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Texts of tension, spaces of empowerment : migrant Muslims and the limits of Shi'ite legal discourse

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Texts of tension, spaces of empowerment : migrant Muslims and the limits of Shi'ite legal discourse

Darwish, Linda (2009) Texts of tension, spaces of empowerment : migrant Muslims and the limits of Shi'ite legal discourse. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

This dissertation examines fatwas (expert legal opinions) produced by the Shi'ite legal establishment ( marji'iyah ) for Shi'ites in the West, looking at the construction, support, and communication of minority Muslim identity in the Western cultural context. Its significance lies in examining how law is socially relevant to the construction of identity in relation to the religious or cultural other, how it may be used to negotiate tensions, to compensate for feelings of otherness and powerlessness, and to strengthen group solidarity. Shi'ite legal methodology makes a strong claim to a dynamic method of legal reasoning ( ijtihad ), continually responding to changing social conditions. Contemporary migration provides a case study by which to observe and evaluate its exercise in meeting practical, ethical, and moral challenges. Is migration a place for unprecedented innovation in lega1'interpretation? Does the law open up to the possibility of change in the Western context? What social, rhetorical, or ideological factors might propel or restrain ijtihad ? Moreover, the fatwa genre of law is not restricted to experts but brings the recipients of the law into dialogue with the law-givers. It is this "interpretive relation" between scholar, layperson, and social context that generates the conclusions of my study. Laypersons appear to be highly optimistic regarding the law's possibilities for legitimizing cultural adaptation and see its flexibility as essential to supporting a "selective engagement" model of minority identity. In contrast, by adhering largely to the classical Qur'anic model of hijrah and to an ideological conception of Muslim-other relations that posits a strong differentiation of the non-Muslim "other," scholars are able to largely avoid high-risk ijtihad , while promoting a "resistance model" of minority identity. Scholars exhibit the perception that religious safety depends on the construction of Muslim spaces bounded by normatively enjoined words, symbols and practices. However, in place of the power of force, which nearly always accompanied hijrah in the classical model, scholars uphold what they describe as Islamic morality, not simply as a legal imperative, but as an instrument of empowerment and influence. It is this positioning of piety and morality as a means of empowerment that makes the contemporary legal discourse socially relevant.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religions and Cultures
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Darwish, Linda
Pagination:x, 368 leaves ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Religion
Date:2009
Thesis Supervisor(s):Clarke, Lynda
ID Code:976418
Deposited By: Concordia University Library
Deposited On:22 Jan 2013 16:25
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:42
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