Islamic Politics and the Neutral State: A Friendly Amendment to Rawls?

Posted: 17 Jul 2019

Date Written: 2014


It may be helpful to begin with a brief explanation of two aspects of my title. First, by "Islamic politics," I refer simply to the Islamic dimension in the politics of various communities of Muslims, whether these constitute a so-called majority or a minority of the population. All politics is of course specific and contextual to the time and place, socioeconomic conditions, and so forth of a particular population. The term "Islamic politics" refers to how Islamic values and concepts are deployed in the political discourses, negotiations, and strategies of local or national Muslim communities in their particular contexts. I do not believe that there is a distinctively "Islamic politics" that is peculiar to Muslims and shared by all of them, historically and across the world today. In my view, the Islamic politics of Muslims in India today may have more to do with the "Hindu politics" of their neighbors than with Islamic politics in Senegal. It is in relation to this conception of Islamic politics that I discuss the need for a religiously neutral state in this chapter.

Suggested Citation

An-Na'im, Abdullahi Ahmed, Islamic Politics and the Neutral State: A Friendly Amendment to Rawls? (2014). Rawls and Religion, Editors: Valentina Gentile, Tom Bailey, Columbia University Press (2014), Available at SSRN:

Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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