- Series: Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights
- Hardcover: 216 pages
- Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (September 14, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812239628
- ISBN-13: 978-0812239621
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,784,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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African Constitutionalism and the Role of Islam (Pennsylvania Studies in Human Rights)
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...clearly written, carefully worded, and every term meticulously defined. -- The International Journal of African Historical Studies, 2007
An interesting read. -- Journal of the Commonwealth Lawyers' Association, August 2007
About the Author
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law at Emory University School of Law. He is the author of Toward an Islamic Reformation (1990). He is also editor of several books, including Human Rights Under African Constitutions and Human Rights in Cross-Cultural Perspectives, both available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.
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The skepticism is due in part to the lingering legacy of European colonialization, and resistance is compounded in Islamic African countries, says An-Na`im in African Constitutionalism and the Role of Islam (University of Pennsylvania Press), the newest volume to emerge from the Center for the Study of Law and Religion (CSLR).
"The current global environment has enhanced a preexisting `siege' mentality which makes them more conservative and defensive about their religious and cultural identity, and less likely to engage in internal transformation than they were a few years ago," said An-Na`im, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Law and a CSLR senior fellow.
A Muslim who was born and raised in Northern Sudan, An-Na`im believes wholeheartedly that constitutionalism is the most desirable political path for African countries, despite the obstacles, as long as it is adapted to draw on pre-colonial traditions and the values and practices of local African societies in all their diversity.
"It has become clear to me that it is unacceptable for an African scholar to devote her or his whole attention to detached academic analysis," he said in the book's introduction, "without attempting to respond to the urgent needs and untold suffering of Africans throughout the continent."
By observing the "incremental successes" of a cross-section of African countries, An-Na`im has gathered information about how to best achieve constitutional governance--in which the power of the state is limited by law and balanced with individual rights--while taking into consideration the complicated relationship among religion, state, and society.
Adapting a form of government based on an essentially alien concept--the nation-state--is not easy, he says, especially when previous governance was "premised on notions of the superiority of European civilizations, and sought to render African subjects, not citizens, with minimal participation in political power--a form of `colonial constitutionalism.' "
What wins An-Na`im over seems to be the core aspects of constitutionalism: the enumeration of the responsibilities and accountability of government; the separation of powers; the respect for collective as well as individual rights. "Put in elemental terms," he said, "it is a framework for the mediation of certain unavoidable conflicts in the political, economic, and social fabric of every human society."
The role of religion in Islamic African societies raises additional tensions, he says--namely, how traditional understandings of Shari`a (Islamic religious law and norms) will be recognized within a constitutional government.
"The fundamental concern is how to ensure the institutional separation of Shari'a and the state, despite the organic and unavoidable connection between Islam and politics," he said. "The first part of this proposition sounds like `secularism' as is commonly understood today, but the second part indicates the opposite. This is a permanent paradox that must be addressed through constant and deeply contextual negotiation, rather than the subject of a fixed formula--whether a claim of total separation or of total fusion of religion and the state."
An-Na`im believes that Africanized Islam might provide better prospects for reconciliation between the Islamic cultural identity of African Muslims and the requirements of their daily lives in multicultural, multireligious states. "With its strong Sufi (mystic) roots and practices," he says, "it has traditionally been inclusive and tolerant of diversity within Muslim communities and in their relationships with non-Muslim communities."
Despite the challenges, An-Na`im says, several African countries are finding success with constitutional governance, "each on its own terms." An organic relationship among Islam, politics and social interaction, he says, can only be mediated through practice over time.
"The vision reflected in any constitution is idealistic, and there will necessarily be some gap between the defining ideals and the mechanisms for the actual operations of government," he says. "The lasting value of such ideals rests in the synergy between the ideal and its practice."
The Center for the Study of Law and Religion is home to world class scholars and forums on the religious foundations of law, politics, and society. It offers first-rank expertise on how the teachings and practices of Christianity, Judaism and Islam have shaped and can continue to transform the fundamental ideas and institutions of our public and private lives. The scholarship of CSLR faculty provides the latest perspectives, while its conferences and public forums foster reasoned and robust public debate.