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Islam in Liberalism

Joseph A. Massad

Islam in Liberalism

Joseph A. Massad

384 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Paper $24.00 ISBN: 9780226379548 Will Publish March 2016
Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9780226206226 Published January 2015
E-book $7.00 to $40.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226206363 Published January 2015
In the popular imagination, Islam is often associated with words like oppression, totalitarianism, intolerance, cruelty, misogyny, and homophobia, while its presumed antonyms are Christianity, the West, liberalism, individualism, freedom, citizenship, and democracy. In the most alarmist views, the West’s most cherished values—freedom, equality, and tolerance—are said to be endangered by Islam worldwide.  

Joseph Massad’s Islam in Liberalism explores what Islam has become in today’s world, with full attention to the multiplication of its meanings and interpretations. He seeks to understand how anxieties about tyranny, intolerance, misogyny, and homophobia, seen in the politics of the Middle East, are projected onto Islam itself. Massad shows that through this projection Europe emerges as democratic and tolerant, feminist, and pro-LGBT rights—or, in short, Islam-free. Massad documents the Christian and liberal idea that we should missionize democracy, women’s rights, sexual rights, tolerance, equality, and even therapies to cure Muslims of their un-European, un-Christian, and illiberal ways. Along the way he sheds light on a variety of controversial topics, including the meanings of democracy—and the ideological assumption that Islam is not compatible with it while Christianity is—women in Islam, sexuality and sexual freedom, and the idea of Abrahamic religions valorizing an interfaith agenda. Islam in Liberalism is an unflinching critique of Western assumptions and of the liberalism that Europe and Euro-America blindly present as a type of salvation to an assumingly unenlightened Islam.
Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Choice of Liberalism
 
1  The Democracy Offensive and the Defenses of “Islam”
2  Women and/in “Islam”: The Rescue Mission of Western Liberal Feminism
3  Pre-Positional Conjunctions: Sexuality and/in “Islam”
4  Psychoanalysis, “Islam,” and the Other of Liberalism
5  Forget Semitism!

Works Cited
Index
Review Quotes
Los Angeles Review of Books
“Islam in Liberalism is required reading for anyone invested in Muslim Studies. This book reminds us that in order to move beyond scholarship revolving around a simplistic binarism between West and non-West, we must never forget how this opposition has shaped and continues to actively influence scholarship today. Furthermore, studying ‘Islam’ requires unpacking this term, which has become a reified, catch-all signifier in much Western scholarship. More than that, though, it may suggest that some of what is called Muslim Studies is less about something called ‘Islam’ than it is about liberalism. Thus, anyone who seeks to study Islam within a Western context must also undertake, as a necessary correlate to Muslim Studies, something that might be called Liberalism Studies.”
Cambridge Review of International Affairs
“This erudite, at times frustrating, but always challenging, work of scholarship should be essential reading for all scholars of Islam and Middle East politics.”
Theory & Event
Islam in Liberalism is thus a crucial, timely, and inspiring study for critics of liberalism and for scholarship about Islam in political and social theory more generally. It is simultaneously a massive synthesis of numerous literatures and discourses about Islam, and an original, provocative reading of what unites constructions of Islam with definitions of liberalism.”
Paul Gilroy | King's College London
“This indispensable compendium of rich, critical insights and readings is as learned as it is now necessary. Massad has recreated the scholarly and political context in which understanding of the relationships between Liberalism and Islam will be conducted.”
Talal Asad | Graduate Center, City University of New York
"This is a powerfully—often passionately--written text. . . . The only book that I can think of in comparison is Edward Said's Covering Islam—but Massad’s book is far richer both in terms of the literature covered (much of which was of course not yet available when Said wrote his book) and the range of questions engaged.”
Tomoko Masuzawa | University of Michigan
"In recent years we have come to take seriously the idea that certain othering concepts such as 'the Orient' and 'Islam' have played a vital role in giving reality to 'the West.' The extraordinary value of Massad’s new book is that he has shown, through a sustained analysis of a wide variety of historical and contemporary discourses, that 'Islam' has been more than a periphery-defining concept utilized merely to lend truth and solidity to the Christian West. Far more importantly, 'Islam' has been at work as a powerful agonistic imaginary indispensable for the self-definition of the West’s own polity as essentiallyfree. This is a deeply considered work that is more than timely."
Leila Ahmed | author of A Quiet Revolution: the Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America
“A bold and insightful study of the historical and contemporary uses and misuses of rhetorics of democracy, women’s rights and sexualities in their deployments in relation to Islam—a rich important contribution to a growing body of such critical literature.”
Anne Norton | University of Pennsylvania
“Massad is an important intellectual voice. He commands attention internationally. He offers distinctive, compelling, and often brilliant critiques of positions that many regard as sacrosanct: most notably the human rights regime, NGOS, and international development organizations, and does not spare the therapeutic enterprises of psychoanalysis and transcultural tolerance.” 
Flavorwire
“It’s hard to imagine a more necessary and timely book. Massad’s work is likely to become the sine qua non of studies on how Islam and liberalism interface in politics and culture.”
Electronic Intifada
“This is a dense and densely argued book, in the best way, full of lively histories of the political, intellectual and cultural twists and turns that have enabled Western liberalism to so clearly dominate the discourse on Islam, and to claim it as the evil opposite while in fact feeding off that projection in order to strengthen itself. Islam in Liberalism provides a sophisticated set of analyses and critiques for those wrestling with the liberalism that overlays international matters, especially on Israel and Palestine.”
Al-Hayat
“Massad provides an objective and convincing analysis of the West’s exploitation and distortion of Islam for the purpose of promoting liberalism, basing himself and his points of view on old and new [historical] examples, events, and evidence framed in a coherent and fluid presentation.”
Haaretz
Islam in Liberalism raises important questions about the power and influence of Western NGOs and the humanitarian missions of Western governments. Massad is on unimpeachable ground in arguing that these institutions are not simply altruistic vehicles for do-goodism, and that those who claim that the West has a mission and a burden to save women, gays, or the oppressed in the Muslim world are necessarily rehashing old Orientalist tropes. In unearthing the unconscious motives and unspoken cultural assumptions underlying human rights and international organizations, Islam in Liberalism should be required reading for NGO workers the world over.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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