Spring 2016

Between Facts and Norms:  Liberalism and the Case of Islam

Listed in: Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, as LJST-219  |  Sexuality, Women's and Gender Studies, as SWAG-219


Sharif Youssef (Section 01)


(Offered as LJST 219 and SWAG 219.)  Every day on the news the same drama of liberal and Islamic mutual incomprehension plays out. In flare-ups over cartoons and Mohammed, or the veil and citizenship, the same comments repeat themselves. This repetitiveness begs the question of what constitutes liberalism, and whether religious belief, specifically Islam (but also in sensational coverage of practices such as polygamy), might be anathema to liberalism. If the American Constitution cherishes religious expression, why do even mainstream, dominant religions in the U.S. claim that they are under fire? Why does Islam remain a problem for pluralism even in a political philosophy designed to govern a multicultural society? Can there be liberal forms of Islam? This course seeks first to explore issues related generally to understanding the relationship of religious belief and practice to the politics of a liberal state and second to apply these to understanding the place of Islam and Muslims in liberal states. We will also discuss the law of religious accommodation in Canada and the United States, the related problem of multiculturalism, religious formulations of these problems, including contemporary writing by Jewish and Christian theologians, and historical Muslim responses to the possibility of non-Islamic rule. In addition to examining some of the political thought of pre-modern Muslims, we will discuss Muslim responses to liberalism and modernization. Finally, we look at the practice of religious freedom as related by Muslims in liberal and Islamic societies.

Limited to 30 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Youssef.

If Overenrolled: priority given to LJST Majors

Cost: 7.75 ?


Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016