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Many Paths to Peace: Islam, Pacifism, Decoloniality, and Interdisciplinarity
The recourse by some Muslims to both licit and illicit forms of violent action have been the subject of innumerable scholarly and popular discussions over recent years. By contrast, comparatively little attention has been devoted to the theme of principled pacifism and nonviolence within Islamic traditions. The present paper argues not only that this neglected field is worthy of greater study, but furthermore that it calls for deep engagement across disciplines in order to be most effective. In particular, it is argued that reciprocal contact between Islamicist scholars and secular moral philosophers offers an double opportunity. To scholars of Islam, it presents a nuanced widening and deepening of the over-simplified ethical categories which too often dominate discussion of Islamic (non-)violence both within and without the academy. To moral philosophers, it offers an under-explored avenue for the exploration of normative ethics in religious traditions – fruitfully paralleling existing scholarship on other faith traditions. Furthermore, it is argued that this interdisciplinary dialogue offers meaningful opportunities to constructively challenge and redress the persistent tendency to privilege and universalise what are in fact historically contingent and parochial ideas of modern Euro-American provenance. Significantly, it does so not by simply rejecting these as inherently colonial but rather by parochializing them as potentially equal voices in an open and dynamic moral discussion more characterised by awareness of heteroglossia than by aspirations to hegemony. The paper draws upon a range of specific examples from the modern history of Islamic thought so as to illustrate the possibilities and the challenges faced by this project – both for Islamicists and for ethicists. Finally, this paper will express the hope that a this research agenda will produce benefits which extend beyond the halls of academe. At a time during which both outright Islamophobia and the distrust of ethical perspectives articulated in conspicuously Islamic terms are rife, scholars carry a social obligation to offer paths to understanding and the easing of tensions. When those festering antipathies give rise to dangerous developments – from discriminatory legislation to unequal policing to military action, all of which we witness today in regions around the globe – that duty is all the more pressing.
Religious Studies/Theology
Geographic Area
Sub Area
Peace Studies