Ebrahim Moosa

Ebrahim Moosa is Professor of Religion and Islamic Studies at Duke University. His interests span both classical and modern Islamic thought with a special focus on Islamic law, history, ethics and theology. Dr. Moosa is the author of Ghazali and the Poetics of Imagination, winner of the American Academy of Religion's Best First Book in the History of Religions (2006) and editor of Revival and Reform in Islam: A Study of Islamic Fundamentalism, the last manuscript of the late Professor Fazlur Rahman. Currently he is completing a book titled Islam After Empire: Text, Tradition and Technology and working on another book titled Between Right and Wrong: Debating Muslim Ethics. Read Ebrahim Moosa's contributions to Religion and the midterm elections and The naked public sphere?

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Friday, January 29th, 2010

Civil religion of a different kind

Very different from the mode of civil religion that I discussed in my previous post are the experiences of religious communities in South Africa. Anticipating the emergence of a constitutional state, religious communities, under the auspices of the South African chapter of the inter-religious group called the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP), began to position themselves for the emerging new political order. Careful observation of the way the religious sector itself defined religion, and of how that notion was grafted onto the 1996 Constitution, will help to illuminate the discussion. “Religion” was defined in the Declaration as “belief, morality and worship” in the recognition of a divine being, and/or in pursuit of spiritual development, and/or as a sense of expressing one’s belonging. In the pursuit of all of these rights and responsibilities, the religious communities bound themselves to an “expression of religion [that] shall not violate the legal rights of others.” In so doing religious communities thus affirmed a form of religious freedom that was subject to the surveillance of the law. Religious rights were to be circumscribed by an authority outside of religion.

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Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Civil religion and beyond

Civil religion, on one hand, links the US to the biblical tradition; on the other hand, the moral and political philosophies of the Enlightenment instill a deeply utilitarian orientation. Civil religion portrays a divine order of things and provides Americans with a sense of worth and direction in relation to ultimate purposes. Utilitarianism provides Americans with proper governmental procedure, legitimates the economic system even in a time of recession, and underwrites the importance of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All of this has been radically challenged in one manner or another in post-9/11 America. Civil religion has also been tested in the post-November 2008 environment, when the economic collapse precipitated by Wall Street’s reckless casino capitalism began to expose the vulnerability of the American capitalist system. Yet these moments of national shock and setbacks have created an insufficient amount of questioning of the American civil religion project.

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