chapter  4
26 Pages

Identity and Interpretation

Dialogue and the Negotiation of Meaning

This chapter discusses key dilemmas pertaining to identity formation, intellectual outlook, and social values as perceived by public intellectuals and activists. The chapter focuses particular emphasis on traditional modern tensions to which contemporary Muslim intellectuals often attest, between traditional/religious outlooks and those which might be characterized as modern/secular. The chapter explains 'normative systems' that are shaping the values and identities of contemporary Muslims. Traditionalist hermeneutics has emphasized tradition as a stabilizing mode of being in the world. The task of the traditionalist interpreter is to preserve, transmit, and police a sense of bounded identity and political community. Professional accomplishment and educational credentials become important bases for the definition of individual identity, and for achieving status in society. The existence of a historically transmitted normative consensus, in turn, provides reinforcement for patriarchal authority and for the narratives upon which authentic Muslim identity are based.