Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

On Demonized Muslims and Vilified Jews: Between Theory and Politics

  • Joyce Dalsheim (a1)

In this article I engage the work of three scholars, each of whom speaks to reactions to Muslims or interventions in their lives in the United States and Europe. Each is critical of these reactions and interventions, and traces them to inconsistencies in liberal thought and practice. My purpose is to interrogate their theorizing by applying it to the interface of liberalism with another religious Other, one that tends to generate far less sympathy in the predominantly secular and liberal academy: religiously motivated Jewish settlers in Israeli-occupied territories. The first scholar is Saba Mahmood, who recently argued against U.S. involvement in trying to alter the theology and practices of Muslims in the Middle East. The second is Judith Butler, who in a 2008 article addressed Muslims in the Netherlands, the problems of citizenship, and the right to religious freedom. Finally, Talal Asad has spoken to issues of violence, arguing that suicide bombing is really not so different from state violences perpetrated by the United States and Israel. Each of their arguments contains critiques of secular liberalism and the contradictory ethics and inconsistencies within liberal thought and practice, and each carries different but related implications. My intent is to begin to explore the possibilities of applying the analyses of these writers to the case of conflict between religiously motivated settlers in Israeli-occupied territories and left-wing, secular, and liberal Israeli Jews. Although this case mirrors broader representations of “Islam and the West,” it is rarely considered in comparison when such representations are deconstructed. The questions raised through this uncomfortable comparison will, I hope, contribute to broader conversations about the challenges and complexities of living together with differences that may be threatening if not altogether incommensurable.

Corresponding author
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

T. Asad 2006. Trying to Understand French Secularism. In H. d. Vries and L. E. Sullivan , eds., Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World. New York: Fordham University Press, 494527.

W. Brown 2006b. Subjects of Tolerance: Why We Are Civilized and They Are the Barbarians. In H. d. Vries and L. E. Sullivan , eds., Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World. New York: Fordham University Press, 298317.

J. Butler 2008. Sexual Politics, Torture, and Secular Time. British Journal of Sociology 59, 1: 123.

J. Dalsheim 2005. Ant/agonizing Settlers in the Colonial Present of Israel-Palestine. Social Analysis 49, 2: 122–43.

J. Fabian 1999. Remembering the Other: Knowledge and Recognition in the Exploration of Central Africa. Critical Inquiry 26, 1: 4969.

S. Mahmood 2006. Secularism, Hermeneutics, and Empire: The Politics of Islamic Reformation. Public Culture 18, 2: 323–47.

J. Nagata 2001. Beyond Theology: Toward an Anthropology of “Fundamentalism.” American Anthropologist 103, 2: 481–98.

E. Povinelli 2001. Radical Worlds: The Anthropology of Incommensurability and Inconceivability. Annual Review of Anthropology 30: 319–34.

E. Shohat 2003. Rupture and Return: Zionist Discourse and the Study of Arab Jews. Social Text 21, 2: 4974.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 1
Total number of PDF views: 10 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 86 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd July 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.