points to some cases where such a dynamic particular/universal seems to be at work, constraining as well as facilitating the activities of The Islamic Foundation..

In sum, the transnational profile of the organization’s publications, structures and local activities display a conspicuous adjustability to present conditions. By force of its mass-communicational infrastructures and discursive “bilinguality”, The Islamic Foundation seems to be as much at home in the Muslim normative text cultures, as in the “Western” sciences, bureaucracies, techniques, consumer markets and policies. Such abilities have granted The Islamic Foundation a position in the British society that outmatches its “social mandate”, and thus the opportunity of sidestepping the question of social or theological representativity and legitimacy.

In studies of the current debates on Islam, scholars have pointed to precisely the quest for legitimacy in interpreting Islam, competing about the establishment of the “correct tradition of Islam“, as the key-note dynamic of such debates. Partly contradicting this view, the present analysis suggests that more importantly than claiming legitimacy, The Islamic Foundation has direct access to vital socio-religious functions, due to its adaptability to present preconditions. Therefore, The Islamic Foundation seems to afford a social as well as a theological marginality and “illegitimacy“, and still maintain a position in the debates - at least in the short run.

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes