chapter  9
21 Pages

Beyond normative secularity

Politics of interfaith dialogue in Lebanon
WithRahel Fischbach

This chapter explores whether, and to what extent, secularism, as a normative, ideological tenet, is operative in the Lebanese interfaith movement, principally in debates over historical criticism of the Qur’ān. Mostly arguing within a secular-liberal framework, advocates of historical-critical method view it as a tool to curb “fundamentalist Islamism’ and as necessary for creating an atmosphere conducive to religious pluralism – an assumption that also undergirds much of western social-scientific research. Its critics, on the other hand, see historical-critical Qur’ān hermeneutics as an attempt to alter Muslim religious subjectivities by aligning Islam epistemologically to a curtailed form of religion along the lines of liberal Protestantism and, therefore, as a tragic concession to global normative secularity that destroys indigenous epistemologies. Examining recent discussions of Qur’ān hermeneutics among Lebanese interfaith participants challenges both assumptions by taking seriously the politico-religious structures in which these discussions take place. Assessing the interfaith movement as a social movement intent on shaping the political structures in which it operates helps to understand the socio-religious views expressed through Qur’ān hermeneutics outside the framework of clear binaries, such as indigenous/western or religious/secular, and demonstrates the sophistication with which interfaith participants rethink epistemological and religious pluralism, often beyond the concept of liberal pluralism.