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Are Secularism and Neutrality Attractive to Religious Minorities? Islamic Discussions of Western Secularism in the 'Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities' (Fiqh Al-Aqalliyyat) Discourse


Andrew F. March


Yale University

February 18, 2009

Constitutional Secularism in an Age of Religious Revival, Michel Rosenfeld and Susanna Mancini (Oxford University Press, 2013)
Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 2821-2854, 2009
Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World Paper No. 09-61

Abstract:     
It is a basic aspect of the liberal justification of secularism qua state religious neutrality as the most appropriate constitutional framework for a complex, morally diverse society that it gives especially firm guarantees to religious and other minorities. However, there is no obvious reason why a religious minority should automatically sign on to Rawls’s overlapping consensus rather than an overlapping consensus of the religiously devout. What may be minority groups in theological matters may easily see themselves as belonging to a broader and more important majority of the faithful in political matters. And what may be crucial disputes in theology or hermeneutics may have no bearing on a broader political consensus. This article focuses on internal Islamic debates on the ideal moral, religious and political approach to take toward issues of neutrality and justification within non-Muslim liberal democracies, with special focus on the Islamic jurisprudence of the Muslim minority condition (fiqh al-aqalliyyat). The chapter canvasses both views that see Western aspirations to secularism as an added objection to faithful citizenship within such societies and views that see aspects of secularism and neutrality as solving certain problems of conscience for pious Muslims, particularly the problem of being seen to profess fidelity to a non-Islamic conception of truth when professing fidelity to a non-Islamic political system.

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Date posted: February 19, 2009 ; Last revised: February 1, 2014

Suggested Citation

March, Andrew F., Are Secularism and Neutrality Attractive to Religious Minorities? Islamic Discussions of Western Secularism in the 'Jurisprudence of Muslim Minorities' (Fiqh Al-Aqalliyyat) Discourse (February 18, 2009). Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 2821-2854, 2009; Cardozo Law Review, Vol. 30, No. 6, pp. 2821-2854, 2009; Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World Paper No. 09-61. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1346061

Contact Information

Andrew F. March (Contact Author)
Yale University ( email )
New Haven, CT 06520
United States
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