Philosophy and Social Criticism 39 (8):733-753 (2013)
Due to the current shifting regional paradigms in the Middle East brought on by the series of popular uprisings known as the Arab Spring, this article focuses on the issue of minority rights within modern Islamic theorizing. Evaluating the writings of Islamic intellectuals such as Tariq Ramadan, Abdullah Ahmed An-Na’im and Rashid Al-Ghannushi, the article finds that there are indeed constructs available within modern Islamic theorizing that can help resolve current minority problems within Arab societies, albeit with the addition of human rights discourse on citizenship and multiculturalism. Noting that minority–majority relations are a global problem, as seen through case studies of the United States and Europe, human rights discourse, cultural relativism and religion are explored, concluding that Islamic theorizing is a blend of the three. Turning to usul al fiqh, it is concluded that traditional Islamic approaches to minority rights fail to incorporate anything but religious minorities and those religious minorities are second-class citizens under shariah interpretation. The rise of the Ottoman millet system eventually helped shape the collective identity for minority groups, but it still placed sole emphasis on religious minorities and treated all minorities as unequal subjects under the sultanate. Building on the constructs of modern Islamic theorizing and expanding to include the concepts of multiculturalism and territorial citizenship, this article asserts that for minority–majority struggle to be solved, modernist Islamic theorists must transcend the traditional Islamic minority paradigm and instead promulgate citizenship as a basis for equality in society, applying new ijtihad for a fresh, integrative interpretation of minorities within Islam and the civil state
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