Let me first introduce myself. My name is Joseph J. Kaminski (Purdue, PhD 2014). I am currently an Assistant Professor at the International University of Sarajevo. My research interests and publications generally lie at the intersection of political theory and comparative politics/international relations with regional focus on the Muslim world. In September 2017, my first book, The Contemporary Islamic Governed State: A Reconceptualization, was published in Khaled Abou El Fadl’s series at Palgrave (Islamic Law, Theology, and History). At the recommendation of other colleagues, I decided to contact Ta’seel Commons and see if they would have an interest in reviewing my book and perhaps allowing me to make a blog post or two. After contacting the senior editors here at Ta'seel Commons, I was given this terrific opportunity to manage this new section.
The question of religion and its role in politics remains one of the most pressing issues of our time. Despite the widespread support for secularism (or at least the formal separation of politics and religion) in the West, the same cannot be said of the Muslim world. After tallying the survey results for the cases of the Muslim respondents surveyed in Jordan, Palestine, Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Yemen, Sabri Ciftci (2013) found that 41% supported democracy and Sharī‘ah, but only 14% supported democracy and without Sharī‘ah. A significant number of people stated that they even supported Sharī‘ah without democracy. Similar findings were noted in the 2013 Pew Research Center Forum on Religious & Public Life study—many of the places their research team surveyed had well over 60% of their populations in support of Sharī‘ah as, at minimum, a source of laws.
While broader support for the implementation of Sharī‘ah remains high throughout the Muslim world today (Esposito 2010, Ciftci, 2013, Pew Research Center Forum on Religious & Public Life, 2013), the operationalization of Sharī‘ah and Islamic governance remains very limited. In these times of incredible political turmoil, where new complex challenges seem to be plaguing almost every Muslim-majority state, new ways about conceptualizing the relationship between Islam and actual political processes and practices is essential. As I stated in my most recent book—“If more scholarly efforts are not made to offer coherent theories of Islamic governance or “Islamism-in-practice,” the entire concept will eventually lose all meaning (Kaminski, 2017: p. 7-8). This blog seeks to elicit contributions that will help re-shape the discourse on Islamic governance or Islamism-in-practice—it seeks to move beyond empty slogans of al-Islām huwa-‘l-ḥāl, and instead offer practical recommendations grounded in contemporary socio-political realities and existing bodies of scholarly literature in the social sciences and humanities. The concluding section of the introduction of my book commented that;
Ultimately, this work only looks to establish a normative discursive framework surrounding essential elements that must be grappled with prior to efforts by other scholars or political actors to construct more specific policies and legislative institutions. There is no reason to talk about how many chambers of parliament or parliamentarians any specific state ought to have before engaging in a discussion on what the mind-set of the individual parliamentarian ought to look like and what values ought to guide his or her decision-making processes; there is no point in talking about the specific legalistic functions of an Islamic governed state’s leader without discussing the personality qualities and values that are necessary to successfully lead in the first place. (Kaminski, 2017: p. 9)
This blog seeks to be a place where advanced students, policy makers, politicians, and academics can start seriously discussing the more specific elements that are mentioned above that my own work did not really get into. This blog also welcomes theoretical contributions and other ideas that may be less specific in terms of actual praxis. It seems evident that we are still in need of more coherent and rigorous theorizing on this topic.
Some major themes this blog encourages contributions on include (but are not limited to) the following:
In order to keep the discourse reasonable and avoid getting lost in unfocused debates and polemics, I would like to establish a few base points regarding contributions and discussions that this blog seeks to foster. First, all submissions should be in English—the reference of non-English sources is strongly encouraged so long as they are translated into English. Second, this blog is working under 2 foundational premises: (1) Islam and politics are relevant today. With this in mind, the focus of submissions should be on contemporary issues related to statecraft and governance. This blog is not looking for debates about or between scholars of the past that are disconnected from current political realities. This is not an Islamic history or theology blog—rather it is one dedicated to contemporary issues surrounding governance; and that (2) Shari’ah is an inalienable element in any genuine form of Islamic governance; whether this should be understood explicitly or implicitly is an area open for discussion. Other than keeping in mind these foundational premises when offering submissions, this blog is open to all lines of argumentation so long as they are rigorous, backed in solid evidence, and are well-written and clear. All footnoting and references should follow the Ta'seel Commons more general protocols. The editors will have the final decision on what gets published and what does not—however these decisions will be based only on the merit or quality of the argument and not the editorial board’s personal whims.
I look forward to contributions—especially those from younger scholars and policy makers in the developing world. Ideas ought to not just come from Ivy League institutions. While ideas from these places are more than welcome, they ought not to drown out other important voices from the periphery. This blog hopes to serve as a place where authors can bounce new and controversial ideas off each other prior to publishing in more traditional peer-reviewed academic outlets. Ultimately this blog is about taking ownership—taking ownership of our own religious tradition and taking ownership of the modes of discourse and conceptualizations of politics best suited to our circumstances and interests.
Joseph J. Kaminski