Article | Open Access
The Fog of Extremism: Governance, Identity, and Minstrels of Exclusion
Abstract: An insistent focus on extremism and radicalization with regard to current Islamist trends masks the failures of pluralist citizenship, amid a larger crisis of identity. Whether in Muslim-majority societies or in the Euro-North American diaspora, “Islam” and “politics” are touted as explaining patterns of severe violence by state/non-state actors. Neither category accounts more than superficially for the complexities at hand, which revolve around exclusionary models of identity, faith and civil society. Successful narratives of inclusive citizenship depend on key markers outside of modernist secular orthodoxy. Theologies of inclusion are vital in fostering pluralist civic identities, mindful of the ascendance of puritanical-legalist theologies of exclusion as a salient facet of public cultures. Multiple surveys reveal the depth of exclusivist conservatism in diverse Muslim societies. These stances not only undermine civil society as a locus for engendering pluralist identities, but also undergird the militant trends that dominate the headlines. Targeting militants is often essential—yet is frequently accompanied by the willful alienation of Muslim citizens even within liberal democracies, and a growing “official” sectarianism among Muslim-majority polities. Convergent pluralisms of faith and civic identity are a vital antidote to the fog that obscures the roots as well as the implications of today’s extremist trends.
Keywords: citizenship; civil society; exclusion; human rights; Islam; minorities; pluralism; radicalization; secularism; sectarianism; sharia; theology
© Amyn B. Sajoo. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.